A Victoria business will receive an interest-free loan to launch a new product thanks to 500 business women from across Canada.
Toni Desrosiers, founder of Abeego Designs Inc., is one of five Canadian, female business owners selected to receive a portion of $500,000 from a new funding initiative.
Desrosiers, who started Abeego in 2008, plans to use the financing to launch a new product, for which a patent has been filed, later in 2016.
Abeego’s current product line of beeswax food wraps, made from hemp and certified organic cotton infused with pure beeswax, certified organic jojoba oil, and pine tree resin, are sold worldwide through abeego.com and in more than 650 retailers.
SheEO combines crowdfunding and business mentoring from leading entrepreneurs from around the globe to help women-led businesses, which receive only four per cent of venture capital, despite outpacing male-led business startups by double.
A network of 500 women activators, including Victoria’s mayor Lisa Helps, each contributed $1,000 to create the half million-dollar pool.
“Victoria is an entrepreneurial city,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “As Mayor of Victoria and as a SheEO activator, I’m thrilled and I’m proud to see Toni at Abeego receive one of the first five SheEO interest free loans to grow her business.”
The activators reviewed proposals submitted by 240 female entrepreneurs from across Canada and voted on the five winners. The businesses had to have a positive impact on society, as well as a thriving financial return to qualify.
The winning businesses included Abeego, Magnusmode and Twenty One Toys from Ontario and Skipper Ottos and Lunapads from Vancouver. Their owners spent an entire weekend together negotiating the division of the financing. They were bound by two parameters: all the money could not go to one venture and they could not divide it equally. In the end, loans ranged from 14 per cent to 24 per cent for each of the businesses.
“This financing is a huge step forward for Abeego, but the network of mentors is already proving to be worth even more,” said Desrosiers. “All of a sudden I’m working with heavy hitters who are taking boulders out of my pathway when it comes to growing my business. We are taking action on things that seemed impossible to me until now.”
SheEO is led by Vicki Saunders, recently named one of the 100 most influential leaders of 2015 from EBW – Empowering A Billion Women, alongside Marissa Mayer, Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, and Michelle Obama.