From left: David Naramski, a co-founder of Nowina, and Stephan Peters, of Sanzaru
Photo: Maison Moderne
Many of us assume that people are born entrepreneurs. But starting a business requires so many skills that few people get everything right the first time, particularly during a period of rapid change.
“At some point when you grow, you can’t do everything yourself. Maybe you have to put a new structure in place,” co-founder of Nowina David Naramski told Delano.
The Belgian-Luxembourg national was one of three people to set up the electronic signatures specialist firm in 2014 after completing the 1,2,3 Go programme at Nyuko.
18 months ago, he joined the business mentoring programme launched by the Chamber of Commerce. He jumped at the chance to receive some “experienced help” and was paired with fellow entrepreneur and mentor Stephan Peters. “The first two sessions were exploring, we threw everything out there. We were sharing personal interests and other experiences and anecdotes,” Peters explained, adding: “After the second session, we wrote down the things we wanted to achieve. Then we structured that.”
Over the following months Naramski changed. Among the many things he learned were how to make the business more sustainable, and the importance of trying to measure and log success.
“Stephan has a really subtle approach to giving advice. He shares his experiences and sometimes it clicks in my mind about two weeks or one month later, and you understand what his advice is,” Naramski said.
He says that the relationship helped him through one of the most difficult years for the company when it grew faster than expected. What is more, Naramski observed a surprise transformation that had not been on his list of goals. “In the end I feel more confident in myself, to be a professional entrepreneur and not a geek, trying to do something,” the mentee said.
Breaking the isolation
“Most mentees say they want to break the isolation of being a business leader,” coordinator of the Business Mentoring programme Rachel Gaessler explained, adding: “They’re on their own and have no support.” This is one of the main reasons people join the programme, she said, as well as for reducing stress and being confident decision makers.
Up until January 2018, 123 mentees had passed through the programme, which launched in 2010, and 80% of the companies they represent are still active. “It’s a very powerful tool or support which will help people avoid making mistakes," Gaessler said.
It was not difficult to build a network of experienced mentors, of which there are around 50 today. The main challenge at first was convincing mentees that mentors wanted nothing back, Gaessler said. The programme is very strict in ensuring mentors have nothing to gain financially from the relationship. Naramski’s first mentor had to step down after a firm he invested in became a partner of his startup.
As for the mentors, Peters said the experience was positive for his personal development and rewarding to see progress over a longer time-frame. He said he also appreciated the networking opportunities with other mentors. “It’s nice to meet these people as well and have interactions,” he said.
Startup entrepreneurs can apply to participate as mentees in the programme until September 2018 by visiting www.businessmentoring.lu/en
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