Mentors play a vital role in supporting entrepreneurs at the Branson Centre – Caribbean.
Their services provide incredible depth and breadth to the centre’s programs – and by openly sharing their experiences and lessons-learned, they help to guide entrepreneurs through their own career journeys. This week we spoke to Dr. Toni Wheatle about how she became a Branson Centre mentor and she shared her best advice for people thinking about becoming a mentor themselves.
Virgin Unite, Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean, Lisandra
1. Tell us about yourself. How did you start your entrepreneurial journey?
I was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States in the 80s. Growing up, I knew I wanted to have a positive impact on the world. As I worked my way through college, I became extremely interested in social causes, and after college I started to work for a non-profit organisation. While serving as their National Director, I became especially interested in developing non-profit infrastructures. I finished my MBA and Doctorate of Business and started designing corporate programs and business marketing strategies. Today, I am delighted to have a step within my journey that includes working with Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship - Caribbean.
2. What’s been your most memorable moment as a mentor?
My most memorable moment as a mentor was when I found out that my first mentee had begun working within the food and agriculture industry. I remember feeling like a child on the first day of school – I really felt like “this” is what I am meant to do. My mentee then allowed me to work with her on food packaging designs, and together we worked on industry scalability. I was able to help create a new path for her business and its expansion within Jamaica. To be able to give back, by creating scalability within a Jamaican agriculture company, certainly made me feel like I was finally a part of a global solution.
Virgin Unite, Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean
3. What’s the biggest take away that you’ve had as a mentor?
I have learned to always be open minded to the possibilities life has to offer and to really listen to people. It is imperative that mentees are respected as innovative individuals. I am proud to be a mentor in multiple countries and am proud to serve as an Advisory Board member for the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. But most importantly, I am proud to have such great global teachers – my mentees.
4. What advice do you have for mentees to maximise their experience?
The advice I give to mentees is for them to take full advantage of the dynamic opportunity they are being given by the Centre. I believe mentees should walk into the experience knowing who they are, where they want to be, and then become a sponge to absorb the experience. Knowing how fortunate mentees are to be a part of such a great legacy will allow them to take full advantage of the wonderful staff, mentors, and any advice given.
I have learned to always be open minded to the possibilities life has to offer and to really listen to people.
I believe that everyone has a role to play in improving the global marketplace. Companies have to think more about the greater good of society by creating value in how they hire people, the types of services and products they create, and how they choose to impact the communities they work within. We are all citizens of the world and thus, we should take great pride in the decision making process as it pertains to business mechanisms that will impact society.