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Seventeen years ago, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) opened its doors to young business-hopefuls across the country. Through their unique program which offers mentorship, financing, and resources, CYBF has introduced over 5,600 new entrepreneurs to the market and has created over 23,000 new jobs.

 As an entrepreneur, starting a business at any age can be daunting. With the opportunity for mentorship at CYBF, young entrepreneurs have the chance to connect with mentors to help guide them through the planning, decision-making, and execution of their businesses. “Having a mentor really grounds you and [teaches] you how to deal with challenges,” says Edita Kara, owner and president of Kaffeehaus Inc., when speaking of the CYBF mentorship. “There were a lot of times where I struggled, didn’t know what to do, and asked for an opinion.”

Kaffeehaus is a distributor of gourmet baked goods made both locally in their Toronto-based factory and also imported from cities in Europe. “My mentor would always tell me the right decision or guide me into different perspectives that I wouldn’t have thought of myself perhaps at that moment,” she says. “He’s really been guiding me through every step of the way and I’m really grateful for that.”

At CYBF, mentoring doesn’t only mean lending knowledge and expertise to young entrepreneurs, but it is also a valuable learning experience. Linda Morana, CYBF’s mentor-in-residence, works closely with other mentors to maximize their mentoring relationships. “We really have all the same drive and motivation, which is to help entrepreneurs grow professionally and personally, and get their business off and running,” she says. “If CYBF can contribute to the success of mentoring relationships across Canada, we can collectively help more entrepreneurs be successful.”

Morana also provides support and training to other CYBF mentors through workshops, crash courses, and discussions like SAGE Mentor Think Tanks. “I’m actually just coming back from one in Calgary and these workshops are opportunities for mentors to get together, share some of their common entrepreneurial mentoring challenges, and then also identify some best practices that they can take away from each other,” she says. 

After working with CYBF for over two years now, Morana describes what motivates her as a mentor: “I absolutely love witnessing and learning from the process of development and growth.”

Aside from mentorship, Kara says she sees the overall value in the program as her time at CYBF has helped to push Kaffeehaus’s products to high-end shops like Pusateri’s Fine Foods and Marché. “They’re not just a financing institution where they give you the money and you’re on your own,” she says. “They’re there for you the whole time ... [and] always there to give me advice and updating me on what’s going on in the market.”

As Kaffeehaus quickly gains popularity amongst gourmet food restaurants and cafés, Kara shares what the future has in store for her: “I’ve realized working with all these different clients is that I need my own storefront, so that’s my next plan.”

Photo: osheaphotography/Thinkstock