The Art of Business Mentoring

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Jaden Walton (left) and Adam Koehler in the innovative Kautz Attic space, where Walton serves as student entrepreneur-in-residence for the Center for Entrepreneurship. Photo by Suzanne Buzek.

When Lindner and the business community get together, everyone thrives

By Suzanne Buzek

“Ask him about the time he shared a stick of gum with his brother for two weeks.”

Overheard in conversation, one might think it was a legendary story about someone two people have shared admiration for. But to the multi-hyphenate entrepreneur Adam Koehler, it’s just part of how he builds rapport with his mentee, Lindner student Jaden Walton. 

As for who they were talking about, it was Management Associate Professor-Educator Catalin “Cat” Macarie, who felt that stick of gum represented “the American Dream” for two boys growing up in Soviet-controlled Romania.

Walton, BBA ’24, is studying entrepreneurship, marketing and finance at Lindner, and credits Macarie’s Essentials of Business I course for getting his own American Dream in motion through entrepreneurship. Koehler knew him because, as a self-made creative director turned startup exit, bitcoin miner, podcaster, author, real estate investor and public office candidate, of course he knew Macarie.

Steven Spielberg said that “the delicate art of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” For two kindred spirits who live and breathe entrepreneurship and new ventures, the opportunity to create themselves is their joint modus operandi.

“I hate watching people work until, say, 65, having the same things as everyone else,” said Koehler. “I’m motivated by the fear of being average, by not having a 9-to-5 schedule. Sure, not everybody can have it, but for someone like Jaden, who doesn’t want that, seeing him suffer is awful.”

In spring of 2021, Walton’s team won the university-wide Innovation Quest Elevator Pitch Competition — not just the Freshman Track, but overall. His team’s idea and subsequent victory entitled him to resources and support within the 1819 Innovation Hub. 1819’s connection to the regional startup community led Walton to enroll in a summer program through Cintrifuse, in which Koehler became his assigned mentor.

The one thing people like Jaden are missing is that one win. I grew up in poverty. You don’t have access to a network. You don’t have an uncle or people you can do a friends-and-family round with, right? Once we got Dotloop, the narrative changed for me.

Adam Koehler

From there, chaos — the move-fast-and-break-things, radical market-disrupting kind — ensued.

“The most important thing that I’ve really gotten out of this is, it can happen. Anything can happen,” said Walton, who serves as the student entrepreneur-in-residence for UC’s Center for Entrepreneurship. “We came up with an idea, but didn’t know what to do with it. Adam’s done this before, he’s helped other people do it before and now I’m able to help other people do that here at the center.”

One business venture Walton especially holds dear is Fahrenheit Finance, which is intended to lower barriers to entry to high-yield savings for all people, especially those hesitant to explore investing with emerging currency such as bitcoin and stablecoin.

“My goal is to raise the standard of living for as many people as possible to the best of my ability,” said Walton.

Bitcoin miner himself and contributor to the Kautz-Uible Cryptoeconomics Lab that will be housed in UC’s new Digital Futures building, Koehler’s mentorship was a natural fit. He invited Walton and his team for a brief pitch meeting with trusted advisers and friends from the startup community. What was intended to be a five-minute pitch turned into a two-hour grill session that exposed areas for improvement while bringing new clarity to Walton’s goals.

“The one thing people like Jaden are missing is that one win,” said Koehler, referencing his cofounding of Dotloop with Austin Allison, BSCM ’08. “I grew up in poverty. You don’t have access to a network. You don’t have an uncle or people you can do a friends-and-family round with, right? Once we got Dotloop, the narrative changed for me.”

Lindner students often don’t have just one mentor, as it takes input from entire teams to develop skills. While Koehler and Walton are two idea-generating peas in a pod, Walton credits Center for Entrepreneurship Executive Director and El and Elaine Bourgraf Director of Entrepreneurship Kate Harmon for helping him sharpen his ability to execute — even down to having him craft pitch emails.

Whether structured and formally administered through a company or program, or completely serendipitous, the mentoring relationships that really move the needle transcend the instructor-student, master-apprentice model. They embody more of a two-way street that has lanes for both professional and personal growth, regardless of industry or discipline.

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Riley Rosado, Pam Weber and Rachel Rosado catching up over dinner in spring 2022.

“I felt connected from the minute that I met you,” PNC Bank Senior Vice President Pam Weber told her mentees, Rachel Rosado, BBA ’18, and Riley Rosado, BBA ’22.

The minute they met, Rachel was an ambitious first-year student, excited to explore career pathways in commercial real estate. She became connected with Weber through the UC Real Estate Center, and they kept showing up for each other, their mentorship taking on both attributes of structure and formality and that of becoming like family. 

“Pam invited me to PNC for a full day at the bank,” Rachel recalled. “I met with a different person in each department, really got a full experience with a job shadow.”

“Oh, how many hours did I put you through?” laughed Weber. “My husband was like, ‘What did you do to her?’”

I love the art of the connection. I think, ultimately, at the collegiate level, that’s the most important time to make those connections and go through doors that are opened for you.

PNC Bank Senior Vice President Pam Weber

When Rachel’s younger brother, Riley, stepped onto campus and started to seek input on where he should direct his energy and development, Rachel made the introduction.

“There are so many parallels for what happened with me and Rachel,” Riley said. “I feel like, immediately, Pam took us under her wing and introduced us to everybody in her network who could be of relevant help to us.”

The prosperity of their relationship — both as a trio and one-on-one — underscores new realities in professionalism Lindner students and professionals of all ages are grappling with: getting past the awkward, allowing oneself to be vulnerable and cultivating emotional intelligence. 

“I love the art of the connection,” said Weber. “I think, ultimately, at the collegiate level, that’s the most important time to make those connections and go through doors that are opened for you. 

“I guess that’s the parent-type side of me that comes in and says, ‘You can just see that it works and you’re more likely to embrace it as a practice,’” she continued. “There’s no class that tells you that.”

When Riley expressed his goals of completing an Ironman triathlon, he talked to Weber. When Rachel felt lost and was considering relocating from Denver to Cincinnati, she called Weber.

Riley introduced Weber at the 2020 Cincinnati Business Achievement Awards when she was recognized as a Distinguished Service Award Honoree for her dedication to helping students through multiple groups at Lindner, not just the Real Estate Center. Additionally, Weber was a cherished guest at Rachel’s wedding in the fall of 2021.

“Introducing Pam at the CBAAs was one of my favorite memories of our mentor-mentee relationship,” said Riley. 

“That was beyond special,” echoed Weber.