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Activism & Action

SheEO Funds First all-Black cohort in U.S.

An image of Vickie Saundersin a blue scarf holding a microphone surrounded by women, text behind her reads "we are gonna start the revolution"
Vickie Saunders (centre) "US SheEO Activators voted!"

Five U.S. ventures led by five Black women entrepreneurs will get a major injection of cash from SheEO’s global community of radically generous investors.

SheEO announced today that, for the first time in its history, all five enterprises that activators chose to fund for its U.S. cohort of investment are owned and led by Black women and non-binary people.

Vicki Saunders (she/her), founder of SheEO, says the organization made a targeted investment because of the lack of funding and support available to women entrepreneurs.

“If you’re a woman of colour, it’s virtually impossible [to get funded]—it’s less than point 0.01 per cent,” she says. “But all of a sudden, you have a huge community of people who are like, ‘We love you, how can we help?’”

Saunders launched the Toronto-based non-profit in 2015 with a goal of building a global community of “radically generous” activators to build a fund to invest in women entrepreneurs building equitable and sustainable ventures.

In the U.S., 500 activators every year, gift $1,100 to a perpetual fund that provides zero-interest loans to the selected Ventures, voted by the Activators. As the loans are paid back over 5 years, they are loaned out again and again to more women-led Ventures, keeping the Activators gift in perpetual flow.

The “one activator-one vote” democratic, participative and non-hierarchical selection process is what sets SheEO apart from other non-equity fund initiatives.

Since the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement following the George Floyd protests last summer, Saunders says the activator community has been engaged in conversations about how they can better support Black entrepreneurs, including creating the Racial Justice Working Group within the SheEO community with S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective, a U.S. SheEO Venture.

This year’s announcement of the first all-Black U.S. cohort, she says, is an example of how successful those conversations have been.

“I think the original reckoning is really a gift to all of us to step back, pay attention to our role in keeping the world the way it is—and to decide to shift that.”

One of the activators is Jamie Gloshay (she/her), a Navajo White Mountain Apache and Kiowa entrepreneur and co-founder of Native Women Lead. This year, she voted for ventures she felt had under appreciated potential while keeping in mind the significant challenges so many women have faced due to COVID-19. She says she hopes the selected entrepreneurs feel supported in their journey.

For Gloshay, value comes not only in investment but in building community – and inviting entrepreneurs into it. “I often find that entrepreneurs feel like it’s a lonely journey,” she says. “Being able to access tools and resources and a community—especially with women who have already committed to being radically generous—I think that is so supportive and so needed in the world that we’re currently living in. With COVID-19, a lot of women are having to carry their families and their communities through, so it’s necessary to have that extra support system.”

Terri-Nichelle Bradley (she/her), CEO and founder of Brown Toy Box, is one of the five ventures selected for funding this year. She’s thrilled to join a community of women supporting other women leading enterprises focused on working on the World’s To-Do List, co-creating an equitable and sustainable equitable world, together.

Terri-Nichelle Bradley, founder and CEO of Brown Toy Box.
Terri-Nichelle Bradley, founder and CEO of Brown Toy Box.

“I love the fact that it’s women investing in women with capital, but also with their time and their expertise,” says Bradley. “I thought, just to have that affiliation with really impact-minded women—how cool would that be?”

Bradley leads a multimedia company that produces and curates STEAM toys, media, and experience for Black children. Through STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts, math) education, cultural representation and educational play, Brown Toy Box aims to normalize Black excellence and create prosperous career pathways for Black children.

Bradley is excited to join a community of women who share similar goals. “I definitely believe that you should cultivate people who share the same values and same priorities in as many ways as possible. The fact that these are women that are really focused on changing the world for the better […] that’s exactly where I want and need to be.”

The five ventures by Black women (see slide show below) announced as part of SheEO’s U.S. cohort are: Brown Toy Box by Terri-Nichelle Bradley, Courtroom 5 by Sonja Ebron, Makher’s Studio by Wanona Satcher, 100K incubator by Arielle Loren Palmer, and CIO Energy by SaLisa Berrien.

SheEO’s U.S. venture announcement is open to the public. Activators, ventures and guests can attend the event and meet the five women entrepreneurs by registering here

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Our Voices

What’s Up Minister Ng?

Join PK Mutch, publisher of LIisBeth Media in short (10 minutes) pop up interview with Canadian Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion where Minister Ng talks informally about her goals for women entrepreneurs in Canada and what’s next for the Canadian federal government’s  Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy.

