By: Alexandra Grace Leon
Photos by: Deniece Griffin
“There are a lot of us out here, Georgia State alumni who want to help out current students. I saw an opportunity for us to get connected with students who could use our experience for their own endeavors.”
– Kenneth A. Mathis
Kenneth A. Mathis, Entrepreneur in Residence at the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (ENI), established the ENI Mentorship Program this Fall. Mathis is a well-established mentor, entrepreneur, instructor, and consultant at Georgia State University. Under his direction, ENI’s new Mentorship Program is inspiring students and mentors to get connected.
What is the ENI Mentorship Program?
It is a single semester program where a company belonging to a student or student team gains guidance and support from local mentors. Here they can interact and ask questions of experienced entrepreneurs and develop their business ideas with a mentor’s help.
What motivated you to create this program?
I kept making noise within the university that I thought they weren’t taking advantage of the vast Georgia State alumni network in the Atlanta area. There are anywhere between 75 to 100 thousand GSU alumni working in the Atlanta area, and I am one of them. No one approached me, so I approached Georgia State to see if there was any way I could get involved. There are a lot of us out here, alumni who want to help current students. I saw an opportunity for us to get connected with students who could apply our own experience for their own endeavors. I made the proposition to the J. Mack Robinson College of Business Dean, Richard Phillips, and he said, “why don’t you start a mentorship program?” I put my money where my mouth was and did exactly that.
What qualities do you look for in a potential mentor?
There are three main characteristics I’m looking for right now. Obviously, they must have some sort of entrepreneurial experience either directly or indirectly. Because the mentors will be working with students, their demeanor must be understanding and attentive. Patience is key but also mentors must be firm.
What actions do mentors take to support students who have business endeavors?
Mentors take a supportive role in any questions students may have regarding a variety of subjects relating to company growth, marketing, or finances. We use a platform called TrustedPeer to encourage the interaction between students and mentors. Here they can communicate via email or chat and set business milestones.
How are students picked to participate in the ENI Mentorship Program?
Students or student teams must already have a sound business idea and a developed and defensible business model. Most of these businesses are further down their business development and have specific needs such as marketing, accounting or legal help to grow their business. They must be prepared to take their existing company to the next level.
Where do you see this program going?
I want the ENI Mentoring Program to have unlimited access to individuals who are willing to provide their assistance to students. Ideally, we would want to automate the pairing process between student companies and mentors.
Beyond having a committed group of individual mentors, organizing subject matter experts on the platform is next. Say you need a handful of legal questions answered, you would be able to search for someone who has that knowledge, reach out to them and they could respond back to you then both of you go on your merry way. Currently, we are working with just ENI students, however, eventually, I would like to change that. Ultimately, I want this to be available to all 50,000+ GSU students and in any field of study they may need mentorship in.
Fall 2018 Mentors
John Tapley, Partner, ITB Partners
Mark Hughes, Partner at GreyHawk Partners, LLC
Kathryn Sabol, CEO of Kathryn Sabol Coaching
Kevin Sandlin, Founder and Facilitator of Pitch Practice at Atlanta Tech Village
Jennifer Daniels, President of Flying Laboratories, LLC
Whit Oliver, Director, Finance & Investments at Auro Hotels
Fall 2018 Mentees
Cameron Byers, FATE
Michelle Hobson, PJF Solutions
Adesuwa Imafildon, Organic Skincare
Chante Knox Anu Cleanup
Benjamin Moore, Keyz2Lexis
Christian Park, Third World Street