A disruptive funding model which aims to help Kiwi businesswomen is heading into its second year of backing having been well-received by investors.

SheEO, a not-for-profit organisation that provides five-year interest-free loans to early-stage enterprises led by women, is fronted in this country by former Telecom chief executive, and founder of several businesses, Theresa Gattung.

The initiative received $1100 each from 442 women last year and hopes to achieve the same again this year. The target is 500.

More than 100 businesses applied for funding last year, and so far this year there have been about around 40 applications. Applications for the second year close in mid-December.


The five ventures that were selected for funding last year were: Pomegranate Kitchen, DermNet, Memory Foundation, Dovedale and ShearWarmth.

The women helping women initiative started in Canada and has been rolled out to the US and Australia. It launched in New Zealand in October last year.

Gattung came across SheEO founder Vicky Saunders in late 2015 at a conference at which Saunders was talking in the United States.

"Vicky's idea was that several hundred women would come together, each putting in $1100 to create a pool of $500,000, and those several hundred women would select five ventures each year and that they would also be the community that supported those ventures," Gattung said.

"I said to her, 'Gosh, this would resonate well with Kiwis, we're a nation of networkers, we're generous people'."

To get backing, ventures must be at least 51 per cent female-owed, led by a woman, have revenue of between $50,000 and $2 million and be scalable.

Gattung said SheEO was founded on the principal of women supporting women in business, and was designed to make securing funding straightforward.

"Women, they do need cash in their businesses but they are also looking for coaching, mentoring and inspiration from women who have gone before [them]."


In the US only 4 per cent of capital funding goes to female-led businesses. The New Zealand equivalent is unknown as there has been no research into it.

"It still is harder for women to get funding," Gattung said. "I thought this idea would really resonate with Kiwi women which it has done."

SheEO has Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau locked in to speak at its next SheEO summit in Canada, something Gattung is hoping to replicate here with Jacinda Ardern.

"I'm going to wait [to ask] until Vicky [Saunders] is next in New Zealand."