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A Structured Approach to Mentoring Tertiary Level Entrepreneurship Students: A Literature Review

  • Jane Wamaitha Mwangi-Thungu
  • Patrick Ngugi
  • Allan Mugambi
  • 2842-2857
  • May 24, 2024
  • Education

A Structured Approach to Mentoring Tertiary Level Entrepreneurship Students: A Literature Review

Jane Wamaitha Mwangi-Thungu1*, Patrick Ngugi2, Allan Mugambi3

1Ph.D. student, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

2Professor of Entrepreneurship, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

3Lecturer, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

*Corresponding Author’s


Received: 29 March 2024; Revised: 14 April 2024; Accepted: 24 April 2024; Published: 24 May 2024


The form, structure, and manner of mentorship engagement in industry and colleges have been presented in some literature as discreet, disparate, and sometimes ad hoc events. This paper sought to establish the dominant form, structure, and coherent approach to mentorship that would form the basis for adoption, with appropriate adaptation, for entrepreneurship training in tertiary colleges in Kenya. Specifically, this study sought to delineate specific functions of mentorship in the instruction of entrepreneurship students; examine the nature of engagement of mentor and mentee in the mentoring relationship within an instructional setting; and explore the relationship between mentorship and graduate entrepreneurship student business outcomes. The study was based on a desk review of literature covering key publications on mentoring and articles published in the last 40 years and available at libraries, the internet, and databases. The review has identified functions, forms and models, settings, resources, accountability structures, and outcomes that would persuade colleges in Kenya to adopt and modify to suit their specific situations to achieve effective mentorship results.

Keywords: mentoring, mentoring relationships, mentoring models, resourcing for mentoring.


Though mentoring has been an integral part of social life worldwide for thousands of years and transcends time, gender, and culture (Kram, 1985), research on mentoring in entrepreneurship education is nascent and has only recently received substantive attention from educationists. Some authors have considered the effects of different approaches to mentorships in entrepreneurship education as not well understood, and inadequately conceptualized and theorized (Eesley and Wang, 2014; Kubberoed & Hagen, 2015). Montgomery et al., (2022) observed that ineffective and even harmful mentoring practices are common in academia with detrimental impacts on the confidence and entrepreneurship intentions of the learner. That is why options for coherent mentorship content, structure, and practices available for instructors at various levels are scattered, semi-structured and limited to the institutions (Eesley & Wang, 2014). Leading theorists in the area including Kram and Ragins (2007) point to evidence that shows mentoring works, but does not fully explain why, when, and how. In a meta-analytical review of studies covering the period 1988-2004, Allen et al. (2004), demonstrated that mentoring improved career outcomes: job satisfaction, commitment, and personal growth, among others; and entrepreneurial traits such as opportunity recognition, performance effectiveness, self-esteem, and career success. Another study concluded that mentoring facilitated socialization which consists of a learning and adjustment process in which an individual obtains social knowledge of what entrepreneurial behaviour entails (Nabavi & Bijandi, 2012).

Recent global empirical studies tend to confirm that mentoring works. A study by Kubberoed & Hagen, (2015) in two Norwegian colleges found that mentoring significantly improved learner’s behavioural outcomes when used as an instructional support in entrepreneurship training. They also found that mentoring increased social and entrepreneurial learning outcomes.  Studying the linkage between mentorship relationship and purpose among students in three United States colleges, Lund et al., (2019) concluded that students with at least one mentor had greater commitment to purpose than those who did not have a mentor at all.  This finding was reinforced by the conclusion of a German study of youth that mentoring impacts intentions through optimism and self-efficacy (Baluku et al., 2019). Other United States studies found that mentorship not only had a significant positive impact on the mentee’s likelihood of starting a business (Eeley &Wang, 2014) but also helped in accessing networks and resources and providing motivation and solutions for problems as well as learning skills and behaviours from models (Looze, Berkaw, & Desai, 2020). A study in Bulgaria documented the results of mentoring experiences of entrepreneurship students in connived settings such as incubators that were recommended as part of college entrepreneurship training establishment (Famiola & Hartati, 2018).

