500 mentors

25 March 2020 By Victoria Tomlinson

500 mentors image

The platform is now closed and not accepting new sign ups.

Two weeks ago we had a sell-out intergenerational mentoring event organised for Leeds Digital Festival in April. Clearly the event has been cancelled. But tech entrepreneurs need a helping hand and a mentor now, more than ever. 

Working with our sponsor, Leeds City Council – who have been brilliant – we are now flipping the whole event and extending it. We have signed up to mentor matching software with my2be – a tech entrepreneur themselves – and have today launched our campaign, 500 mentors. 

We are going to ask 500 senior people who have recently retired – or are still working and have time to offer – to give 45 minutes, free, a week for the next three months to mentor someone in Yorkshire. Not just entrepreneurs and business people, who don’t have to be tech, but also leaders in public and voluntary sector organisations. 

We want to use your skills, experience and contacts to help leaders through what is going to be a tough few months. Stuart Watson, former EY partner and non-exec of Clipper Logistics, has been one of our mentors from the start. He says, “Mentors are honest, critical friends to bounce ideas off.  Possibly just as important, they can share worries and concerns, which could puncture team morale if aired in their own organisations.”

It is important to stress to both sides that mentoring is a confidential relationship.

I think our generation has something very special to offer. I remember 9/11 and then the financial crash, each of which felt as terrible as things feel now. Of course, COVID-19 is worse than anything any of us has seen, but we have all had to work through crisis times like these before. And that can be reassuring.

I think there are three areas for mentors to cover

  • The individual and how they are feeling. I talked to one entrepreneur last week and she lives on her own and now has to work on her own. She said, “I would love to check in with a mentor once a week”
  • The practical issues now – from cashflow, to worrying about employees and doing the best by them, what government help is available, making the most of opportunities which are still around or creating them
  • And in a week or two to start thinking about the long term, what plans they need to be up to speed on as things pick up again

No mentor can be an expert in all these areas. But I would say three things. First, all our mentors have been surprised at just how much they can help in areas where they initially think they don’t have expertise – see this blog on Can non-techies mentor a tech entrepreneur? Absolutely!

The second point is that I see time and again that our generation has extraordinary networks – so even if you can’t help on an issue, you may know someone who can.

And finally, with the mentoring platform you can find others with expertise who can help on specific issues.

We have worked at speed to get all this running so quickly. We have a demo to walk you through how the mentoring platform works (click here) but please let us know if you hit any issues. It looked really good when we tried it out.

So, we have three asks for you (to use current jargon!).

  1. Please would you sign up as a mentor? It is 45 minutes by Zoom call a week – if you haven’t come across Zoom it is the new Skype and really easy to use (everyone is talking about buying Zoom shares but think we are too late!). If you want to mentor more than one person that is great and thank you. We have said 45-minute sessions because this is free with Zoom – but you can always book a second session if you want more time.
  2. And…. Please would you forward this blog to five of your contacts who have retired recently and ask if they would sign up. They don’t have to be in Yorkshire – but they will be mentoring Yorkshire entrepreneurs and leaders, because of the support from Leeds City Council.
  3. And the third. If you know a Yorkshire entrepreneur or leader who would like a mentor, please get them to register.

This is the link to sign up and thank you so much for supporting this campaign – and making a difference at a difficult time. We are also setting up a weekly get-together on Zoom for mentors to ‘meet’ and share experiences and offer extra help if needed – based on confidentiality for mentees.

I also want to mention our fantastic partners on the tech mentoring and who have been so supportive of us transforming the original event and extending it. Of course, Leeds City Council and also RSM, NorthInvest, Tech Mentors:Yorkshire and Leeds Digital Festival.

It is not just retired doctors and nurses who have such value. I hope this campaign is the start of finding new ways to use your skills to help future generations.

Thank you

Rules of engagement

Yorkshire entrepreneurs and leaders 

  • The mentors have agreed to support you on a free basis – they want to use their skills and experience to help you. Please be aware the mentors are not liable for any actions you might take as a result of their suggestions or introductions
  • All discussions are confidential between you and your mentor 


  • Please don’t pitch to be a non-executive director or to get paid work – let the mentee take the initiative if it is at all relevant
  • We have not done due diligence on the businesses or organisations – if you want to invest, donate or become involved, it is your responsibility to do the necessary financial and legal checks
  • You are not giving ‘advice’ but impartial comment and suggestions. It is up to the entrepreneur or leader if they want to action any suggestions of yours
  • All discussions are confidential between you and your mentee
Author Image

Written by Victoria Tomlinson

Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *