mentoring to empower

Guest Blog by Sara Noori - Guild of Entrepreneurs Mentorship Program

“When you have a leader like Rachel believe in you, someone that does not micromanage you, but just brings out the best in you through your own abilities, that’s when you flourish.”

When I met Rachel Wang, I was slightly distressed. It was our first meeting at Cherryduck Studios and I had just presented her with my idea of gentrification in Deptford. Rachel kept on firing questions at me, “But who’s your audience?” “Who’s going to watch this?” “Why do you want to do this?” I looked at her with a blank face and quickly thought about those questions. I realized, she was right. My Deptford gentrification project, as noble as I thought that it was, would have trouble finding an audience. Rachel had pointed out some questions that had haunted me about my idea in the previous weeks but I was just not able to pinpoint the problem. I refocused my mind and quickly presented her with an alternative idea. A project that I had initially put on hold, “Afghans in the Diaspora”. “Now this is something that would be interesting,” she said. This past spring, I was very lucky to be part of the Guild of Entrepreneurs’ Mentorship Scheme, a scheme offered through my program, the Digital and Interactive Storytelling MA at the University of Westminster.

Group photo of mentees and mentors at the culmination of the programme, a Dragons' Den-style pitch 

At the beginning of the Mentorship Program, I felt slightly confused and overwhelmed. I had just started a new project “Afghans in the Diaspora” and didn’t know where I was going with it. I was also nervous about disappointing Rachel and nervous about the logistics of the documentary film industry, something I didn’t know much about. Even prior to our first Mentorship meeting, Rachel offered for me to make a short documentary for Chocolate Films' flagship documentary project 1000 Londoners. She told me that she didn’t have any Afghan Londoners and would find it interesting. But she didn’t make any promises and set the expectation that she would only put the film on 1000 Londoners if she deemed the story to fit the overall documentary. I gratefully agreed, but I was scared. I had to organize a short documentary in less than a week, find someone to interview in the Afghan community, a community known to be very private, and I had to find a proper location. It was a lot of organizing in less than a week. But thankfully I managed to persuade Elaha and through the support and work of Emily Rimmer, filmmaker, we shot the documentary and were able to submit it to Rachel.

When I first met Rachel at her office in Battersea Studios, she greeted me with the good news. The short documentary “Elaha” that I had directed and produced will be put on 1000 Londoners. I was so thrilled and surprised. I did not expect that.

Watch Elaha, Londoner #284 of 1000 Londoners

That was something that had surprised me so much about Rachel from the very beginning. Although she barely knew me, she really believed in me and put her faith into me, even trusted me in putting my work into her own project. I felt incredibly grateful because I felt like the fruits of labour had paid off and Rachel had faith in me. It's this trust that empowered me to go the extra mile and to have confidence in my abilities. It is this first impression that made me want to go the extra mile for Rachel and soak up all of the knowledge she’s able to give me.

What I distinctively remember coming out of the first Mentorship meeting with Rachel was, whether asking for funding from corporations for my documentary wasn’t “a long shot”. She smiled and said, “Everything in entrepreneurship is a long shot, you just have to try.” I distinctively remember this because that’s what opened my eyes and opened up a whole new world to me. It made me realize that there wasn’t just one way of doing things, but there were multiple ways and that you have to pave your own paths. Pave the paths and see what sticks.

Throughout the next weeks and Rachel’s mentoring, I was able to focus my project, create my prototype “Elaha”, research my audience and understand the business of documentary-making. Her mentoring method was all about “doing” and I was all about doing because that’s how I am able to learn, through practical work. In her communication, Rachel was direct and precise, something I understood and appreciated. But it wasn’t always easy. I did feel like I am really working in the creative industry as I had to write press releases, do my audience research and market my prototype. I felt under time pressure as I also had other modules and I did not want to disappoint Rachel. But a lot of times Rachel would offer me support through her staff members like Alexandra Lens, digital marketing, to assist me. I felt like I had access to resources that I would not otherwise have. Throughout our interactions, I felt so grateful to be able to have access to someone like her, who had accomplished so much and who was giving back to the community.

Rachel watching me at the final pitch

Having Rachel Wang as my mentor has been one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life. Rachel taught me about business, how to find information, where to find information, to think outside the box and to believe in myself. And she did not tell me exactly how to do those things, but just put me on the right path. She guided me. She made me realize that there are still people out there that have the ability to believe in other people and bring the best out of people. When you have a leader like Rachel believe in you, someone that does not micromanage you, but just brings out the best in you through your own abilities, that’s when you flourish and that’s what brings out the good in you. If anyone is fortunate enough to be Rachel’s Mentee, prepare yourself for a ride of discovery, practical enlightenment and self-growth. Hold on to your safety belts and be willing to learn by “doing”! :)

I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to Rachel Wang, Chocolate Films, Emily
Rimmer, Alexandra Lens, David Gyimah and the Guild of Entrepreneurs for giving me the
opportunity to work with such a great soul like Rachel Wang, a true leader and professional.