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Erin X. Smithers has been working at Citizens Bank for the past 20 years; EforAll is one of the Citizens’ community partners. At Citizens, Erin works in Consumer Lending Compliance as a Senior Risk Manager. She also leads a Business Resource Group(Elev8)’s community pillar that focuses on workforce development, financial empowerment, and community and colleague engagement.  Outside work when she can, Erin freelances as a performance art photographer and supports nonprofits on marketing and DE&I strategies.

 

What made you want to become a mentor?

I believe in paying it forward and empowering others, especially those from underrepresented communities. The adversities I’ve faced have become my strengths, and I want to help others recognize their own strengths and thrive. As an immigrant, I’ve had to discover my strengths, understand my identity, and reinvent myself. The adversities I’ve faced have become my strengths, and I want to help others recognize their own strengths and thrive; mentoring others allows me to share my professional background from the corporate and freelancing environment. Mentoring also provides a valuable opportunity to practice my skills, to shape the entrepreneurs tomorrow, to make a difference in someone’s life, and to create a long-lasting impact in their growth journey.

Can you give us some examples of the kinds of startups you have mentored with us?

So far, I’ve mentored a non-medical transportation service focusing on accessibility. The entrepreneur came up with a meaningful business concept that provides convenient and accessible transportation. Working along with a coach and mentoring her has been an amazing experience. I’m so proud of what she has achieved since she joined the EforAll cohort; she embodies the qualities of a great entrepreneur: resilience, flexibility, critical thinking, and problem-solving. We’ve worked on business concepts, marketing plans, and networking strategies. What a remarkable gift to watch her continue to shine and transform her vision into a business; she is ready to take on more challenges and continue to expand her business.

What is your favorite part of being an EforAll mentor?

My favorite part is working with the passionate and organized team at EforAll Rhode Island. Laura and Julia embody the best qualities of partners, making the mentoring process seamless and enjoyable. Attending the graduation felt like a family celebration, filled with inspiration and pride for all the entrepreneurs. The supportive community and the opportunity to be part of such a dynamic environment are incredibly fulfilling.

What do you think makes EforAll special?

EforAll stands out because of its social platform and entry-level entrepreneur incubator model. It teaches business concepts and provides a supportive network for expanding ideas and turning them into marketable businesses. EforAll’s focus on underrepresented communities and immigrants, coupled with its structured mentoring program, creates a lasting impact. Even after the program, the continued relationship between mentors and mentees ensures the entrepreneurs have ongoing support and success. The commitment of the staff to elevate the program further adds to its uniqueness.

What are the biggest challenges that women entrepreneurs face?

Women entrepreneurs face significant challenges, especially immigrant women dealing with language and cultural barriers. Skills and degrees from their home countries often aren’t recognized, leading to misconceptions about their abilities. Society frequently overlooks their capabilities and resilience. Additionally, balancing work and personal life is a common struggle. However, these challenges can become strengths. The adversities women face can turn into their competitive advantages. They need opportunities, support, and someone to believe in their potential to help them succeed.

What advice would you have for entrepreneurs?

Understand that your idea needs to be a marketable concept and find your niche to turn it into a business. Be consistent and persistent in knowing your industry, and be prepared to take calculated risks. You should view failures and challenges as opportunities and stay flexible. Embrace a growth mindset and continue learning. Build a strong network and leverage word-of-mouth recommendations. Work with mentors and like-minded individuals to foster growth. Remember that intelligent failures are part of the journey, and focusing on understanding problems will lead to better solutions. Stay authentic, be proud of yourself, and commit to being a lifelong learner.

Interested in becoming a mentor? Learn more here.