Meet Wingee Sampaio, Global Program Director for the Cartier Women’s Initiative
Updated: May 31
We were delighted to interview the lovely Wingee Sampaio, Global Program Director for the Cartier Women’s Initiative. Wingee talked to us about her passion for supporting women-impact entrepreneurs and unparalleled business opportunities that the program offers to its fellows.
It’s a pleasure to meet you, Wingee. Please could you introduce yourself?
I’m Wingee Sampaio, the Global Program Director for the Cartier Women’s Initiative. We are an international entrepreneurship program that is supported by Cartier and have been in existence since 2006.
What led you to become the Global Program Director for the Cartier Women’s Initiative?
I’ve always had a strong passion for women impact entrepreneurship. I spent the first 15 years of my career working in capital markets, and ending in a role in corporate innovation. I lived in the Silicon Valley and encountered many entrepreneurship solutions that I felt were very promising for social and environmental impact.
I noticed about 10 years ago that women’s participation in the entrepreneurship ecosystem was lacking due to barriers that they face, which really ignited my passion for women impact entrepreneurship. I moved to France 3 years ago and I was fortunate to learn that Cartier was also very passionate about this cause. I joined them as a program consultant initially and was later hired in-house as the Global Program Director.
In your own words, what is the Cartier Women’s Initiative mission and what does it aim to achieve?
We are working towards a world in which women impact entrepreneurs can realize their full potential through the provision of financial, human and social capital support.
The financing gap for women entrepreneurs is very well publicized. Many women start business plans, however it is very difficult for them to scale their businesses because of a lack of financial capital. Beyond our grant, we work with other capital providers in the ecosystem to build connections between fellows and investors.
Human capital involves education and training during the entrepreneurship and leadership journey. Entrepreneurs don’t always come from a business background and so we equip them with missing skill sets. We provide educational resources in collaboration with the INSEAD business school, which believes that businesses are an important force for good.
Women also need social capital for business success, and so we aim to help build connections and relationships with investors, corporates, companies and partners. The initiative has been around for 15 years and we now have a rich community of around 400 supporters volunteering as coaches and mentors. These are influential people that could be a potential resource and connection point for women entrepreneurs.
The most important and valuable feedback from women who have gone through the fellowship journey is that they learn a huge amount from their peers. It is often lonely being a women impact entrepreneur, either in geography or field, and so knowing there are others with the same mission is very powerful. People who apply to our program are often looking for financial and human capital, but the sense of sisterhood is often the most valuable takeaway.
What does a day in the life of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Global Program Director look like?
I want to mention first and foremost that I am juggling being the Global Program Director for the Cartier Women’s Initiative, new mom to a 16 month old baby and French student. Women are always working on more than their job, and the future of work needs to change so that we can live these multiple dimensions of our lives.
At Cartier, I split my time across the fellows, my team, and my colleagues. I dedicate time to supporting our fellows’ businesses, such as fundraising journeys and endorsements. Secondly, I collaborate with my team to create the maximum impact based on the resources that we have available. Because the cause is so important to us, we are able to attract a lot of people who want to support our work, both professionally as an employee, but also as a volunteer.
Thirdly, I spend a lot of time with my internal Cartier colleagues. There is a unique structure because I run the program within a corporate; many of my colleagues within Cartier are very engaged and inspired by our work, and so I find ways to work together from the corporate perspective.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is 15 years old today and we can imagine that you have seen great success stories over the years. In your opinion, what are the top Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that women impact entrepreneurs aim to achieve?
All of the SDGs are worked on by the fellows, which is incredible, and I feel that women really value social and environmental change issues. The top SDG goals are healthcare, education, decent work and economic growth and gender equality. It is important for women entrepreneurs to represent these areas and we are proud to support them in finding strong solutions to global issues through the program.
Could you tell me more about the impactful support that your program offers to its fellows?
From our first Impact Report, we found that the Cartier Women’s Initiative really helps fellows to discover a greater sense of belonging, community and connection, in addition to developing business skill sets.
The research also helped us to uncover additional areas for our work to grow in, since women still continue to face a lot of challenges around capital; while we provide them with a one-time financial grant, they are looking for more ways to unlock the financing gap. This is a key area that we will be focusing on in the future and so I was very happy to hear that you were able to secure many impact VCs who are interested in working with us.
Why is it important for you to empower women impact entrepreneurs around the world in achieving their business goals in light of current global issues?
During the pandemic, the top SDG goals of healthcare, education and decent work and economic growth were needed more than ever. There were many fellows in our program working on tools, products and services that will shape the future of work to be more women-friendly, for example, flexibility at work, greater diversity, equity and inclusion and lifelong learning. This aims to give women the option to start a new chapter of their career through re-education and re-skilling, which is particularly useful when they want to take on a new role after coming back to work from maternity leave.
Often, women entrepreneurs don’t apply for the program because they don’t think it’s them that we’re looking for, maybe because they don’t know if their business is big enough or if their impact is great enough. We all have doubts but don’t let them hold you back because you never know what opportunities and successes can come from programs like ours. We want to support women impact entrepreneurs and encourage them to apply!
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is coming to the Startup Nation for the very first time this year and we are very excited about our partnership. What excites you about Israeli entrepreneurship and what are you hoping to achieve with this historic first?
I was really surprised that we’ve never had an Israeli fellow since women-founded entrepreneurship is booming in the Israeli ecosystem. This year, we are very happy to partner with you and spread the program to women entrepreneurs in Israel. When I was in California, I had the chance to meet with Israeli women founders. I thought they were very savvy, had great entrepreneurial spirit and were really focused on impact entrepreneurship to make their communities a better place. I hope to visit Israel someday!
The Cartier Women’s Initiative has evolved through the years, building a strong community of inspiring female-driven impact entrepreneurs and providing leadership and business support to them. How do you see the program developing in the near future and helping even more female impact entrepreneurs?
Our community reunion enabled us to reunite around 200 fellows and supporters from past editions for the first time ever to ideate about the future of the initiative. There were two main bodies of ideas that came from our workshops: capital and community.
As a result, the initiative will focus on removing the financing gap in the next 3-5 years. Since we have grown to over 260 fellows and 400 supporters, it is important that we find ways to connect with each other on a deep level. We launched an additional community platform about a year ago to facilitate connections, but I think the magic really happens when people connect in person, and so we’re on a mission to create greater moments of community around the world.
If you are a women-owned and women-run business focusing on solving social and/or environmental challenges, applications are open for the 2023 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative until June 30: https://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com/awards
For any questions or support with your application, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org