As an entrepreneur, mentor, advisor, and founder of SheEO, Vicki Saunders is paving the way for women everywhere.
“A whole new model for funding and supporting female entrepreneurs on their own terms,” Saunders said. “We started this because only 4 per cent of venture capital and 4 per cent of bank loans go to women entrepreneurs – which is crazy.”
So how does this work?
“Five hundred women come together, they contribute $1,100 each. We call it an active radical generosity – you do not get your money back. It’s pooled together into a fund, and then it’s loaned out at 0 per cent interest to five female entrepreneurs who are out there changing the world,” Saunders said.
“All those women who contributed capital go online and they vote for the company they are really passionate about, that they want to talk about to their friends, the kinds of product and services they want to buy. Those ventures get a 0 per cent interest loan and they pay that money back over five years and then the money is loaned out again.”
Ilana Ben-Ari is the founder and CEO of 21 Toys – an organization that designs toys to teach skills like empathy and failure. Ben-Ari is also a SheEO venture.
“I applied to SheEO three years into my business,” Ben-Ari said. “When I found out we were one of the ventures that was selected, it was overwhelming to feel supported by Vicki and the 500 activators from the SheEO network.”
Today 21 toys is in 49 countries, and is used in a thousand schools and offices worldwide.
“Getting an interest-free loan when you’re bootstrapping you own toy start-up – it changed everything,” Ben-Ari said.
Supporting female entrepreneurs, creating change, and helping to build a better world is what drives Saunders.
“When I walk down the street, when I look at our institutions and our structure, they were designed for a different time and place. They are just not working for us anymore,” Saunders said.
“And as an entrepreneur with that lens, I’m very excited because there are so many things to fix. It’s a great opportunity.”