 

For more information on The Fifth Wave, Canada’s first feminist business accelerator, click here. Fifth Wave is an initiative of the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and supports womxn founders in digital media.

 

 


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https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/08/09/federal-government-announces-3-6-million-investment-in-women-led-social-enterprises-in-ontario/


 

Categories
Activism & Action

How Do We Remake The World?

 

SheEO founder and CEO Vicki Saunders opens the SheEO Global Summit. Photo: Dhalia Katz

A flurry of COVID-19 related conference cancellations this week didn’t stop more than 600 women entrepreneurs and 93 speakers from attending the first SheEO Global Summit held in Toronto on Monday, March 9.

It was just too important to miss.

SheEO is an innovative, feminist-forward, Canadian-based initiative designed to propel women and women-identified entrepreneurs and their enterprises to the next level. Vicki Saunders founded the organization out of frustration with both the “women are just mini-men” approach of existing male-dominated startup programs, as well as her lived experiences as an entrepreneur and mentor. She decided enough was enough.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the SheEO Global Summit for women entrepreneurs in listening mode. Photo: Dhalia Katz

“Everything is broken. What a great time to be alive.” –Vicki Saunders

The first SheEO event, just over seven years ago, consisted of just 10 entrepreneurs plus a handful of women mentors sitting on pillows in a circle in a small university meeting room. The plan was to meet once a week. During that time, participants shared their experiences, hopes and dreams in a space that acknowledged their experiences and authentic selves. They strategized, shared skills, collaborated. As a result, they made surprising, unparalleled progress in a short time. The experience was transformational for all who participated, including Saunders.

The next step? How to scale this experiment so that many more women leading businesses could access a support network that truly worked.

Today, SheEO operates in five countries with 70 more in the pipeline. It has funded 53 ventures (the average loan being $100,000 per venture) and, globally, it has more than 4,000 activators or mentors who also donate to the fund. Its work has been featured in mainstream press around the world.

What started as one woman’s conviction—that if systemically oppressed women entrepreneurs were unleashed from systems that were never built by them or for them, they could have significant impact on the growth, strength, and character of our economy (an estimated $150 billion in Canada alone) within five years—has turned into a global movement.

And that has led to serious government attention.

The opening day of the SheEO Global Summit attracted politicians and diplomats such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion; Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; and Isabelle Berro-Amadeï, Ambassador of France and Monaco.

 

From left to right, front row: Wendy Cukier, Ryerson Diversity and Inclusion Institute; Julie Merk, BMO; Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; Ambassador Isabelle Hudon; Michelle Savoy, SheEO Activator; and Beth Horowitz, SheEO Board Member.

In 2018, the Canadian government committed to investing more than $2 billion in research, policy development, and support (The Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy) for Canada’s estimated 1.3 million women sole proprietors, small business owners, and startup founders. In making the announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “It’s not just about the fact that we need the full participation of women in today’s economy. It’s also about the fact that women entrepreneurs bring forward fundamentally different solutions than male entrepreneurs.”

Join PK Mutch outside of the Liberty Grand for an interview with Minister Mary Ng about what’s next for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund (WES) and her thoughts on challenges facing women entrepreneurs in Canada. 

SheEO’s summit agenda delivered practical advice to women entrepreneurs on topics such as growing globally and building a productive relationship with your bank as well as action workshops where participants and SheEO founders collaborated on developing strategies to overcome current business challenges in real-time.

It also offered provocative sessions on feminist business practice, decolonizing systems, and emergent economies. The summit provided on-site child care as well as a quiet room to decompress, reflect, and decide what you need to leave behind so that it can no longer hold you back.

Dr. Dori Tunstall, Dean of Design of OCAD University: “Asking diverse peoples to dance to a white European, male, CIS, hetero, middle-class, able-body and -mind, Christian status quo (i.e. the power structure) is genocide to our spirits.”
A quote from CV Harquail, presenter of “The Feminist Economy” at the SheEO Global Summit, 2020.
Joy Anderson, founder of Criterion Institute: “We’ve privileged the finance world over the knowledge of the world. We need to get into a point where a diverse set of knowledge is included in our understanding of risk—and truly valued.”

The summit drove this home:

There are lots of traditional business conferences and neo-liberal incubator and accelerators led by patriarchal, privileged dudes (and a few like-minded women) who still believe their recipe for success is relevant, which is to focus on disruption at all costs and finding the next billion-dollar unicorn enterprise at the expense of all else.

