Business Mentors New Zealand - Kiwis helping Kiwis. A unique program available to SME Businesses, that is helping them achieve great things.

Interview with
Kayleen Schoeman
Business Mentors New Zealand - Kiwis helping Kiwis. A unique program available to SME Businesses, that is helping them achieve great things.

In today’s podcast, Craig Oliver talks to Kayleen Schoeman of Business Mentors New Zealand via Regional Development Agency Venture Taranaki.  Kayleen, acts as the Program Coordinator in, Taranaki, has helped 100’s of business owners find mentors for the challenges that they face. 


Kayleen has worked with all kinds of businesses including, Liqourland.  The mentoring program has helped its owner, Amie Murphy build a customer base.  As a result, she is able to find the right focus for her business.  For Green Meadows beef, their mentor helped them manage cash flow through growth, build a new production facility, and establishing a growing a market in a new business.


For Kayleen, this program is similar to a professional matchmaking service.  Her role is to manage and recruit mentors to the program.  She then matches the businesses with the new mentors.  When the clients come in, she interviews them and finds out what their challenges are.  She also sizes up their personality and finds out what the client’s expectations are of a business mentor. 


Her current target market consists of startup small-to medium-business owners who are interested in a six-month accelerated mentoring program that may need that extra push and guidance in putting a comprehensive business plan together. 


The other main target markets are for businesses that have less than twenty five staff members.  She also manages a community mentoring program designed for community groups and non-profit organizations.


Typically, most of Kayleen’s clients press for marketing because that where they feel they need the most assistance.  However, she has found that strategic planning and staff management were some of the other main challenges that she has been approached for.  Often once the work with the mentor has started and they have peeled back the layers of the business, they find that other factors come into play.


The benefit of having a mentor is that clients are able to have a sounding board with somebody who has no emotional connection to their business.  Mentors are able to brainstorm with them and even give their unbiased opinion.  Having a fresh pair of eyes to take a look at their business model helps.


For a one-time registration fee of $225 plus GST, businesses get free mentoring services for twelve months.  However, not all businesses may need these services for that long.  It usually varies.  Sometimes, the relationships formed become so strong that the business owners continue to meet with their mentors long after the period is finished.


Business mentors work as volunteers who just want to help and give back to the communities.  They are very special people who share their time and knowledge with others.  Most of the time, they get a buzz from just being able to do so because it’s something they have been able to accomplish in their own businesses.  It’s about giving back and also learning.  Clients get the most value from their mentors when they are committed to getting some guidance and help. 


There have even been clients who have gained so much value from mentoring that they were able to make positive changes in their businesses and become mentors themselves.  For those who decide there’s a lack of synergy with their mentors, Kayleen helps them find somebody who may be a better fit without any extra cost.


For more information on Venture Taranaki, you can go to or if you would like to contact Kayleen directly, you may contact her at Venture Taranaki at (06) 759-5163 or email her at

They also have a website at





In this episode of Chaos and Control for Small- to Medium-Business Enterprises, Craig Oliver interviews Kayleen Schoeman of Venture Taranaki.  Kayleen has been matching small- to medium-business enterprises with mentors. 


Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up doing what you’re doing today.


I grew up in a small town of Eltham, the cheese capital of New Zealand, just wanted to put that in.  After finishing my high school education, I was offered a full-time position working for a well-established photographer.  I assisted her with running the day-to-day activities at the studio office. 


I was young but keen to learn all the ins and outs of running a small business.  The most valuable skill I learned was face-to-face working with customers and I loved it.  I was in that position for seven and a half years.  It was an awesome avenue for face-to-face client focus.


I made the move to New Plymouth in 2000 because of a man who’s now my husband and we’re actually celebrating our thirteen year wedding anniversary today.


In 2000, I applied in a reception role in Taranaki and I was offered the position.  This was a huge leap for me and again, it meant honest dealing with clients face-to-face and getting involved in the community, which was awesome.


