After just a few moments with Ande Lyons, it becomes abundantly clear that her energy for supporting entrepreneurs is unparalleled. A self-described “Yoo Hoo Startup Founder and Entrepreneurial Adventurer”, Ande has been a Mentor with EforAll’s Lowell-Lawrence site for the past two years. She is also a Startup Coach for Founders at Startup Life with Ande Lyons, where she provides strategies, solutions, and support to accelerate a startup founder’s progress.
Her secret sauce? “I like to term a founder as an entrepreneurial adventurer, and when you’re going into your business with that state of mind you’re looking for the possibilities, not the guarantees,” she says. Ande talks to EforAll about how she became a Mentor, her advice for budding entrepreneurs, and how to plan your day for success.
What is your background? I’ve been unemployable since 1992, and I mean that sincerely! I really tried to get jobs. I earned my MBA in 1989 at the only all-women’s MBA program at Simmons College at Simmons School of Management. I went into banking, not because I was a fit, I wanted to get into commercial lending because I wanted to know how bankers thought. After some time, I left, and my first gig was raising money for the guy who founded AeroBed, and I got him his initial capital. Over the following 25 years I have had four businesses.
Being a Mentor is a volunteer position, is there anything in particular that inspired you to give back? I never even thought about volunteering for an accelerator until I attended Entrepalooza, where I met Andy Vargas (Senior Marketing Manager for EforAll), and he told me: “We really need Mentors.” I’ve been a Mentor in many aspects of life and business, I’ve had mentors, but it never even occurred to me that it was available. I was really called to the mission and the vision of Entrepreneurship for All, and I could not sign up fast enough.
What is your favorite part of being a Mentor? The best part about being a Mentor is that you work with a diverse group of people, it’s a collective process. You’re there to help solve problems, find solutions, share the pain and the joy. You’re not necessarily with like-minded people and you’re coming together for the purpose of serving an entrepreneur’s journey.
What is the dynamic of a Mentor team like? It’s wonderful. I’m about the possibilities, but you may have another Mentor that’s going to show you reality or talk about how to be careful and they’re going to be bringing that perspective. I’ve been in Mentor meetings when I’ve just held up my recorder because I’ve got a marketing research genius and I’m sitting there going “wow, this is amazing.”
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? I do not glorify entrepreneurship. I like to tell entrepreneurs it’s an adventure and you are on a steep learning curve, but there are no mistakes. Everything that happens to you will benefit you. I always tell them the quote of Max Levchin, former CTO of PayPal: “The very first company I started failed with a great bang. The second one failed a little bit less, but still failed. The third one, you know, proper failed, but it was kind of okay. I recovered quickly. Number four almost didn’t fail. It still didn’t really feel great, but it did okay. Number five was PayPal.”I’m all about pulling back the curtain and sharing reality because your why has to be so big that you can be okay with the dip that happens, the walk through death valley that you’ll go through.
Do you have any entrepreneurs that have inspired you after completing the accelerator program? I was the Coach/Mentor for InvisaWear. I watched these two kids get faced with some really huge setbacks and they kept their cool, their integrity, their perseverance, their tenacity, and their cheerful dispositions. But I’m also inspired by the entrepreneurs that have said: “I’ve done all I can based on who I am, and I’m going to stop now.” I was really inspired by that too because sometimes that’s what we have to do. That journey that they had was not a waste, ever. Even if it flopped or failed miserably, you have now between your ears and in your heart, all the courage, tenacity, and wisdom to do anything in life.
What would you say to other people that are considering being a Mentor? I think anybody can be a Mentor if they’ve had any business experience, and if they’ve had to show up at a job and lead, manage, or contribute as a team player. It can be a nonprofit too, especially if you’ve had to work with a team of volunteers. I think this particular program is very clear about your role as a Mentor. They have you assigned properly to a team and you have two other Mentors that are with you on this journey, from all industries and walks of life. One of the things as a Mentor that you do is provide this solid base of stability for the entrepreneur, who everyday is facing such a high level of uncertainty.
How do you manage your time? I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned is to end everyday with writing what your critical task items are for the next day. I also have a strategy every morning, which is to write down your outcome for the day as if the day has already happened. You’re looking back at the day even though the day is just starting. It’s a way to activate your brain so that your brain is searching to get those things done. It’s a mind technique and it’s very powerful.
Ande’s Words of Wisdom
- “I like to term a founder as an entrepreneurial adventurer and when you’re going into your business with that state of mind you’re looking for the possibilities, not the guarantees.”
- “Everyday is a success because you got up, you created something, and sure it’s been done before but not by you and not for us.”
- “Take pride, you can’t be comparing yourself to other businesses or founders. You need to know that this is your unique experience and ideally the outcome is to have a profitable, sustainable business.”
- “I think a business is a success if you can brand it, launch it, sell it, repeatedly. If you can get it to scale, get investors, feed your family and do more, wow!”