Regionally, Baluku, Matagi & Otto, (2020) in a study in Uganda found that youth with mentors believed in their ability to achieve the goals they set for themselves and with this self-efficacy, achieved intangible outcomes. Seeking to establish the outcomes of mentoring in a South African setting, Kunaka & Moos (2019), found that the relationships enabled skills, knowledge, and entrepreneurship resilience transfer outcomes (comprising validating self-image, increasing self-efficacy, fostering an entrepreneurial culture, and encouraging personal development), as well as increased access to social networks, potential to start new ventures, increased productivity, product range, sales, profitability, and sustained business survival and growth. These desirable entrepreneurial outcomes support the findings of a study to establish the influence of mentorship on the career growth of college students in Nigeria which recommended mentoring be adopted as a component of the training and development of intending entrepreneurs (Njoku & Nwachukwu, 2017).

In Kenya, Chebii, Bwisa and Sakwa (2016) concluded that entrepreneurial mentoring, considering career mentoring function, is important for objective and entrepreneurial outcomes. A study of the effects of mentoring on SME business performance by Nyakio (2013) found that mentorship significantly improved performance.  Wandibba (2020) found that traditional one-on-one (dyadic model), as well as virtual mentoring, significantly influenced the performance of youth entrepreneurs in Nairobi County.  A study of mentoring in secondary schools found that peer mentoring was effective in orienting new students to adjust to the new school environment (Kessio, 2019).

Though the Kenyan empirical studies indicate models and types of mentoring, the form, structure, manner of engagement, and duration of the entrepreneurship training calendar have been presented in other literature as discreet, disparate, and sometimes ad hoc events (Utoware, & Okolo, 2021). Without these key elements, colleges would not have a guide or standard with which to base their student mentoring initiatives. That is why options for coherent mentorship content, structure, and practices available for instructors at various levels are scattered, semi-structured and limited to the institutions (Eesley & Wang, 2014).

This literature review-based article seeks to establish the dominant or practical form, structure, resourcing, and coherent approach to mentorship that will form the basis for adoption, with appropriate adaptation, for entrepreneurship training in tertiary colleges in Kenya. The specific objectives of this paper are to; 1) delineate the specific functions mentoring plays in the instruction of entrepreneurship students; 2) identify the gaps in the instructional curriculum that mentoring seeks to address; 3) examine the nature of engagement of mentor and mentee in the mentoring relationship within an instructional setting; and 4) explore the relationship between mentorship and graduate entrepreneurship student business outcomes.


This paper is based on the review of classical theoretical works as well as empirical studies on mentoring. This desk review of literature covered key publications on mentoring and articles published in the last 40 years and available at the libraries, as well as the Internet, and databases including DeepDyve, Google Scholar, ResearchGate, JSTOR, and ScienceDirect. While the literature reviewed covered mentoring at work or other industry/institutional settings, the study focused on a set of empirical studies on mentoring in entrepreneurial education because these related closely to the objectives of the paper.


Definition and Nature of Mentorship

Kram (1985) defined mentorship as a developmental relationship, focused on career and growth, between an experienced employee or entrepreneur and a protégé who is less experienced. The mentorship relationship is complex because of the differences in personality, backgrounds, experiences, and expectations of parties, as well as organizational factors, and the multiplicity of relationships where they occur (Allen, 2007). It is under these circumstances that the mentor engages the mentee in a manner that facilitates the transfer and use of knowledge and skills in furthering the mentee’s career in entrepreneurship (Kram & Hall,1996).

Role of Mentoring in Student’s Entrepreneurship Development.

Entrepreneurship education seeks to bridge the gaps in student attitudes, beliefs, skills, and competence necessary to plan, launch, and successfully manage their enterprises when they leave college (Njoku & Nwachukwu, 2017). A recent study, however, concluded that education programs aimed at transferring and developing entrepreneurial skills mainly serve to strengthen the relationship between intention and behaviour, and do not directly influence the creation of entrepreneurial firms (Sancho, Ramoz-Rodriques, & Vega, 2022). Mentorship is one of the pedagogical approaches for improving, strengthening, and integrating knowledge, skills, values, and competencies required to start a business face challenge and ensure entrepreneurial success (Utoware & Okolo, 2021; Prastyaningtyas, et al., 2023.). Kubberoed &Hagen, (2015) established that as an instructional support approach, mentoring satisfies the need of the learners to enhance entrepreneurial competence, acquire business discipline, explore latest ideas and opportunities, and innovate and create new products and processes. Eesley & Wang, (2014) concluded that mentorship enables the transition from college to the workplace or entrepreneurial practice.

