Fresh from winning AU$150,000 from a global impact entrepreneurship program that involved a trip to Paris to accept an award from Amal Clooney, Australian startup Teach Well gives Startup Daily a lesson in determination and purpose.
“We’ve been working in a really sustained, committed way on a deeply intractable problem,” says Ingrid Sealey, the founder and director of education startup Teach Well.
In 2019, the Perth-based entrepreneur launched Teach Well hoping to provide meaningful lifelong learning opportunities for teachers and school leaders looking to improve their student outcomes.
Since then, more than 2000 teachers and school leaders, from kindergarten to year 12 and across Australia, have been impacted by the programs, with 83 per cent of participants reporting a lift in student academic progress as a result of Teach Well’s Masterclass Series.
“The teachers and leaders that we’ve worked with have made incredible progress in closing the equity gap,” she says. “So for a very complex problem that’s difficult to make headway, we’ve made incredible gains in this space.”
The seed of the idea came a decade ago when Ingrid worked for a not-for-profit program to support school leaders in disadvantaged communities in Western Australia.
“What we found was that there were a small number of schools that were making great gains and the vast majority of schools weren’t. It wasn’t for lack of effort or commitment or care. It was just very difficult to find educational interventions that really made a difference,” she says. “What became clear, once we looked at the research… was that it’s going to have to be something to do with classroom teaching that shifts students forward.”
Teach Well and the Cartier Women’s Initiative
Flash forward to May 10, 2023, when Ingrid was one of 32 women impact entrepreneurs from around the world being recognised at the 16th annual Cartier Women’s Initiative awards ceremony at the Salle Pleyel concert hall in Paris.
After addresses from British barrister and human rights activist Amal Clooney and the CEO and President of Cartier International, Cyrille Vigneron, Ingrid was named the winner of the Cartier Women’s Initiative for the Oceania region and given AU$150,000 in grant funding.
“It was a pretty surreal experience,” Ingrid tells Startup Daily. “I don’t think I’ll ever have anything quite like that in my life again.”
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is an annual international entrepreneurship program with the goal of providing financial, social and human capital support to women-owned businesses making a social or environmental impact. The program selects winners for each region, with Australia and New Zealand falling in the Oceania category. Three winners are selected for Oceania, with one taking out the top prize.
As applications open for the 2024 Cartier Women’s Initiative, Ingrid tells us why she applied.
“My experience is that awards and programs that have been around for a while get really good at working out what makes a meaningful difference for the people they’re trying to support,” Ingrid says.
“So there’s work to be done as you apply for them and you work through the different selection stages. [The Cartier Women’s Initiative] looked like an award where that process would actually be meaningful to us. So they would ask me the kind of questions that would give me reasons to stand back and think about the bigger picture. Those opportunities are few and far between when you’re so operational and you’re just trying to scale things quickly.”
Ingrid, who previously worked in strategy for The Boston Consulting Group and founded leadership program Fogarty EDvance, found the selection process particularly useful. “I started working on an application this time last year and that’s because during the different application and due diligence phases, we got a lot of feedback so that was great,” she says. “I got a lot out of the process even before we got to January.”
From January, the 32 chosen fellows were given tailored mentoring and coaching by industry leaders, investors and entrepreneurs. Finding media and communications “scary and intimidating”, Ingrid says coaching in those areas have been game-changing for her personally.
“That’s a wonderful personal investment and for our organisation to lean into a space that I might have avoided,” Ingrid says. “It’s given me great confidence in that space.”
Solving problems with a global community
The program culminated in an executive impact leadership program in Paris run by one of the world’s leading graduate business schools, INSEAD.
“It’s been absolutely fascinating to unpick entrepreneurship with some real-life case studies from what’s happening in some of the most exciting spaces right now in the world,” Ingrid says. “That’s the amazing thing about this global community.”
A major benefit of the program has been spending time with other women entrepreneurs driving positive change in areas like climate and health. “Being able to discuss what it means to balance impact and viability with other people who navigate these same challenges in different ways with different weightings to profitability versus impact, I think is very important,” Ingrid points out.
There’s also still a glass ceiling for women impact entrepreneurs to crack. “In society there’s still an expectation that women will be more compassionate, that they will be more societally minded, that they will pay more attention to any negative externalities of the work that they do, and that they should just do that for free,” Ingrid elaborates.
“I’m very grateful that I get 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 be able to participate in a world where you may lead with compassion, where you don’t just have to optimise for commercial or profitability reasons, that actually you can take moments in your career to work for impact on something that you are passionate about that can make a difference.”
This ties into the barriers to investment in women’s startups as well. In 2022, only three per cent of venture capital went to all-women founded startups. “We’re often undervalued, it’s harder for us to raise capital,” Ingrid says.
Ingrid says the commitment from Cartier to helping women impact entrepreneurs succeed has come from an authentic place, from providing access to investors to time with Cartier’s own CEO.
“That stood out for me. [Cartier CEO] Cyrille took a lot of time to spend with us fellows, not just at public events where it would be forward facing,” she says. “I feel like this is something that is held quite dearly by Cartier from top to bottom. I think that means something to us as fellows who are also managing impact and viability.”
While Western Australia may be Ingrid’s base, Teach Well’s impact is deepening in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Her goals are to scale that impact among east coast schools and complex communities, and share more learnings with the international community.
For anyone thinking of applying for the 2024 Cartier Women’s Initiative, Ingrid has a clear message. “Even if we hadn’t made it to the end and become a finalist, it was already meaningful to us as an organisation,” she says. “It’s worth investing in.”
Are you a female entrepreneur in Australia and New Zealand with an impact business? Apply for the 2024 Cartier Women’s Initiative here.
This article is brought to you by Startup Daily in partnership with Cartier Women’s Initiative.