How Radical Generosity Can Help You Invest in a Brighter Future with Vicki Saunders (Episode #148)
Vicki Saunders is the visionary, social entrepreneur who founded an organization called SheEO (now Coralus) which is widely renowned for supporting women who are getting the world’s to-do list done! This conversation will generate sparks for your own impact and totally validate the fact that you were right to hold out hope for humanity. Momentum is building behind an economic model that is “circular” and regenerative when it comes to expanding goodness and progress.
About Our Guest:
Vicki Saunders is the best kind of social innovator: she came from humble beginnings (a family farm outside of Ottawa, Canada) and worked her way through many years of a “baptism by fire” in the thick of our global business world.
But after co-founding and running important business ventures in Europe, Toronto, and Silicon Valley, and taking a company public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, it soon became clear that the system was largely closed to women. (Women-founded start-ups were receiving less than 4% of all available venture capital funding.)
When it comes to financing, women business owners face significant barriers when securing capital compared to men—but how bad is it?
So, leading with an incandescent brand of common sense, Vicki turned her attention to becoming an entrepreneur and advisor to the next generation of change makers: in 2015, she founded SheEO (now Coralus) which is a network of people who support, finance, and celebrate women + non-binary innovators.
It’s a growing community of small investors, like you and I, who are coming together to challenge our current economic framework with a dose of radical generosity. And the outcome is becoming clearer and clearer: if we support people all over the world who are running disruptive ventures that are making the world a better place for some or many, then a better future for us all expands.
In short, the people who Coralus supports are getting the world’s to-do list done.
(As an avid to-do lister, I LOVE THAT statement!)
And that’s not just a nice turn of a phrase. The “World’s To-Do List” is based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. Coralus selects ventures that relate to the 17 SDGs they are working on, but also measures their impact related to those goals.
Here’s how it works: The Coralus model brings together countless people, called Activators, whose money is pooled together and loaned out at 0%-interest to women-led Ventures selected by the Activators.
Think of it as a complete ecosystem-based approach where customers, advisors, influencers, network connectors, funders, and entrepreneurs are all in the same community. And it’s underpinned by an ethos of radical generosity.
And the best part of the business framework they are pioneering? By creating this social innovation ecosystem, Coralus can directly connect each of us, as Activators, to all the success of ideas and innovators in a kind of “regenerative,” circular system that keeps our personal impact rolling along and expanding too.
Vicki believes the old (current) economic system is dying—which, history tells us, tends to happen about every 400 years if we look back at history—and a new model is emerging.
She was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, has spoken at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Women of Influence Series in Canada, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs events, and the Tallberg Forum.
And the reason for all that success is what Vicki’s life journey teaches us—if nothing else—that it’s all about mindset.
In fact, one of my favorite insights of hers is this:
“Everything is broken… What a Great Time to Be Alive!”
To that point, here are the opening words on the Coralus website:
We are proof a more beautiful world is possible.
We are an alternative economy with trust as our core currency.
We are a working model of regenerative capital.
I was all in when I read that, and I needed to know more about an economic system where “trust” is the core currency.
And how about this term “regenerative capital?” THIS is why Vicki is considered so visionary. She could see that the current structure of our economy was a dead end for half the population of the world (women) and a new way forward needed to be charted: one that kept money and other forms of support expanding infinitely for everyone, by design.
I must say, that word “regenerative” keeps coming up in my conversations with remarkable social innovators and I suspect that’s because it is the core principle of the future all the most important change-makers are leading us into.
There’s now a landscape where any of us can get into “Regenerative Medicine,” “Regenerative Travel,” “Regenerative Farming,” “Regenerative AI,” and the list goes on almost infinitely.
Look it up for yourself!
What could be more relevant to all our lives than an economic system of “regenerative capital” which gives half the world’s population a real chance to grow the next “big ideas” that will help everyone flourish.
