What a difference a year makes. Back in 2016 Art Ladd, Executive Director of BUILD (Building Urban Industries for Local Development), a local social enterprise that creates training and employment opportunities for people with multiple barriers to employment, approached Spark with the request to assist the organization in better understanding and navigating the construction sector. To meet this request Spark created a mentorship match between Art and Dinis Prazeres, President of JEDS Construction.
Mentorships are unique matches in the Spark universe, Sparkiverse? While many of these matches have been between new and experienced Executive Directors, we have also used the same model for other organizational roles, including fundraising, accounting, and marketing. Typically these matches are longer than the average match (one year) and have a less formal structure with meetings occurring once a month to discuss anything under that big bright CED sun.
Dinis wanted to give back and he found the opportunity to be a mentor intriguing. Although not an Executive Director, he is president of a construction company and as Art described it had “the ideal background and experience” for a mentorship match with BUILD. Dinis could provide Art with the knowledge of and connections to the industry he needed.
So, they met once a month for a year. Dinis answered “questions about how the industry worked, how best to connect with and engage other players … and many other things.” He also proved helpful as someone to “bounce ideas off of, and who could look at processes and tools [BUILD] had come up with from an industry insider’s perspective.”
However, it was the development of personal relationships and connections that proved the most valuable. Personally, both Art and Dinis reported a strong match. It is a testament to the match’s strength that the two now consider themselves friends and are continuing to meet with Dinis currently reviewing marketing plans for BUILD. Professionally, Art said that Dinis “reinforced the importance of personal relationships in the business world, and that sometimes it is the mid-sized businesses that are great partners: they are large enough to have good systems and processes, and hire a lot of people, but small enough that personal relationships matter.”
One of these mid-sized businesses, Transcona Roofing, is proving to be a great partner. Through Dinis’ network, BUILD developed a connection with the company that is mutually beneficial for both organizations. Now, Transcona Roofing “subcontracts BUILD crews to work with them on some of their projects, doing everything from demolition, to roofing and now even framing work.” Moreover, Transcona Roofing has “gone on to hire 9 of BUILD’s trainees to work directly as part of their staff team”, a pattern Art believes will continue with the company hiring more BUILD trainees as openings become available. This connection, with direct channels to employment opportunities for BUILD trainees, has a considerable positive impact on BUILD and directly fulfills the organization’s mission of empowering multi-barriered people by providing skills training and employment opportunities.
Art and Dinis’ mentorship match successfully addressed Art’s request for assistance with navigating the construction sector, as well as helping establish relationships and procurement contracts with construction companies in the private sector, and explore new areas of expansion. When asked at the end of the interview if Art had any other comments or suggestions he said that he “highly encourage other local social enterprises to pursue mentorship matches through Spark. Their process of assessing our needs, and then matching us up with the right person with the right skills, background and attitude worked really well.” While we aren’t trying to self -promote, okay maybe a little, we want to highlight the high impact mentorship matches, with fellow ED’s or an industry insider, can have on an Executive Director and the organization.