Call it an Act of Radical Generosity. In fact, that’s precisely what cloud accounting provider FreshBooks and SheEO, a Toronto-based organization that mentors women-led companies, have called their latest venture, which aims to award Canadian female entrepreneurs with a no-interest loan to help grow their businesses. Deadline for applications has been extended to September 30, 2015
How it works
The grassroots, crowdfunding-type campaign will see 1,000 women from across Canada contribute $1,000 each to create a pool of $1 million. Then, the women will select 10 winners from those who apply to receive a cut of that $1 million, in the form of a no-interest loan, along with access to the network’s and FreshBook’s talent and expertise to help guide the business along, and a year’s worth of coaching, retreats, and workshops. The 10 selected women will also receive a lifetime of free FreshBooks usage.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the strategy is that the 10 winners themselves must decide how best to divide the monies: the only caveats are that the funds can’t go to a single venture, and they can’t be divided equally.
What’s also interesting is that there’s no return for the 1,000 women who put up the funds. “When we initially considered creating a return…the focus turned to the return instead of women helping woman and…people lost their energy for the project,” says SheEO. “We have no doubt that if women come together around the world in support of one another’s businesses, we will have the opportunity to redefine what it means to ‘invest’ in one another.”
Who can apply?
There are three requirements in order to apply. First, the business must have at least $50,000 in revenue this year. Second, it must be female-led and majority female-owned. And finally, the venture must be Canadian.
Applications are accepted through to September 30, 2015, and 25 finalists will be revealed by mid-September, after which the 1,000 women who contributed the funds will select their top 10.
Why did these organizations decide to offer this Act of Radical Generosity?
According to data cited by FreshBooks, only 4% of venture capital typically goes to women-led businesses. Last year, while females started two-thirds of all new businesses in Canada, an overwhelming 68% of them did not use outside capital.
“They are under-financed and under-supported, despite driving a large part of the economy,” writes FreshBooks in a blog post.
How to get involved
Those who wish to make a radical act of generosity can sign up to be one of the 1,000 women to invest $1,000 here; or, if you’re a Canadian female entrepreneur who meets the aforementioned criteria and wants to apply to be one of the 10 lucky winners, you can do so here.
Plans for growth
SheEO hopes to expand the program to become city-specific next year, with 1,000 women in Vancouver, Toronto, and potentially in U.S. cities as well. The goal is that by 2020, the organization will have reached one-million women – 1,000 women in 1,000 cities around the world.
“The narrative,” writes SheEO, “that ‘women are often the last ones to support one another’ needs to change.”