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Ex Accenture Management Consultant to Super-powering Entrepreneurs with Mentorship. This is how I did it

What’s your background and what have you been working?

Hi, I’ve been a management consultant for the best part of 20 years and I’m working on something to support the way all types of businesses will use consultants in the near future’s more open and gig-based professional services economy.

Describe your business in less than 50 words

Honest Onions is a meeting and marketplace for mentors. Start up, scale up and ‘keep up’ businesses can access wisdom on demand from 30 minutes. If you are honest and know your onions you can list as an Honest Onion, access business opportunities and manage your work portfolio.

How did you get started with your business?

I mentored at StartUpBootCamp last season and the experience got my portfolio career started. I saw an opportunity to improve the mentor service for start ups and open the experience to many more mentors. My core motivation is for good businesses to start up, scale up, keep up and for a diverse mentor talent to be able to help them. Diversity in mentors is something they haven’t had access to in the past.

To get started I found two network partners in StartUpBootCamp and Baringa who provided a good source of mentor talent, and start ups, I designed and branded up the business myself, briefed a graphic designer and found a marketplace provider with a marketplace we could quickly re-skin.

What did you do to attract users and grow your business?

Network partners are the key to attracting an active audience, like StartUpBootCamp. We are after networks who are after something just like HonestOnions to raise the profile of their network, give their network access to new opportunities, commercialise their network and improve their brand. The network approach is the right GTM for growth. That’s not to say it’s fast. There is a major hurdle in persuading network ‘owners’ of the value in listing on an open platform. Their gut instinct is to be protective and closed - but that’s not good for mentors or businesses and it’s not the future world of work.

So I remain optimistic that they’ll see the value of a neutral platform that can showcase the best of what they have. Meanwhile I know it’s a great concept as a couple of networks have seen it and then said they try to copy it, which I’ve chosen to take as validation!

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

The next 12 months are ultimately about getting new network partners on board, moving out of Beta and into charging mode so we can invest in our UX. Most important though is to keep mentoring to lead by example. My portfolio is busier than ever, start ups are coming to me and are willing to pay for micro time slots - this is the Honest Onions effect and in the next 12 months I’m hoping many other Onions experience it. I’m trying to tell my story.

Tell us about the challenges you have faced and what you have done to overcome them?

The greatest challenge today is to come up with a product that people care about enough to engage with, let alone pay for! In the case of Honest Onions there is a lot that I’m trying to influence all in one go: encouraging people to be mentors who’ve never been mentors before, encouraging people to present themselves in a more honest and humble way, and to bring what is the essentially offline activity of mentoring, on-line, professionalising it along the way.

Meanwhile people are a bit “mneh” about mentoring. They find it interesting but they don’t think they need it. Having gone through the experience, I know we all do need it. But how to sheep dip that experience? To be honest I haven’t solved this one yet but I’m working with some digital marketing mentors to help.

What’s the one tool or resource you have found helpful?

Mentors. I can’t believe how generous people have been with their time to get Honest Onions up and running. I tell them I’ll reward them when I can and they say they are already being rewarded by getting the chance to learn, teach and be part of something. I will pay them one day though!

What’s your advice for other women who are just starting out?

Advice to others starting out is to create a brand for your idea that gives you strength to weather the inevitable storm.

My Mum used to say “Honest Onions?” to us all the time to check we were telling the truth. No investor, competitor, or naysayer can take the meaning of my business away from me.

I couldn’t be Founder of any old business. But I can be Founder of this business. In fact I’m the only one that could be. This knowledge gives me tremendous strength.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Getting out of bed in the morning has never been a problem - there is always so much to do! Sleeping well has always been my challenge.

What is your morning routine?

My two kids consider every day as a blank slate. It’s a wonderful skill they have - being able to do that and it rubs off on me. We eat breakfast together, hubby makes me coffee and I walk the kids the mile to school. Love mornings. Of course they aren’t always as idyllic as they sound here!

Favourite quote

Plus, Minus & Equal

A mentor of mine, Jean-Luc Crowther interviewed me recently on Medium and finished with this: “in his book, Ego Is The Enemy, Ryan Holiday talks about Frank Shamrock, a mixed martial arts pioneer and multi-title champion—he has a system to train his fighters that he calls:

Plus, Minus and Equal.

He argues that to become great, each fighter must have someone better to learn from, someone lesser to teach, and someone equal to compete against.

Mentoring arguably gives you all three—if done right you’ll learn as much as you teach”. I thought these were wise words.

What 3 words describe you

An Honest Onion. :-)

Where can we go to learn more?

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