Get Mentoring

Posted on by natalieparker

Twists Pasta Bar in Huddersfield city centre offers a healthy alternative to your average fast food establishment. Set up by entrepreneurs Jeffrey Postlethwaite and Adam Thompson in September 2011, the business was recently featured on BBC Three’s Be Your Own Boss programme. We caught up with them and the mentor, Janet Marshall, who they met at the first 'Meet A Mentor' style event SFEDI organised at the MADE Festival last year with Intuit 100Up, to find out more about the benefits of their relationship. Janet is a business professional with extensive experience in both senior management and as a small business owner.

Jeffrey and Adam, how do you know each other and why did you decide to start a business together?
Jeffrey: We met in our first year at university. I was studying Enterprise Development and Adam’s degree is in Business Management.
Adam: I took three years out before uni, working as a sports centre manager, and I ran a couple of eBay businesses during that time too. Jeff's background is similar and we’ve always considered ourselves to be very entrepreneurial.
Jeffrey: While studying for our degrees we successfully tested Twists Pasta Bar over a three month period after spotting a gap in the market for a healthier style of fast food business. We were taking what we were learning in our university lectures and applying it straight to a real life business.
Adam: After proving there was a market for our idea we decided to open a store in Huddersfield city centre. But our ultimate dream is to have a store in every town/city across the country, helping people eating on the move to stay healthy.

What help did you receive for your business?
Jeffrey: We won a couple of business competitions and had access to three business mentors as a result of that including Huddersfield University Vice Chancellor, Bob Cryan.

You came to the Meet A Mentor event at MADE for members of the Intuit 100Up to meet Get Mentoring volunteers? What interested you in finding a mentor at that event?

Adam: We've always valued meeting lots of different people with different areas of expertise and therefore it seemed like a good opportunity for us. Networking has been something that's helped our business right from the start. When we met our current mentor, Janet, at the event it was really good to find out about her PR background as we hadn't had experience in that area before. She seemed like a useful mentor for so many reasons – her list of contacts, for one, but also her writing expertise and experience in running her own business too.

How has that relationship developed with Janet since?
Jeffrey: Mentoring is useless if you don't keep in contact with the mentor. We believe that everyone can help us; every idea is a good idea. After the event we arranged to meet Janet for a coffee, she highlighted where her expertise was and, as the opening of the new shop was pending, we knew she'd be invaluable. She helped us put together a press release and came to the opening too.

Should businesses seek the support of a mentor?

Adam: Yes, definitely. It's so important because mentors have “been there and done that”. You can learn so much from their expertise and experience, and their pitfalls and successes. It's not only the mentor either, it's their contacts that can help too. Without the contacts we wouldn't be where we are today.

Do you think having a mentor has made a difference to the success of your business?
Jeffrey: I think we could have done it, but having mentors has made it a million times easier. It would have taken twice as long, been twice as expensive and twice as stressful to do it on our own.

Is there one specific thing that it's changed for you? Is there something you've done because you've had a mentor that you wouldn't have done otherwise?
Adam: There’s not one thing that sticks out. Perhaps the contacts and the networking has been the main benefit to us.

What next for your business? What are your ambitions for the business?
Jeffrey: Since being on Be Your Own Boss we're looking to open up a couple more shops across the country and build franchises up. Our business is about helping people with their health and fitness. We believe our food provides a healthy and tasty alternative to what's out there.

What part will mentoring play in the future of your business?
Adam: I believe our mentors have the expertise to help us accelerate the business at each important stage in the future. They are a very influential part of our business.

Janet, how would you describe your mentoring relationship with Jeffrey and Adam?
Janet: I've been very lucky as a mentor, Adam and Jeffrey are so motivated and capable. I admire them for that, not least because they are still working towards their finals at university. They’ve both been extremely open to suggestions, ready to listen and discuss things. I’ve found that they are very good at asking for help when they need it.

Why did you decide to do the Get Mentoring training and volunteer as a mentor?
Janet: It's something I've always done, informally, as I've managed people in my own career. It's happened that I've ended up mentoring people, just steering them generally. When I came across the Get Mentoring scheme I thought it would be great to formalise it as a skill and maybe expand it.

What do you think mentors get out of mentoring?
Janet: Mentoring is a fantastic thing to add to your CV, and it's a heck of a lot of fun too. It's great to step back and remember what it's like just starting out, and getting involved in a young business can be amazingly exciting for a mentor.

Posted on by natalieparker | Posted in Case Studies, Get Mentoring Monthly