But to collectively flourish, we need women and all women-identified entrepreneurs of all genders to flourish. We need women-identified leaders creating the next-gen powerhouses that are truly inclusive and capable of generating fair returns, fair wages, and strengthening community and planet. And we need organizations like SheEO Global Summit to challenge and blow up norms, narratives, and systems that might hold women back.

 


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For the list of new 2020 Canadian SheEO ventures, click here.

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https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/10/29/how-can-we-collectively-build-a-better-future-for-all/

Categories
Systems

Feds Drop $9 Million Into Women’s Entre-preneurship

Day two of the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum 2018 in Toronto

The federal government has awarded Ryerson University $9 million over three years to fund a Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) to advance research into women’s entrepreneurship with the goal of increasing participation of women in the economy.

Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, who worked in the President’s Office at Ryerson University before becoming a Member of Parliament in the Liberal government, made the announcement this morning, saying WEKH will equip governments and the private sector “with the necessary information to better understand and assist women entrepreneurs in their efforts to start up, scale up and access new markets.”

Currently, only 16 percent of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are women owned. By many estimates, advancing gender equality has the potential to add $150 billion to the Canadian economy by 2026. WEKH is expected to be a one-stop source of knowledge, data and best practices to help governments, organizations and the private sector develop better policies and strategies to grow women’s entrepreneurship.

Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO and a partner in WEKH, hopes the investment will unleash the potential of women’s entrepreneurship. “We have an excellent business case in the women’s entrepreneurship area to show how investing in women will grow the Canadian economy. It’s very exciting to see that a university will take this information and upload research that will power better government policy.” She adds that “Ryerson has been a leading driver of entrepreneurship, innovation and education across the country.”

The Ryerson-led consortium was chosen over one competing bid led by University of Ottawa, which included some of Canada’s top thought leaders in the area of women’s entrepreneurship, notably Barbara Orser, a professor at University of Ottawa and co-author of Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs; Jennifer Jennings, Associate Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at University of Alberta’s School of Business; Sarah Kaplan, Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto; Sandra Altner, CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada; and the MaRS Institute, an innovation hub that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow ventures.

The Ryerson consortium includes eight regional hubs and universities, ten partners and 37 supporters.

The federal government has not lacked for reports making the case that supporting women’s entrepreneurship will strengthen the Canadian economy – more than 30 in the past 30 years, many industry sponsored. The central question now is will this direct federal government investment in university-led research produce relevant policy action and real results?

Says Barbara Orser, who coined the term Entrepreneurial Feminism, “It’s a unique opportunity to ensure a feminist and women-focussed perspective is shared and that only research of the highest quality is profiled. If not, there’s a risk of replicating the stereotypes and mythology of women’s entrepreneurship. Every incubator and accelerator and academic engaged in entrepreneurship should be speed dialled into this new source of information.”

Ryerson University’s Wendy Cukier, the Founder and Director of the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management, says they were thrilled to win the bid. “We don’t see this as an opportunity to do research. We see this as an opportunity to drive change, and the diversity institute has a strong track record in terms of using evidence and research to make things happen. We have pulled together a good network of partners including universities who will be able to grow and sustain (WEKH) beyond the initial funding.” She says that Ryerson will reach out to work with partners beyond the consortium. “The whole point is to aggregate research and information available. The whole point is to map and grow the entire ecosystem.”

Kelly Diels, a Vancouver-based feminist marketing consultant and writer, hopes there is a channel that loops the research hub back to women entrepreneurs so they can turn it into useful information with tools to use in their businesses. That way, “it’s not a report disappears into the ether or was a big project that didn’t actually move back to the people who need it.”

Jena Cameron, Manager of Women Entrepreneurship Policy at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, says both applications were very strong and equally evaluated against the assessment grid that included things such as partnerships and sustainability. A lot of information on women’s entrepreneurship already exists, says Cameron, so a big part of the plan is to “package information (it) in a way that it becomes accessible to women business support organizations and women entrepreneurs themselves. Go through it and distil nuggets down into practical things that the ecosystem can use.”