Seven years later, I went on maternity leave to have our daughter.  I thought that it would be easy to get back after 12 months.  When the time came, my husband and I decided to watch this little girl and enjoy the time while she’s little.  I was very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mum for 5 years.  I was lucky for that.


When my daughter turned 5 and went to school, I wasn’t needed anymore.  That was my opportunity to get back into the business world.  As it happened, they had a part time role available for the Business Mentor Program.  So I came back here for three years.


Can you tell us a bit about the Business Mentor Program?  What was it about?


Venture Taranaki is the Business Mentor’s New Zealand agent for Taranaki that provides access to experienced mentors to business around the mountain and all over the country.   It’s a charitable program funded by the Business and the Community Trust.  They have sponsors and various funding sources. 


There are seventeen agents throughout New Zealand and are positioned with different economic development or chamber of commerce agencies.  We are the agents for Taranaki. 


So Business Mentors operate nationwide and has helped more than 70,000 small- to medium-enterprise owners.  It is supported by over 1,900 volunteer mentors.  It works by enabling small- and medium-sized business owners to access the skills and knowledge of experienced, successful business people, and helping them achieve their goals.


My role is to manage and recruit new mentors to the program.  I also match businesses and new clients with the appropriate mentor.  So it’s like a professional matchmaking service.


Tell us about that process.  How does that work?


So when a client registers for a business mentor, they come in and we have a chat and we have a bit of an interview and talk about their business and discuss maybe the challenges that they’re facing.  I get an idea of the type of person they are. 


The matches aren’t only skill-based.  It has a lot to do with personality as well, so it’s really important to get that match of skill base and personality when I’m doing the bridging.  So from there, basically, once we’ve had that little discussion, I go away and I go through my mentor pool and sort out who might be the appropriate match. 


I have various mentors who, some of them are you know, very straight up and too the point and some clients really like that.  Other clients just need somebody for just a little bit of gentle nudging and so it’s really important to understand who the client is.  What their challenges are and we match them properly.


Who is your target market for clients and what would be their most common challenges that they have been when they come to see you?  What do they want help with?


There’s three programs offered through the Business Mentors New Zealand Program now.  So we have our start up program which is a six month accelerated mentoring for people who maybe have a new business idea that are not sure how to get off the ground and maybe just need the initial guidance to get a comprehensive business plan together.  We also have the business mentoring program which is for those small to medium business that have less than twenty five staff members that have a challenge or just need assistance of guidance in one particular area and we now have the community mentoring program which is specially designed for community groups and not-for-profits.


So, it totally varies from case to case, most of them press for marketing because everyone thinks they need marketing advice. [laughs] Which isn’t always the case but strategic planning and how to manage staff are the key areas often a client will think they need a particular skill and once the mentor comes in and the mentoring relationship sort of continues and the mentor is able to peel back the layers of the business, often there are other factors coming into play.  So sometimes, the client will sign up with an original request but really they need someone else.


But generally, the clients are looking for that sounding board from somebody that has no emotional connection with the business that they can just brainstorm with and can give their unbiased opinion.  It’s that person to talk to.  Those who run their business on their own might not have anyone to talk to about it apart from their spouse or family members.  So it’s really important to get that outside opinion, you know that fresh pair of eyes.


How long does your typical match up last?  How long do they sign up for?  How does it work?


Signing up for the business mentoring program is a twelve month registration period.  There is a one time registration fee that they pay.  It’s just a one-off recruitment cost. 


That’s $225 plus GST and that gives them free mentoring services for 12 months.  So, some clients find that they actually only need three or four meetings with their mentor and that is enough to get them to that next stage and away they go.  Others are able to continue a mentoring relationship for the 12-month period and even after that registration period is finished, sometimes, they still continue to meet with their mentor because they can form a nice relationship.  It does vary from client to client.  Sometimes, a client would have a couple of meetings and that’s it.  They’ve got everything. 


So, the mentors aren’t paid, are they? 


The mentors are not paid. They are volunteers.


What do they get out of it?


