Otago Daily Times
Gattung’s vehicle SheEO taking off
LESS than 5% of the world’s venture capital funding goes to femaleled businesses, and even less for women of colour.
Those are figures that Theresa Gattung found hard to swallow, and inspired her to set out to bring about change.
Fast forward three years, and Ms Gattung’s womenbackingwomen initiative SheEO, which she brought to New Zealand in 2017, has raised more than $900,000 through 700 activators (investors) and helped 15 womenled ventures get a head start in the world of business.
Each year SheEO seeks $1100 from investors — $100 goes into running the organisation and $1000 into the fund. The money, plus funds repaid from loans from previous years, is divided up and given to five selected ventures, effectively an interestfree loan for five years.
This year, it had 216 activators and the ventures received about $70,000 each of $335,000 raised. Fiftyfive ventures applied for this round, and eligible firms had to be generating revenue of between $50,000 and $2 million, at least 51% womanowned and womenled, scalable and strive to create ‘‘a better world in some way’’.
Businesswoman and investor Ms Gattung, former chief executive of Telecom and cofounder of My Food Bag, said she believed the funding initiative had already brought about change in New Zealand and made it easier for women to access capital.
Ms Gattung is hopeful that eventually, although ‘‘in the very far future’’, there will no longer be a need for womenspecific initiatives.
‘‘I believe that I am, and SheEO is, part of a pathway now emerging for female entrepreneurs in New Zealand. Female leadership actually does translate into business results, so the more people that get on board with that the easier this is going to be,’’ she said.
‘‘Women have been so disadvantaged in the world of money, so terribly disadvantaged, and the stats are irrefutable. Less than 5% of the world’s venture capital funding goes to femaleled businesses, and it’s even worse if you are women of colour.’’
SheEO was started in 2015 in Canada by entrepreneur Vicki Saunders and has been rolled out to the United States, Britain and Australia. Ms Gattung launched it in New Zealand in October 2017.
When New Zealand went into lockdown in March, SheEO already had 100 activators for the cycle. Ms Gattung said Covid19 had not stopped people from getting behind the cause.
This year, AWWA, a company that makes sustainable alternatives to menstrual products, skincare firm Goodbye Sandfly and Goodbye Ouch, job marketplace Jobloads, Maori fashion brand Kiri Nathan Ltd and organic cotton underwear label Nisa received backing.
As well as funding, the ventures receive mentorship and support from activators and Russel McVeagh has donated three hours of pro bono legal support.
Ms Gattung said SheEO had picked up momentum in recent years and was fast becoming the biggest network for female entrepreneurs and women’s leadership in the world. The founder has fielded requests from 70 countries to introduce the concept into new territories.
Ms Gattung spends a large portion of her time working on SheEO, along with her professional directorship duties.
She is chairwoman of insurance company AIA in New Zealand and Australia, chair and cofounder of My Food Bag, chairwoman of Cecilia Robinson’s primary healthcare startup Tend and director and cofounder of beauty firm The Six Senses Group. She also does a lot of other work within the notforprofit sector.
‘‘My passions are about supporting women, and I love the intersection of business and doing something good for the world. I believe that intersection is going to be transformative in the next decade — and companies that are without a purpose are going to suffer.’’ — The New Zealand Herald