Sustaining a business post-pandemic: Barbora & Marcela's mentoring experience

Written by
Gabriela Dittrichova
Published on
August 10, 2023

Barbora Urbanova (the co-founder of BrainFAQ Brno) is one of those whose business got hit the most by the pandemic. Shortly after she had her second child, she had to come up with a plan to sustain her escape room business after all the venues were shut down due to the lockdown. With the help of an experienced marketing mentor, Marcela Krzemien (Digital Marketing Consultant), she found ways to overcome those challenges and come out of the crisis stronger than before. Read her and Marcela’s mentoring journey.  

1. What inspired you to join the mentoring program? 

Bara: One year ago, when we had our second child, our business took off very fast and once the pandemic started, it got more complicated day by day. We tried to start an online board games business and I found out that I don’t actually know how to do it. I know how to serve people face-to-face but I couldn’t put it into the virtual world. I had a feeling that there are ways of transitioning more easily but I didn’t have the tools, and so I reached for external help and decided to get a mentor.  

Because of the second child, I had less time to educate myself, so I looked for shortcuts to learn new things more quickly and found the mentoring program from Femme Palette. My main mentoring goal was to make the business more stable in times of constant closings and openings caused by the pandemic. 

Marcela: I have been mentoring with Femme Palette little over two years now. Mentoring is a fantastic activity that offers career and development benefits not only for a mentee. I think of it as a partnership based on learning and gaining new experiences from both parties. Mutual benefits provide a foundation that supports the collaborative and educational nature of mentoring.

2. What surprised you the most about your mentee?

M: Barbora is a very busy person! But at the same time, I gained a lot of admiration for her organising skills, energy levels and positive attitude.

3. What were your expectations before joining the program? 

B: Before joining the program, I had no experience with mentoring, so I first went through the How to be a good mentee guide and found that there is a difference between mentoring and consultation. Even when we started with Marcela, I still didn’t know what to expect. 

At first, my SMART goals were quite unrealistic and I am glad that I haven’t achieved them. The reason being is that with my mentor, we found out that we have to start from scratch, and the way we approached mentoring allowed me to grow as a business owner.  

4. What topics do you cover in your mentoring sessions? 

B: First, I was focusing on making my goals measurable, but once we got into mentoring, we went more into making my business worth my while and ensuring that all the hard work pays off. This made the whole process more sustainable and helped me stay motivated throughout. 

The area in which Marcela helped me the most was marketing because she is a real expert. Marketing is connected to many areas, so we started with the brand and tone of voice. We also touched on business development as well as operations, as well as balancing work and family. 

5. What have you learned from your mentee?

M: Bara showed me a whole new appreciation for being resilient. Pandemic turned her usual business upside down, yet she adjusted to the situation by finding the space for her escape games online.

6. What has been the biggest contribution to your career so far? 

B: For me, it was self-confidence in the business. In the board games industry, there are many big players, and I had to realize that I will never be able to compete with Alza (the mainstream provider of board games in the Czech Republic), and instead find my audience. 

Our business started with the escape rooms and once it was clear we were gonna get shut, we developed a range of board games we knew our players would enjoy playing at home. Since we know our audience extremely well, we were able to provide the most suitable recommendations and craft the perfect selection of board games that would suit their needs.

This idea was born out of lockdown when our players go into the escape rooms, so we created a board game alternative for them. Later, we found out that people want to play as a group and looked into smart board games. We also started organizing events in Brno where people can meet. The next one is in Spolek on the 30th of September! This idea was also born in mentoring and thanks to the help of my mentor, it took significantly less time than it would have otherwise. 

7. What was your favorite mentoring moment?

M: We had so many great conversations - that it's tough to answer. I enjoyed the session where Bara gave me the highlights of the first gaming event she organised. She came up with meaningful conclusions and ideas to make it even better for her customers. 

B: Marcela is a real professional. I tried working with a marketing agency, but it didn’t go well. I also broke the mentoring rules and switched one mentoring session for a consultation. That session had a much larger impact on our company than the three months with an agency. Marcela showed me which areas to focus on, such as Google analytics and some power hacks, which helped me realize what is it that I need and also that I don’t have time to do it myself, so I found another agency with whom the collaboration is more satisfying. 

8. Is there something you would recommend to mentors & mentees?

B: My best recommendation would be to go for it! I was in a stage when I didn’t know what to do next, the situation wasn’t great, but I took a chance and it was totally worth it! So even if you don’t know what to expect or what you want to reach in the next six months, try it and see for yourself! 

M: I second Bara. One piece of advice I could give is to enter a mentoring partnership with an open mind and heart.

9. Anything else you would like to add? 

B: I would like to thank Marcela and Femme Palette because it was awesome! Mentoring helped me a lot and I really enjoyed it, even if it was a lot of work. Every two weeks, I always had to dedicate 1-2 days to prepare for our session to be able to get the most out of it. I learned so much, so thank you! 

M: It was an absolute pleasure to be able to do the program with Bara. I've learnt a lot, and it is a memorable experience. Thank you.

Marcela and Barbora’s connection shows that mentoring can have a significant impact not only on you as a professional, but also on your business. So if you are unsure about what career step to take next, join our mentoring program and let an experienced mentor help you find your way. 

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