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Mentorship at Delitelabs: Giving entrepreneurs purpose, motivation, and inspiration

Nizar Ben Messaoud is a Brand Manager at Unilever, where he is responsible for the marketing of popular food & beverage brands Calvé and Hellmann’s. Besides his work at Unilever, Nizar also spends time helping underprivileged communities. He has worked with Stichting Salaam, a foundation dedicated to developing underprivileged children and providing emergency aid and food packages to families in Rotterdam.

In 2020, he served as a Business Mentor in DelitelabsICE Academy program, in which he guided an aspiring entrepreneur named Omer in his start-up journey. He spoke to Delitelabs about his experience as a mentor, including what he learned, how both he and his mentee developed their skills and tips for future mentors and mentees.

Why should you become a mentor?

Nizar applied to become a mentor in the ICE Academy program because he saw an opportunity to make an impact.

“During the pandemic, it was more difficult to help people,” he says. “I realized this opportunity would make it possible to make an impact on society by helping people who are trying to improve themselves, through sharing my knowledge and experience.”

As a former entrepreneur himself, Nizar was also interested in improving his own skills by mentoring an aspiring entrepreneur virtually.

Meet Nizar’s mentee: Omer Faruk

Nizar met his mentee, Omer Faruk, with an introductory call, where they discussed the process, schedule, and plan on how they wanted to communicate in order to get the most out of the program.

Nizar recalls, “Omer was really ambitious to learn and he had ideas. I quickly found that I needed to help him structure those ideas. In my role, I didn’t want to do everything for him, but I wanted to help him think and challenge his plans and ideas.”

Nizar notes that because of their difficult situations, mentees can sometimes be indecisive and less motivated due to everything that’s going on outside of the program.

For Omer, it was the process of applying for citizenship. Omer was living in a refugee center during the program, so it was difficult for him to find privacy and a place to work and think.

“As a mentor, I saw it as my role to keep Omer inspired and motivated,” Nizar says.

Getting down to business: How Omer grew with Nizar’s support

When he started the program at Delitelabs, Omer did not have a clear business idea.

However, during the program, he developed a unique health tourism concept – specifically, a travel agency that offers holiday packages to Dutch travelers who want to combine their holiday with cheap, but high-quality, dental treatment in Turkey. “In other words, they’d have a sort of mini-vacation that includes dental treatment,” all for a lower price than getting dental treatment in the Netherlands.

“It was interesting as he interviewed people and set up contacts in Turkey,” Nizar tells us. “I loved to see that initiative as he worked out this idea. It was an interesting journey.”

In helping Omer develop his initiative, Nizar believes his biggest contributions were “helping Omer focus and make deliberate choices in his work, helping him make the best choices for his company, and also being there as a friend with whom he could share everything like what is going on, supporting him during that time, and motivating him and keeping him inspired.”

One of his biggest highlights was seeing each other in person at the fair, an event where participants presented and tested their ideas in the “real world.” “We’d only seen each other virtually the whole time,” Nizar explains. “Being at the fair and seeing his product concept come to life and seeing him present it to other members at the fair made me really proud.”

From the beginning of their mentoring relationship to the end of the program, Nizar noticed that Omer “changed from someone who was a little bit insecure to someone who really felt at home in the business department.” “For me, that was really a highlight – plus seeing all these different ideas from other participants and all of their positive mindsets. It was a great experience,” Nizar says.

How Nizar grew as a mentor – and as a person

While Omer received valuable guidance and mentorship from Nizar, the experience served both of them greatly.

“Learning and developing myself as a mentor – and doing it virtually during COVID-19 – was new for me and also a challenge,” Nizar says. “I also learned a lot more about the trajectory of someone trying to get citizenship in the Netherlands, like the regulations and issues that refugees deal with – for example, wanting to work and give something back to society but they can’t do that because of the regulations. For me, it felt like why do we have all these regulations toward people trying to make an impact in the Netherlands and we make life more difficult for them?”

It was disheartening for Nizar, but he points out, “ICE Academy is great because it gives a purpose to people, especially during difficult times while seeking asylum, to have something to work on and develop through their ideas presented in the ICE Academy program.”

How to become a mentor at Delitelabs

To become a mentor at Delitelabs, “Apply, apply, apply” is Nizar’s only advice.

“It’s a great journey. It’s a great organization with a lot of experience,” he adds. “There are people who really want to make the most out of this course.”

He also emphasizes the convenience of the program for mentors. “Some people think it’s going to take two days a week, but it doesn’t take a lot of time. One call a week is enough and you receive great value from it, you learn a lot, and you get inspiration from all these different entrepreneurs and their ideas and cultures. There’s a whole lot of facets, so just apply and be part of this amazing journey.”

For mentees and aspiring entrepreneurs, Nizar suggests, “My best advice is no matter how crazy an idea might be, find one that you’re really passionate about where it doesn’t feel like work, but it’s like a hobby. Find something you’re really crazy about and work on it – that’s the best thing you can have!”

“ICE Academy is great because it gives a purpose to people, especially during difficult times while seeking asylum.”
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