What does it mean to be radically generous?
Komal Minhas, investor, entrepreneur and SheEO Activator, sits down with SheEO founder Vicki Saunders to define what radical generosity is and why it’s so important to the SheEO model; SheEO’s challenging beginnings and why Vicki never gave up on her dream of creating a legacy; and how Activators and Ventures both benefit from being a part of the network.
“I’m gonna put my head down and show you that we can fund businesses that pay a living wage, that have flexible work, that have wicked maternity policy, that are working on the biggest issues of our time with the business model. I’m going to show you, you’re going to get a better return and happier people that way, and SheEO was the demonstration project for how we can do things differently.”
In this episode:
- Why receiving is just as important to radical generosity as giving
- How SheEO Activators and Ventures are transforming the systems that we live in
- The importance of diversity within the SheEO network
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- Komal Minhas
- Social Profiles: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
- Ventures mentioned in this episode: Nada, Alinker, LOLIWARE, Abeego
Komal: Vicki, it’s so incredible to be able to interview you here today for the SheEO podcast. You and I have come into each other’s worlds and a wonderful sort of crash way this last couple of months. And I’m so appreciative because you’ve helped me dive into hard questions that I needed to ask myself and get into. And you’ve done a really beautiful job of connecting me further to dive into my own journey. So I’ve got a little taste of what she SheEO can do for ventures or do for founders. And I’m already seeing such a huge and massive value out of it. Now I wanna start where any good idea entrepreneurial journey begins and that’s what the problem area. And so I’m curious to know, what do you see as broken in our current system? What are you looking to fix through what you’re doing at SheEO?
Vicki: So Hi, nice to see you. And Nice to hear you. I guess we’re on podcast. Um, I think that pretty much everything around us is broken, especially for women because we are living in systems and a world that was not designed for us or by us. We were not at the table to create most of the rules of the world that we’re living in. It shows like it really shows, I think we’re desperately out of balance in the masculine and feminine in the world. We don’t even have language for a lot of feminine approaches to things. I grew up in this family full of boys and obviously in a world that was full, I hung out with boys my whole life and never really had a lot of girlfriends. And you know, I have all these sports metaphors for everything. We don’t have any power words for being kind to each other. It’s like killed it. Nailed it. Like all these words are just like sports and war metaphors and everything else is soft and therefore doesn’t matter. I’m increasingly aware, I have this sort of lens on the world of how out of balance we are. And um, on the one level it’s like how do we get back in balance? And I think that really, really requires us to start to rethink a lot of our systems and our structures and our processes. It starts with the gender thing, but you know, we’re in a crazy time right now where, who knows what gender is going to look like in 10 years. Like I’m already thinking, oh, I called this SheEO, you know, maybe like what’s the gender neutral word? The larger problem is just that live in a massive, unequal system and we have resources for everyone to live in a kinder, a way that serves us as humans. There’s just a lot to fix and a lot to change.
Komal: I am a part of a, a couple of venture networks down in the States and one of them kind of positions. Women give so much philanthropically and we don’t necessarily necessitate that we need a return on our investment. And I see the ethos of that company and they’re really pushing towards, we need to claim some of this masculine space and own that behavior, own that experience. But what I see with the radical generosity model and what SheEO is doing, it’s more embracing who we are in our feminine, embracing those really important parts of ourselves as women. Can you share more about why that was your guiding principle?
Vicki: The fundamental point of our human journey is to find out what our potential is. What is your potential? What is my potential, what are we here for? I don’t think it’s to get a bigger return on our capital to be quite frank. I think it’s how do you reach your potential to me feel like you need a special environment and nurturing environment to reach your potential. The environments that we’ve created for most people is like a winner. Takes all kind of mindset. This, this sort of like pseudo Darwinian survival of the fittest kind of thing. Having spent hundreds, thousands of hours with my mom and her amazing friends talking about the point of what’s the point of life, why are we here and with lots of elders it comes to this place of like what makes you feel amazing about your contribution to society and it’s about giving to each other and it’s about being generous with one another and lifting each other up and encouraging other to go for our dreams. Like I want to live in an environment like that. Not One that’s like tells you the 17 things that are wrong with you every day and is trying to quote unquote check your ass every single time. You’re not perfect. And so for me that’s this point of generosity I think is an, is an underlying element of what’s really missing in our systems and our structures. And I also truly do understand that having hung out a lot with the guys and the competitive peeps, I’m very competitive sort of spirit and athlete is that if I came home at the end of the day and said I was so generous today, I just know people would be like, oh my God, whomp whomp. Like really? So good for you. You know, you want people to come, I killed it, I won today, I want everything. I took it all home, you know, so I called it radical generosity to add this sort of edge to it, to make it a little bit more palatable to the competitive types out there on the planet. But really it’s if you were surrounded by people who are literally like radically generous and lifting you up and encouraging you and emboldening you, wow. What an environment that would be as opposed to being afraid to sort of step out of line if you’re not gonna win. So it’s how do you create a more inclusive society
Komal: examples of what radical generosity can do. How has this changed things for you?
Vicki: It’s changed everything. Yeah. For me really. I mean, so first of all, you know, one of the things I’ve learned about the concept of generosity is, uh, that it’s, it’s really this process of giving and receiving. Like you can’t be generous unless someone’s willing to receive. So it’s a full circle. It’s a whole thing. We can give and give and give and be out of breath. But if no one else out there receiving, then you, there’s nothing to give to. I’ve learned a lot about that process of asking and giving, giving and receiving. I clearly have created something that’s a problem for me to do. I don’t wait to ask for help. You know, I was brought up in uh, an environment, I think most of us are that asking for help is like assign a weakness. You should already know it. That person who said they’d help you is probably too busy anyway. I know she said she wanted to help, but I don’t think she really means that that whole part of it is, I feel like there’s been a bunch of healing that I’ve personally done around asking for help when I feel the pride of I should just be able to do this myself. And so I’ve started to ask for more help. And the more that you give and received doing both, you start to realize you have a lot more than you think you do. And it’s blowing my mind every single day how much we have around us in this community. Like I kind of feel like I’m one step removed from whatever I need. The challenge is just formulating the question that surfaces the person that you’re looking for or the thing you’re looking for. And so there’s now I’m realizing quite an art to the audacious ask. And it’s a practice that you do over time. So I feel like I’m living in a lot more abundance for most of my life. Live in this place of scarcity. Thinking there wasn’t enough. And now I realize there’s times there’s times to go around not asking kind of robs, uh, other people have their chance to contribute their mastery. Like everyone’s got extra of what they’re amazing at. For example, you just said, you know, one of the things I did was connect you to someone in our community or to other people in our community. That is my super power. I am a connector and I have this massive network. I have 17,000 or some ridiculous number of people on Linkedin and everyone owes me a favor, every one of those 17,000 people. So I’m Kinda like, I’m never going to be able to use all those favours. Please ask me for help so I can share it with you. And I feel like a lot of people do that. People that are really artistic or like, oh I’d love to help you create a logo. I’m amazing at that. They really do want to do that because it energizes them and each of us has a thing like that to contribute. So my stepping into this community has really helped me realize there is a little bit of everything that I need out there.
Komal: And can you share a little bit more about how you started to receive? How did you start opening yourself up to accept and not just give cause I think that’s something I, I know I struggle with big time as an too, I’m in any grand number two and I’m like why? All I know is how do I see
Vicki: the pathway to receiving was let’s just say super painful with lots of tears. I am sitting in this chair right now where I’ve done a lot of writing and a lot of emails and a lot of emptying my soul out to the community that we’ve been building over the last four years when I’m having a hard time. And it’s kind of painful to ask cause you have to sort of bear it and go, you know what? I can’t do this myself. I can’t to say that out loud is, and to be that vulnerable is kind of a big deal in many ways. I think that part of the struggle is to share. I mean I have huge ambition and I want to have a really big impact and like you just can’t do it on your own. So there is no option but to ask and to get support around you, the only, only way you can avoid doing the ask is to stay small. You know, like the fear of staying small is way bigger than the ambition that I have. So I’m like, now I gotta go, I gotta go do this. And so it’s more of a, you know, I have a friend who said to me once, how much do you really want it? If you really want that thing that you’re going after, you kind of have to step out of that comfort zone and ask for those ventures or people that you’ve mentored because you’ve mentored an incredible amount of people. When you see them playing small, when you see them not taking up the space that you know they should, and then what advice do you give them? Part of the thing is, I’m sure you’ve seen this when you were talking to people or looking at people, you can tell when people light up. I noticed that a lot. Now when people are not that excited about what they’re doing, they’re a bit more monotone. Or like, I’d really like to do this thing. And every once in a while I’m like, you don’t seem so excited by your idea. And then they start to go, oh, what do you mean? And I said, so is that, is that really what you want to do? Is there anything else? And then you, you know, creating that safe environment for them to say it out loud. And then when they do, it’s like, oh my God, look at your face right now. You’re all lit up. You know, you’re so excited. That’s the thing. And so it’s the unlocking of people’s dreams and creating a safe enough vibe with somebody to have that come out. That’s the really juicy stuff. And again, I think it’s really hard for those dreams to come out and for people to share that in a harsh environment. But when you’re sitting with someone who’s being very loving and kind and saying like, what else is underneath that? Like is there a, is there a bit more to your dream? That’s where it really comes in. So it’s really an honor to help and encourage others to bring that out. It’s a cool thing.
Komal: Something I know that is a really big focus in your life is energy. Like following the energy, like really saying in that for what I read, you also named one of your companies energy that yes, it’s a really big continuous theme in your life and how do you stay in that flow? How do you continue to stay within the energy to allow more energy to come through you? Because honestly, you’re one of the most vibrant people I’ve ever met. Consistently vibrant building the thing that you are so aligned to build. How do you stay in that zone?
Vicki: Yeah, I think it’s a practice like everything, you know? So I really do use energy as a tool. Like I will sit there and go, what’s the energy I’m putting in versus the impact coming out the other way. I keep that equation in mind all the time and I practice it all the time for most of, it’s pretty easy to notice when you’re not energized by something, right? You’re like, Oh God, I have to do financial projections today. Shit, you know, I don’t want to do that and it’s not my thing. And then I’m like, Oh, who loves to do financial projections? I need to work with them because they love doing this stuff. I follow that, right? Who loves to do those things and then I go get energized by it. So it is a practice that I pay attention to all the time. And then I also think one of the things that we often forget is it’s really cool to have a partner or other people around you and encourage them to notice with you when you’re being energized and when you’re not. So if you’re not sure what energizes you and what does it get a partner and then bring them in and say, could you, every time I kind of light up when you just say, hey, you’re doing that thing, you’re lighting up and it helps you to practice focusing on that asset, the thing that you really want. I am a master of goddess of noticing everything that’s wrong. Like I was born in a family that noticed every single mistake. Yeah, you too. You know, it was like you got two things wrong on your test. What’s wrong with you? You know, as opposed to Yachty 98 where did it go? I was like, I didn’t grow up in that family. Um, and so I’m desperately like, I knew that I had to practice. Looking at the good side of things is the asset, right? Because what you appreciate appreciates. And if you only notice all the things that are wrong, then you just focus on what’s wrong. And this is why MJ, one of the guides in our network who’s just incredible at this got me into practicing gratitude. So every night before I go to sleep I practice like what am I grateful for today? And my husband and I do this together. It’s really fun. And then it’s, we asked the second question underneath and what was my role in that? So it’s not just, you know, I’m grateful that it was sunny. Okay. Well what was your role in creating sunshine today? Yeah, that has been, again, a practice of noticing what energizes me and noticing what I’m grateful for. It’s again, practice, practice, practice. It’s not something that naturally came to me at something that I’ve built as a muscle.
Komal: Totally. And that that practice I think is some people can fall off before the habit or like the pattern becomes firmness. And in reading into your story, I think it’s really important to also bring out that, you know, we can be in flow, but there’s still working involved. So when you were first starting SheEO, when you were getting the first 500 Activators, that was actually one of the hardest parts of this whole situation. And I think for a lot of people that could have been a moment where you’re like, okay, maybe, maybe this isn’t the thing, but you kept going and you got those 500 people to sign up. Can you share a little bit more about that origin moment and the resistance or the difficulty? That was actually at a time.
Vicki: I am guilty of this one thing that all entrepreneurs have, which is extreme optimism. I’m always at, no matter what happens, I’m, I’m like so optimistic. Oh, it’ll happen. So when we were starting at SheEO, I, I was working with this one woman and we were dreaming about like, Oh God, we’re gonna have so many people that want to activate, we’re gonna have this waiting list. What are we gonna do with all these women on the waiting list? We only want a thousand in the first year. And then of course that did not happen and it was super, super tough to get to 500 it was kind of a wake up call. I’m like, wait a minute, what am I doing wrong? Like am I not explaining this? How is there not a lineup of women wanting to help other women? Like it just was so shocking to me and part of the thing that had happened with this is I was super public with my dream. Like I spent about a year. Every time I was out talking at anything or at any event I’d be like, I have this crazy dream, but you know a million women, $1,000 each, this billion dollar fund that we leave as a legacy and people are like, yeah, that sounds awesome. You ought to do that. I had really put it out there like this is my thing and it felt like I can do this for the rest of my life. I want to build this thing. So when it was not happening as fast as I hoped for, I always believe there’s a gift in things. But giving up was absolutely not an option because in my gut it felt really right. I thought I just hadn’t quite figured out the right language to talk about it. You know, like I know the right words. I, I needed to get people in to experience it. Like it was a puzzle to solve for me more than like, I don’t ever think of anything as failure really it’s just everything’s learning. I’m good at iterating things. So I try some language and it wouldn’t work and I try something else and try something else and then realized, oh, you don’t want to convince people about this. You want to find people that jump in really quickly. Because I knew something was working. Like there were people who in an instant, I’d be halfway through the sentence, million women, $1,000 each and they’d be like, Oh my God, I’m in, where do I sign up? And then other people are like, how does it work? What, you know, women are gonna pick. They each get one vote. What were about the experts? And, and then I realized, Oh, the people that are asking me 10 questions are not the early adopters, don’t focus on them, but it was like a needle in a haystack to find the first 500 for sure. I made a bit of a game out of it. Plus I also have the most amazing husband and family and supporters who dealt with me when I would have lots of tears about how hard it was. They’d be like, keep going, keep going. So yeah, I’m, I’m quite persistent, but it’s, you know, it was partly this network of supporters who like it felt right and I just knew it was going to take longer than I thought. I just didn’t know why it was so hard.
Komal: So I’d love to dive into a little bit of this like legacy piece around knowing your purpose, knowing why you’re doing what you’re here to build that statement of this. There was no other option. I was going to figure out how to make this work when so many people are hungry for that experience, hungry for that and knowing of our greater purpose, our greater reason for being. And it wasn’t an easy path to maybe come to the SheEO experience and knowing that this was the thing. So let’s reverse engineer how you got there. What were, what was it like to have some of those missteps before to win? What did it feel like when you weren’t on this path of total connection to what you were doing?
Vicki: Yeah, well, I mean when I look back at, you know, the 35 years of getting to SheEO or whatever it was, you know, before I started this, I spent a lot of time avoiding doing anything woman only first of all because my experience, uh, I’m 54 years old and my experience way back in the day was anything woman only was, didn’t matter and was sidebars and was like, oh, it’s a woman’s thing. So it gets one, 1000th of any budget and it’s over in the corner. There was that whole thing I had to kind of cope with doing something women only
Komal: propulsion from your childhood, which is how you felt like growing up with boys around all the time. Yeah. Your experience as a woman was always put to the side.
Vicki: Yeah, it was pretty much denied. It’s like a know your, I didn’t mean that. I’m like, you just said that. Yeah. You, you know, you’re imagining it and I’m like, really? Yeah, yeah. Somehow I missed the memo. There was that kind of piece of it and I, you know, honestly, I’ve always wanted to do good and make money at the same time. This is now a millennial thing, so I was just born 20 years too early. I know, I know. I’ve always felt out of alignment with the narrative that we’re living in. You know, in the 80s when I was graduating from the university, I’m like, what? Like all this greed and I’d be like, it just didn’t fit for me. I always kind of felt like an outcast and an outsider. And so I was, you know, very, very early, early stage social entrepreneur. I’m a big tech adopter. So I was using tech early, like I am an early adopter of pretty much everything and I love new things and new models and I think really differently than a lot of the stuff that I’d seen around me. And I think you can have flexible work and trust people and you don’t have to control them. And like just a million different things than the way that we have been taught along the way. I tried to fit in a bunch of times and it didn’t work. And then I had this one company that went public and, and as we were in negotiations to go public with this group that we had merged with a bunch of bankers, actually every single thing that was so special about our companies is the energy group. Everything that was special about it that was unique about it, they said was intangible, right? And then negotiation, everything was intangible. It’s like well, but our culture and the way that we work with people and our incentive model and their like yet intangible, intangible, tangible. It doesn’t fit on the balance sheet. And I’m like, yeah, but it’s what makes everything here so special and why we have such crazy productivity and why we’re doing so well at. Yeah. But it doesn’t fit on the balance sheet. So there were no words or translation for the uniqueness of that. And it was incredibly frustrating, you know? I mean, it took me forever to build up enough confidence to go, uh, excuse me, screw you, look at the world you’ve created. It’s garbage. Like look out the window. Everything’s a mess. I think I have a better idea and I’m going to just go show you because of course tell, tell, tell doesn’t work. You have to go show. So for me, what SheEO is, you know, it was like, I’m going to put my head down and show you that we can fund businesses that pay a living wage, that have flexible work, that have wicked maternity policy, that are working on the biggest issues of our time with the business model. I’m going to show you, you’re going to get a better return and happier people that way. And so SheEO was the demonstration project for how we can do things differently
Komal: And it’s truly become that. So going from that first 500 in 2015 and having that be a tough thing to now over 4,000 global Activators, 4 million in activator loans out and over are 53 ventures funded. Wow. Living those living that which you saw in that, in that merger, in that situation that was wrong with the world, you have started to create the antidote. And can you share with us some examples of what that looks like for the ventures you’re funding? How has that changed the game for them? How has that elevated them? You also told me last time that none of the ventures you funded have closed and they’re seeing triple digit returns.
Vicki: Yeah, I mean, so we have a hundred percent payback right at the moment, which is unheard of that that’s a factor of having this community of people who are there to support them. The way ventures are selected and our network is kind of the opposite of Dragon’s Den. So you know, you have someone sitting there with their arms crossed going, prove to me that you can get me a huge return on your own. Go over there, young lady. And we’re kind of going, oh my God, we love what you’re doing. Can we help make it real? Can we help grow it in the world? Like it’s the opposite ethos. Know all of a sudden you have 500 women and now 4,000 women on your team to help you grow your business. So it really shifts everything around you. All of a sudden have influencers to open doors for you way earlier than you normally will. You don’t have to have as much traction to get into a senior person and get a contract. You have advisors on demand 24 seven you have follow on funding. So we’re starting to do angel and venture funding for this group with for return for our Activators. You just have all these assets that are not really designed into our existing systems. So all of that is just, there’s an abundance of pretty much everything you need within the network. So it’s just take all the resources we have and reorganize them and design them so that they’re more assets. So that part is cool. The other part that is just wonderful to see, and it’s tearjerkers. I’ve been talking about crying a lot. I cry a lot. I’m a crier and just very emotional from this because it’s so meaningful to me. But you know, we have people in our network ventures who’ve come in who had been told literally everything that’s wrong with them over and over and over and over till you start to believe it. You know, this is why we often see female founders start with, I am actually not an inventor, they are an inventor, but like I didn’t go to business school, but I created this really cool business. You know, like I’m actually not a scientist, but I created edible seaweed based straws that are going to take all plastics out of the ocean. And you’re like, what? You know, so we start with the what we’re not. But sometimes the insights come from the edges outside of the domain of expertise. We are validating that we had lots of people can be inventors or part of the thing that’s kind of magical is when 500 women go online and we trust the intuition of this collective intelligence to pick amazing companies. That’s another really different thing about what we do. We don’t have a network of five people deciding, I’m thinking of Abeego at the moment. She was one of our first round ventures who invented breathable food wrap. It was a whole new category that didn’t even exist and now she’s got all kinds of copycats out there. But when she came into our network, people told her she was too creative. I’m like, what? MJ’s like, you’re an inventor, you’re a visionary. And she goes, oh, is that a good thing, we’re like, it’s huge. You know? So what if you’re not an operations person, you can hire that person. There’s lots of operations people. There aren’t lots of inventors. You can, you know, put out an ad. I’m looking for an inventor, so it’s a really different kind of thing. We see an emboldening in our network of a lot of these ventures. They come in thinking, you know, they’ve got something kind of cool. And then when everybody starts validating it can think, oh, could this be bigger than I thought? Maybe it could. And you start to really build your muscle of dreaming when you realize things can be bigger. And sometimes you just need somebody to go that’s really cool. And you’re like, Oh really? It’s just what I do. Again, having that social connection of someone validating, supporting, I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of external validation or I have, you know, over the years, sometimes you just need someone to say you got this, it’s good. And so I think we’re doing a lot of that in our network. And then this crazy thing about exporting, it’s really tough to export and to find those markets and distributors and stuff. And ours kind of happens naturally. Like before you know it, you’re another market because we’re in four countries, five countries right now. I mean someone in New Zealand says, hey, that’s really cool. Now all of a sudden you’ve got a distributor in New Zealand. This is one of the things that happens all the time at SheEo where someone’s like, okay, who just went to the Philippines? We just got all these emails from the Philippines. What’s happening now? So it’s cool to see the connections. Like you can tell that something’s bubbling up. The ease of connection and relationship building is at the heart of that.
Komal: So when I think about entrepreneurial journeys, there are moments for us where we look at what we’ve done and we are like, I, I’ve done the thing, the validation, you know, we talk about product market fit and all of that for our consumers and customers, but the validation for ourselves, can you share a moment in your SheEO journey where you were like, oh my God, look at this. Look at the thing that I just built
Vicki: almost every day. Really. There’s something that comes into my inbox or a text that I received or a note on linkedin from someone who heard something and it moved them. This morning I got this thing on Linkedin just saying, hi, I’ve been following you for you for four years. I love what you’re doing. I’m gonna choke up. I’ve been saving up and now I’m going to become an activator. I’ve been saving for four years to be part of this thing and I just can’t wait to be involved in the community and select the ventures. So coming into this community as almost an act of self love, I am worth being in this community. I am worth being surrounded by thousands of women who want to help me. I belong here. That’s a really big thing to give to yourself. It’s a really big thing and I feel, I guess when I get choked up around these things, it’s because I feel I spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t worthy of that. You know? Like I had to do it by myself and prove something before I could get in. Now when I see these like 20 somethings saving up for their first with their first couple of paychecks to become an activator and to give themselves this kind of a community to be part of at that early stage up there, that just blows my mind. I’m like, you are my hero. To do something like that for yourself is huge because I, it took me a long time to build my confidence and to think that I was worth it. I feel like I’m kind of feeling myself by witnessing people come into this community and I’m proud that I am stepping into all, like it was a big deal to jump off the cliff and start this thing like it’s really, really, really, really what I wanted, but what if it didn’t work? You know, like all that deep and I’m glad that I jumped off the cliff as hard as it’s been, I’m so, so happy because I feel like we’re all gonna show each other what’s possible when we come together. When women come together to support other women who have game changing ideas, I think it’s going to change everything.
Komal: It’s already happening. Like it’s, yeah, you’re showing that that possibility and something that you mentioned about this being a space where we can be not just seen but heard where where we realize what I have to give is valuable like the mentorship in the community. I’d love for you to share a bit about that and a little bit about how people have been uplifted through sharing are just naturally with one another.
Vicki: Yeah. Well again, I’ll go to this morning cause it’s very present. I had a call from one of our Activators who her mastery is helping people create advisory boards to write their investor decks. And she said, you know, when I was getting started, I had this group of four people who were advisors that helped me out and it changed everything for me. I would not be where I am without those four people. And so I’m so passionate about giving that back. She said, it’s my business to do this, but I also want to give this as my gift of radical generosity in the network. So please connect me with anybody who needs advisory boards. And I’m like, uh, well actually we do. You know how, how about you start with me, you know, three or four other people in the network who really need that. And so there’s, in a way, it’s like this opposite of kind of what we’re taught. There are people who want to give what they’re amazing at to other people. It’s here, it’s not everything as is a transaction. You know there’s a relationship based, pay it forward thing that’s part of this. So I think the giving of what you’ve got as part of the network is one thing. There are so many examples. One of my favorite crazy things we also have a real wide range of age and experience in the network. We have 12 year olds and we have 94 year olds and we have everything in between. We have corporate execs, some people just getting started and people that are wantrepreneurs that want to do something one day and are trying to get a backstage pass to being an entrepreneur through the network the whole mix. And at one of our events a couple of years ago in the bathroom, these two women were standing beside each other, washing their hands and one of them turned together goes, hi, tell me about you. And I was observing this. I was at the sink beside them and someone says, Oh, well, uh, I’m so and so and I’m just in transition and I’m applied for this job at Amex and I have my interview tomorrow and I’m really excited about working at Amex. And the other person turned to me and said, oh, well actually I just retired as the CEO of Amex. How can I help you? And I was like, oh my God, only at SheEO. Right. So crazy. In the normal world, those two people are not in the same club, right? There’s like the club for the CEOs and then there’s the club for, or there is no club for the ones that haven’t made it yet. That to me was amazing. And the person who is the former head of Amex, who’s now on our board, Beth Horowitz, she’s awesome. She came up to me full of energy and excitement. She goes, oh my God, you’ll never guess what happened. Someone’s actually going to be interviewing there tomorrow and I helped her. I love this so much. And like if you’re the young one who was there, you would never really believed that that would give so much joy to the person that you quote unquote would like something from. But that’s really what’s behind it. If you are have that spirit of wanting to contribute to others’ growth, which is the bar to get into our network. If you don’t like this concept of radical generosity, you don’t tell, but if you do go, oh, I’d love that. Then it brings that kind of spirit to the table and it’s ageless. You know? There’s no boundaries to it.
Komal: Something that’s really important to me is diversity and inclusion and inclusion from a standpoint of race. I know that ventures and Activators throughout the network, there is a really vast diversity. This is an opportunity for listeners who, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about creating and being part of networks where we are seen and heard. Can you share a little bit about this ethos for you?
Vicki: Yeah. This is, I mean this is like a super top priority for us because we’re really, I mean, we’re living in a world that was designed by white men. Basically. You are clearly not going to create a new world unless you have everyone at the table, right? How do you create an inclusive new version of greatness for the planet? And it requires all kinds of people at the table. And so it’s really important to us the age diversity of the intellectual diversity, the racial diversity, because all those different perspectives create the whole, we’ve all got a piece, we’ve all got some shard of light that needs to come together to create that beautiful new whatever we’re going to be. For us it’s extremely important. So it’s a lens through which we select ventures. It’s something that we work on with Activators that we’re not where we’d like to be yet. We’d love to see a lot more diversity in the markets that we’re currently in and obviously wherever we’re going next. And so that really, really matters. And you know, another area that is really critical to us as we really start to think about, you know, the future of humanity is to learn from Indigenous cultures. So we have a real focus on Indigenous communities as well. Yeah. In the countries that we’re in so far. So it’s, it’s very present, very focused on it. We’re doing about 40% of the ventures on average are racially diverse. We’d like it to be better. Yeah. Something that is just huge. Yeah.
Komal: And I always appreciate your candor when we do talk about this because again, it’s one of my biggest callings in life. You can’t be waiting to be seen. And so one of the reasons that I reached out to you initially was I was starting to step into rooms as an investor and a lot of them were majority women, but majority white women. And I wasn’t seen. And so for me it was still reaching out to people who inspired me, even if I didn’t identify from a race perspective and continuing to make those opportunities to learn. And so I hope for the listeners that this is an opportunity for them to flip that on their head. It’s head as well and look at the network and say, Hey, like I can be part of continuing the progress here. It’s incredible that 40% are because we know how harrowing the statistics are outside of that.
Vicki: So bad. Yeah. Yeah. So bad. Not even really a statistic. Right. So women of color less than 0.2% or something, something horrible from a funding perspective.
Komal: Exactly. So to democratize that even a small amount is something that’s so incredibly valuable. And so another community or demographic that’s really important to you are youth your entire career and you’re doing something really cool with Rad Gen and what that’s been evolving into.
Vicki: Well, first of all, my nieces became Activators in the first year, which made me very happy and to experience SheEO through their eyes of reading through the applications. And you know, I remember one of the first comments was, oh, I never knew that you could change the world with business. Right. Like that. That was not something that occurred to them because that’s not what they see out in the world. And so they were blown away by this and they were just so interested in all the ideas and the stories other side of the country in California. One of our Activators who was quite pumped about all of this went through the voting with her daughter and she was in high school and then she started talking to all their friends saying how cool this was. And then all of a sudden I get a phone call saying we’ve started a club in a high school with 45 girls and we’re each putting in $25 to be an activator.
Vicki: And I immediately burst into tears cause they’re like, would you come to our first meeting? And I’m like, oh my God, so much like tingles through my whole body. I’m like, this is the coolest thing. Some, first of all, someone’s hacked our model cause $1,100 is a lots of 45 of them at 25 bucks. I’m like genius, how they want it to learn and what a club would be. And so I started talking about this because I’m a storyteller so I told that story and then we ended up getting a grant to design some modules to do a program like this. And then we did this really cool RadGen Live event where we had gender nonbinary, super racially diverse group of entrepreneurs and change makers get up on stage and tell their stories to young people. And it was awesome. It was so good. We got wicked feedback and it just felt like the future, like every person on stage was using their leadership to create a better world and work on the big challenges we’re facing. And like this is the ultimate school. This is super cool. And then we had, we showing some of our SheEO ventures and I thought, you know, I remember, I don’t know what they’re like these days cause I’m long time since I was in high school, but there used to be these like really, really, really boring career posters up on the wall. Like there’s probably no such thing anymore. But it was just like so lame and guidance counselors talking about careers and they were nothing exciting. And I started thinking, Wow, imagine if the stories that we have were put up there as this is what you can do, these crazy cool things like worried about climate change and keeping waste out of the landfill. How about a zero waste grocery store? You know, Brianne started one of those and she’s in BC and she was a marine biologist who created a zero waste grocery store, which is growing. And then Chelsea invented edible seaweed based straws and bio-plastics. So you’re gonna be able to eat your cup after you drink out of it and not feel bad about, you know, throwing it in a landfill and you just kind of go on and on BE, who invented a bike to replace the Walker and the wheelchair for people who want to stay mobile but are unstable and on and on. And these stories are super cool. And literally then it gets, you started to start dreaming about all the things that are around you that you think don’t make sense, that you’d like to fix or change. I’m quite passionate about. You said it earlier, you can be it, if you can’t see it, like as soon as you start to see some of these examples, especially really diverse across all kinds of sectors and areas and all kinds of people in ages, you start to go, well maybe I could do that. And it’s not just young people, it’s all, you know, we funded ventures age 23 to 70 something. We didn’t ask her how old she was. So it’s for everyone. But yeah, I mean for young people in particular, there’s a desire to hear about how we can really make a difference and do something of great meaning
Komal: and that intervention point because you’re still, for lack of better term unscarred from certain ground, the world, your experiences. And so to get it into the water supply at that point, it’s such an amazing thing that we can do for young people. And I think that your career has shown that.
Vicki: I had a a mentor very early in life was like get people as young as possible, get them out in the world and start trying things and experimenting to see what’s possible and go find out what you care about. You know? I think it feels like the only thing that I think we should teach in school is who are you and what motivates you and what gets you excited. And I think it’s the only thing we don’t teach. You know? It’s like literally the opposite of yeah, we teach all these like stats and whatever and now we’ve got Google and Siri, hello. We don’t need that.
Komal: As we start ramping down this interview, I want to come back to legacy. We’ve been able to share so much about how you got to creating SheEO, how SheEO began, what it’s like to be in here now partway through the journey. What’s your dream for where this is going
Vicki: It’s small. I just want to transform the global economy and society. I mean I really, I think we need a whole new values. Realignment. What do we care about? When the markets crashed in 2008 in the US, we found $17 trillion in three weeks to bail out the banks and $17 trillion is 600 years without hunger on the planet. We found that much money in three weeks. We have enough money to solve every single issue we have on this planet. It’s just what do we value? And right now we value bankers more than people’s lives. It really, it’s quite shocking. We have to step back and re-imagine everything. And so for me it’s how do, how do we create this environment where we encourage everyone to be themselves and their space, where I wanted to be themselves? Then how do we make sure that people have the resources to live a life with dignity and inclusion and focusing on people’s wellbeing? Reset the whole button and I think we’ve got everything we need to do that and we’ve got all these crisis out there, which is apparently people don’t change the behavior until things are really, really, really, really, really bad and they’re getting like that. My hope is that we stay positive through that. You know, I think we have a system that’s dying and it needs to be hospiced out. We don’t have to angrily pull down every building. We have to go, okay, we made this thing up. We didn’t do a very good job of making it up. So let’s gently go into that good night old model and let’s birth a new one, which is much, much more just for all of us. That’s what I’d like to see
Komal: and I truly believe you are doing that venture by venture
Vicki: one by one. Yeah, it’s a one by one. You know.
Komal: another question that answer inspired in me is, and it came up earlier this conversation about enough what and not enough in a perspective of am I enough, but in a financial perspective, which perhaps those two things are linked. But when we’re looking at the model of radical generosity, we’re really asking people to turn off the part of their brain that is expecting returns, that is looking for more money. What does enough mean to you when it comes to your life and when you’re looking at how you’re sourcing Activators and the kind of ethos that they live?
Vicki: I really do love this question. Like what is enough for you? Just having people ask that question, what do you need? Yeah, I mean, I lived in Prague right after the wall fell down in a one room apartment with the bathroom in the hallway with the little padlock on it. Like I literally could live anywhere. I happen to have, you know, a nice house in downtown Toronto. I’m very lucky to have it and it’s basically a rooming house. I have ventures coming in through here all the time. It’s just like rotating hostel for everyone in our network. I personally don’t need a yacht and three houses and all that kind of stuff. Like that just doesn’t serve me and get me going at all. I spend all my money on experiences. That’s really, and it’s not about accumulating things for me. Each person, depending on what circle that you’re surrounded by and what your values are, have different answers to that question. And I do think we’re at a moment in time where people are really starting to ask that question like what do you really need? Really do you really need that next purse. You know when I see these celebs spending $300,000 on this and like just the birthday presents and the crazy part is, and you’re just like, really? Do we really need that? Because we have such rampant inequality that’s just off the charts with five people having the same wealth as half the planet. This is going to become more and more of a central question for everybody and you’re just ahead of the curve asking it here. It’s something everyone should be asking themselves.
Komal: Absolutely. Especially when we’re looking at where we’re putting our money, what we’re investing in and I hope that listeners well will also join us as Activators. I’m an Activator myself. I love also part of the program where as an Activator I can also invest in someone who might not be able to join the network. Do you have a lower entry point where I can add a little bit more money and someone else can hop on for a smaller investment themselves to become Activators. So that’s a really cool part of the model. My last question for you is, we talked about asks earlier, what do you, what would you like to ask the audience for? What does Vicki and SheEO need right now?
Vicki: I would love it if you would ask yourself this question each day, which is, how could I be radically generous to myself and to someone else today? It’s not just about doing it for someone else, it’s also about doing it for yourself. What’s the radically generous response to yourself? I do this thing often. You know, sometimes when you get this like really grumpy email from somebody who’s having a bad day. I could just once in awhile in the past, before I started meditating, I would have been like, Rawr, Rawr, Rawr. Back to them, you know, and respond and match their energy maybe. And now I take a deep breath and go, hmm. So what’s the radically generous response? Does pausing and reflecting for a moment because we really have no idea what’s going on with somebody else when they come at you with that kind of energy and just breathing for a second and being radically generous back, Jacinda Ardern who’s the prime minister in New Zealand talks about compassion and kindness and how it can change things, and I think this revolution of kindness is upon us. If you do nothing else with your life, if you could practice being radically generous or kind to yourself and others, that’s my ass. That’s all I need.
Komal: Thank you so much, Vicki. Thank you for what you’ve built, what you’re continuing to build in the world and for sharing it all with us. Thank you.