Sheldon Zhang, '12 BSc ElecE and Terry Song, '10 MSc
Behind every great entrepreneur is a great Mentor
Brian Menges, Chris Vilcsak, Ken Cantor, Lindsay Dodd
Though it was exciting and new in the beginning of our business, it was also very chaotic because we were first-time founders that lacked business expertise and experience. We tried to look for help but it wasn’t easy. We got some coffee chats and meetings with other entrepreneurs who were kind enough to talk to us. However, we needed more help and something more systematic. We knew VMS was what we needed as soon as we heard about it.
In our minds, a great entrepreneurial community should have a group of like-minded people at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey, who are willing to provide help and support in both good times and bad. And to us, VMS is just that. Whether it's about the connection between the Mentors and fellow entrepreneurs, or the common challenges and experiences shared with each other, most of the time, we get help from the community when we ask for it. We were able to get the much-needed brainstorm when we were clueless, the guidance when we felt lost, and all kinds of support not only from our team Mentors but also the entrepreneurs and Mentors across the VMS community.
People often have trust and respect for the expertise of those who work in a STEM field because these are professions that require extensive education and training. For example, people won’t comment on the way scientists do their research because the complexity of their work is not easy to grasp. This is not always the case for people who work in business. People underestimate the prerequisite knowledge and experience that’s required to become “professional” entrepreneurs because it doesn’t look like a “professional” job. We were like that when we first started Yardly. Coming from an engineering background, we didn’t have much business education and experience, which meant we knew very little about the “basics” and “common sense” compared to seasoned entrepreneurs or even new business grads. Learning on the go became an essential part of the job. Just like Ph.D. students need to have supervisors, entrepreneurs need to have Mentors. If reading is about business theories, working on the business is about the practice, VMS is a great program that combines both. It accelerates entrepreneurs’ growth by providing mentorship on the real issues we are facing.
we get help from the community when we ask for it
For the first couple of years in VMS, the experiences were important learning opportunities that helped us grow our business while also shaping our thinking as entrepreneurs. We used the meetings as our go-to source for most issues we encountered.
Mentorship is just one of the great things VMS offers. The community of entrepreneurs is just as important, as many of us are going through or have just gone through the same, common issues. The entrepreneurial journey is also a lonely one, and many people underestimate the psychological price entrepreneurs pay.
VMS provides an environment where everyone “gets it”. This support network makes it easier for all the entrepreneurs to support themselves during the early stages when a lot of us were headed down different paths in our lives.
Sheldon Zhang and Terry Song
VMS entrepreneurs since 2016
Mentorship team: Brian Menges, Chris Vilcsak, Ken Cantor, Lindsay Dodd