“It’s very important to have a mentor because a mentor has experience that can help you better succeed,” Benin entrepreneur Marlise Montcho explained during a recent webchat organized by the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) program.

Marlise Montcho’s company encourages girls and women to enter the technology sector. (State Dept.)

Marlise Montcho is one of three young African leaders selected for a Mandela Washington Fellowship who participated in a webchat moderated by consultant Preston James II. For an hour, they gave advice on how to create and develop a business, including how to choose a mentor:

“You have to clearly define the skills and qualities you are expecting from a mentor in order to know better who to approach.” — Marlise Montcho, founder and president of FemTICDev

Cynthia Ndubuisi’s business develops environmentally friendly alternatives to burning cassava peels. (State Dept.)

“You must be ready to adhere to a process. [Your mentors] will have a lot of things to do but they dedicate their time to you, so you should value it and make good use of it because it helps a lot.” — Cynthia Ndubuisi, chief executive of Kadosh Production Company

Preston James is the entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Texas, Austin. (State Dept.)

“If you are building something that is not gaining traction, the people who are your mentors and your advisers should be guiding you and saying, ‘Hey, you know what? Either we need to pivot away from what we are doing, make some changes, or we need to stop and start something completely different.’ You need to surround yourself with mentors, advisers, people who can give it to you straight.” — Preston L. James II, startup consultant

Further mentoring advice

More advice from around the Web:

“[Mentors] can’t be a ‘yes man/woman,’ but they can’t squash your dreams either. You want to be challenged, not discouraged.” — Nick Bowditch, mentor, Thementoring.club

“A mentor is someone whose life or work you value and admire, and whom you think might be a good guide. These days, a mentor can be any age, in any field, so stop thinking of a mentor in traditional terms. Too often we limit our mentors to those ‘above us.’” — Camille Preston, founder, AIM Leadership, Fortune.com

“If at all possible, don’t ask your mentor to be your mentor via email. If you can meet them face to face for coffee or chat on the phone, you’ll have a much better chance of making your case and addressing their concerns, if any. Come to the table with how much time and attention you think you’ll need. You don’t have to stroke the other person’s ego, but you should explain that you know who they are and you value their expertise. Your mentor shouldn’t do your work for you. If you get the vibe that they feel pressured or don’t really want to be in the position you’re putting them in, let them out.” — Alan Henry, Lifehacker.com