There was nothing textbook about it. When the Berlin wall came down in 1989 and people in Eastern Europe were inspired by a new found sense of freedom, Vicki Saunders decided she was going to use her liberty to mentor female entrepreneurs. Twenty-plus years later, the Toronto resident and founder of SheEO is still helping women build their careers in a radical way.
“I love using business to change the world and create the kind of impact that I think is needed,” she tells The Prevail Project. “This is the perfect time to be a female entrepreneur and get out there with your business ideas and change the world.”
Vicki’s SheEO network recently announced a “Call for Radical Generosity”, an initiative in which 1,000 business women commit $1,000 each as “Activators”, for a collective $1 million pool to be split between 10 female entrepreneurs looking to jump-start their ventures. The ten lucky Canadians who will soon be selected to embark on this tremendous learning and professional journey will not only be provided these 0% interest loans, but will also be mentored by the community of 1,000 Activators, who will open up their networks and share their experiences – an opportunity that is, as a whole, truly invaluable.
Facilitated by SheEO, the Activators’ generous mission to support, celebrate and finance female entrepreneurs is reflective of a future where diversity is encouraged and individuals are not forced into a mould. As traditional models often significantly underfund women in business, Vicki saw a way to bypass convention altogether and created a new exciting practice that’s poised to become tradition. It’s vision and innovation like Vicki’s that can be a catalyst for change in everything from attitudes, to business, to education.
If you’re a product of the standard North American education system, you may feel you’ve had your creativity stifled for years. For example, there was nothing inspiring about math class in the ‘90s. The sound of the classroom clock would often tick by at an alarmingly slow pace as the instructor’s lecture droned on. The chalkboard or whiteboard or projector reinforced textbook learning in a direct but monotonous cycle day in and day out. Some students had the ability to follow along attentively, while others had difficulty staying focused. Imagination was used as a tool to escape the classroom, perhaps in the form of drawing, writing or daydreaming, rather than applied to the subject matter. Bright minds of the artistic variety sadly didn’t see the symbolic language of algebra because they weren’t engaged by the way content was typically presented.
There was little time then for creating, innovating and collaborating with classmates. Students who questioned their teachers or the system were not rewarded for challenging the status quo, but rather seen as troublemakers – often even if their queries had merit. Sir Ken Robinson is one educator who boldly asks whether schools kill creativity. In one of his many TED Talks, the professor concludes that creativity is as important as literacy. He goes on to say that “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
While there has been some progression in the last five years for curriculums to acknowledge learning styles and use several mediums in the classroom, there is still much area for improvement. Young people are prime to foster initiative and inventiveness in; youth is the perfect time to encourage exploration of imagination and new ideas. The Call for Radical Generosity is attempting to do just that by inviting creative minds to take their ideas to the next level with help from a supportive and brilliant community of women.
SheEO’s exciting opportunity is closing at the end of the month, when 25 semi-finalists will be introduced and then narrowed down to the ten who will participate as “Ventures.” The million dollars will be divided between these ten, and so launches the next batch of female entrepreneurs, limited only by their imaginations as this program not only champions creativity but quite literally pays. To join the group of women supporting women, take advantage of events happening very soon in Montreal and Vancouver, or find out how to activate from anywhere. To apply or find out more, check out www.sheeo.world today – we’re sure you’ll be glad you did.