Our initial take at LiisBeth? What, another study? This data better lead to change. It will benefit women entrepreneurs if the Ryerson-led consortium reaches out to the other side to tap into Canada’s leading feminist enterprise research and thinkers. Create an open door policy that lets everyone in so everyone can win, including community-based women’s entrepreneurship organizations and feminist entrepreneurs who are often off the mainstream radar.


https://www.liisbeth.com/2018/10/17/how-to-unlock-billions-of-unrealized-growth-led-by-entrepreneurial-women/

https://www.liisbeth.com/2018/10/19/minister-mary-ng-to-announce-a-new-20m-women-entrepreneurs-fund-today/

 

 

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Uncategorized

Selling Up, Moving Up

 

 

When co-founder of Women on the Move Heather Gamble introduces herself to me following a networking workshop at the Dundas Street West co-working space, she describes how she “climbed up the AT&T corporate ladder” before the age of 35 because she “could sell any early adopter technology.” After leaving her roles in sales and marketing at the company, she launched her first business with Eva Gooderham in 2004. In her first year with their business-to-business marketing firm SalesFuel Inc., she won a $1-million contract with Shaw Communications. Her story sounds to me like a well-rehearsed sales pitch, which I imagine her delivering hundreds of times.

An unapologetic saleswoman, Gamble knows the value of a good story. She insists that every entrepreneur needs sales skills to survive. Gamble models this commercial spirit in her work. Unlike many other organizations geared to female entrepreneurs, she points out that Women on the Move is a for-profit enterprise. “We don’t believe that if we’re teaching women entrepreneurs to make money that we should be non-profit. That’s hilarious,” Gamble says. “You cannot build a business on government grants and loans. If you really want to build a business, we can start you off. And we start you off by saying sales is number one.”

This approach to business makes some women uneasy. After opening their business accelerator (a co-working space, business training program, community network and venture capital fund) in January 2015, Gamble and co-founder Nicola Morgan discovered their biggest hurdle has been changing women’s negative connotations with sales. “This is what we see: women in particular have an aversion to selling,” Gamble explains. “The stigma is [that] in sales you have to be aggressive, you have to be manipulative.” Morgan suggests the solution to this problem is to make the medicine taste good. “The way we have overcome it is by showing them it’s not what they think it is. Sales is a transfer of enthusiasm.” The two longtime friends met at Carleton University back in 1981. Between Gamble and Morgan, a former Arthur Murray Dance Studio franchisee, they have accrued around 35 years of experience training people in sales. As Gamble explains it, she observed a market need for their endeavour, and, being a serial opportunist, decided to take advantage of the opening. “I saw more women going into entrepreneurship, and I saw more women not being successful, and I saw more women going back to that job they didn’t like.”

Data collected by Statistics Canada shows that women small business owners had less revenue growth than men (57.7 per cent compared to 62.4 percent) between 2009 to 2011. According to Forbes Magazine, only 2 percent (4 percent in Canada) of female-owned businesses in the United States reach $1 million in revenues while male-owned businesses were 3.5 times as likely to do so. Gamble lays the blame more on women’s own inhibitions than on systemic discrimination, noting that women tend not to speak up when men are around. “I felt it was imperative to give women their own place and space for them to say what they really believe, come up to the table and be fully engaged participants,” she explains. In terms of preparing students for the reality of life outside of the training, Morgan says they assess what skills each individual might require and focus on helping them understand and sell effectively to both male and female buyers. While women often take a more complex approach, when men are doing business, “it’s just business,” says Morgan. “We do work with women to (help them) understand how men think and that they do think a little bit differently than we do. So, really, it’s all about understanding your buyer, whoever that buyer may be,” she explains. “Men don’t really care how you feel,” but women, generally speaking, are much more focused on their feelings, according to Morgan.

Women on the Move member Michelle Isocianu and co-owner of Board Again Games happened upon the space when she was searching for a location to rent out for board game nights and ended up registering as a student in the She Factory business training program. She says the course has taught her “basic business 101 stuff” and how to apply that specifically to her own enterprise.

But it has been the support of fellow participants and the instructors that has benefited Isocianu most. “It’s nice to know that other people are going through the same thing,” she says, adding that the course has helped her to increase revenue and make wiser investment decisions. “I think going back every week and Heather being like, ‘You’re perfect and you’re great,’ – as cheesy as it may be – it does give you the confidence,” she says. “I certainly have gotten the confidence to put a value on what I do.” Isocianu admits that at first she was intimidated by the “all women kind of approach,” but now sees the critical need for such a place.

The She Factory is an intensive training program that runs weekly from September to June. Although students can be anywhere in business development, from just starting out to two years in, Morgan urges women to enlist sooner rather than later. It incorporates elements of sales and business education for women entrepreneurs, with individual classes starting at $40 and personalized coaching that is tailored to individual budgets.

