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Women-led seed capital fund SheEO to be offered in New Zealand

Toronto based serial entrepreneur and founder of SheEO, Vicki Saunders, and the co-founder of My Food Bag, and former Telecom chief executive Theresa Gattung. Photo / RNZ

A group of women business leaders and other investors have launched a capital fund designed to support new ventures led by female entrepreneurs.

New Zealand is the first country outside of North America to offer the SheEO World funding model, which brings together 500 women investors, contributing $1100 each to establish a perpetual funding pool.

The fund invests in up to five ventures at a time, offering interest-free loans to women-led business to be repaid over a five-year period.

Business executive Theresa Gattung said only 4 percent of venture capital was currently going to women.

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"We are half the population and we have enough capital, enough money to support other women-led businesses.

"We don't have to wait all the time and ask for permission from men," she said.

"So it is a simple concept and also picks up that women are major customers and mentors of other businesses."

Ms Gattung said international research indicated about 1 percent of corporate purchases were made at women-led businesses.

"If you look around the world, it's always more difficult for women-led businesses to sell into companies, to get finance etc, so this is really about giving some women-led businesses a start by being supported by other women."

The SheEO programme is also running in the United States, but was established in Canada about three years ago with the first funding round distributed in 2015.

Ms Gattung said she was inspired to bring the programme to New Zealand after hearing Canadian founder Vicki Saunders talking about its early promise.

"Half a million dollars is only a relatively small amount of money, but the businesses that have already been part of this venture, they will tell you that the combination of the support of the group of the women who have helped fund them also being their advocates, being their customers and potentially getting them into companies, is life changing for them and their businesses," Ms Gattung said.

Applications for SheEO World opened online yesterday with the first five investments to be announced in April.

This article was originally published by RNZ.