Waikato woman Cheryl Reynolds is one of only nine Kiwis who have been accepted in to the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF), alongside 30 others from around the world.
The EHF is a three-year fellowship that brings together a community of visionary entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams to create positive global impact from New Zealand by helping them bring their purpose-driven ventures to life.
“It is very much focused on challenging the status quo, building new paradigms, solving pressing global problems, and impacting the course of humanity,” Cheryl said.
“New Zealand is a country where you can incubate ideas and then launch them to the global stage.”
She feels incredibly honoured to become an Edmund Hillary Fellow, and says the timing of the fellowship could not be more perfect as she begins the journey for her next entrepreneurial venture.
Sheryl currently has 11 successful ventures under her belt and has 15 years’ experience in the New Zealand’s start-up scene. Her entrepreneurial journey began in her twenties with her first project – Focal Point Gallery, a highly energised contemporary public art gallery, which is thriving to this day in the United Kingdom where she grew up.
After several successful ventures in the UK including a number of social enterprises, Cheryl moved to New Zealand in 2003. She calls Waikato home and says living in Raglan is her “paradise on earth”.
Cheryl has since established herself as a leading entrepreneur, founding SODA Inc as an entrepreneurship hub and award-winning start-up business incubator programme.
From SODA Inc, she also co-founded Innes48, named after the pioneering 1900s Waikato entrepreneur, Mary Jane Innes. Innes48 is a 48-hour high energy start-up competition, which is the largest event of its kind in New Zealand with $15,000 in prize money up for grabs.
More recently, Cheryl founded Momentum Waikato, a philanthropic foundation that pools donor funds and distributes grants strategically to projects that can achieve transformational intergenerational change in Waikato. Momentum’s projects include the Waikato Regional Theatre, and the three social enterprise projects selected to share the Foundation’s first $1million distribution through the Vital Impact Programme.
During her time at Momentum Waikato, Sheryl began participating in the Community and Enterprise Leadership Foundation (CELF) programme, which brings together businesses and community not-for-profit organisations to increase the leadership capital of the Waikato region.
“CELF is a wonderful programme, and I am very grateful to my sponsor, Foster Construction, forits support. The co-founders of CELF, David Irvine, Bernie Crosby and John Cook, have designed a truly brilliant model that matches for-purpose with for-profit leaders who go on a shared learning journey together. I’ve never seen anything like it in the world, it’s unique and it’s brilliant that it’s happening here in Waikato,” Cheryl said.
She says being a part of the 2018 CELF Elevate programme has been a “personal revolution” due to learning about her own strengths through the Gallup strengths finder tool.
“I’ve spent my career looking outwards at problems, solutions, and impacts, but I’ve never really looked at myself inwardly, except when looking at my own weaknesses,” Cheryl said.
“What the strength finder tool enabled me to do in a way that I’ve never understood before, was to focus on my strengths, and the strengths of others, and how to leverage and optimise them.”
It is something that resonated with her, so much so that she introduced this learning technique to her former team before leaving Momentum Waikato, as well as speaking about it at a recent workshop.
“If you know your top strengths, you can work with and amplify them, but if you don’t know them then you’re likely to be stumbling around in the dark in many ways, because you’re unaware of what your full potential is.
“And because we’re all humble leaders, we don’t really look at ourselves other than to look at our own weaknesses. We pay far too much attention to those, whereas we really should focus more on our strengths.”
Cheryl left Momentum Waikato in December 2017, to begin start-up venture number 12, which will combine her love of creativity, strategic philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.
Her aim is to build a new philanthropic foundation as a creative social enterprise that generates smart capital and makes it easy and rewarding for people to contribute to building a better world. She is currently in development mode and is looking for potential co-founders and digital platform partners for her new venture.
Cheryl is eager to commence the Edmund Hilary Fellowship programme in April and is looking forward to meeting the other Fellows to collaborate, listen and learn from all their diverse experiences.
The Fellowship is for life, and after three years, current fellows will mentor new fellows into the future.
“I’m so excited, and so in awe of the other people that have been selected for the fellowship, and I look forward to getting together to create and co-collaborate with them,” she said.