Functions of the Mentoring Relationship

The literature delineates three functions that the mentoring relationship performs. Firstly, the career function entails helping the protégé to learn to perform tasks at different levels of complexity and enhance career advancement (Kram, 1983). In this role, the mentor also sponsors the advancement of a protégé, increases positive exposure and visibility by introducing the mentee to other professionals, and protects the mentees from inappropriate exposure (Chopra & Saint, 2017). This role assumes mentoring in industry. In a college setting, mentoring develops knowledge, comprising an understanding of self, business start-up process, and market/product/financial knowledge, among others (Nabi, Walmsley & Akhtar, 2021).

Secondly, mentoring plays a psychological function, which primarily enhances a sense of competence, clarity of identity, and effectiveness in career or entrepreneurship role (Kram, 1983). The psychological function entails the mentor helping the protégé to build trust, intimacy, and interpersonal bonds in the mentoring relationship. These include displaying, deploying, engaging in, and utilizing behaviours that enhance the protégé’s professional and personal growth, identity, self-worth, and self-efficacy. The mentoring behaviours would include offering acceptance and confirmation and providing counselling, friendship, and role modelling (Kram, 1985). According to Nabi, et al., (2021), mentoring plays a socio-emotional role which comprises role model inspiration from the mentor’s experience, shared entrepreneurial process, and emotional support to address anxieties surrounding starting up a business.

Though the role modelling perspective appears to be subsumed in the socio-emotional or psychological function of Nabi, et al., (2021), and Kram (1985) respectively, Scandura (1992) delineated it as a separate third function of a mentoring relationship. Coleman (2018), however, considered modelling as an alternative to mentoring that is less formalized, more cost-effective and provides an opportunity to reach more participants with greater or similar impact as mentoring. But mentors, instructors, supervisors, coaches, or experienced industry practitioners who shape the behaviour of a learner perform the role of a mentor (Scandura, 1992; Scandura & Ragins, 1993; Duke University, 2023). This is confirmed by recent studies (Toh, et al, 2022; Ong, et al, 2022) which established that modelling is part of intertwined approaches that include supervision, coaching, tutoring, and advising. Effected through exchange, demonstration, and mentee observation and emulation, modelling requires mentors to display encourage, and support personal learning and adaptability; demonstrate by example, integrity, honesty, sincerity, responsibility, and accountability as well as practising what they preach. The mentor should also express their vision and expectations as well as set standards worth emulating by mentees (Scandura, 1992; Scandura & Ragins, 1993; Maddalena, 2017; Duke University, 2023). Thus, modelling would enable the mentee to set achievable goals and work to meet them as they strive to succeed, in addition to shaping their moral values, and standards of professional practice as well as socio-cultural expectations (Koh, et al., 2023).

From these findings, it may be surmised that role modelling works well at all stages of engagement with college students seeking to establish a professional identity. The model, however, may not be beneficial where the mentee “has a well-defined professional identity” (Weinberg, 2019, p.1) or where it is adversely affected by individual personality, personal beliefs, values, familial or societal values beliefs, expectations, and principles (Koh, et al., 2023). According to Weinberg, (2019), where professional identity is well-established, role modelling may produce less favourable and potentially detrimental learning outcomes.

