I was already fully bought-in on the value of Studer Community Institute’s VMS (Venture Mentoring Service) program, but a recent VMS session for Greek’s Catering & Events really brought home why it’s so special.
SCI’s VMS is a free program based on the highly acclaimed model developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It pairs an entrepreneur with a team of 3-5 mentors for ongoing advice and guidance. Since starting in 2020, SCI’s VMS program has helped 39 local businesses and enjoys an impressive stable of over 40 mentors.
In the case of Greek’s, Stelios and Cristin Peterson are exactly the kind of mentees you want in this program. Sharp and conscientious go-getters who are determined to grow their business and are very open to all the advice and guidance they can get. You can see how they have the potential for tremendous success and growth but are wary of making missteps that could derail their progress. They recognize that VMS is exactly what they need to help achieve their goals.
Their original mentors, Nikki and Buddy Cummings, along with Jessica Griffen have all found great success as entrepreneurs. They delivered a lot of big picture advice as well as granular details that can make a tremendous difference. It was fascinating to hear them share so many ideas that have worked for them. Not all of it will work specifically for Greek’s, but as Buddy said, “we’re like a buffet, you can take what you want”.
Greek’s has been meeting monthly with their mentors since joining the program in November. Towards the end of the session, Stelios said they are getting so much out of it and wouldn’t be doing half the things they are doing without the mentor’s help. They already have or are in the process of implementing several methods and procedures regarding staffing, marketing, and business structure. As always, they left the meeting with action steps to take before next month’s session.
The value of VMS also extends to the mentors, who are volunteering their time. Nikki shared how much it means to her that Stelios and Cristin are so passionate about making the most of their advice. Jessica spoke about how the discussions benefit each of them as well, “iron sharpens iron”, she said. It’s clear they are all deeply invested in seeing Greek’s succeed, including heart-felt hugs after the meeting.
As if this wonderful mentor group wasn’t special enough, they just added another mentor to the team…the guy who literally wrote the book on mentoring! Bert Thornton, the legendary President/COO and Vice Chairman Emeritus at Waffle House is also sharing his golden wisdom with the Petersons. Thornton, the author of “Find An Old Gorilla”, a mentoring must-have, is a difference-maker to many in the VMS program (and beyond).
All of this from a program that is provided for free! VMS is truly making a huge impact for Pensacola’s entrepreneur ecosystem and in turn making our community a better place to live for all.
You can help us make a difference by supporting the VMS program here.
This is the third in a series of articles for Local Pulse Pensacola on SCI’s VMS program. Look for more in the weeks to come (and you can locate previous articles on the site).
Steve Nissim is Chief Storyteller for Studer Community Institute, a non-profit 501c(3) organization in the Pensacola, Florida area whose mission is improving the quality of life for all people in the diverse communities we serve. Learn more at www.studeri.org