Serial Entrepreneur’s New Program Connects Women-Led Ventures with Angels

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SheEO founder Vicki Saunders aims to help female entrepreneurs expand their networks and connect with more investors.

By Amy-Willard Cross (Founder & Editor-in-Chief, VITAMIN W)

SheEO founder Vicki Saunders talks about business like a practice — in the way yogis speak of their bodily ministrations or the way actors talk about their craft.

“The ‘male-dominated, winner-takes-all, work 24/7 model’ doesn’t work anymore – and, in particular, doesn’t work for women,” states Saunders. “Women have a whole different way of building businesses that should be celebrated and studied closely. This is about succeeding on your own terms. The last thing we should be doing is ‘leaning in’ to something that isn’t working for us.”

Now this serial entrepreneur wants to bring her different way to a wider world. Her new organization, SheEO creates incubation programs that connect women-led ventures with angel investors to “develop networks, engender boldness and foster support systems that enable entrepreneurs to succeed on their own terms.”

SheEO aims to support women-led ventures and will be launching a new fund in the fall; it also plans monthly mixers, Mentor Mondays and SheEO Boosts.

Along with the organization comes a recently published book: "Think Like a SheEO: Succeeding in the Age of Creators, Makers, and Entrepreneurs."  Not your typical business how-to, it’s more like "The Artist’s Way" than the "10 Habits" series.

The chapter titles have a yoga-like ring: "Meaning is the New Money" or "Integration Is the New Balance." In this version of self-discovery, a reader can find out how to combine her passions and talents with the change she wants to see in the world. "There are eight principles which represent a new way of doing business," says Saunders.

After starting and/or running four companies, Saunders created SheEO. It’s about linking entrepreneurs, advisers and funders together in one helpful clump, and about making new kinds of business leaders — who call themselves SheEOs.

Ten years ago, Saunders was shocked by how few women applied to her venture fund, so she collected $250,000 (from Melinda Gates, among others) and invested in a young woman under 30.

Last year, she raised $50,000 from friendly women angels, funded 10 different businesses and created a community. In a phone interview, Saunders explained the 10 SheEOs had to split the funds — but not equally — and worked together collaboratively to share other resources. Months later, one venture, 42 Technologies, was accepted into Y Combinator. The rest continue to help one another in their journeys — in what Saunders calls a tribe.

SheEO plans to expand to four additional cities this year, and wants to create an entirely new financing vehicle that combines equity, debt, and philanthropy.

Saunders and her SheEOS are in search of "new mindsets, new models and new approaches."

The first step is growing the tribe of SheEOs. Saunders invites everyone to join — funders, mentors, dreamers and makers all.

A version of this piece first appeared on VITAMINW.co. Photo courtesy of Ayelet Baron.

Do you find having a "tribe" of fellow female entrepreneurs helps propel your business?


About the guest blogger: Amy-Willard Cross is a former magazine editor, writer and founder of VITAMIN W, who started the online opinion website Women Make News. Amy has worked as a senior editor at national magazines where she developed book projects and produced award-winning features.