WORDS JENNY RUDD / PHOTOS SUPPLIED

What if, instead of winner-takes-all, wealth was shared so everyone benefits? UNO editor Jenny Rudd talks to Vicki Saunders about pioneering #RadicalGenerosity as the starting point.

Vicki Saunders, the Canadian founder of SheEO, a global community of women supporting women-led ventures, says we need to change the way we look at wealth. “Why do we feel we have to hold onto it so tightly? At the moment, eight people hold the same wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the planet. Wouldn’t it be better to pass it to someone else once you’ve had the benefit?

(Right) Vicki Saunders (centre) at a SheEO event in Canada.

“Only 2% of venture capital is awarded to women-led ventures. Can you hear how terrible that sounds? It doesn’t make sense. I’ve been on the decision-making side numerous times, and if there’s one thing
I know for sure, it’s that there’s no magic formula for picking a business that’ll do well. There are a number of factors, however, that will help them once you’ve
invested in them. Unstinting support is one.”

Vicki is well placed to comment on who’s getting funding for what, and which businesses do well out of it. As well as SheEO, she’s co-founded and run ventures around the world, and has taken a company public on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Not so long ago, I spent a day at the Hilton hotel in Auckland with SheEO New Zealand’s ‘activators’ (the women who contribute funds, see right) and women from recipient ventures. At one point, Vicki passed around the microphone and said that if we needed something for our business, we should ask for it right now, and that we should also help if we could.

It was so simple, but so good. Women stood up to say what they required for their businesses, and each time about four people put their hands up to offer help. The ‘asks’ were varied. Someone needed assistance to find influencers on Instagram to market her business; another was looking for people to share stories about a particular time in New Zealand’s history. I stood up with an ask of my own. We’d been trying to get UNO stocked in a particular retail outlet for 18 months, and simply couldn’t work out how to break through. One woman raised her hand, and a couple of conversations later, we had the beginnings of a solution – just like that! Because I asked, she gave – now that’s radical generosity. She shared her wealth, and we’ve both ended up benefiting.

SOME OF SHEEO’S NEW ZEALAND ACTIVATORS

FROM LEFT: Justine Smyth,Theresa Gattung, Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell, Annabel Davies,Angela Buglass and Deborah Pead.

Justine Smyth, chair at Spark Also chair of the Breast Cancer Foundation and a director of Auckland Airport, Justine is an active investor in SMEs.

Theresa Gattung, ex-CEO of Telecom The country’s best-known businesswoman, Theresa was behind the launch of SheEO New Zealand.

Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell, manager at Heartland Bank One of the most connected women in Tauranga, Tracey sits on numerous boards and is a big supporter of the arts.

Annabel Davies, strategy and growth at Trustpower Annabel values diversity of opinion and experience, believing they lead to better decision-making and innovation.

Angela Buglass, former CEO at Trilogy International Angela says growing up on a dairy farm in the Bay of Plenty was good training for running an international business.

Deborah Pead, CEO and founder of Pead PR Arguably Auckland’s most influential woman, Deborah has helped businesses including My Food Bag and Nespresso.

HOW SHEEO WORKS

  • Every year, a maximum of 500 activators each contribute $1100 in an act of radical generosity.
  • The resulting fund is loaned out at 0% interest to five women-led ventures selected by the 500 activators.
  • These ventures must already be generating at least $50k in revenue, be majority women-owned and led, and have the potential to scale up (nationally or internationally) and create a better world through their business model, products or services.
  • As well as financial assistance, the chosen ventures have access to practical support from the 500 kick-ass activators, to help them grow their business. These women bring expertise, advice and connections, and they’re early customers, too.
  • The loan is paid back over five years, then loaned out again, creating a perpetual fund.
  • The SheEO model also operates in Canada, the US and Australia.

Want to become an activator or apply to be a venture? Go to: SHEEO.WORLD