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Nonprofit aims to connect entrepreneurs

By   /   Monday, May 19th, 2014  /   Comments Off

A new Santa Barbara-based nonprofit is hoping to connect entrepreneurs with mentors.

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A new Santa Barbara-based nonprofit is hoping to connect entrepreneurs with mentors.

Mentorship Works is launching a series of speaking events with Kevin O’Connor, the founder of digital advertising firm DoubleClick, which sold to Google for $3.1 billion in 2007. More recently, O’Connor founded Summerland-based FindTheBest, a comparison service to help consumers pick among products and services, raising $17.2 million and employing 120 people.

The nonprofit itself is aiming to fill a void in Santa Barbara’s business world infrastructure. While UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College and Westmont College all have successful business-plan competitions, it can be hard for students who didn’t participate in those programs to find a mentor after they’ve graduated. Mentorship Work plans to be “agnostic” and open to people at any point in their careers.

“You don’t necessarily need to start a business to need a mentor. Anyone can use Mentorship Works,” said Zack Ober, a UCSB graduate who founded the nonprofit in his spare time while working at an economic consulting firm.

Mentorship Works works as a matching service. Mentors sign up, and mentees fill out request forms. The nonprofit’s board then helps filter applications and make connections.

“For the mentors, it’s a minimum time commitment of once a month. We want them to be more than a consultant — almost like a friend that has more experience,” Ober said. “Being a mentee doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a mentor right away. We don’t want to rush the matches.”

In addition to providing matches, Mentorship Works will be hosting a series of speakers and producing online videos about business topics. O’Connor of FindTheBest is the inaugural speakers.

“Mentors had a big impact on me throughout my career so I guess this is a pay it forward to me,” O’Connor told the Business Times in an email. “FindTheBest is unique in that most of our company are people right out of school so their access to mentors within the company is a bit constricted so we’re hoping this program will provide us access to more mentors.”

Ober said he founded the group as a nonprofit because he felt entrepreneurs help improve a community. And for the past several years, many students have followed the script for success in school only to find poor-quality jobs waiting for them. They’re instead opting to create their own jobs, and Ober said Mentorship Works is intended to help them do so.

“I learned more about life after I graduated than I did during college,” Ober said. “I though the [Mentorship Works] idea was great and that the town needed, and the best way to do that was for it to be a nonprofit.”

Mentorship Works’ first event will be at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 22 at the Montecito Country Club. Click here for more information.

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