When you’re a new entrepreneur growing a business, often the largest hurdle to overcome is money. The first few years can be hard as you try to finance a fledgling business, hoping to move it forward enough to reach the sweet spot that is growth and profitability. A new group in Saskatoon has formed to help these entrepreneurs get the financial boost they need to take their businesses to the next level. The concept came from the charitable group 100 Women Who Care, with the added twist of a Dragon’s Den style business pitch. “A group of us recognized the need for seed money in the business community, and decided we needed to create something to help,” says Jill Sauter, a local marketing consultant and Seeds for Dreams co-founder. “From that, Seeds for Dreams was born.”
Seeds for Dreams is a group of local people, all connected to the Saskatchewan business community who want to see women entrepreneurs succeed in their ventures. Together, they host quarterly “pitch and vote events” where business owners come to pitch their business in the hopes of receiving seed money to help grow their business. “Our requirements are simple. The business must be at least one year old, owned or managed by a woman, and based in Saskatchewan,” says Jill. “Businesses apply to pitch and if they meet the requirements, the application is reviewed for completeness and then 3 companies are chosen through a random draw.”
At the crowdfunding event, each entrepreneur has three minutes to tell their story, and then seven minutes for questions from a moderator. The Seeds for Dreams members then vote for the pitch they liked best. The business with the most votes receives a $100 donation from every member (at last count, there are 64 members). The winner signs a Use of Funds agreement to ensure the money goes to business expenses but there are no debt or equity obligations. “There’s no expectation of repayment, and there’s no transfer of equity,” says Jill. “Seeds for Dreams is simply about giving entrepreneurs the money they need to grow their business.” The evening’s winner returns after three months and again at a year, to share how the money impacted their business.
Not only do entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch and possibly get seed money, they also get the opportunity to network. The Seeds for Dreams members have deep roots in the Saskatchewan business community and love to share their experience and advice with those who need it. “Participants meet potential investors, advisors and customers when they pitch,” says Jill. “Even if they don’t win, they make valuable connections for their business.”