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Think Like a SheEO:
Succeeding in the Age of Creators,
Makers, and Entrepreneurs
In 1989 Vicki Saunders was travelling in Europe with her brother, considering the pros and cons of jumping into a PhD, when the news hit that the Berlin Wall had fallen. They hustled themselves to Prague to take in a slice of history. There, surrounded by people declaring different versions of “now that I’m free,” it hit her: she was free too, free to follow whatever path she chose and to create the life she desired. It was a total shift in mindset. And so a consummate entrepreneur was born. Over the years Saunders has started five companies all over the world. One of these is SheEO, which allows her to live out her passion of mentoring other women entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference in the world.
Think Like a SheEO is Saunders’ enthusiastic call to women to create their own businesses that reflect their passions, strengths, and values, and to do so on their own terms. With the world facing enormous challenges, author and entrepreneur Vicki Saunders argues that there are also enormous opportunities, making this a prime time for women to build new models, new mindsets, and new solutions for a better world.
Saunders lays out eight principles to steer the reader on her own journey of shifting mindset and preparing to take the leap. With examples from her vast experience, she shares the challenges and successes other bold, gutsy, and principled women who are redefining the world. Inspiring exercises pepper the chapters to guide the reader on a journey of self-discovery, helping them uncover what really matters to them, to identify their tremendous strengths and learn to overcome self-limiting beliefs. Saunders shows readers how to leverage their talents, strengths, and genuine interests to create businesses that make them happy and successful. It’s not about leaning in to a system that no longer serves women, but rather creating a new model that redefines success on their own terms.
Aihui Ong combined her passions for food and technology to build a platform called LovewithFood that connects food producers and consumers. It’s a subscription service that delivers healthy organic snacks to customers each month and then donates a healthy meal at a food shelter for every box shipped. Her business is thriving, and creates a win–win–win for consumers, producers, and those who can’t afford healthy food. But Aihui didn’t stop there: she also built a revenue stream from corporations. For big brands that want to move into healthier snacks, LovewithFood customers provide a ready-made focus group whose insights these corporations are willing to pay for. I first heard about LovewithFood from Freada Kapor Klein, who’s well-known for her impact investing and her belief that any business can have social impact. She invests only in businesses that actively close gaps, including achievement gaps in education, health-disparity gaps, and access-to-capital gaps.
Aihui and Freada are examples of SheEO Principle 1—that everything is broken and so it’s a great time to be alive—meaning that it’s precisely because we face enormous challenges that we have equally enormous opportunities for making a meaningful impact. Almost everything—from government to schools to businesses—needs to be fixed, redesigned, and rethought completely. And we aren’t talking about little tweaks. We’re talking about fundamental redesign. Quantum change. And that requires a new mindset and a new way of thinking. Sounds tragic? Terrifying?
If you, like Aihui and Freada, are a creator, maker, or entrepreneur, this is our nirvana. This is our moment. The world needs us—our fresh thinking, our disruptive ideas, our not just out-of-the-box but smash-the-box thinking. That’s why it’s such a great time to be alive! What we have to contribute has never mattered more. We need to stop listening to those voices that tell us “This is the way it should be” and just get on with experimenting with what feels right. Research on entrepreneurs reveals that we have seven common core traits: passion, tenacity, self-belief, flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity, rule breaking, and vision. This last quality—the ability to spot opportunities and imagine something that hasn’t existed before—is what this chapter is all about. I believe that it’s a mindset you can cultivate—and when you do, the world as it exists now goes from scary to thrilling.
I was recently at a talk given by Neil Turok of the Perimeter Institute, one of the preeminent centers for the study of theoretical physics. Neil remarked that, with all the data coming in from the Large Hadron Collider and the Planck Telescope, this is one of the most exciting times to be in physics. What physicists are finding is that there’s an incongruity between the complexity of their theories and the simplicity of the emerging data. Our science needs to be every bit as beautiful as the evidence it points to, and the universe is revealing itself to us in new ways. It’s telling us that our old theories need to be revised. Our computers are based on 1s and 0s, but that’s not really how nature works. As humans we haven’t evolved, yet, to experience things at the quantum level. But with these new tools available to physicists around the world, we’re becoming able to simulate how the world works in order to help us see things differently.
How cool is that? And physics isn’t the only realm returning information that reveals our lack of understanding and the need for innovation.
Take education, for instance. Richard Elmore, the Harvard education guru, says that the classroom and the public school are designed point by point to be exactly the opposite of what the latest neuroscience research is uncovering about how humans learn. Considering how much money is spent on education in each country, this spells huge business opportunities.