By Claire West

New business owners are increasingly looking for support to overcome the practical barriers to running their own companies.

So far this year, more than 15,000 requests for advice have been answered by volunteer business mentors on www.horsesmouth.co.uk the UK’s leading business mentoring site. Demand is increasing with 50% more requests than were seen at the start of the economic downturn in 2008.

Horsesmouth estimates that one in three of these requests now has a personal context that conventional business support services are not equipped to deal with.

In these challenging economic times horsesmouth has seen an increase in requests for help where personal challenges are impacting on a businesses’ resilience. Issues being discussed range from a lack of confidence and poor time management through to dilemmas about childcare, debt, relationships, family and health.

UK business mentors and ‘mentees’ are being called upon to join in the conversation and Yell, the international directories business, has joined forces with horsesmouth to promote the free, safe peer-to-peer business mentoring for small businesses and start-ups.

The theme of the campaign “Business, it’s Personal” recognises that informal peer mentoring can be extremely effective in building confidence and tackling the more human side of the challenges which small businesses face.

As part of the campaign, the Yell Mentoring Works Awards will recognise and reward the best horsesmouth mentors, and the awards are now open for nominations.

Yell and horsesmouth are calling for people with experience of starting or running a business to create a free profile and give their time to answering online calls for help.

Horsesmouth founder MT Rainey said, “For some it’s about gaining confidence and setting priorities to avoid panicking and giving up. For others it’s simply about helping navigate the myriad of business services that are out there. For everyone it’s about feeling encouraged that they are not the only person to have had this problem.”

Kimberley Watts-Fitzsimmons, corporate responsibility manager for Yell in the UK, said: “The increasing popularity of the safe, high quality horsesmouth mentoring site shows that entrepreneurs and new business owners need advice and expertise on the sometimes difficult personal aspects of running a business, such as financial or time management advice, as well help with traditional topics such as business planning or marketing.

As a champion of local business, Yell is calling for more people to join the horsesmouth community to share their expertise and support the growing number of entrepreneurs and start-ups who visit the site for valuable business advice with that all important personal focus.”

Yell also encourages its own people to volunteer via horsesmouth and share their own expertise.

Those interesting in mentoring or seeking advice should visit www.horsesmouth.co.uk or follow them on Twitter. Please use the #bizmentors hash tag to reference this story on Twitter. Suggested tweet: Join the conversation and get personal business advice or become a #bizmentor on www.horsesmouth.co.uk