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Name: Alison Martin-Books

Business: Mentoring Women’s Network , a mentoring service focused on aspiring female leaders

Industry: Coaching & Consulting

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.

Reason for starting: I started Mentoring Women’s Network in 2011 as a way for women from a variety of backgrounds, industries, and levels of experience to come together to support one another personally and professionally. The organization evolved quickly, as we realized we had stumbled upon a need. Last year, in 2013, we launched our Foundation, took the organization nationally, and developed our one on one virtual mentoring program – including the training and matching and scheduling software. It has been an incredible journey so far.

 How do you define success? Success means getting to do what you do best every day and knowing your work makes a positive impact on those around you. I built my early career working in nonprofit organizations and it was easy to feel good knowing the work I was doing was positively impacting others. This feeling is not limited to nonprofit work. Regardless of the line of work, anyone can make a positive impact. If you are able to match your talent with your passion and make a living while doing it, that is a beautiful thing!

I was on my own at 16 and had my son at 18 and spent the better part of my career as a single mother. Having my son at an early age propelled me to work very hard to give him the life he deserved. This drive and tenacity enabled me to advance my career quickly and I became the youngest Executive Director in the nation for a large voluntary health organization at 29. In this role, I had a 23-member board of directors and 24-person staff and I had access to some of the city’s most influential leaders. It was because of the relationships I built with highly successful people – both internally and externally – that I was able to develop my own leadership skills. I knew I was fortunate and wanted others – women in particular – to have access to that kind of perspective as well.

Related: Read more about business as a social enterprise here.

Biggest Success: It is hard to define one big success, when there are many small ones realized each day. My biggest success personally was realized when I was recently recognized by our state commission for women as a “Torch Bearer.” It was humbling to receive this recognition when compared to the legacies of the other women who were also recognized, but it was incredible for my organization to receive that recognition as well.

Our main goal is to be the largest and most effective mentoring program for women in the world. We will accomplish this through collaborative partnerships with other female-focused organizations and by recruiting market directors in targeted geographies. We are developing 10 markets this year, which include Dallas, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Orlando, Indianapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Chicago.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our top challenge was developing a mentoring program which addressed all of the typical points associated with a successful program – the training, the matching, the scheduling, and the administration. We researched other programs and found all components are important in developing such a program. Though it was a daunting task, in January 2014, we rolled out a virtual mentoring program which certifies our mentors and enables participants to access one another by phone or by Skype and can be done from the comfort of their home or office.

Related: Three Secrets of Success for Female Entrepreneurs

Who is your most important role model? I have had many role models over the years and people I admired from afar. It is hard for me to name just one, as I feel I learn something from everyone I meet. I am extremely close with my aunt, who happens to live in Switzerland, and we are close because of our shared sense of values and her amazing perspective on so many topics.

Twitter   @mentorwomensnet

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