Debbie helps new businesses grow and thrive as a volunteer business mentor at St Helens Chamber

31 Aug 2021

Business Startup

Debbie Thompson, Co-owner of DTB Business Solutions Ltd, found becoming a volunteer mentor over lockdown a fantastic way to give back to the community while looking after her own sense of wellbeing.

Debbie has many years of experience in business, gained from advising her client base of owner manged businesses, and, from when she worked in banking, supporting businesses from start-ups to long established family firms. She has used this experience and knowledge to continue helping new businesses through becoming a volunteer mentor with St Helens Chamber.

Debbie explained: “I’m a Chamber Member and like many others my business struggled through lockdown. A lot of my business comes from networking, meeting people and referrals and this just hasn’t been possible, so I met with Marion in the Membership team and asked how we could work together to get my business up and running again once life opened up.

“I’d just become a Princes Trust mentor, so while we were chatting Marion mentioned the Chamber needed mentors for their work with start-up businesses, so we took it from there.”

Volunteer mentors work with entrepreneurs who are in the process of setting up a business, giving them advice and guidance on the steps to take and how to overcome any issues. Mentoring doesn’t just help new businesses; it can benefit the mentor themselves too.

Debbie continued: “Being a mentor definitely gets my name out there and helps me build my network, just from being at the Chamber I’ve built many great contacts. I also get a real buzz from helping a business grow and develop.

“For my own wellbeing, having this feeling of being useful again after lockdown has been a massive help. I’ve learned from my mentees as well, with things like social media and technology, I have built my knowledge, so I have benefitted in that way too. I feel very valued as a mentor.”

As a mentor, Debbie was able to use her experience of supporting businesses from many different industries to help local businesses start up. Her advice and guidance have helped many businesses grow and thrive too, and she continues to work with St Helens Chamber to support businesses across the Region.

Debbie commented: “I started in banking and the most pleasure I got was helping a business get off the ground and see it grow. I felt a sense of pride if I passed their premises, knowing that I helped them. The first business I loaned money to was a florist on the outskirts of Liverpool, and it’s still there, almost 30 years later which is a great feeling!

“I would love to see more independent businesses; I don’t want a sterile high street and all the same shops in each town, so if I can help in any way to influence that by helping these brave people get their business off the ground, I’m happy to do it.”

Debbie’s broad experience and knowledge has lent itself well to mentoring, but prospective mentors shouldn’t be put off applying if they have more sector specific experience too.

Debbie explained: “Mentors can have a wide range of experience, but I wouldn’t let it put you off if you’ve only worked in one sector. Most experience can cross over so you’d be able to help anyone. All you need is a good ear, and to be able to listen to your mentee; encouraging them to talk rather than talking at them. Even if you think you know what they want to get at, try and encourage it out so that they recognise their own issues rather than putting words in their mouth. Mentors should ask questions and truly understand business issues to be able to make suggestions, rather than telling mentees what to do.

“Even if you don’t have all the knowledge, if you can direct someone to the resources they need this is a massive help. For example, if someone needs HMRC help then directing them to the online webinars is a great way to support them if you don’t have the knowledge in this area.”

Mentoring is a great way to give back to the community, and help aspiring business owners navigate the process of starting and growing a business. The Chamber are always looking for volunteers to share their knowledge and insights with local entrepreneurs, and you could truly make a difference by volunteering your time.

Debbie added: “I really would recommend becoming a mentor to anyone. I’m at a time of my life where I want to give back to the community and this is a great way of doing it. You will help your community as businesses grow and thrive it does give you a great feeling.

“Alongside this you meet really interesting people and if you think back to when you started – how much better you would have performed with a mentor? Its really not time consuming either, and is so rewarding.”

If you’d like to find out more about becoming a volunteer mentor, call us on 01744742096 or email startup@sthelenschamber.com