Plutarch once said, 'The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.' When it comes to business, our mentors are the ones who kindle that fire. They inspire us, help us through tough situations, and guide our paths.

When we’re starting out, as much as we’d like to know everything…we just…**don’t. **Having someone to call on for guidance is a great way to help navigate the unknowns.

Today, we have stories from mentees on how their mentors made a difference for them as small business owners. Their industries are different— and so are their circumstances— but all have benefited from the outside perspective from a great mentor (or two.)

Mentor Lesson #1: Set a Standard for Commitment and Passion

Mentee: Ryan Draving, CEO at

Mentors: Jake Goldblum of Empire Covers and Chris Mengel of RazorWest & Mamook Media

Ryan met his mentor Jake Goldblum while working as his right-hand man at Empire Covers. Then at a hackathon in 2012, he met Chris Mengel. Jake and Chris taught Ryan how to set a standard for commitment and passion within a leadership role by doing just that within their own businesses.

Mentor Lesson #2: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Mentee: Dick Jacobsen, Franchise Owner of Valvoline Instant Oil Change Centers

Mentor: George Eble, Property Owner & Entrepreneur

These two men met in 1986 when Dick leased a property from his future mentor, George Eble. Aside from offering business advice learned from his own experiences, George built and leased buildings to Dick when he didn’t have the capital to expand on his own.

Mentor Lesson #3: Always Have a Sounding Board

Mentee: Shelley Hunter of

Mentor: Mike Collins, CEO of Big Idea Group

Shelley and Mike met at a conference and built a working relationship on a foundation of trust and respect. In 2009, Shelley launched (and later sold) her business thanks to help and feedback from her trusty mentor.

Mentor Lesson #4: Learn From My Experience

Mentee: Alli Russo, PR Consultant

Mentor: Kelly Brady of Brandsway Creative

Alli reached out to Publicist Kelly Brady as an information source while working on a story at her college newspaper. After the interview, the two kept in touch—which later evolved into an internship opportunity. By seeking out someone she respected for a one-time interview, Alli ended up gaining a life-long mentor who helped her navigate the industry.

When It Comes To Mentors...

When it comes to mentors, there are so many things you can learn— these lessons are just the tip of the iceberg.

The trick is getting those relationships started. If you see someone who’s successful and is doing what you want to do, reach out to him or her. Find mentoring opportunities at work or with the people you already know and respect.

Our number one piece of advice? Get a good mentor, and learn all you can. One day, you may have the opportunity to return the favor and make a difference in someone else’s world.

Your Turn: Who’s the mentor that profoundly impacted your small business? What did they do for you?