Redefining Success: A Conversation with Entrepreneur and Investor Zoey Dash McKenzie

Zoey Dash McKenzie

Former beauty queen and model turned entrepreneur and investor

In our recent interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with Zoey Dash McKenzie, a former beauty queen and model who has successfully transitioned into an accomplished entrepreneur and investor. Zoey opened up about her personal journey and the various initiatives she has backed to expedite the commercialization of innovative mental health products. She emphasized the significance of female leadership in the tech industry and offered valuable strategies for promoting the advancement of women in technology. Additionally, Zoey candidly discussed the challenges women face in the business world and concluded with insightful recommendations for aspiring female entrepreneurs.

Zoey Dash McKenzie is a former model turned entrepreneur and investor. After launching a high-growth communication SaaS platform, she has leveraged her experience in the tech sector to actively mentor first-time founders and invest in transformative early-stage startups. Her achievements and accolades include being a nominee for the 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 award in consumer technology. Today, she is an emerging Venture Capital fund manager who advocates for policy change that could unlock trillions of dollars for Healthcare and CleanTech innovation

How has your experience been as an emerging Venture Capital fund manager, a leader in the tech and entrepreneurial worlds, and a supporter of legislative change that might free up trillions of dollars for CleanTech and Healthcare innovation?

My experience as an emerging Venture Capital fund manager has been gratifying. I’m fortunate to have had several well-established fund managers graciously extend their knowledge and networks to support my professional development. Navigating Canada’s dynamic tech and entrepreneurial landscapes has also allowed me to connect with brilliant innovators who are on track to facilitate meaningful change.

In addition to my work as an investor, I’ve taken the joy and vigour of entrepreneurial problem-solving to the political arena. For me, it’s all about being an engaged citizen and leveraging my skills and lived experiences for the greater good of humanity. Ultimately, entrepreneurs and the venture community can make a real impact on government decision-making. I believe diversity of thought will help policymakers respond to a rapidly changing world in a dynamic and future-forward way. As the author of a fiscal policy memo meant to spur scientific innovation, supporting legislative reform could unlock trillions of dollars for early-stage CleanTech and Healthcare startups. This is an essential aspect of my work and something close to my heart, as I believe these sectors can dramatically improve the world we live in.

Which different initiatives have you supported to accelerate the commercialization of cutting-edge mental health products?

I’ve supported several initiatives regarding mental health product commercialization, including introducing doctors, scientists and engineers to the tech community who have become venture-backed founders. I also sit on the Campaign Cabinet for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation, where we have launched the world’s most extensive fundraising campaign for hospital-based mental health research. To raise $500 million (over $400 million already raised), the “No One Left Behind” campaign supports life-saving mental health research programs at CAMH and building a new CAMH Research & Discovery Centre. Additionally, I’ve been involved in initiatives that foster collaborations between academic institutions and industry partners, helping to bridge the gap between research and real-world applications. I also advocate for policy changes that reduce barriers for mental health-focused startups to accelerate funding opportunities and streamline approval processes for new products and treatments.

Why do you think it is important to have female leaders in the tech industry? What are some effective strategies for the advancement of women in technology?

Female representation in the tech industry ensures diverse perspectives and fosters innovation. Having women in leadership contributes to more inclusive workplaces and helps challenge traditional biases. Some strategies for advancing women in technology include mentorship programs, building supportive networks, and promoting diversity initiatives within organizations. Offering flexible work arrangements and implementing unbiased recruitment and promotion processes can contribute to greater gender diversity in the tech sector. In addition, it’s essential to fund more female entrepreneurs as this can create significant positive shifts in terms of workplace cultures and diversity, equity and inclusion priorities.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that women in business face? What are the possible approaches for getting beyond those obstacles?

While women in business have made impressive strides across Canada, they still have significant hurdles. Some challenges they face are navigating unconscious biases, balancing work and personal life, and having limited access to networks, funding, and resources.

Despite efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, provide mentorship, and support professional development, these measures alone are insufficient to address the existing systemic barriers. We must continue tackling these issues head-on and working towards a more equitable and inclusive environment for women.

We may need to take targeted action to achieve this, such as enforcing more flexible work arrangements and developing specific hiring practices. In addition, we may also need to extend our support to the entrepreneurial community by allocating deeper pools of dedicated government funding and building measures to incentivize early investors to back women-led companies. By addressing these challenges as an industry and through government collaboration, we can create an environment for women in business to thrive and achieve their full potential.

What specific recommendations do you have for female entrepreneurs who want to succeed in the field?

It’s a given that female entrepreneurs often face more challenges and obstacles than their male counterparts. That’s why building resilience is crucial to push through the inevitable obstacles.

One powerful way to do this is to celebrate small wins throughout the day. Even completing a small task or receiving positive feedback can help boost confidence and keep you motivated. This exercise has been completely transformative for me as a woman of colour. It has helped me combat the mental toll of facing barriers and pushback in the workforce.

Overall, celebrating small wins is an actionable and powerful tool for women to stay grounded, maintain a positive mindset, and build the long-term stamina required to overcome the barriers and biases they face as they work to achieve their goals.

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