ImpactAlpha, February 23 – Serial entrepreneur Vicki Saunders launched SheEO in 2015 to redesign how women-led businesses are supported. The Toronto-based network of 30,000 investors has extended $500,000 in no-interest loans to five women-led ventures in the U.S.
Recipients include: Sonja Ebron’s Courtroom 5, which provides legal support for individuals without a lawyer; Wanona Satcher’s Makhers Studio, a green manufacturing and real estate business; Arielle Loren Palmer’s 100k Incubator, a business funding app for women; SaLisa Berrien’s COI Energy, an energy management software developer; and Terri-Nichelle Bradley’s Brown Toy Box, which makes educational products to empower Black and Brown learners. All five of the businesses were founded by women of color.
SheEO has mobilized $6 million in zero-interest loans for roughly 100 women-led businesses since its founding. The organization is ramping up additional commitments in the U.K. and Australia in the coming weeks.
Saunders says the male-centric venture capital world is starving women-led businesses of appropriate growth capital.
“All of the solutions we have are basically a female version of the existing male model. Those are taking us backwards,” Saunders told ImpactAlpha. “I thought, ‘What if a million women crowdfunded a billion dollars and loaned it out to other women working on critical priorities?’”
SheEO offers financial and non-financial support through its membership base. Its investment decisions are made based on a peer-selection model.
In the pandemic, members in each country have hosted weekly calls to support struggling business owners. None of the businesses in its network have failed.
“Every week we were ranking businesses ‘red,’ ‘yellow,’ and ‘green,’ and asking, ‘Where are you on the spectrum and what do you need?’” Saunders said. “Everyone just rolled up their sleeves.”