Coaching vs mentoring: What it is and why it matters for impact entrepreneurs

Your support network is the solid ground from which you can propel yourself upwards. – Anna Barnes, How To Be Resilient

It takes a lot of work and know-how to turn an idea into a business or to scale a business activity. Entrepreneurs can’t do it all. Their ability to find the right expertise at the right time becomes one of the main success factors for their venture. This means recruiting the right people but also finding external support from coaches and mentors.

But understanding the difference between coaching and mentoring can be tricky, that’s why we asked a coach and a mentor to guide us. 

Servane Mouazan, is the founder and Executive Coach at Conscious Innovation. She is passionate about supporting and connecting Social Impact Professionals. 

Servane Mouzan will give us some insights as a coach

Elie Casamitjana, founder at Impactivs, business coach, startup mentor and angel investor.

Elie Casamitjana


What is your definition of coaching/mentoring?

Servane: Coaching is a thinking partnership between a trained coach and clients who want to change one or more aspects of their personal or professional lives. By providing a safe, non-directive space and deep listening that ignites great, independent thinking, a coach will invite the client to engage in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their future personal and professional potential.

Élie: I see the process of mentoring as the one where mentors share with mentees the knowledge and experience they have acquired in one (or various) field(s) to help mentees develop their skills, achieve their goals and enrich their professional journey. 

What is the difference between mentoring and coaching?

Servane: For me mentoring is based on information, some level of advice and content. It is up to the mentee to reflect and understand how they will adapt this information into their ways of working. 

In the below illustration, it is explained where mentoring and coaching find themselves on a spectrum from content to process, from a directive to non-directive approach.

This is the process that follows mentoring and coaching

Figure Inspired from “M. Downey, Effective Coaching 2003” 

Élie: The main difference between mentoring and coaching lies in the type of support provided to the mentee. One is more oriented on guiding the process while the other has a clear focus on the content. Coaches help their coachees by acting as sparring partner through a journey. They are not experts in the content but will guide the process by asking questions and providing adequate tools so that the coachees find their own answers. Coaching helps coachees find resources within themselves or by themselves. On the other hand, the mentors bring subject matter expertise in the required field(s) and pass it on to their mentees. As you can see in the figure, mentoring is not so much about asking but more about advising. Mentoring helps mentees unlock situations by getting fast-track access to certain knowledge and skills.

What is the main value of coaching/mentoring for impact entrepreneurs and aspiring ones?

Servane: The creative and deep introspection aspect of coaching helps impact entrepreneurs to:

  • Understand and clarify their motivation and drivers.
  • Harness the power of their networks.
  • Collaborate and be comfortable with open-source thinking.
  • Grow imagination, trust and leadership.
  • Adopt a strength-based approach for themselves and others.

Élie: Being an entrepreneur feels lonely at times. Besides, it is not possible to know everything, especially when you are on the journey to launch a business for the first time. Mentors are experienced professionals who have done it before. Whether it applies to general entrepreneurship or specific areas of the business such as growth marketing or finance, mentoring can be foundational to help entrepreneurs succeed. This support provides reassurance and confidence you’re on the right track or helps you identify faster where to adjust and simply build up the confidence in what you’re doing.


Could you share an example of successful coaching when you felt you really empowered an entrepreneur?

Servane: I can’t say I am “proud” of someone’s result because it is not about my agenda. However, I can say I  value the progress each one of them made about a topic that was significant to them at the time, small or “big”. Recent clients felt they were able to understand mechanisms to feel comfortable with and bring out their own brilliance as we worked on amplifying their achievements and qualities (rather than focusing on areas to fix). People felt equipped to navigate job changes or new leadership positions; for others, it was about negotiating new job offers and compensation and feeling at ease with it.


Élie: Through Impactivs, I sometimes get directly involved with entrepreneurs going through our programs. Recently, I supported Stefano Melchior, Founder & CEO of Bechained, a smart energy management solution. His big concern was that it was hard for them to explain what they do, what is so unique about it, and why people should care. All of that while simplifying the message. Using tried and tested tools and methods, I helped him tune his positioning and value proposition and define a clear and compelling messaging. A few weeks later, Stefano confirmed he already felt the difference as he got more interest from potential customers and accelerated the closing of various important deals. 

What coaching and mentoring have in common is they guide impact entrepreneurs through a difficult path, empower them, encourage their talent and, in short, promote business success. They can serve a purpose at different stages in your journey. Maybe it’s time for you to look for your Jedi, mentor or coach, that help escalate your potential help you turn your ideas into reality.


At Impactivs, we bring together mentors and entrepreneurs through tailor-made acceleration programs intended to bring them the right expertise at the right time.

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