Okay, so first of all, our mentors are very special people.  They are volunteers.  So they don’t get paid. They give out their time and knowledge to pass on to others and they’re just a sounding board, a guide, you know, that brand to pick.  So the mentors tell me that they get a real buzz at the fact that they’ve been able to pass on their skill or some knowledge to help somebody because it’s something they’ve been able to apply to their business.  The mentor is not there to do any work for the client.  But something they do is help the clients come to the conclusion of where they need to be. 

It’s all about being part of the community.  You know, giving back to the community that’s been good to them and they get real value out of it.  I mean you’re a mentor.


Yes.  It’s being able to give back.  I found also that it actually helps me practice my skills on someone and I want to try something to make a little bit of a difference, different strategy, different ways present themselves and it’s almost as a mentor, you get value, which they are.  It helps with the practice.

What are some of your success stories?


Okay, so we’ve had some cool success stories.  Especially where the client has gained so much value from the mentoring to make some really positive changes in business.  But also, we have some cases where the client who’s got so much value added from the program that they are now mentors, which is awesome as well.  And on the other hand, we’ve had clients who with the help of a mentor, have been able to exit you know, their business in the best and most dignified way, which can also really be a positive outcome. 


Is there a shortage of business mentors with a particular skill?


Marketing.  Everybody wants a marketing mentor. They want to know the best way to make their business stand out from everybody else.  So, marketing is huge.  A huge one.  But again, everybody thinks they need a marketing mentor and not always the case but we can never get enough of them.  So always on the lookout for mentors we shoulder tap.  We contact accountants and lawyers and that sort of thing but it’s a lot about who we know in the community and cause there are some awesome people out there.  Some of them think, “How could I be a business mentor?  What can I add?”  But just being the sounding board for somebody, you know, you might have gone through something.  You may in your business at the moment and things might be going really great or you know, you can be able share your knowledge, maybe some mistakes that you’ve made.  Maybe that would be great.  [laughs]


 What’s another thing that is challenging dealing with a mentee?


So, you know, when they’re coming for their interview, I like to stress to them that the mentors are volunteers.  They don’t get paid.  So they are giving up their time freely.  I like to make sure that the client is ready to commit to a relationship because the more the client gives to the relationship, the more the mentor is willing to lead the client so there’s a level of commitment here.  I think it’s really important for them to understand that the whole giving up their time making you turn up at meeting if you’re really invested in getting some guidance and help, this is a great program but make sure you’re committed. But don’t waste anybody’s time.  The mentors don’t want to waste your time and the client doesn’t want their time wasted.  So, you know, be committed.  And if it’s not quite working out, that’s fine, you know.  They come back to me and we can rethink and rematch, whatever works but be committed.


Both the mentor and the mentee have the right to come back to you and say, “Look, I don’t think the synergy’s quite right here.”


Absolutely!  And nobody gets offended, you know.  It doesn’t always work and so we can come back and go back to the drawing board and have another look and the beauty of the program as well is that the client isn’t restricted to one mentor during the period.  So, they might start off with a marketing mentor and then along the way, they might find, “Oh, I actually need something else and this mentor can’t help me in that area.”  So we can actually add another mentor into the mix and it’s fine as well.


And it doesn’t cost them any money.  It’s just the same.


So, we can add others into the mix.  Not a problem at all and that’s the beauty of it as well.  But often, we will match with a mentor that can cover all the bases.  It’s an awesome program and I’m really glad and proud to be part of it because I see the value and when it works well, it works really well and I really appreciate the time the mentors put in.  We’ve got awesome mentors.


So if somebody wants to talk to you more about the service or if someone from the other seventeen different agencies, where do they go to find more about this program in New Zealand? 


Jump on to the website, and you’ll be put through to head office and they will put you in touch with a local agent.  If you want to talk to me here in Taranaki, you can contact me at Venture Taranaki Trust at (06) 759-5163 or you can email me  and don’t forget to visit our website




No one has commented on this page yet.

Post your comment