The 2019 Canadian SheEO Summit brought together 400 women entrepreneurs, along with political and business leaders for a day of connection, collaboration and inspiration. The event recognized the seven women-led Ventures this year’s SheEO Activators chose to support. More than that, the event was a celebration of women in business, women in government and women dedicated to changing the world for the better.
The Numbers Show a Dueling Reality
The conversation also shone a light on the unique challenges they face as entrepreneurs, the major strides Canada has made in terms of inclusion and diversity, and the work still ahead. When it comes to women in business:
- 47% of small and medium-sized businesses are owned by women;
- These businesses generate over $117 billion for our economy every year;
- Yet, only 16% of all companies in Canada are majority-owned or owned by women.
Where SheEo Steps Up
Vicki Saunders, the woman behind SheEO, is a leading advocate for women-led entrepreneurship as a way of creating positive transformation in the world. She is also the brains behind the Radical Generosity model, which brings together 500 women (Activators) who contribute $1100 each as an act of Radical Generosity. The money is pooled together and loaned out at zero percent interest to women-led ventures selected by the Activators.
The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell says: “SheEO demonstrates that women entrepreneurs can disrupt not just out-dated ways of doing business, but also underlying power structures, which so often entrench inequality and perpetuate the division we have between the haves and the have nots.”
With a simple application form (only 12 questions), no limitations of sector or restrictions on age (SheEO just provided 5-year funding to a 75-year old business owner), SheEO’s mantra is inclusion — all are welcome to apply.
The main qualifiers? All Ventures must be women-owned (51%+), women-led, revenue generating, with export potential and be creating a better world through their business model, their product or service.
Saunders says, “We see that the world is on fire — that there are so many things we need to shift and redesign. We are here to work on the world’s to-do list.”
This Year’s Ventures
Seven Ventures were selected this year, all with incredible stories and goals:
- CMNGD (CommonGood): Provides employment for people who are facing poverty barriers, offering training, mentorship and housing assistance.
- Think Dirty Inc.: An app that helps consumers learn about cosmetic ingredient safety — believing every woman should look good and feel beautiful, without sacrificing long-term health.
- Saccade Analytics: Evaluates brain function based on head movements and virtual reality, helping diagnose and combat concussions, dizziness and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Aiken Frame Homes: Led by a domestic abuse survivor who experienced the effect that insecurity of housing can have on families, they build high quality, high-efficiency housing for hard-working Canadians.
- SomaDetect: Combines patented, optical technology with Artificial Intelligence to help us know more about our dairy. Their aim is to provide better data for farmers, better milk for consumers and better lives for cows.
- Eve Medical: Has developed a device that lets women do their own test for HPV as well as STIs — in a comfortable, convenient way at home. The kit lets women collect a sample, send it to a lab and get results online.
- routine.: Creating natural deodorants that are clean, effective and first of their kind on the market.
“We have all that we need in this network to reach our potential,” Cathy Bennett says as she recites SheEO’s Credo to the audience during her talk. “If you need something, ask. If you have something, give. We are all at different stages and ages and we come from very different experiences. We are here with our sleeves rolled up, ready to help one another.”
This year’s SheEO Summit was a forum for women influencers, Activators and entrepreneurs to celebrate and embolden one another, amplify each other’s voices, and to take the opportunity to own their collective greatness. The Summit reinforced that when women are at the table and making decisions, positive change can really happen.
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz
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