Meet the SheEO - Vicki Saunders - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Meet the SheEO - Vicki Saunders

Aug 06, 2016

Meet the SheEO - Vicki Saunders 

I recently met one of the world's most influential leaders...

In 2015, Vicki Saunders - author, entrepreneur, award-winning mentor, advocate of entrepreneurship, and founder of SheEO - was included on a roster of the world's 100 most remarkable women along with Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Malala by Empowering a Billion Women Worldwide (EBW 2020).

Well, I asked Vicki to share her story...and she willingly obliged.

Indeed, she answered all of our questions in record hour flat! Considering she wasn't on India time, I was perplexed... She explained she was recovering from jetlag from her recent trip to India and thought she'd finish it while she was still awake.

I guess that's what world leaders do - not a minute wasted!

Vicki's professionalism amazed me, as did her ambitious venture, SheEO, which is radically transforming how female entrepreneurs are supported, celebrated, and financed.

SheEO is a platform for 'radically generous' female entrepreneurs around the world. This powerful ecosystem uses a new economic and social model that combines crowdfunding, coaching, buying power, and networking for women-led ventures.

To quote from the SheEO Manifesto: 'We women have the chance to create new mindsets, new models, and new tools that will transform how we think of success, do business, and impact the world in a healthier way. We weren't at the table for version 1.0, so let's make sure we are there for world 2.0.'

Prior to SheEO, Vicki co-founded and ran four ventures in Europe, Toronto, and Silicon Valley. These included Zazengo, an online platform for consumer and employee engagement for Fortune 500 companies; KidsNRG/The NRG Group, which went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2000; and Impactanation, a global consulting firm focused on engaging youth to tackle grand global issues.

In 2001, Vicki was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum.

In this interview, Vicki displays her own radical generosity, talking freely about issues and urging us - both men and women - to change our world.

Please enjoy...


As an advocate of women entrepreneurship, what do you think are the key factors holding women back?

Women are starting businesses at a faster pace than men, globally. We are out there, entrepreneuring and making an impact.

What we could use help with is more support and financing options that work for the kind of businesses we run. We tend to create businesses that are highly capital efficient (i.e., when you invest in us, the money goes a long way). We also get to profitability more quickly than men. In today's capital markets however, this is considered a bad thing. Investors are chasing unicorns and companies that can grow to billion-dollar valuations. This works against us.

We also lack stories of women in leadership, of women successfully running their companies as role models. Getting media attention, and expanding the definition of what it means to be successful, would definitely draw more women towards entrepreneurship.

And, finally, we have a narrative today that says you need to work 24/7 as an entrepreneur to be successful... I don't believe this to be true. This type of messaging leads many women - who already lead busy lives - to think business may not be for them.

What would you say are the main strengths of women entrepreneurs? By virtue of their gender, do they do some things better?

Women see the world differently than men. We look at things holistically. We see systems and processes. I often see women come up with ventures that have, at their core, a desire to make the world a better place, to tackle systemic and societal issues.

We develop apps and games and businesses to make life better, to improve education outcomes, to support people in their busy lives, and to innovate in every area of society.

I think if women were at the table to redesign the world, with men, we would have a much better society.

What skills in particular does a woman entrepreneur need to hone before entering entrepreneurship?

A woman needs resilience, persistence, passion and purpose, same as a man needs.

I also think it's imperative that she leads from her mastery, from the one thing that she is brilliant at doing. That makes life much easier for an entrepreneur.

How can society, and the corporate world in particular, aid the journeys of women entrepreneurs?

One is mindset: As a society we have been deeply uncomfortable with women at the helm of companies... But now look at India - eight of your banks are led by women.

Two, we need to fix childcare and create flexible work options. We need to find ways for women to be with their children, as primary caregivers, and run companies...

We require nothing less than a complete redesign of how we work and live. Our lives have become unmanageable. Working 16-hour days, commuting home to be with family, limited sleep, stressful's just not working for anyone, let alone women.


What is the main impact you see in the women-led ventures SheEO has supported so far?

We are in the early days of SheEO...but so far we have witnessed our ventures dreaming bigger and reaching for higher goals. Imagine having a network of thousands of radically generous women supporting your venture. It's kind of hard to explain how big of an impact that can have on your psyche. Knowing that a whole network of women have your back and will be there with their sleeves rolled up ready to help when you need them is a HUGE thing.

The money we invest is important to them, but the network support - thousands of women as customers, opening up their networks, and sharing their expertise to help you grow and learn - that's priceless.

As an entrepreneur, when you realise you have all you need to be successful, you naturally build your confidence, get bolder, and reach higher.

How do you see SheEO scaling to reach more countries and women?