Process of Establishing Mentorship Relationship

A critical success factor in achieving the mentee’s entrepreneurship expectations in the mentoring relationship is the collaborative behaviour of both the mentor and the mentee (Allen, 2007). According to Kram, (1983) this collaborative relationship is established in a four-stage process. The first stage in establishing a mentoring relationship is initiation where a potential mentor is assigned to a mentee based on what Barker (2006) identified as prima facie matching interests. The two parties will then meet, get to know each other, discuss what mentoring will entail, and agree on the protocols, times and places of meetings, and nature of mentoring activities, and discuss the challenges, aspirations, and support required by the mentee. At this phase, the mentee is excited, feels cared for, supported, and respected, and expects to be guided by a mentor who has knowledge, experience, and competence on issues that will help them become successful in their careers. The second stage, cultivation, kicks in when the relationship matures, and mentors typically provide the greatest degree of psychological, career, and modelling support. The third stage is separation when mentees seek autonomy and more independence from the mentors. The final stage is redefinition, where the mentors and mentees transition into different types of relationships characterised by more peer-like interactions or terminate the relationship.

Forms of Mentoring Relationships

a) Formal mentoring relationships

Formal mentoring comprises processes intended to produce desired learning outcomes, including skills to advance career goals; to learn business management; to start, manage and address performance gaps; and to grow a business. This is done by pairing a mentor and a mentee and guiding their behaviours by defining activities, and timings, and by evaluating and reporting results (Scandura, 1998). The mentors and proteges should also provide with facilities and support for developmental mentoring relationships for a specified period (Wanberg, Walsh & Hezlett, 2003). Scandura (1998) further states that the formalization of mentoring relationships helps in mitigating potential negative effects that may occur because of harassment, corruption, sabotage of mentees by the mentor, or any other negative relations.  Further, the input of the mentor and mentee during the matching of the two at the initiation of the relationship and the creation of an exit mechanism in case the relationship faces difficulties would minimize the potential negative effects.

b) Informal mentoring relationships

Informal mentoring relationships occur where the mentees identify and work with mentors of their choice without the assistance of institutional protocols regarding the frequency, length, and content of mentoring meetings. In informal mentoring, two people can work together, share ideas, and learn, with each party taking the role of mentor or mentee. This form of relationship has been known to deliver learning outcomes just like formal relationships would but is subject to the motivation and commitment of the mentee and the willingness, experience, and interpersonal skills of the mentors, among other enabling factors (Inzer & Crawford, 2005).

c) Peer-to-peer mentorship

In this form of a mentoring relationship, learners in college may look for or are paired with their older peers (peer-to-peer) (Hamburg, 2014) or instructors who may be entrepreneurship experts; or other mentors who do not necessarily need to be experienced mentoring experts who may be industry experts, investors, or individuals with experience relevant to the business a learner is interested in, or others familiar with aspects of the entrepreneurial process (Looze, et al., 2020).

d) Classical mentorship

In classical college mentoring, the programs are planned, are semi-structured, with specific guidelines, activities, and scheduled meetings for assigned mentors and mentees. Classical mentoring like formal mentoring relationships appears to echo  Garringer & MacRae (2008) who indicated that the best practice for youth mentoring was to identify prospective mentors and then give them preliminary orientation together with mentees; take those willing to participate in the program; screen the mentors, provide pre-match training for mentors and mentees, match them, and get the mentoring process going while providing ongoing support and motivation and finally close or terminate the relationship and evaluate the program (Ssemata et al., 2017).

In all forms of mentoring, mentors need skills such as listening, communication, commitment, respect, trust, and the ability to steer discussions toward addressing the problems at hand (Hamburg, 2014). Further, the success of a mentoring relationship would also be facilitated by institutional arrangements such as policy guidelines, formality/informality of the relationship, frequency of interaction, duration of mentoring, resources available; and training, experience, willingness, and interpersonal skills of mentors, as well as mentee’s personal needs and self-interest, motivation, and willingness to learn (Ragins 1997; Allen, 2007).

It is noteworthy however that the short-term, time-bound college-based mentorship was found to be less effective than the informal, long-term mentorship relations implemented by industry entrepreneurial role models with the most relevant experience (Graevenitz et al, 2010). But a more recent study indicated that mentorship by entrepreneurs even for about one semester contributes to entrepreneurial activity (Famiola. & Hartati, 2018). This conclusion lends credence to the potential positive outcomes of short-term college semester mentoring arrangements.

The different forms of mentor-mentee engagements discussed assume the form of a one-to-one relationship which is one of the models discussed in the next paragraphs.

