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Two DSM Leaders Reflect on the Importance of Mentoring + How It Has Shaped Their Lives

Mentoring Impact

December 14, 2021

Header image from bbsia.org.

Taking the time to foster meaningful relationships and build a strong support system can truly provide value to those involved. Both of us have had these opportunities because of our mentorship experiences and want to share with others to encourage them to open up their worlds for more possibilities.

Renee Hardman

As the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, I know the positive effect mentoring has on life. From my experience in a single-parent household, I at times had the feeling I was not enough. Overcoming this feeling did not happen alone but through the mentors and strong women that came into my life; they helped me believe that life was going to be okay and that I indeed was enough.

I am passionate about giving a voice to those who feel marginalized and encourage young girls to set ambitious goals for themselves. Community Celebration

I knew I could do more for those around me and started a grassroots mentoring program — I am Enough. This program brings together 30 girls ages 9-12 years old, most of which are from communities of color, with 30 I am Enough Champions. The Champions are lawyers, judges, dentists, CEOs, teachers, financial advisors, authors, bankers and more, all brought together to serve as mentors for these young girls. This involves a curriculum focused on liking themselves, valuing their uniqueness, dealing with conflict, perseverance, etc. facilitated by three different Champions each month over a one-year span. The goal is to make an impactful difference on the positive development of a young girl aspiring to be and do greater things.

After co-chairing an event with Annie, I knew she would be a perfect Champion for the I am Enough program. She fit right in with the girls she was mentoring, and I could tell she was making an impact on these young girls’ lives.

Annie Brandt

Having two daughters of my own, I know the importance of instilling confidence in them at a young age, reinforcing the notion that they can achieve anything they set their minds to and that they are enough. After my relationship with Renee began at an event and blossomed through Bank of America’s support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa over the past 11 years with various grants, I was asked to join the I am Enough mentoring program. It felt natural for me to get involved and become a role model for those in my community. I am now proud to say I am an I am Enough Champion and work to make a difference in the young lives around me every day. I am passionate about connecting the young girls in Greater Des Moines (DSM) with the amazing leaders we have all around us. BBBS Event

I would not be where I am today without mentorship. Some of the most valuable relationships in my life have come from mentoring programs. When the pandemic hit, I created a small group of peers to act as mentors to one another. We were able to share ideas, connect to others and network internally and externally, as well as being there to lift each other up during troubling times. I rely on my mentors both professionally and personally, and I hope to provide the same for my mentees. Bank of America’s strong culture of mentorship includes formal internal mentoring programs as well as partnerships with:

  • The Cherie Blair Foundation: Bank of America teammates are partnered with an entrepreneur across several countries to provide mentorship and guidance including training for both the mentors and mentees. We’ve partnered with the foundation since 2013, helping to support mentoring for women entrepreneurs across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America.
  • The Global Ambassadors Program, a partnership with Vital Voices: The Global Ambassadors Program brings women from around the world together for a week of training, mentorship and networking. The program pairs women entrepreneurs (mentees) with senior women executives for a week of one-on-one mentorship and workshops designed to build business acumen. Through our 20 programs, we’ve provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring to women from 85 countries, with more than 400 women participating as mentees or sharing their expertise.
  • Tory Burch Foundation: In 2014 we launched The Tory Burch and Bank of America Capital Program. It’s dedicated to helping connect women business owners to affordable loans to help grow their businesses.

Not only does mentoring young girls make a difference in their lives, but it also creates a positive impact on my life. Mentoring has given me the strength and courage to guide young girls towards successful futures. They inspire me to be a better version of myself and show me what being authentic really means. Spending time with these young girls gives me hope for a better future and an even greater DSM.

Looking for tools to help grow your startup or small business? Visit the Small Business Resources Hub to find the information you need or sign up for Mentor Connection to build relationships with a trusted group of mentors.

Renee Hardman and Annie Brandt

Renee Hardman joined BBBSCI as the CEO in July 2018. Renee has more than 25 years of executive level HR experience and has served as board member for nearly 20 nonprofits. In 2017, Renee was the first African American woman elected to the West Des Moines City Council. Annie Brandt is a senior vice president and market executive for Bank of America Iowa. She oversees community partnerships and philanthropy. Annie works with the market president to lead local market goals of connecting businesses, families and individuals to banking and investment teams that help improve their financial lives.