Our goal is to be in 1000 regions around the world by 2020. We will reach 1 million women investors and $1 billion in capital for 10,000 female entrepreneurs. Any region that has a cohort of women who would like to support other women can come to our website and apply to bring SheEO's Radical Generosity to their community.

What do you think differentiates the SheEO from her male counterpart, (read male entrepreneurs)?

SheEOs are women who lead with their mastery, their passion, and their purpose to create a better world.

They discover, create and implement new models, new mindsets and new solutions that make this world a better place.

SheEOs forge their own path, one that truly leverages their uniqueness, so that they are clearly differentiated from others in the marketplace. They come from a place of love - giving to others and themselves radically generously, knowing there is enough for everyone.


You have been a mentor for many years, what's your take on the role of mentorship for startups and how can they most benefit from it?

Mentorship is a two-way street. I've been a mentor and mentee my whole life. I LOVE sharing my learning, my expertise, and my wisdom. In every meeting I mentor, I learn from those I am mentoring.

Mentors can be very helpful for entrepreneurs because as a leader you are often alone and need someone to share your doubts, worries, and concerns with. A mentor can be that detached experienced person who listens deeply and provides insight, guidance, and support in a way that is highly personalised for the entrepreneur.

I view a mentor as focusing on the person and an advisor as focusing on the business itself.

The path of entrepreneurship can be challenging... So it's important to have someone act as a sounding board...and who has your best interests at heart.

Where can entrepreneurs look for mentors and should they have any criteria to keep in mind while selecting their mentor?

The last thing you should do is approach someone you don't know and ask, 'Would you be my mentor?' I get that a lot. There needs to be value on both ends, and this requires you to like each other and be committed to each other.... That takes time. Start with a coffee. Notice if the person listens well to you. Do they ask good questions? Do they make you feel smarter and more confident with each conversation? That's likely a good fit.

Watch out for people who keep telling you what to do. That won't work. You need to find your own path and no one really knows another person's path.

The best mentors listen deeply, ask powerful questions, and are radically generous.

According to you, when is the journey most challenging for entrepreneurs, and how can they overcome this phase better?

Always. Hahaha. I see rainbows and darkness within hours of each other on any given day. I find the pace of creating has sped up and it's a challenge most of the time.

The startup phase has different challenges than the growth stage. At the beginning it feels like you have to pay attention to everything at once, and you are likely only good at a fraction of those things... So having a network around you is extremely critical at all stages, but especially at the beginning stage.

My answer to most challenges is to reach out to my network and ask for help. This is something that is critical to success from my perspective.


As an entrepreneur, you've focused tremendously on impact, with your ventures engaging and empowering audiences in some way... What does empowerment mean to you?

I actually don't like the word empower. I think you can't empower anyone. You need to find your own internal motivation and go for it.

The feedback I get about my presence is that I'm energising and inspiring. I think we all need to be there for one another to encourage, support, and be radically generous... I want to live in a world where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential.

When you have a product or service that inspires others, you tend to do well with your business. When we embed meaning and purpose into our business, people want to work there, shop there, be part of the community, and share the story. That creates a whole ecosystem around your business that you could never build yourself.

Which of your ventures has most impacted you, and which has most impacted or will greatly impact its audience?

The venture that most impacted others, I think, was KidsNRG. We worked with thousands of youth to gain experience by innovating and working on real life projects before they had the formal training to do so. It left them a lot more confident, willing to take risks, and more connected than any usual teenager would be.

The venture that most impacted me was my first. I opened up a shop in Prague, after the Berlin Wall fell, and it's where I first became an entrepreneur. I was surrounded by people who were suddenly free and dreaming about what they were going to do with that newfound freedom and I realised, oh my goodness, I'm free too! What am I going to do? So I started a business and never looked back.

I love being an entrepreneur, creating the new every day, and building a world I want to live in.

As a woman entrepreneur, what has served you as your most empowering tool?

My most empowering tool is my network... It allows me to reach out to anyone in the world. As a little kid, when I first heard about six degrees of separation, I thought, that sounds cool but I'd like only one degree of separation.

I've been building my network for decades through my various ventures, and I finally feel like I'm close to my goal of being one step removed from anyone. For me, it's not about knowing someone, but about being able to get help to create the impact I care about.

I think we can do a much better job of designing our world. After all, we made all of this up. We can change it!


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1 Responses to "Meet the SheEO - Vicki Saunders"


08 Aug, 2016

Great to know about this, Today Our India need such self empower business woman for wisdom and peace. Her every words touch the heart, based on her own experience share to every body. Today Every woman want to design our world for wisdom and shanthi.


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