Inspiring Innovators: Chris Motley Founder & CEO Mentor Spaces, On remembering “Who do you do this for?”
At SAP.iO, we work with innovative people and new technologies that positively impact our world every day, and we think it’s time to share their stories with you! In our series, “Inspiring Innovators,” we get to hear how founders, CEOs, and presidents of cutting-edge startup technologies overcame, thrived, and pursued their goals. SAP.iO’s Alexa Gorman sat down to discuss the road to success and lessons learned with some of our most inspiring startup founders.
Chris Motley grew up on the South Side of Chicago and was fortunate to be a part of organizations that helped put him on a path to access educational opportunities. That access led to graduation from Columbia University with a B.A. in History, and the Kellogg School of Management, with an MBA in Entrepreneurship. Chris founded a global textile manufacturing business where he spent six years leading its expansion into Ghana, Africa, and building its apparel division.
When we asked Chris about what he wanted to be when he grew up, he smiled and listed all the things he thought he might be, ranging from a basketball player to a judge. The takeaway was that Chris wanted to be the things he was exposed to as a child. What he saw, the people he met, and his connections contributed to his journey and gave him a unique way of looking at the world. He would come to learn how important all this was, and it would guide his future focus and desire to give back.
Previously, Chris spent four years at Goldman Sachs as a Commodities and Interest Rate product trader. Upon reflection on his journey, he thought about what people do when they are not exposed or have access to the same opportunities he was afforded. How do you reach your potential if you are not exposed to opportunities? How does one find support, mentors, and resources to learn about what could be?
When Chris asked these questions, he realized there was a need to provide these resources on a much larger scale. After learning a lot on Wall Street and building a company in Ghana, now was the time to launch Mentor Spaces to address the need in the marketplace for mentorship of underrepresented populations. Mentor Spaces is a venture-backed, community-driven mentorship platform designed to help companies scale DEI efforts while advancing the careers of underrepresented talent. The platform facilitates career conversations between employees and prospective candidates to streamline diverse talent acquisition and retention. This technology allows you to have conversations with people who can help you get where you want to go.
“What I found as we did a tremendous amount of research, in addition to my personal story, was that part of the issue is a lack of confidence among underrepresented populations, and part of that lack of confidence is driven by simply not knowing people and vetted resources that would help. We concluded that mentorship is a good way to build confidence and expand one’s network, and what’s unique about our approach is that we look at mentorship as a strategy that helps our customers accomplish their goals. Most companies have shifted to focus on a strategy around talent attraction, advancement, and retention.”