How Mentor Updates Saved My Company

My co-founder Jami and I are both first-time entrepreneurs and we’ve made most of the mistakes you might imagine first-timers would make. From fundraising to building hardware, at times we’ve had to work particularly hard to keep the company above water.

The one thing that has saved us when we hit these roadblocks is our mentor email list. The mentor email list is just that — a list of all the people invested in the success of SnowShoe, and it has become one of the most valuable assets we have.

If you do one thing for your company, start a consistent and honest mentor email.

When you send these emails it will at times feel like you’re admitting to failing as a CEO, but there are two things you must remember:

  1. People love hearing about what’s going on at your company.
  2. It is impossible for someone to help you solve a problem if they don’t know the problem exists.

Your mentors are smart and successful businesspeople who can cut right through the sunshine and rainbows. They’re happy to help but only when you give them real issues they can take action on.

Be brutally honest in your emails.

I have sent more than one Hail Mary pass over our email list. Sometimes we need an introduction to a specific contact or our books are in disarray and we need someone to help salvage them. We’ve even had to say we have three months of cash left and no prospects to raise more. Every time we have found valuable answers, support, and results through our mentor list..

If you run a company, start sending these emails out as frequently as is fitting. While we were in TechStars, we sent mentor emails weekly. We’ve been on a monthly schedule for the last few months, but so much is happening at SnowShoe these days that we’re now moving to a bi-weekly cadence.

Launch your company’s mentor email today.

Here’s the format we use:

  • Brief salutation and opening — get to the good stuff fast.
  • High point — one bullet sharing the most awesome thing to occur since the last update.
  • Low point — one bullet on something that has sucked since the last email. You want to be brutally honest here. Your mentors will sniff the truth no matter what you say, and they will lose respect for you (not to mention motivation to help you) if you aren’t being transparent.
  • Your big “Aha!” moment — one paragraph describing the single largest learning you had over the last month.
  • Calls for help — what are the 1–2 things you need most right now? We often will have a small, general audience ask and one larger, more time intensive ask. Anything you can do to lower friction will increase your response rate.
  • Something fun — we take a team selfie somewhere or add some other fun picture.
  • HUGE AND SINCERE THANK YOU — be grateful for their time and help. They are awesome.

If you’re doing this at your company or would like to start, send me a tweet @SnowShoeStamp. I’d love to hear about it!

SnowShoe Stamp is a startup located in San Francisco, California. We make plastic stamps that unlock the digital world through a simple touch on your mobile device screen. Click here to learn more about how our stamps work.

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