Small Business
Business INSIGHTS e-News for Manufacturers
Become a Business Mentor

Your experience and lessons learned could help a new entrepreneur get off to a good start.

In 1996, Denny Organ, then head of manufacturing and distribution operations at Starbucks Coffee, discovered that Western Washington University had established a new Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management degree. Interested, he found that the program's talented and motivated students and graduates needed mentors for help with internships, networking and career coaching.

Today, there are some students in the program who are not looking for jobs--they want to be entrepreneurs. In fact, some have already started up new businesses. While they have little fear of failure and a willingness to forge their own paths, they welcome a mentor's help with business concepts, start-up operations plans and marketing strategies. A mentor from the industry can also give them guidance about funding, raising capital and cash flow. An experienced manufacturing leader can help them sharpen their vision for their company, define a leadership approach, plan a talent-acquisition strategy and anticipate some of the changes they will face if the business achieves rapid growth.

Organ has found that mentoring is often as rewarding to him as it is to the students. "Recently," he says, "I received an email from a student I had mentored more than 10 years ago--she told me how much our work together had shaped her career and that she now mentors others inspired by our work many years earlier. To see others 'pay it forward' by being mentors themselves, to see students experience immense professional growth from an internship or to see opportunities open up and confidence grow from being able to provide perspective and knowledge from my experience is a great reward."

As a manufacturing leader, you could be a valuable mentor to students, young professionals or new entrepreneurs. If this sounds interesting to you, Organ recommends starting with university engineering, manufacturing, supply chain management or logistics programs that match your experience. If you want to coach entrepreneurs, another touch point is a venture capital or angel investor group. In addition, cities, counties and states have economic development associations that encourage manufacturing education and entrepreneurship.

For a vibrant future, manufacturing needs young leaders and entrepreneurs. Passing on your enthusiasm and knowledge to them is one way you can pay it forward.


Bio: Denny Organ held leadership positions in manufacturing and supply chain management in his 13 years at Starbucks Coffee and was later managing director of global business development at Cascade Dafo. Active in the Economic Development Association of Skagit County, Washington, he is director of Manufacturing Intern Programs and a founding mentor of Next Exec, a program that connects executives with young professionals. He is managing director/CEO of the Dennis Organ Group. You can contact him at


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