Models of Mentoring Relationships

a)  One-to-one/Dyadic structure

Formal mentorship traditionally took a hierarchical, one-to-one relationship between an experienced or expert mentor and a protégé, to provide developmental support to the latter (Njoku & Nwachukwu, 2017). Still, variants such as peer-to-peer, team mentoring, and mentoring circles are other forms of relationships found in organizations (Douglas & McCauley, 1999). The popular one-to-one mentor-protégé relationship or dyadic structure has been claimed to increase the probability of meaningful and more frequent interactions, which is an important feature of high-quality relationships (Allen, Eby, & Lentz, 2006). Nour (2022) discussed transformational mentorship where a powerful, value-adding relationship for both parties is obtained when the mentee finds the right person with whom they can build a “relaxed, inspiring, camaraderie, driven by curiosity” (p.1) rather than the usual instructor-student exchange. The mentoring implied by these sources indicates that the mentee builds a relationship with a single mentor, described by Montgomery & Page (2019) as a dyadic relationship. There are other emerging models of mentoring relationships.

b)  Mentoring triads.

Mentoring triads often comprise a senior experienced mentor such as a faculty member, a near-peer mentor such as a senior student or young instructor, and a mentee. This arrangement mitigates isolation and “imposter syndrome” imposed by typical dyadic mentoring relationships (Driscol, et al., 2009). In a closed relationship where the mentee has a direct relationship with both the faculty and near-peer mentor (rather than where s/he connects directly with the near-peer), the mentee in a study showed greater growth in critical skills and higher rates of productivity (Atkins, et al., 2017). An alternative to mentoring triads is a general multiple models, discussed in (c), where multiple mentors engage a single mentee (Montgomery, 2017, 2018).

(c) Collective mentoring

Collective communities, team, or group-based mentoring comprise multiple mentors working together to provide support to several mentees who may also provide each other with peer support. These communities communicate in-person, online through digital platforms, short-term engagement conferences, or a combination of any of these (Montgomery, 2017). Effective mentoring groups can be multigenerational, or peer mentoring groups which respectively bring tested experiences, reciprocation, and peer support. This model shifts from mentor-centred power hierarchies to mentee-centred peer sharing and support and gives mentees who feel marginalised or invisible equitable support (Montgomery, 2018).

(d) Network mentoring

Contrary to the long-held dyadic mentoring structure, Kram (1983) advocated for ‘a constellation of relationships” defined as the set relationships an individual has with peers, assigned mentors, instructors, friends, or network connections, among others, who take an active interest in and action to advance the individual’s career by assisting with his or her personal and professional development (Higgins &Thomas 2001). This is described by Montgomery & Page, (2019) as network mentoring where a mentee engages with multiple mentors to access varied resources and inputs on academic and professional career issues. Within constellations, mentors collaborate, co-mentor or support the mentee by helping in addressing challenges, sharing practices, and overall facilitating learning and development. The mentee benefits from the varied perspectives of multiple mentors, establishing valuable networks with different strengths, and accessing resources that they would otherwise not get if they had only one mentor (Kram, 1985; Stanley & Clinton, 1992; Higgins & Kram, 2001). While some of the relationships will be strong while others will be weak, they will all add value in different measures (Montgomery, 2017). The identified value of network mentoring is what Yun, Baldi, & Sorcinelli (2016) described as “non-hierarchical, relational and reciprocal mentoring”. Smith & Spooner (2021) add that network mentoring is fundamental for the provision of support, professional development, affirmative/safe spaces, sponsorship, accountability, and intellectual inspiration and stimulation.

According to Butler et al. (2013) and Montgomery & Page (2019), these valuable outcomes can be facilitated by institutional leadership in designing/constructing, engaging, and extending the horizons of the mentoring network to include a broad and diverse constellation of mentors through e-mentoring. While face-to-face communication has been the dominant mode of interaction among mentors and mentees, e-mentoring facilitated by electronic communication is an alternative means of interaction (Ensher & Murphy, 2011). E-mentoring has been used by electronic communities to enable mentors and proteges to engage with other professionals and students online to discuss the challenges of business start-ups, raising funds for business, utilizing networks, strategies for enterprise expansion, and other topics of interest. This provided mentors with peer-to-peer mentoring and group mentoring for proteges as well as a variety of ideas and resources (Single, Muller, Cunningham, & Single, 2000). Thus, the limitations of the short-term, one-person perspective of the mentoring hierarchical dyads are to a significant extent addressed as found much earlier by Higgins & Thomas (2001).

Industry Mentoring

Mentoring by industry practitioners has been established as an effective approach in influencing the rate of entrepreneurship among graduates because it uses enterprise employees who understand the structure, processes, and demands as well as the knowledge required to deliver products to the market. They can therefore transfer technical knowledge and skills and act as role models (Ilieva-Kolieva, 2015). Colleges often plan with identified industries to attach their students so that they will be mentored by experienced practitioners. During attachment, students are assigned tasks, guided, coached, and allowed to execute them and make mistakes while learning. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) School of Distance Education (2023) confirms that industry mentoring accelerates the learning curve and develops skills and knowledge that help the student set goals, make career decisions, and deal with difficult situations. In addition, the student can build invaluable networks for career development. Kramer-Simpson (2018) found that with the selection and cultivation of relationships with strong industry mentors, industry mentoring optimised professional-level experience.  Looze, et al., (2020) concluded in their study that those learners mentored by experienced industry entrepreneurs are more likely to start a business after graduation than those whose mentors were not entrepreneurs.

Business Incubators as Facilities for Mentoring

The other setting that expands mentoring opportunities for students is the business incubator which is accessible to college students by design. Designed as a learning outfit, an incubator provides support such as working space, networking, knowledge sharing, and in-house training as well as mentoring and coaching provided by college or external industry mentors. Thus, the key learning success factors of incubators are the environment like the real world, access to working space and capital as well as mentoring support from experienced experts which foster entrepreneurship and innovation; and enable the “hatching”, development, protection, and growth of business start-ups (Famiola & Hartati, 2018; Ho & Turner, 2019; Vaz, Carvalho & Teixeira, 2023; Lindelof & Hellberg, 2023).

Resourcing of Mentorship Programs

Though Ragins (1997), Allen (2007), and Wanberg et al., (2003) indicated policy guidelines, trained mentors, resources available, facilities, and support, among other factors, facilitated success in mentoring relationships, prioritised resourcing of mentoring as an institutional function does not appear to feature prominently in the theoretical literature; this may be because traditionally it took only a mentor and mentee as the key resources required to get the function moving. But the advances in the conception of mentoring as an instructional and developmental tool that requires triads, communities, groups, and networks communicating face-to-face and through computer-mediated channels, as well as the need for accountability for results and behaviour, among others, require more resources than anticipated before. Montgomery et al., (2022) point out that institutional support for the mentoring function is required including financial, human, and infrastructure support such as web/internet facilities, and structural resources which include leadership/oversight and coordination mechanisms, policies, standard operating procedures, codes of conduct, performance, and accountability framework. Other authorities add that the mentoring function requires working spaces, curricula, and guidance manuals; and at the initiation of the mentoring relationship, the mentees together with their mentor would need to develop the following working tools:

  1. Personal Development Plan (PDP), which is a tool for providing a structure that guides the work of the mentor and the mentee. This is developed after the mentee has thought through their short and long-term career plans and formulate a path to implement the plan with the support of the mentor (Vincent et al., 2015).
  2. Mentorship Compacts, which are written agreements detailing daily, weekly, or monthly expectations of mentors from and commitments to the mentees. (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) (2019).
  3. Mentoring Maps are tools designed to help an individual identify academic and career goals, sources of support to reach those goals, and possible mentoring relationships or networks to help mentees meet identified needs (Montgomery, 2017a).
  4. Mentoring Plans refer to several different tools that can facilitate the roles, responsibilities, and approaches of mentors and mentees. They outline a mentee’s plan of action for assessing their mentoring skills, behaviours, and approaches and detail their plans for advancement by identifying areas of need (The NASEM, 2019).

Mentoring and Entrepreneurial Business Outcomes

Lund et al (2019) found that youths who had at least one mentor demonstrated a stable and generalised intention to accomplish something meaningful to them, which may include starting a business.  Baluku, et al., (2020) in their study of self-employed youth in Uganda found that mentoring, influenced by the individual’s belief in their ability to achieve the desired goals they set for themselves (self-efficacy), helped them to achieve intangible outcomes. Behaviourally, mentoring in social contexts such as networks, communities, triads, industry, or incubators enhances an individual’s capability to self-regulate, engage in self-directed learning, motivate themselves, set goals, and persistently pursue those goals (Byars-Winston et al., 2017). Kubberoid & Haggen, (2015) regarded mentoring as an essential ingredient and effective intervention for psychological development and skills-based training that increased social and entrepreneurial learning outcomes. Baluku, et al, (2019) found that mentoring is positively correlated with entrepreneurship intentions. Eeley &Wang, (2014) add that when implemented by entrepreneurs with experience, mentorship has a significant positive impact on the mentee’s likelihood of starting a business.

According to Kunaka & Moos (2019) mentoring entrepreneurs delivers the transfer of skills, knowledge, entrepreneur resilience, and business outcomes. They defined the skills transfer outcomes to include the ability to recognize and evaluate entrepreneurial opportunities, having a clearer vision and ability to manage the business, the ability to plan and implement activities, and networking with other parties that can add value to the business. The knowledge transfer outcomes entailed an understanding of accounts and better management of human and other resources as well as operations. Entrepreneur resilience outcomes included validating self-image, increasing self-efficacy, fostering an entrepreneurial culture, and encouraging personal development. These outcomes were consistent with the findings of Barrett (2016) and were confirmed by Looze, et al., (2020) who added increased access to social networks, the potential to start new ventures, increased productivity, product range, sales, profitability, and sustained business survival and growth.


The literature reviewed converges on the need for mentorship as an instructional approach to support career, psychological, and modelling functions that help in the development of entrepreneurs or other professionals in the field. The dyadic model is the traditional and dominant form of a mentoring relationship which has been credited as likely to increase the probability of meaningful and more frequent, high-quality interactions, (Allen, et al., 2006). More recent empirical literature indicates that mentees with one mentor demonstrated stable and generalised intention to start a business or complete something meaningful than those who do not have a mentor (Lund et al, 2019); showed increased social and entrepreneurial learning outcomes (Kubberoid & Haggen, 2015); and helped them achieve intangible outcomes (Baluku, et al., 2020). Further, mentoring transferred skills, knowledge, entrepreneur resilience, and business outcomes (Kunaka & Moos, 2019); and increased access to social networks, enhanced the potential to start new ventures, increased productivity, product range, sales, profitability, and sustained business survival and growth (Looze, et al., 2020).

But these apparent benefits that underlie the value of dyadic mentoring relationships have been enriched by both classical and empirical studies that have proposed a mentoring relationship with triads, collective groups, e-mentoring communities, or networks of mentors, alternatively called the “constellation” of mentors, (Kram,1985; Higgins & Thomas, 2001; Smith, & Spooner, 2021; Montgomery, et al., 2022;). The mentoring constellation contrasts with the age-old dyadic engagement which did not provide a wide range of career guidance and psychological support perspectives anticipated in Kram’s (1985), and Kram& Higgins’s (2001) network of mentors. Thus, the traditional one-to-one mentoring relationship will find enrichment in a network of mentors through leveraging a multiplicity of perspectives which increases the likelihood of adapting the engagement to the mentoring needs of the mentee, as well as increasing the potential for success as seen in improved outcomes (Montgomery & Page, 2019; Smith, & Spooner, 2021).

Brien & Hamburg (2014) intimate that small and micro-entrepreneurs’ favour and tend to benefit from interaction and learning by doing and formal approaches, implying that even short-term formal mentorship with interactive and practical assignments would be beneficial to entrepreneurship students in a college setting. Long-term informal relationships may not be possible in a college setting where mentorship programs are formalized and time-bound though the outcomes can be improved by adding industry attachment and using business incubators (Famiola. & Hartati, 2018; Ho & Turner, 2019).

Whatever model of mentorship relationship is used, there is a strong indication that mentorship in connived industry situations, such as incubators, enhances entrepreneurship and innovation; start-up, development, protection, and growth of the business, than the mentorship relationship in an ordinary college setting (Famiola & Hartati, 2018; Ho & Turner, 2019; Lindelof & Hellberg, 2023; Vaz, et al., 2023). Attachment of students to the industry where they are assigned mentors who accept to support the mentees facilitates the transfer of knowledge and skills and increases the chance of the mentees starting a business (Ilieva-Kolieva, 2015; Looze, et al., 2020).

In a college setting, where mentorship is likely to be part of the instructional approach, the relationship would be formalized perhaps through a policy that guides the behaviours of mentors and mentees, broadly defined activities, timings, and accountability mechanisms including reporting (Ssemata et al, 2017). This would be geared towards achieving the goals of mentorships and mitigating any negative effects identified by Scandura, (1998). Yet this formality should be flexible to allow for adaptation to mentee expectations, enable mentees to participate in the choice of mentors, as well as informally build networks of other mentors; and the college to arrange electronic communities or other groups of mentorships that enrich the mentoring process (Chao, et al., 1993; Inzer & Crawford, 2005; Ssemata et al., 2017; Montgomery, et al., 2022).

The preference for flexible formal mentoring presupposes that the college will provide resources to facilitate the process. First, the college would need a guiding policy that spells out mentorship as part of mandatory instruction, relations between mentor and mentee, period of mentorship, codes of conduct, leadership, and coordination mechanisms as well as performance management and accountability systems, among others.  In addition, the college would provide or source for and train mentors to be assigned to the mentees, as well as provide facilities and support for developmental mentoring relationships for a specified period (Wanberg, et al., 2003). The institutional support required includes prioritised commitment of financial, human, and structural resources for guidelines and standard operating procedures (Montgomery et al., 2022). Other resources include working spaces, and web/internet resources. At the mentor-mentee levels, handbooks, curricula, and manuals will be required together with mentee-dedicated tools including individual development plans, mentorship compact, mentoring maps, and mentoring plans which the mentee with the help of the mentor will develop at the beginning of the relationship (Montgomery et al., 2022; NASEM, 2019).

A Structured Approach to Mentoring Tertiary Level Entrepreneurship Students A Literature Review

Figure 1: Conceptual framework


The objectives of this paper were to establish the dominant form, structure, and coherent approach to mentorship that would form the basis for adoption with appropriate adaptation for entrepreneurship training in tertiary colleges in Kenya.  The paper sought to specifically delineate the specific functions mentoring plays in the instruction of entrepreneurship students; examine the nature of engagement of mentor and mentee in the mentoring relationship within an instructional setting; and explore the relationship between mentorship and graduate entrepreneurship student business outcomes. The literature reviewed has established the need for mentorship in college and in the field to support the career, psychological, and modelling development of the mentee.  The review also established that in a tertiary college setting where mentoring would form part of a compulsory instructional approach, a formal dyadic mentoring approach guided by a policy and backed by dedicated resources including working tools, would be the preferred arrangement. The formal arrangement would be flexible enough to enable the engagement of multiple and diverse mentors working as triads, communities, groups, or networks and facilitated with spaces, and web/internet resources, as appropriate, to provide enriched mentoring experiences to the mentees. Mentorship within incubators and industry provides mentees with hands-on real-life experiences which enhance entrepreneurial outcomes. The review found that mentorship helps in the transfer of skills, knowledge, entrepreneur’s resilience, and business outcomes; specifically shaping the students’ intention to start a business, increasing access to social networks, increasing productivity, product range, sales, profitability, and sustained business survival and growth. Because of these desirable outcomes, the role, form, structure, and nature of engagement of mentoring relationships established in the literature review summarised here, are recommended for adoption, adaptation, and use by tertiary colleges in Kenya.

Citation: Thungu, J., Ngugi, P. & Mugambi, A. (2024). A Structured Approach to Mentoring Tertiary Level Entrepreneurship Students: A Literature Review.


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