Gamble’s initial mission was to train 10,000 women by 2020 and position them each on their “$1-million path” within three years. One of their first students, a business consultant in the mining sector, saw her business jump from $400,000 to $2-million in revenue after just one year. But their latest training session, which ran from September to June, brought in just 25 women. “It takes time to build a business,” admits Morgan, explaining they pour whatever financial resources they have into rent rather than marketing, which she notes can also be costly. They hope to increase their numbers by taking their business on the road — or rather the train — for a cross-Canada tour that aims to connect and train women entrepreneurs. In June, Women on the Move rolled out its “Save Our Sales” service, an app that offers access to a branding specialist, sales specialist, writing specialist and interpersonal personality specialist. The personality specialist can help business owners understand how to sell to different personality types by communicating and connecting with them more effectively.

Don’t expect their training to include tackling the systematic barriers to equality that women entrepreneurs often face. Morgan herself claims that she has never personally experienced sexism as an entrepreneur; however, she acknowledges that inequality does exist and that women deserve equal opportunity. But she and Gamble choose to focus their efforts on helping women work within existing structures to boost sales and revenue.

“I don’t know that I have to put myself into any particular category,” says Gamble when asked if she would call herself a feminist. “I categorize myself as one thing and that’s a woman on the move.”

Publishers Note: Gamble and Morgan have also launched a new workshop series called Accelerate Your Success. It is held on Wednesdays from 12 – 2 p.m and includes a one hour workshop plus an hour of networking and a catered lunch.  The focus is on developing effective sales and marketing skills with an emphasis on using social media to increase sales and find prospects. Tickets start at $40. You can learn more at www.womenonthemove.club.

 


 

Additional Business Support Groups for Women in Toronto

SheEO: A peer-based venture capital fund for women;
Shecosystem: A community that holds weekly co-working events with a focus on wellness; and
Ember: A co-working space with mentorship opportunities for women.

For a more complete list of supports for women entrepreneurs across Canada, visit http://weoc.ca/ or download their eco-system diagram Womens-Entrepreneurial-Ecosystem_2016_03_01_weoc (1).

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#AskLiisBeth

Those Britches are Too Big For You, Young Lady

Where to look for quality investment and financial advice as a female entrepreneur.

Dear LiisBeth,

When I was looking to hire Bay Street financial experts to review pro formas for my $1.5-million enterprise, all they did was try to talk me out of it. They said, “What about the impact on your family, ovaries, and work-life balance?” They wondered why I would want to risk my hard-earned net-worth to “chase a big dream.” They couldn’t see that I saw this venture as a terrific investment that was well within my risk tolerance. Besides, it’s my call to make. They even suggested that if I wanted to run a business, I should start a quaint little retail store instead. I could not believe what I was hearing. Where can I find top-notch financial professionals and investors who believe in me?

Signed,
Fed Up

 

Dear Fed Up,

Don’t you just love it? Many of these same players complain women don’t go “big enough” and then refer to statistics that less than three percent of women entrepreneurs in Canada have enterprises with revenues of $1 million or more. Policy-makers see this economic opportunity, but suggest we can close the gap by giving women “more training.” Seriously?

Meanwhile in the real world, when women entrepreneurs are ready to launch a fast-scaling enterprise that needs significant capital, investors and lenders look at them like they’re crazy. In fact, they even try to talk women down into something “more their size” (read: gender).

Can you tell we’ve been there, too?

The short-term solution is to seek out other women entrepreneurs who have founded scalable, larger ventures and ask them to refer you to investors or lenders they’ve dealt with. We also recommend you contact one of the many new women’s venture capital funds like SheEO in Toronto or Women’s Venture Fund in the U.S. and ask them for referrals. Also consider applying for their funds as well.

In the long-term, we need to all work together to change investor and lender perceptions about women entrepreneurs. We suggest you carefully consider whose advice and money you use. It’s very important to find the right financial advisor who is also a strong supporter and believer in your plan, someone who will confidently introduce you to potential partners or angel investors at the early stages. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs, but it will be worth it when you find the right fit.

Take your time. And run far, far away from people who think women entrepreneurs are only investable if they are launching early childhood centres, jam companies, or hair salons. They’re likely to be the ones who question your every move as your business grows.

Good luck and we look forward to an update!

–LiisBeth

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