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Mentors and mentees – "I would have specific questions today."

Mentors and mentees – "I would have specific questions today."

Anita Molnár took over the management of the family business from her father about ten years ago. She had been managing director already for two or three years, when she applied for a mentorship program managed by the SEED Foundation. Then she wanted to gain knowledge about everything being part of how running a business, and she was particularly interested in how women entrepreneurs are managing their businesses. Now she knows that only specific questions may be meaningfully answered.

What did your business deal with when you applied for the mentoring program?

With the same as today, with the production, cultivation, processing and marketing of spice paprika. This is a family business founded by my father in the mid-90s. I joined the company in 2008. Working together with my father, I learned a lot about the profession, the entrepreneurial world. The specialty of our company is that besides the daily work we also operate a non-profit pepper history museum presenting the paprika culture of Szeged to the visitors. That is, we are also dealing with tourism.

By the way, you naturally grew up into the business: so it was perfectly clear - when the time comes - to take over the relay boton from your father?

Not at all. My parents were in their 40s at the time of the change of regime, so they rebuilt their career by setting up a company in the mid-90s. I also was an adult at that time, working as teacher long enough, later on I continued my career in the private sector. When the business got stronger and it occurred to me that it would still be good to continue this story, I and my brother agreed that I would take the company further. By then, we had already have the museum, I managed it, and my parents only hoped that I would take over the business once.

It is very different to run a business than to teach it.

Yes, that is right, however I worked in the private sector, so not did I know not only the state of the public sector, my parents became entrepreneurs almost immediately after the change of regime, but before that they always did something besides their work. In addition, they were people knowing if one thing does not go, another thing has to be started. They did not restart, but re-designed. I had a close-up view of an entrepreneur's brain spinning. Of course, being an entrepreneur is another story, but I was spiritually prepared.

Why did you join the SEED mentoring program back then?

I wanted to know as much as possible about the activity of businesses and how do women entrepreneurs hold their own in this world? I was interested in how people of similar ages, especially women, were managing their company. I really wanted to talk about my problems with outsiders, I really wanted someone from outside to look at our company and to tell me what they see, whether they are mentors or mentees. The SEED Foundation's mentoring program provided an excellent opportunity for this purpose.

Are you consciously looking for a mentoring program or have you accidentally found this one?

I wasn't looking for it systematically, but there are no coincidences, so I was open „to be found” by such a project. I don't remember exactly what channel I got into, but I applied immediately.

What did you expect from your mentor?

I expected to talk a lot, to get questions and to put questions.  I was very curious about how someone sees our company from outside. The business is different if you are in it. You don't put the questions that a "stranger" might ask you after the first meeting. However, I did learn not only from the mentor. 

But then who did you learn from?

The program was put together in such a way that the participants often met at various events. We talked to each other a lot, listened to constructive lectures, and visited businesses of different mentors. These were great occasions.

Did you have specific problems that you wished to get an answer to?

I didn't come with specific problems. I am interested in every aspect of running a business: manufacturing technology, management, trade. It would have been difficult to say exactly what I was expecting an answer to. Today I know that only a good question can get a good answer. The secret of a well-functioning mentor-mentee relationship is to be well prepared for the occasions and to have well-formulated questions. This is a real relationship of trust, because everything here has to be talked about: financial issues, human situations. So, I didn't have any specific questions then. I would even have such ones today.

If you look back now, what has the mentoring program given to you?

First, it gave me two girlfriends with whom we still in contact. For me, by the way, this was the first program I attended, and it aroused my interest even for similar programs and trainings. There was an excellent collaborative partner in this project, Zsuzsa Bardóczy trainer, consultant, communication specialist being such a big impact on me that I later also attended a training course and I consciously started to look for leadership training programs and lectures. Probably I liked so much what Zsuzsa was saying because I had never been manager before, at the same time I had to manage people in my business, especially men, therefore at first I was very uncertain, I felt myself like a puppet. Her presentation and training helped me to become a real team leader. To summarize in a single sentence what I received from the SEED Foundation's mentoring program: it made me open for attending further specific trainings as well as educational and professional programs.

Károly Bognár