Heidi Holmes and Lucy Lloyd are the founders of Mentorloop – an online platform built exclusively for the mentoring community.
Heidi started her career with KPMG, with over a decade of experience in tax and marketing. While completing her Masters in Marketing at RMIT, she researched the impact of Australia’s ageing population and saw the mature age worker emerge as a neglected market.
Be careful not to underestimate how successful your business could be.
Since then her passion for this area has grown and in 2011 she relaunched and took over Adage.com.au which has now grown to be one of Australia’s leading job boards and online communities for the over 45 market.
More recently, through her experience with Adage, she developed an interest in the role mentoring plays in our society. After 12 months of considered research, planning, development and networking she launched Mentorloop.
Lucy was first immersed in the digital industry while still at Uni, working part-time as a website copywriter for Australian online department store Wishlist.com.au. After finishing Uni she moved to London, joining a growing web agency as an Account Manager and Digital Strategist.
Upon her return to Melbourne in 2009 she joined Evolution 7 as the agency’s first dedicated project manager, managing clients, team and projects through various stages of growth and business change over the past four years.
Keep the bigger picture (i.e. “the dream”) in mind, refer back to it daily!
Over the past 12 months she has applied her digital project management and strategy experience to Mentorloop – a SAAS web application built to manage, track and participate in mentoring relationships.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Mentorloop is an online platform built exclusively for the mentoring community. Program administrators can now effectively ‘match and manage’ program participants from one central location, while mentees and mentors can take advantage of real time collaboration tools to enhance their mentoring experience.
The idea came from recognising a problem within the existing mentor community. Program administrators who were responsible for managing and implementing programs all experienced similar frustrations. Many were using excel spread sheets to match and manage participants which presented issues around document control and business continuity. Administrators also faced limitations in tracking the success of their program, including the effectiveness of how relationships were progressing.
Through Mentorloop we have been able to bring greater insights to the administrators as well as increase the accountability among mentees and mentors.
Please explain your business model.
Users pay a monthly subscription fee to access the platform. Given a large segment of the mentor programs in operation are run by NFP or industry bodies we needed to make sure our pricing model was affordable and flexible for their needs.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
Having completed the first development iteration of the Mentorloop platform, we are currently taking feedback from different user groups so that we can continue to build and enhance our offering.
Users expect software to be stable, reliable and intuitive, so our constant challenge is to refine the Mentorloop experience. As part of this we are also producing online tutorials and other resources to make adoption as easy as possible for our community of users.
How do you make ideas happen?
Throughout this entire process our ‘ideas’ have been driven by the need to solve a client’s problem.
There is no point developing an idea if the market itself has no need for it. Organisations are becoming increasingly cost sensitive while also looking to improve efficiencies in what is still a sensitive economic climate. Therefore, ideas need to solve problems and thereby deliver real value to their business.
In software and web application development the concept of the “minimum viable product” is thrown around a lot, and we find it valuable to keep referring back to this theme. Idea generation is exciting and ongoing, but knowing how to cherry pick the ideas that will make a difference to your clients now, and the ideas that can wait until the 2nd, 3rd, 4th iteration of your product is essential.
What does your typical day look like?
As we are still in the early stages of launching Mentorloop we are always on the look out for new opportunities. We need to be experts in all things ‘mentoring’ so we start the week by reviewing online forums and contacting any new leads. Managing client feedback and documenting this appropriately for the development pipeline is also still very much a part of our daily workload.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
Not having started a business anywhere else, it’s difficult to frame a reference! Sometimes you hear talk of the start up industry in Australia being fledgling, unexciting, even a non-starter – this is not an opinion we hold. While there may be more incubators and more available capital flowing elsewhere, the competitive pressures are fiercer. We find the Australian (Melbourne) start up community to be supportive, extremely generous with their time, always willing to listen to a good idea and provide advice.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Heidi: Be careful not to underestimate how successful your business could be.
Lucy: Keep the bigger picture (i.e. “the dream”) in mind, refer back to it daily!
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry , in Australia at the moment?
What about internationally?
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Businesses have a huge impact on the day to day lives of their employees, their employees’ families, their community and their local economy, so simply by inhabiting an open, friendly and social culture can a business be a positive force for change.
The focus on initiatives to improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is ever increasing, and mentoring can form a big part of that by giving people a voice in their workplace, and rewarding open, social behaviours.
Where businesses want to give back the focus should be less on money, and more on partnerships where business bring their expertise, people and core competencies to bear on relevant social projects, with engagement that’s more meaningful to all parties involved.
Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you like to support?
Good Return – Asia-Pacific microfinance website
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Name 2 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
We’re always looking for ways to engage more deeply with the mentoring community – with active mentors, people who run programs, people who are considering starting a program. People who believe in mentoring are often quite passionate about the concept, so in every conversation that we have we learn something new, and come away even more excited about the prospect of making mentoring more accessible.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
In developing your pricing strategy in the early stages of starting your business, how do you build flexibility into the model?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Heidi: Bar Lourinha
Lucy: Union Dining
We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
A bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne.