In 2013, Vicki Saunders launched SheEO, a Toronto-based network to support women-led business ventures. This summer, Saunders took it a step further with Radical Generosity, creating a $1-million pool of capital for female entrepreneurs.

Photo: Erik Putz. Makeup and Hair Styling: Shawna Lee/Judyinc.com

I stepped back and thought, ‘What could we do to solve the challenges that I keep hearing from female entrepreneurs over and over and over?’ They have a hard time building a network, they have a hard time getting financing, they have a hard time finding mentors and advisors.

“If you have a thousand women all contribute a thousand dollars—which is a significant, but not a huge amount of money—then a million-dollar pool of capital comes together. The women who contribute go onto our technology platform to rank applications from female entrepreneurs. We will collectively pick 10. The selected ventures will be ones dividing up the $1 million. There are two rules: You can’t give it all to one and you can’t divide it evenly.

“Women have faced a huge challenge getting financing over the years, and that challenge is even worse now because everybody is obsessed with chasing unicorns and big huge ideas. Yet 98% of our economy is made up of small- and medium-sized businesses. We would create six million jobs in the next five years in North America if women were financed to the same degree as men. It’s an unbelievable opportunity, but because it’s not “sexy,” or it’s not some giant business, people go, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter.’ This is a huge opportunity for women to create a whole new financing model.”

This article is from the Fall 2015 issue of Canadian Business. Subscribe now!

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