Cornerstone Enterprise Support Limited (Cornerstone) is a not-for-profit organisation established to offer a business mentoring service in Somerset.
Cornerstone uses a network of volunteer mentors, who are experienced business people, to give you an independent, free-of-charge view of your business, to help you to identify and address key issues and to develop a strategy for growth. We firmly believe that for mentoring to appeal to small businesses who are in the early stages of their existence it needs to be free. It is at this stage that most businesses are likely to be anxious to conserve their working capital.
We also believe that with funding less certain – and ever harder to find – the most sustainable model is for business mentoring to be delivered by volunteers who, although they give their services free, are nevertheless committed to ‘give back’ some of the extensive knowledge and experience gained during their business careers (see Code of Conduct).
With that in mind we have set up a model which differs from most other free mentoring services. The service is delivered by a company which itself engages volunteer mentors to deliver the needs of its client mentees, who in turn contract with the company for that purpose. The benefit for the mentee is that the arrangement is flexible – for example a second mentor could be engaged were that necessary or desirable. The mentor is protected by the contractual arrangements and the existence of professional liability cover arranged by the company.
The fact that the organisation is run entirely by volunteers makes it more sustainable, so the mentee can be confident that their support will not simply evaporate as some have found, for example, when funding has dried up.