About ‘paying it forward’ with Mentorloop COO, Heidi Holmes

Paying it forward mentoring

Heidi Holmes always wanted to be her own boss. Leveraging the accounting and marketing skills gained in her early twenties, by the time Heidi turned thirty she had already successfully launched her first business, Adage, and now she’s started a second – Mentorloop.

In 2016, Heidi and her now business partner Lucy Lloyd got together over a glass of wine and came up with an idea to make career progression more accessible. Two years later and that idea, now known as Mentorloop, is a thriving business boasting the likes of the BBC Worldwide, Australian Olympics Committee and Sportsbet as clients.

“Our philosophy around mentoring is that if anyone wants to participate they should be able to opt-in,” explains Heidi. “I have numerous mentors. Some that I would call those sage mentors that have years’ of experience … and then some that are other startup founders who are six or twelve months ahead of us. [That helps with] that forward planning: things to look out for and things you’re currently struggling with.”

“We mentor back into the community as well,” Heidi continues.

“Mentoring is a two-way thing. Even as a mentor you can gain insight … people shouldn’t just view themselves as a mentee or a mentor, there’s a play for both… It’s also important for people to acknowledge that while you’re at this certain point there are people behind you that could benefit from your experience – pay it forward.”

This inclusive approach and collaborative hustle has seen Mentorloop grow from three team members at the beginning of 2017 to nine staff members currently. While being her own boss and developing a startup is a continual learning process, it’s the unexpected skills that have been the biggest learning curbs. “You don’t start a business so you can go and raise money and you don’t start a business so you can manage people either, so it’s kind of these two areas of the business that … you hadn’t really planned for.”

Having grown up surrounded by small business owners and farmers, Heidi has always had a natural determination to run her own business. “I think people that are motivated to go and start their own thing, it’s just innate,” Heidi explains.

Heidi chose to get a head start by studying her marketing degree while pursuing her career as an accounting cadet with KPMG. Heidi explains that the decision to work full-time while studying “was more about understanding business fundamentals and setting [herself] up.”

As Heidi completed her cadetship her interest quickly shifted to marketing. Her reasoning was simple: once you know how to manage a business you need to learn how to sell a business. And though the change was daunting, Heidi found her professional experience made all the difference when she moved into the marketing department at KPMG.

That professional experience bridged the gap between an industry that was changing so fast that education hadn’t quite managed to catch up, particularly in regards to social media. “Real-world experience was invaluable because [at the time] it wasn’t necessarily happening in the classroom but there were still principles happening in the classroom that were relevant,” explains Heidi.

Armed with a varied skill set, strong networks and the persistent ambition every entrepreneur needs, it wasn’t long before Heidi spotted a gap in the market that spoke to both her business sense as well as her social awareness. While experiencing her own professional transition Heidi was struck by the “cohort of people that had a lot of experience but didn’t necessarily know how to transition into retirement and still wanted to feel … a connection back to community ­– and that was often through employment.”

In response, Heidi created Adage, a platform for highly skilled workers in the 50-plus age bracket seeking casual employment where they could utilise their skills. The business was a quick hit and Heidi was excited to apply her fundamental knowledge while also learning all the do’s and don’ts of running your own business.

Five years later Heidi was discussing the difficulties of career progression with her close friend and now business partner, Lucy Lloyd. What started as a casual conversation soon evolved into a fully-fledged business idea. Launched in 2016, Mentorloop is a platform that helps businesses create and monitor mentoring programs.

Looking ahead, Heidi is optimistic about the opportunities the future of work may bring businesses. Within the corporate world, she foresees people beginning to place a higher value on job security and stay in their roles longer, due to a more competitive job market.”This is where I think mentoring comes into play…it becomes more about how you keep your staff motivated and productive – moving them through the organisation and giving everyone equal access to opportunity.”

Despite all her success, Heidi remains humble.

“It is a privilege to go out and do this, not everyone can start their own business.” Her early passion for entrepreneurship and change will no doubt continue to drive Heidi into the future.

This post first appeared in the RMIT Launchpad here >

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