Women helping women—something the entrepreneurial world doesn’t nearly see enough of. So as a response, Vicki Saunders—global influencer, mentor and serial entrepreneur—created SheEO, a member-funded venture program supported entirely by women for women.
The model launched in Canada in July 2015, drawing in 500 members (activators), raising $500,000 in funding and supporting five female entrepreneurs and their new ventures. We spoke with Vicki about her vision behind SheEO, what it means to be radically generous and how to get involved.
The Inspiration Behind SheEO
As an entrepreneur, Vicki saw a looming gap in the current business model—one that significantly underfunded female entrepreneurs. So, in an effort to change that, she launched SheEO.
“We created a model to finance, support and celebrate female entrepreneurs. The reason we’re doing that is because less than four per cent of venture capital goes to women. It’s incredibly difficult to get funding as a female entrepreneur in general—and it goes back decades.”
The SheEO journey started in 2013 as a business incubator experiment, pairing together aspiring female entrepreneurs with seasoned female entrepreneurs. The success of the experimental cohort led to the official launch of the SheEO venture program in 2015.
In essence, here’s what the program is all about:
- SheEO creates a call-out to female activators, all coming from diverse professional backgrounds. Activators commit $1,000 each, which is later funneled into a large pool of venture capital—similar to a crowdfunding initiative.
- Female entrepreneurs apply to be part of the SheEO venture program. Upon acceptance into the cohort, the entrepreneurs receive low-interest venture funding from the collected capital—all uniquely allocated. The catch: ventures must be women-led and must earn at least $50,000 in annual revenue.
- The cohort receives world-class, women-to-women entrepreneurial support, from networking to mentorship to coaching—but on their own terms.
“We coach everybody to be very bold,” explains Vicki. “The second you’re in front of the other women, you’re told to share your information and determine how they can help you. Assuming everyone is radically generous, what’s stopping you from asking? It’s all self-selection in this, nobody is going to send you a list of people on a platter. You have to take advantage of the opportunity in front of you.”
Radical Generosity, Defined
After creating SheEO, Vicki saw the desire to create a brand new culture that would change how women supported other women. This led to the coining of “radical generosity.”
“I think there’s this idea in the market that we have to work 24/7 and step over people to win in business,” she explains. “I actually think we need to be radically generous to each other—and also to ourselves.”
Here, the push for generosity can be summed up in three ways:
- Create a radical network: “We’ve grown into four regions this year—Canada, Los Angeles, Colorado and San Francisco—so our goal is to have 40 new companies, 10 per market. Overall, our goal is 4,000 activators, 40 companies and $40 million raised.”
- Design an all-around support system: “Just imagine, last year 500 women came to the SheEO website, put in their credit card information and had no idea who the money was going to, how the money was going to be spent and what the impact was. These activators contributed $1,000 and didn’t expect a return. There’s a pent-up demand for women to want to support each other and we’ve created a pretty simple way for them to do that.”
- Make change together: “Women who are funded by women do better at achieving their goals and creating stronger businesses. It’s really important that women come forward as investors.”
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Moving Female Entrepreneurs Forward in the Years to Come
As the program extends into the US this year, Vicki says the venture program has also received worldwide attention. “We’ve got almost 100 cities in the pipeline around the world who want to be part of this. So it’s gaining a lot of traction in these markets.”
With a clear long-term demand for the program, Vicki shares her short-term excitement for the application launch in September. “We hope that some of the stories of these businesses will draw more activators forward to support the SheEO model.”
The second annual SheEO venture program is coming this fall, so sign up in your region if you’re interested in becoming an activator. And entrepreneurs: Venture applications open on September 1st and close on October 31st. If you want to part of this push for radical generosity, learn more on SheEO.world.
“We think it would be a much better world out there if women were at the table with men designing the future.”
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About the author: Megan Santos is a Content Editor at FreshBooks. Before joining the team, Megan was the Editor of a national trade publication and was also a published writer for the National Post, Notable.ca, and Zoocasa.com. In her free time, you can find Megan in her empty, new home or Pinteresting “Home decor inspiration.” Follow her on Twitter@meganssantos.