Mentoring Relationships: Robin and Jessica

October 18, 2019

By: Grace Burkhart

On a sunny day in early September, we sat down with entrepreneur Jessica Kiley and her mentor Robin Kaczka to celebrate the formal conclusion of their mentorship through CIC. The two were originally paired together in fall of 2018, and chatting with them felt like talking to sisters. They maintained a cheerful banter through the interview, but it was laced with sincere affirmations, gratitude, and stories of the ways they grew both their relationship and Jessica’s business over the year.

Jessica Kiley first connected with CIC through the 16-week workshop in 2017 and has since become an active volunteer, participating in a Small Business Circle and as a Work Group Leader. Alongside all of this she was growing her business, the Blue Ridge Forest School, a place where preschool meets camp in an outdoor-only immersive education program for young children. Things were going well, but Jessica began feeling the weight of managing a business on her own and reached out to CIC about connecting with a mentor.

Enter Robin Kaczka, a consultant for Rodan + Fields skincare brand. With experience managing and mentoring a team of over 200 consultants, Robin brought extensive professional and personal knowledge to her role as a mentor with CIC. She recently honed in on her personal vision of creating a community of girlfriends that could together decrease the often isolating work of entrepreneurs. Her role as a mentor to Jessica directly contributed to this personal mission.

The two have built a healthy relationship based on mutual trust and respect. When they first met, Robin says she was immediately drawn to Jessica’s quiet passion. “I thought, you know what, she’s going to go places and whatever she’s struggling with is solvable.” It’s proven to be true as the pair worked through significant business decisions for Jessica’s Forest School, such as hiring co-teachers, establishing a successful relationship with the current location of the school, and navigating the emotions associated with it all. 

Jessica says she is grateful for the support she felt from Robin, and the way their relationship eased the stress of running a business. “It was a way of sharing the weight of running a business while receiving personalized support as I made some big decisions over the past year.” Robin mirrored the gratitude, expressing that she enjoyed the way Jessica was willing to take suggestions that were out of her comfort zone, and asked lots of questions along the way. They both agree that allowing emotions to play a part in their conversations led to a deeper, more authentic relationship. 

As far as advice for future mentor/mentees? The two both cited honest dialogue as the key. “You don’t necessarily want to hurt someone’s feelings,” Robin said with a smile, “But no BS necessary.” Jessica laughed at this and said Robin’s straightforwardness helped her to see different ways of problem-solving as a business owner. Her advice to future mentee’s is to “appreciate this person who is taking time to really hear you… The faster you can get to authentic sharing, the richer your relationship can be.”  

Thanks Robin and Jessica!