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Innovation & Job News

SheEO graduates first cohort of program participants

In a city with an ever-increasing number of incubators, accelerators, and other support programs, it can be surprising to realize how many unmet needs our aspiring entrepreneurs actually have. It's still a developing community though, and there are many gaps to be filled in. Addressing one very specific gap is SheEO (pronounced SHE-E-O), a program for women entrepreneurs in the social sector, which has just graduated its first cohort of program participants.

"I've been a mentor to young entrepreneurs for almost 20 years, and one of the things that I'd noticed the women mentees were asking very different questions…around boldness, and confidence, and buildings networks," explains the program's co-founder, Vicki Saunders.

Anyone can pick up the hard skills of running a business, she went on: you can learn basic bookkeeping and how to build a pitch deck online quite easily. It's the soft skills—communication and management and wooing investors—that are trickier to develop, and "which we're now realizing are the most important." In our current business environment, Saunders says, women in particular can face challenges because their sense of what leadership looks like can differ from the prevailing models.

One thing in particular that Saunders points to is the need for any entrepreneur to be self-aware, to understand how she is most naturally comfortable acting as a leader. This isn't just a nice form of self-development, she maintains, but essential to the business itself: "You can't be a leader and not be yourself. You can't fake it and have people follow you. To really be a leader you need to understand who you are and what motivates you." That's why the opening days of SheEO's month-long program are devoted helping participants flesh out an individualized concept of leadership.

After that, the question is: leadership for what? Like a growing number of entrepreneurs, Saunders isn't interested in launching businesses just to capitalize on money-making opportunities. That's why SheEO is aimed not just at women, but at women who want to create ventures with social or environmental benefits.

Plans are already underway for future cohorts, and Saunders says that the program will continue "…as long as there are people out there who think that they need this, but the goal is that we never need to run any kind of program."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Vicki Saunders, co-founder, SheEO
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