In this conversation, some of the best moments are when we realize that Vicki’s insights and journey start on the same social level as our own, and that we all identify with the ah-ha moments of “kitchen table sensibilities and wisdom” that Vicki and I talk about. (Concepts that will help us all get through this difficult chapter in history.)
Her background reminds us to look for the inspiration and knowledge in our own upbringings.
Vicki grew up on a farm just outside Ottawa, at a time when traditional roles for women were the norm. Her parents didn’t call themselves entrepreneurs or innovators even though they had to be to make rural living work in those times. (Have a look at Saunders Farm today to get a peek into why Vicki is who she is and where she started.)
She says, “All our meals together focused on dreaming up crazy new ideas to do on the farm.”
And Vicki says that from an early age she learned how to make things happen, experiment, embrace failure (it’s just learning and feedback) and keep moving.
Today… we’ll hear insights about all those skills and so much more:
- You will realize that we all have excess capacity.
- We all have a talent we can share. Maybe you’re a storyteller or a super-connector—whatever it is, there’s a way you can contribute.
- You will see a path to finding a sense of community right where you are.
- Vicki inspires us to stretch our imaginations to live in non-transactional ways that send us soaring with possibility.
- We learn how inertia sets in and that we’ll continue to be held back if we don’t find a way to foster an entirely new mindset.
And in general, you will come away from this interview feeling like you know yet another (among millions) great person who validates your best impulses and sees that you were right to hold out hope for humanity and the future.
00:00 Intro & Welcome
04:46 A More Beautiful World
- Rethinking how we do business.
- We design things to solve problems but not for how people actually want to live.
- There’s proof that another world is possible.
08:21 Subscribing to a New World
- Coralus uses a crowd funding based approach.
- Hundreds of women across five countries give a monthly gift of $92.
- Businesses apply for funding once a year.
- All businesses that are funded by Coralus are revenue generating.
- The businesses are owned and operated by women and non-binary individuals.
- Businesses can get a $100k interest free loan that they repay over 5 years.
- There’s a 95% payback rate on Coralus loans.
16:42 Collective Wealth
- Nipun Mehta appeared on The Conspiracy of Goodness Episode Podcast and spoke on the idea of collective wealth.
- The pressure to monetize makes it seem as if the only way to get things done is to have money.
- Living as a community allows us to share skills without necessarily needing money.
- We can use our networks and share skills and enjoy collective wealth.
- Vicki fosters a community mindset at Coralus that reflects indigenous community traits.
22:40 Trust as the Core Currency
- We think that the way we currently do economy is the only way.
- Our gifts can be currency and we can keep them in flow.
- Initial $1100 investments have flowed through the community and continue to be loaned to help new entrepreneurs.
27:54 Circulating Capital
- The current economic model is only working for a few people.
- There is a missing middle in the economic system.
- We have an amazing opportunity to rethink the current economic model.
- Staying local can help us stay connected to our community eco systems.
- Identify how we can help each other survive.
- Getting to know each other within the community is key to sharing skills and supporting each other.
36:53 Being Set Free
- Vicki was in Prague’s Old Town Square during the fall of the Berlin Wall.
- She was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who suddenly had new found freedom.
- Her experience in Prague changed her perspective on freedom and she became an entrepreneur.
- Vicki has dedicated herself to helping people feel free through business and innovation.
- Growing up on a farm has helped shape Vicki’s approach to business.
42:59 Street Wisdom
- David Pearl appeared on Episode 139 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast and his World Wide Wander is being supported by both The Goodness Exchange and Coralus.
- Vicki is very curious and is a proponent of Street Wisdom.
46:41 Giving ‘til it Feels Like Receiving
- We can give our gifts freely and keep ourselves open enough to receive others’ gifts.
- Giving is helping someone else’s dream come true and we feel good to be a part of their success.
- We can give from something we’re already wealthy and abundant in.
49:30 What Do You Wish People Knew?
- Vicki wishes people knew how amazing they are.
- You can’t truly know yourself unless you know yourself through others.
- Building your community of people who get you will change your life.