Fresh off winning AU$150,000 from a global impact entrepreneurship program that included a trip to Paris to collect an award from Australian startup Amal Clooney Learn well gives Startup Daily a lesson in determination and purpose.
“We’ve been working on a deeply persistent problem in a sustained, committed way,” said Ingrid Sealey, the founder and principal of education startup Teach Well.
In 2019, Perth-based entrepreneur launched Teach Well with the hope of providing meaningful lifelong learning opportunities for teachers and school leaders who want to improve their students’ outcomes.
Since then, over 2,000 teachers and school leaders, from Kindergarten to Year 12 and across Australia, have benefited from the programmes, with 83 per cent of participants reporting an improvement in students’ academic progress as a result of the Teach Well’s Masterclass Series.
“The teachers and leaders we have worked with have made incredible progress in closing the equity gap,” she says. “So for a very complex problem that’s hard to get to, we’ve made incredible gains in this area.”
The germ of the idea was born ten years ago when Ingrid worked for a non-profit program supporting school leaders in underprivileged communities in Western Australia.
“We found that there was a small number of schools that were making big profits and the vast majority of schools were not. It was not because of a lack of effort, commitment or care. It was just really hard to find educational interventions that really made a difference,” she says. “What became clear once we looked at the research…was that it must have something to do with classroom teaching that helps students get ahead.”
Teach Well and the Cartier Women’s Initiative
Flash forward to May 10, 2023, when Ingrid was one of 32 female impact entrepreneurs from around the world recognized at the 16e annual Cartier Women’s Initiative award ceremony at the Salle Pleyel concert hall in Paris.
After speeches by British lawyer and human rights activist Amal Clooney and Cartier International CEO and President Cyrille Vigneron, Ingrid was named the winner of the Cartier Women’s Initiative for the Oceania region and awarded AU$150,000 in grants.
“It was quite a surreal experience,” Ingrid tells Startup Daily. “I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything like this again in my life.”
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is an annual international entrepreneurship program that aims to provide financial, social and human capital support to women-owned businesses that have a social or environmental impact. The program selects winners for each region, with Australia and New Zealand falling into the Oceania category. Three winners will be selected for Oceania, with one taking the grand prize.
As applications open for the 2024 Cartier Women’s InitiativeIngrid tells why she applied.
“In my experience, awards and programs that have been around for a while get really good at fleshing out what makes a meaningful difference to the people they’re trying to support,” says Ingrid.
“So there is work to be done as you apply and go through the various selection stages. [The Cartier Women’s Initiative] seemed like a price where that process would actually make sense to us. So they asked me the kind of questions that would give me reasons to step back and think about the bigger picture. Those opportunities are few and far between when you’re so operational and you’re trying to scale things up quickly.
Ingrid, who previously worked in strategy for The Boston Consulting Group and founded the Fogarty EDvance leadership program, found the selection process extremely helpful. “I started an application around this time last year and that’s because we got a lot of feedback during the various application and due diligence stages, so that was great,” she says. “I got a lot out of the process even before we got to January.”
Starting in January, the 32 selected fellows received tailored mentoring and coaching from industry leaders, investors and entrepreneurs. Ingrid finds media and communication ‘scary and intimidating’ and says coaching in those areas has been groundbreaking for her personally.
“That’s a great personal investment and for our organization to lean into a space that I could have avoided,” says Ingrid. “It’s given me a lot of confidence in that space.”
Solving problems with a global community
The program culminated in an executive impact leadership program in Paris led by one of the world’s leading graduate business schools, INSEAD.
“It was absolutely fascinating to unravel entrepreneurship with some real-life case studies of what is happening right now in some of the most exciting spaces in the world,” says Ingrid. “That’s the amazing thing about this global community.”
A great benefit of the program is that we spend time with other female entrepreneurs who are driving positive change in areas such as climate and health. “Being able to discuss what it means to balance impact and viability with other people tackling the same challenges in different ways with different weightings of profitability versus impact is very important to me,” emphasizes Ingrid.
There is also still a glass ceiling for female impact entrepreneurs to crack. “In society, it is still expected that women will be more compassionate, that they will be more socially minded, that they will pay more attention to any negative externalities of the work they do, and that they should just do it for free ,” Ingrid explains.
“I am very grateful to be able to do work that makes a difference every day. But I also think it’s really important that we don’t make that the expectation and domain of women, that all men are encouraged to participate in a world where you can lead with compassion, where you don’t just have to optimizing for commercial or profit reasons, that you can actually take moments in your career to work on impact on something you are passionate about and that can make a difference.
This is also in line with the barriers to investment in starting women. By 2022, only three percent of venture capital went to all-female startups. “We are often undervalued, it is more difficult for us to raise capital,” says Ingrid.
Ingrid says Cartier’s commitment to helping female impact entrepreneurs succeed comes from an authentic place, from providing investors with access to time with Cartier’s own CEO.
“I noticed that. [Cartier CEO] Cyrille took a lot of time to spend with us, not just at public events where it would be forward-looking,” she says. “I feel like this is something that Cartier values from head to toe. I think that means something to us as fellows who also manage impact and viability.”
While Western Australia may be Ingrid’s base, Teach Well’s influence is deepening in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Her goals are to increase that impact among East Coast schools and complex communities, and share more lessons with the international community.
For anyone thinking about signing up for the Cartier Women’s Initiative 2024, Ingrid has a clear message. “Even if we didn’t make it to the end and become a finalist, it would have made sense for us as an organization,” she says. “It’s worth investing in.”
Are you a female entrepreneur in Australia and New Zealand with an impact business? Apply here for the Cartier Women’s Initiative 2024.
This article is brought to you by Startup Daily in partnership with Cartier Women’s Initiative.