Our program has seven parts. Every accepted company is part of the business plan review. The rest of our program is tailored to particular companies, and is available who those who qualify.
- Business Plan Review
- Challenge Calls
- Peer-To-Peer Calls
- Investor Networks
1. Business Plan Review
The first part of our program, which is available to all companies that are accepted into our network, is business plan review. The MCN will curate a team of 10-12 individuals who will review your business plan. These individuals will be chosen for diversity of perspective. Most of our reviewers have had experience building multiple-bottom-line companies. Wherever possible, we will identify individuals who are addressing the same challenges as you, but who are not competing for the same customers.
It takes us 2-4 weeks (depending on the size of the cohort) to create the review teams, and we give them a month to review your plans. Each reviewer provides some of their professional background to the entrepreneur, making their experience and perspective visible. The feedback packet is made available both to the entrepreneurs who submitted their business plan and to the folks who reviewed the plan.
In the middle of the review period, one or more clarification calls are scheduled. These calls, usually video chats, are an opportunity for reviewers to ask questions directly of the entrepreneurs about anything that might not be obvious from reading their business plan.
The Richard Heinberg Prizes
Sponsored by the Foundation for a Sustainable Future
The Foundation for a Sustainable Future provides three cash prizes ($2,000, $1,000, and $500) in honor of Richard Heinberg, an American journalist and educator who has written extensively on energy, economic, and ecological issues, including oil depletion. He is the author of 13 books. He serves as the senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.
Successful applicants for these prizes will have detailed the sustainability benefits resulting from their project, such as climate change mitigation, energy efficiency, beneficial materials (toxicity, efficiency, renewables, etc.), clean-tech, water security, to name just a few. Discuss the metrics by which these benefits could be quantified.
The prizes are annual, so applicants across different cohorts within the same calendar year will be considering.
Turning reviewers into mentors is the focus of our program. After they have provided feedback on the business plans they read, our reviewers are asked how they would like to stay in touch with the entrepreneurs. They are given three options:
- I would be willing to mentor this business.
- I would be happy to engage in a follow-up conversation.
- Please leave me anonymous to the entrepreneur and other mentors.
The Mentor Capital Network has facilitated more than 8,000 business plan reviews. On average, about 25% choose the “mentor” option, 60% choose the “follow-up conversation” option, and 15% remain anonymous. The key factor is that the entrepreneur reaches out to the reviewers they found particularly helpful — both sides choose each other. The MCN provides mentoring guidelines, but ultimately the entrepreneur and the mentor determine what their mentoring relationship will look like.
4. Challenge Calls
The top companies from the business plan review phase of our program will be invited to participate in Challenge Calls where the entrepreneurs can pose a specific question to a curated team (much like the business plan review) for the entrepreneur(s).
5. Peer-To- (Non-Competitive) Peer Calls
The MCN can coordinate a series of peer-to-peer calls, both as one-off events for entrepreneurs addressing the same challenges but not competing for the same customers (e.g. — 4 women who run sustainable apparel companies (Scarves, Boots, Dresses, Underwear) in 4 separate countries (Chile, Guatemala, Cambodia, the USA) so that they can share best practices.
We are also building Mastermind groups, which will be ongoing opportunities for founders and managers to serve as resources for their peers.
6. Investor Networks
While the business plan review and mentor connection portions of our program often provide great value in investor readiness, we do not have a formal investor program at this point. That said, many of our reviewers and mentors are investors, and will reach out to us on a regular basis for pipeline suggestions.
In partnership with our research director, Dr. Matthew Lee (Harvard/ INSEAD), the MCN is engaged in an ongoing project to determine how we can best support social entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors. Data (primarily compiled from more than 8,000 scorecards, along with follow-up interviews) is being turned into information to tell us what kinds of people are best at predicting the success or failure of entrepreneurs, and what aspects of a business plan are most predictive of future success.