Just like how Peter Alexander made pyjamas fashionable, he has been mentoring Brisbane student Kate Applegarth on the process of making bike helmets fashionable. They shared their incredible mentoring experience with SheSaid.

Peter Alexander

1. Who was your mentor or inspiration when you were starting your business?

I did not really have a true mentor when I started the business, however I had my parents who gave me confidence and guidance. Looking back, I think a mentor would have really helped me as I did make quite a few mistakes along the way!

2. Who should people reach out to when growing their business?

People should also ask for advice (they do not have to take it but it is important to get other points of views) from not only family and friends but rather people in a similar business or stage of business as yourself.

3. How can people make the most out of a mentoring relationship?

The relationship is about the mentor asking you questions, not really answering them for you. So they may bring up issues you may not of thought of so that might help your own decision-making – the mentor is not a manager but more like a ‘father figure’ for your business growth.

4. What did you get out of the mentoring program with Kate?

What I personally got out of this program with Kate is a relook at what starting out is like 24 years on – the excitement, the challenges that you have at the beginning of your journey. After being in business for so many years now, gone are the days where mum and I are working out of her garage; you need to think of your team and their livelihoods – with Kate it’s just her and her idea and working toward getting that off the ground.

Peter’s tips:

No one ever succeeded by not trying and putting yourself out there – so if you have an idea, do research and have a plan B in case it does not work, but go into it with everything you have and understand there is no failure, only life learning and experience.

Kate Applegarth

1. What was your goal with having Peter as your mentor?

Having come from a Public Health background I had absolutely no knowledge of the fashion industry! My goal was to use my time with Peter to gain insight into many different aspects of fashion design and the broader fashion industry. I saw this mentoring experience as an invaluable opportunity to ask Peter, a fashion design expert, about many things including how to go about sketching my designs as well as his opinion about the pros and cons of different fabrics, colours and patterns.

2. How important has this mentoring experience been to your project?

This mentoring experience has been absolutely crucial to me and my project. Peter gave me a lot of specific design advice that I kept in mind when I was designing my first range of helmets. However, I’m certain that a lot of the other advice that Peter has given me along the way will be valuable to me for many years to come. I’ve gained knowledge not only about fashion and designing, but also about how to start a business, thinking of brand names and so much more!

3. What is your advice for anyone interested in seeking mentorship?

I think a good thing to know is that it doesn’t really matter if you can’t find a mentor who works in exactly the same area as you. After all, Peter Alexander designs pyjamas and I’m trying to design bicycle helmets! I think a more important thing is to find someone who you can communicate with easily and someone whose career or achievements you really admire. Another important thing to remember is that as much as the mentor is there to listen to your ideas and help you achieve your goals, it’s also important to listen to them when they talk about what their goals were when they started out and how they achieved them. Some of the most interesting things that I’ve learnt from Peter were not answers to the questions I threw at him, but rather things he said about his experiences along the way.

4. What’s next for you?

I have a lot of work ahead of me. The American Express Room for Thought project has given me and amazing opportunity to have some basic prototypes made and to work out some designs. Right now, I need to keep designing, I’m going to keep looking into which are the slimmest helmets that my ‘helmet hats’ can fit over and lots of other things!

Have you ever had a professional or personal mentor? What was that experience like