Ready for the World
Many successful people give generous credit for their achievements to the guidance of mentors who counseled them as young adults. At the University of Missouri–Kansas City, mentorship is a vital part of the educational experience. One of the common threads in the ongoing Our Students. Our Story. #UMKCGoingPlaces series on the UMKC site and tumblr is how students appreciate the work of their mentors.
To focus even more on those crucial mentorship relationships, we’ve created another regular feature: Dynamic Duos. In interviews and images, we’re giving you an intimate look at faculty/staff-and-student mentorship pairs at UMKC. Read the other Dynamic Duos articles.
MEET BEN WILLIAMS and CHAD FEATHER
Chad Feather started his first business when he was 12, a mere junior high schooler in Kearney, Missouri.
“I did it to fund my hobby: racing cars,” says Feather, now 20 and a Business Administration student, with an emphasis in marketing and entrepreneurship, at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management.
Feather still races cars and runs the business, which buys and then sells overstock merchandise — everything from car parts to women’s clothing.
At Bloch, Feather met a much-needed mentor in Ben Williams, assistant director of the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and global entrepreneurship instructor. After graduation in December 2017, he asked Williams when he should:
- Pursue his MBA
- Go for a law degree
- Hit the ground running with a startup
Talk about the perfect person to offer advice. Williams has an MBA, a law degree and is also an entrepreneur. One of his startups included a designated-driving service with a collapsible motorbike.
“Chad is an entrepreneur,” Williams says. “He is ready for the world and the world needs Chad.”
Tell us about Enactus. Ben is the faculty advisor and Chad is president.
Williams: UMKC Enactus is one of the largest student organizations at the university with nearly 100 members. It challenges students across campus to use entrepreneurial processes to do social good. Chad leads it.
Feather: We have lots of projects. One of the big ones is a partnership with the Kansas City City Council and China. Next year, we’re going to hold a trade conference in Kansas City.
In Nigeria, we’re building a water well for a school. A problem has been 5- and 6-year-old kids walking three miles to school with a heavy 3-gallon bucket full of water.
Another project is Arts & Entrepreneurship. Kansas City has a lot of artists, and we work with them on entrepreneurial opportunities.
Chad, what led you to UMKC?
Feather: When choosing where to attend college, I was down to several options that included MU and KU; however, two main things drew me to UMKC. The first was the fact that UMKC was an urban institution. I firmly believe this has not only led to greater community support, but I have also had the opportunity to build my network. This is something I would not be able to do at other institutions. The second main thing that led me to UMKC was the quality of the faculty. I realized they are not only knowledgeable, but also extremely experienced in the field they are teaching. This was a major selling point for me.
What changes have you seen in Chad since you started mentoring him?
Williams: Chad was a lot quieter and less confident in himself when I first started working with him. It has been interesting, because I got to know Chad through a program I run called Summer Scholars. This program puts incoming freshmen through a two-week intensive entrepreneurship course. I’ve been able to see Chad from his first day of college to the point where he is now weighing his options for after college.
In that time, he has taken on a lot of new roles and has become the president of the UMKC Enactus team. This involves managing a huge team doing about a dozen different projects. Chad has to think strategically and lead a large group of students. The Enactus team members are all looking to Chad to support their projects and their roles. While Chad was never timid, it is great to see him leading meetings, responding to advisory board members and confidently explaining his reasoning for difficult decisions. It’s great to see him really lead the team.
How has Ben challenged you?
Feather: He has been absolutely tremendous in helping me grow and develop. He has always pushed me to be the best leader I can be, and helped me strive to accomplish things I never thought possible. He is often pushing me out of my comfort zone to ensure I grow and develop as a student, as a leader and as a future business professional.
How has Ben inspired you?
Feather: Ben is truly dedicated to the work he does. He works not only with the Bloch School and Regnier Institute, but he is the advisor for the UMKC Enactus team, and he consistently sits on nonprofit boards across the Kansas City community. Ben truly cares about the well-being of his students and his community. He is an avid member of the Kansas City entrepreneurial community, often finding new ways to connect students with local entrepreneurs and startups. It is truly inspiring to see all of the ways Ben connects his work with his community.
What qualities make a good mentor?
Williams: Patience and understanding. Students are here at UMKC to develop. You have to be willing to support them with your knowledge and time. Understanding a student’s aspirations, thinking about ways to help them achieve those aspirations and supporting them along the way all take a lot of time. You have to be willing to invest that time.
Some people go their whole lives without having a mentor. What advice would you give people about finding one?
Williams: I would suggest starting by reaching out to someone you are comfortable with. You can always find additional mentors as you change fields or need additional support, but the important thing is to start networking now.
Feather: I suggest finding an expert in the field that you are interested in pursuing. It is important that your mentor has been where you are and can give you the pros and cons of each important decision you have to make. Also, it is important to find somebody who has a similar personality that allows you to relate to each other. Finding Ben as a mentor has been extremely helpful in growing and developing at UMKC. I highly suggest everyone work hard to find a mentor like Ben. They may not always fall into your lap, but working hard to find a great mentor will pay off in the long run!