Vicki Saunders is an entrepreneur, award-winning mentor and advisor to the next generation of change makers and leading advocate for entrepreneurship as a way of creating positive transformation in the world. She is the founder of SheEO; a two-decade long initiative to dramatically transform how we support, celebrate and finance female entrepreneurs building new models, new mindsets and new solutions for a better world.
Vicki has also co-founded and run 4 ventures in Europe, Toronto and Silicon Valley including Zazengo (an online platform for consumer and employee engagement for Fortune500 companies focused on sustainability), KidsNRG/The NRG Group (which went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2000) and Impactanation, a global consulting firm focused on engaging youth to tackle the grand challenges we are facing.
Vicki was recently named one of the 100 most influential leaders of 2015 from “EBW – Empowering A Billion Women,” alongside Marissa Mayer, Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, and Michelle Obama. In 2001, Vicki was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum. She has spoken regularly at events around the world including; The World Economic Forum in Davos, Women of Influence Series in Canada, TEDx Conference, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs events and the Tallberg Forum.
Your Name: Vicki Saunders
Business Name: SheEO
Education: MA Foreign Policy
Describe your most recent business success and tell us about your next big goal. What’s up next? – I launched SheEO in 2014 to radically transform how we support, finance and celebrate female entrepreneurs. Our model calls on one thousand radically generous women per city to commit $1000 a year creating a fund of $1million. The money is loaned out to 10 local ventures, paid back over five years and reinvested perpetually. Activators in our network are entrepreneurs, executives, public leaders, and everyday citizens.
Our ventures are supported with much more than financial capital. With access to thousands of radically generous women who act as advisors, early customers, suppliers, connectors, and trusted follow-on investors, our ventures are set up for immediate and accelerated growth. Our goal is to reach 1000 communities by 2020 which would be 10,000 female entrepreneurs supported with $1billion from 1 million women.
How would you define success? –
Success for me is living every day fully in, contributing my gifts and with radical generosity.
Give us the ‘inside scoop’ – what does a day in your business life look like? – A day in my life is full of sharing my expertise and network with incredible entrepreneurs through email and over skype. I do a lot of email and spend time on social media responding to our network. I read blogs and articles at least an hour of day. And I work with my team to expand our model to other cities around the world.
What types of customers are in your business ‘pink book’ and who are you looking to connect with? – People in my network are entrepreneurs, executives, public leaders, and everyday citizens committed to being radically generous with themselves and the world around them.
If you were not doing this job, what is your plan B? Are you still chasing your dream job? – This is my dream job. I’ve spent my life creating jobs that are my dream job. I love what I do and if I didn’t, I’d create something else.
Do you think it’s important to love what you do, or make good money? – Are you suggesting that they are mutually exclusive? I don’t think so.
Is owning your own business as glamorous as it sounds? – I wouldn’t say it’s glamorous. It’s essential. I am totally unemployable at this point. I’m totally addicted to creating my own path in this world. I love solving problems, creating new models and having a big impact. It’s super tough sometimes but it’s really the only option for me.
What inspired you to start your own business? What made you decide to take the leap? – I was in Prague right after the wall fell down. Everyone was dreaming about what they were going to do now that they were free. After being in that environment for a few weeks I realized I was free too! And so I created my first business and after that I kept creating more businesses.
Where did you get your education? Tell us about this experience. – I’m still doing it. I have a couple of degrees but I learn each and every day. I’m highly curious and I’m an early adopter.
What was your first job after college/ university? – After my undergrad I worked on Parliament Hill for a short stint and then at Queen’s Park in Ontario. I was obsessed with politics when I was younger. But after experience federal and provincial politics I decided it wasn’t for me.
What are your tips for setting yourself apart in the workplace? – Be a leader. Take initiative and anticipate the needs of your coworkers and your customers and delight them. Always go a step further than people expect.
How do you achieve work/ life balance? How do you unplug? – I unplug by taking regular vacations. I take a month off each year all at once and 4 day weekends here and there to take a breather. It’s important for me to chill if I’m feeling overwhelmed, tired or too deeply engaged with work. I love what I do so I could do it all day long and when I’m in bed at 10PM still emailing I realize it’s time to unplug. So I do.
What are your plans for expansion? – We plan on reaching 1 million women investors in our network and 10,000 female entrepreneurs by 2020.
What is your favourite travel hot spot? – I have two at the moment; Bali and Northern California.
Can you offer any advice for new graduates looking for a job or new entrepreneurs? – Find someone who inspires you, take them to coffee and learn from them. Surround yourself with people who are pursuing their dreams and tap into their energy. Learn about yourself. Do the work to figure out who you are. Learn about your mastery and then pursue work that makes use of your greatest gifts.