Building an Inclusive Entrepreneurship Ecosystem
on College Hill & Beyond

Being a great mentor for students isn’t always as easy as it seems. Having a breadth of life and startup experience is certainly a necessary foundation, but effective mentoring is rarely “simple nuts and bolts of advice.”

What would you do in these situations?

–  A student is experiencing personal issues dealing with gender, race, or socioeconomic disparities.
– You’re asked by your mentees to invest in their company.
– A student comes from a different culture from yours and maybe you can’t relate to or even help them navigate through their pain points.
– Student founders are starkly at odds over equity splits or decision-making structures.

Below are links to videos and resources to our workshop series Mentoring in Focus, to help build our collective understanding of inclusive approaches to mentoring, teaching, and entrepreneurship practices. Continue to learn more about our mentor and mentee guidelines.

Mentoring in Focus Event Series

Why Being Inclusive in Your Approach Isn’t So Obvious

with Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan

As part of this session, Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, Professor of Practice and Founder and Director of the Venture Capital Inclusion Lab led an interactive conversation about becoming an inclusive mentor and shared examples of how we can better navigate the diverse social, political, and cultural nuances of our identities and experiences.

How To Be An Effective Mentor for Student Ventures

with Jason Harry, B-Lab Director & Professor of the Practice

As part of this session, Jason Harry, the Hugh W. Pearson ’58 Professor of the Practice of Technology and Entrepreneurship
at the School of Engineering and the Director of the Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab) led a discussion on the important nuts and bolts of advising through the Nelson Center venture development process.

Each One, Teach One

with Riche Holmes Grant '99, Entrepreneur in Residence, Nelson Center

Riche Holmes Grant ‘99, Entrepreneur in Residence, and Lauren Brown ‘22, Lead Peer Entrepreneur in Residence at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship are two Black women entrepreneurs who have built a strong mentor-mentee relationship fostered by initiatives at Brown. Learn best practices for how to find a mentor, what not to do once you have one, and how to cultivate the success of the relationship, both at Brown and beyond.


View your role as being part teacher, part venture advisor.
The Nelson Center’s mission is fundamentally educational; feel empowered to serve as an instructor … one who often points toward answers, not just gives them. That said, you can dispense your knowledge and advice as you would to a colleague, with a forthrightness that might not typically be seen in a classroom.

Resist the temptation to take charge. Perhaps it goes without saying (given the first point above), but it is important that the student(s) and/ or venture be in control of its own destiny. While giving winning advice, recognize that you are not responsible for failures (or successes!).

Recognize that each students’ situation is different. We all come from different backgrounds and identities. It’s important not to assume a student’s identity or that certain resources, whether it be financial or social capital are available for each and every student. For example, a student may also have to gain income while also working on his/her/their venture and cannot dedicate as much time while in school or might not have the networks to raise capital from “friends and family”. We ask that you consider these, and other possible scenarios as you give feedback. Remember your story is not universal. Watch this video on diversity and inclusive approaches to mentoring led by Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan. Some other helpful resources: The Key To Diversity And Inclusion Is Mentorship; U Madison Wisconsin Self-Assessment; Implicit Bias Test; Guide for Mentors

Sharing contact info. It’s up to you to share your contact info. We recognize that you may meet frequently with entrepreneurs in and out of Brown, and may not have the time to schedule another meeting or even time to have email correspondence. Feel welcome to share your bandwidth with the student or venture you’re meeting with if they ask about contacting you again after the meeting. Be clear if you are open to other conversations, or if you’d like to connect again next time you’re on campus. 

Express your interest in mentoring or getting involved in the Nelson Center through our Volunteer Form.



Preparing to speak with a mentor for the first time

Research: Before your meeting, take a little time to learn more about them (e.g., look at their LinkedIn or search their name and professional experience online). This will allow you to learn more about their background and skill set. Understanding who you are speaking with is a crucial component of mentorship. It provides context to your conversation by laying out an understanding of where the visitor is coming from.

Be prepared: We recommend that you have something to share with your mentor. This could be a challenge, question, an application for which you seek their advice or specific area on which you would like feedback. Having written notes or an agenda is a best practice and will help to keep your meeting on topic. Mentors are interested in getting to know mentees. They offer their time because they want to provide support and use their experience as a resource for you. 

During the meeting

Introduce yourself. Be sure to introduce yourself and provide a brief (3-5 minute) overview of you or your venture. Keep it concise. Acknowledge and be respectful of the mentor’s limited time. Feel free to share a one-pager about your venture, a prototype, etc., as necessary. Background information helps your meeting to be efficient.

Advice and constructive criticism. Receive advice  with grace and gratitude. Any advice you receive is  a “data point,” not gospel. Expect divergent and opposing advice. Remember: “Nobody knows your venture as well as you do!” Clarify any questions you may have regarding suggestions you receive. Take notes. Summarize any action items on a high-level. 

Closing the meeting

Gratitude begets abundance. Close the meeting with gratitude and follow up as soon as possible with a thank you email. A continued relationship is the exception, not the rule and a continuation of the initial interaction should be requested. It should be specific and appropriate, i.e., “May I contact you again should I have additional questions.” or “Can we continue our conversation on a monthly basis?”  

Future meetings are up to both the mentor and mentee. If you would like to share your contact info, you may do so.  a decline for future meetings is not personal. Many mentors meet frequently with other aspiring entrepreneurs both inside and outside of Brown, and may not have the time to schedule another meeting or even have time for email correspondence.