Tom Stemberg, founder, chairman, and CEO of Staples, a $5.2 billion chain of office supply superstores

    Mentor: Harvard Business School professor Walter Salmon

    Best advice given: "Apply your supermarket efficiency skills in a new business that's underserved by modern distribution channels." - Stephanie Gruner

Katharine Graham, chairman of the executive committee, the Washington Post Co.

    Mentor: Warren Buffett, chairman, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

    How they met: Graham took control of her company in 1963. The company held an initial public offering in 1971. Buffett began to amass a stake in her company. Graham sought Buffett out for a meeting to determine whether his intentions toward her company were hostile. The two became fast friends, and Buffett helped Graham develop business savvy and confidence.

    How often they meet: "Several times a week - less now, as he is busier," Graham says.

    Best advice given: "To repurchase our stock," as Graham did in 1979. The average price the company paid was about $22 per share. The stock is now worth $528 per share. - Mike Hofman

Lynn Frydryk, founder of $1-million-plus J& L Peaberry's Coffee & Tea Co., in Oakland, Calif.

    Mentor: Alfred Peet, specialty-coffee guru

    How they met: Frydryk worked for Peet at a company he had founded called Peet's Coffee and Tea. She never solicited him as a mentor. She says he adopted her.

    How often they meet: Frydryk and Peet used to visit about once a month. Now they meet irregularly.

    Best advice given: Peet told Frydryk, "Before starting your own business, you really would be wise to make your mistakes on the payroll of someone else's business. It's a very sound theory." - Stephanie Gruner

Steve Leveen, cofounder and president of Levenger, a catalog business in Delray Beach, Fla.

    Mentor: Stanley Marcus, chairman emeritus of Neiman Marcus

    How they met: Leveen read Marcus's book Minding the Store and wrote him a fan letter. Marcus wrote back.

    Best advice given: "No sale is a good sale unless it's a good value for the customer." - Stephanie Gruner

Jenai Lane, founder and president of Respect Inc., a $2 million accessory company in San Francisco