Attention Ladies! Looking to Fund your Startup?
“Female entrepreneurs are the job creation strategy we’ve been waiting for.” - Vicky Saunders
By Joanne Richard
Vicki Saunders may just be the gal you need. Saunders is an entrepreneur-maker who’s rebooting the funding system to give female-led ventures a cash infusion.
Saunders founded SheEO.world, a funding venture by women for women, and she is working hard to spread the wealth and empowerment. “Less than 7% of venture capital goes to women, and female entrepreneurs need a new support system if they are going to thrive.”
#RadicalGenerosity funded five female-led ventures over the past year by creatively bringing together a female-funded pool of $500,000. Now the call is out again - if you’re a female venture, you can apply for some radical generosity by Monday, Oct. 31, 2016.
Considering that the five ventures experienced an average revenue growth of 30% after the first three months, this could be the break you need. Besides capital, women are supported with expertise and a network of thousands of early customers, advisors, and follow-on investors.
Former nutritionist Toni Desrosiers got a financial boost from SheEO for her food wrap business, Abeego, which gives the boot to airtight plastic wrap and offers up a breathable wrap that picks up where the peels leaves off.
“We’re changing the way the world thinks about food wrap while helping people understand that fresh food is alive and it needs to breathe,” says Desrosiers, a Victoria, BC resident who initially kicked off her venture with a mere $1,200 in personal savings.
Traditional lenders were weary of her unproven idea but she didn’t give up. “The funding from SheEO has allowed me to transform my business and push Abeego well beyond its comfort zone with confidence.”
Sonia Strobel also got in on the funding to help co-found Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery, which is a program that helps support independent, small scale fishermen to get paid a fair price for their sustainably harvested catch.
Her Vancouver-based business model offers members boat-to-fork transparency while keeping independent, small-scale harvesters in business. “The funding and ability to tap into a network of 500 female professionals was invaluable and helped my membership grow by more than 40%,” says Strobel, a former high school teacher.
Female-led companies are a significant driver of the economy, and giving them a boost can have financial benefits nationwide. “Female entrepreneurs are the job creation strategy we’ve been waiting for,” says Saunders, adding that “if women were financed to the same degree as men they would create six million jobs in the next five years in North America alone!”
Strobel will soon be creating more jobs: “I received enough funds to build a packing facility that has allowed us to vertically integrate more of our operations. That has allowed us to take on new customers and clients and move a volume of product we wouldn’t have been able to handle.”
The business also has enough funds to move ahead with building a processing plant, she adds, which will lead to further growth next year.
Businesswoman Ilana Ben-Ari is growing empathy across Canada with her funding. Her Toronto-based company, Twenty One Toys, designs toys and workshops that teach empathy, failure, and other critical 21st century skills.
Toys are becoming the new textbooks, says Ben-Ari - “35% of the top skills necessary for the workforce aren’t aligned with the skills we’re teaching, and hiring for. Our first toy, The Empathy Toy, is now in over 1000 schools, 100 offices, and 43 countries - the same toy pieces are being used to teach empathy to kindergarten students and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.” The Empathy Toy will even be taught in three MBA programs this fall.
Funding is going toward building the Failure Toy as well as running empathy workshops in major companies around the world, adds Ben-Ari.
Meanwhile, Saunders’ plan is for the funding model to be in 1,000 cities by 2020 loaning $1B annually to 10,000 women-led businesses. This past summer Saunders expanded the funding model into the Greater Los Angeles Area, Colorado and San Francisco Bay Area.
SheEO.world founder Vicki Saunders offers up this advice to entrepreneurs:
- Surround yourself with radically generous women who support you on your own terms, and ask for help often.
- Follow your gut. Don’t follow someone else’s path or you’ll limit your success.
- Be wildly passionate about your idea. “It’s not easy being an entrepreneur so you need to be bouncing out of bed to solve the problem your company addresses to sustain you through the tough times.”
Entrepreneurial words of wisdom from Sonia Strobel, co-founder of Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery:
- Find a problem in the world and solve it.
- Be really clear on your values and use them as a compass to guide all your decision-making.
- You can’t do it all alone: connect with your local like-minded business community, especially with women-in-business groups. And remember that asking for help isn't asking for charity – it’s providing an opportunity for those who share your vision to collaborate with you and achieve your goals together.
Take advice from entrepreneur Toni Desrosiers, founder of Abeego:
- Find a business coach that addresses your emotional health and your business health as if they are one because they are more intertwined than you can imagine.
- Be gentle with yourself. Sustainable and organic growth is okay and it's normal. Give yourself time to put systems in place before you decide you must be an overnight success.
- Be persistent. If you believe in what you’re doing and people are genuinely excited, keep going even if you are faced with a few people that don't believe in you.
Toy with Ilana Ben-Ari’s advice:
- It’s okay to go on your own - just make sure you have a strong community of entrepreneurs, especially female, around you.
- Questioning your business and product does not mean you are weak or lacking confidence. It means that you’re intelligent and always looking for ways to improve - don’t confuse the two!.
- Don’t give up your power so quickly. In the midst of starting something you are going to have a lot of people want to join in your mission, and that can be thrilling - but never discount what you’ve built and created for their comfort. Women so often dumb down their success and talent to make others comfortable, and to not look vain or arrogant while trying to be likeable. This ends up hurting us as we don’t get the credit we deserve.