Sonya Barlow Like Minded Females

Another savvy female has come through the Twenty Mile Club doors and we couldn’t be more excited to intro her to you. Meet Sonya Barlow, co founder of Like Minded Females. Otherwise known as LMF, has created a community which empowers, connects and celebrates females;  amazing ordinary females who are wanting a sense of community online and offline. Sonya has was shortlisted for UK Tech Business Women of the year sponsored by PWC 18 for the online community that her and her team have built and has even hosted a TED talk on ’empowerment’. It hasn’t been without its struggles though…

Name: Sonya Barlow

Age at time of interview: 26 years young!

Where’s home? London

Profession: CoFounder, Like Minded Females

Company Name: Like Minded Females

After university was it a clear cut path as to what you wanted to do?

 No, like many I fell into one of the first jobs which was offered. My day job brought me into the world of tech (which I do love). Though, what was clear was that there was a lack of community, confidence and connection. This was the basis of Like Minded Females.

What is LMF and when did you launch?

Like Minded Females (LMF) was created over night (literally) May 18 by Jui Joshi and I. Long story short, we were in a back of the cab coming back from a “community” initiative that was charging us £1,500 a year to meet those “like minded people” and we thought sod it, we can create a community which is free, accessible and with women like us. And so we did, over night I made a Linkedin and Brunch; and it worked. And we’ve kind of been on a roll since. The basis was simple : to create a community which empowers, connects and celebrates females;  amazing ordinary females who are wanting a sense of community online and offline.

How did you know where to start?

 We didn’t, we just knew we had to. Having been off social media for 4 years due to it really bothering my mental health, the only social platform I used was Linkedin. I used this for the basis of creating our community group and eventbrite to launch the first event. And there’s no other way to say this, but we were just winging it and improvising as we went along (strategically, of course)!

What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for LMF?

There were tons of challenges; time management, ownership and consistently being available. There was a period when we weren’t getting any interaction and the most amount of people who’d show up to an event were 4 and 3 of them being friends we’d personally invited! It was those moments that made me question “why are we even doing this”. Jui is a champ and already owns several start ups along side her day job so she really motivated me through the harder moments. Another challenge was focus and setting clear values, as the energy and impulse often got the best of me and I wanted to do everything! Luckily, that’s why having Jui around was amazing as she’s much calmer and encourages a “lets sleep on it” mentality.

You currently juggle both LMF and a full time job. How do you split your time?

Honestly, LMF is now our business and my first baby. So, the time isn’t really split in a routine way; it’s more when I get a moment free from my full time job that I go back to answering emails, posting content and liaising with potential companies for collaborations. I haven’t had any time off since summer 18, including the weekends as we often have events – though, I just want to stress that it’s my choice and I believe in the idea, so the investment of my time and effort is worth it.

How many people are in the LMF team?

There’s 4 core members of the team who lead our 3 main branches; LMF Core; Creative and Tech.

How many members are subscribed to LMF and how did they first come across you?

Within the first 6 months we have engaged with over 4,000 people online and offline; with 3,000 actually following us through our social channels. In the first instance, our members were our networks as we sent a broadcast style message and since, they’ve organically grown through word of mouth; social channels and our work with global corporates such as The BBC, Royal Mail and PWC. In the first 12 months, we forecast to have 5,000 following on social channels and reach to around 12,000.

What can members/subscribers expect to see/have following you?

Empowering and celebratory messages. Something which is VERY important to us is that we want to provide content that will uplift, educate and empower others as they scroll through the feed. Members can also expect fun informal events, cool initiatives globally and a honest form of community online and offline.

Why are females especially important to you?

FEMALES ARE EVERYTHING. As females, we believe that we are stronger together. We are over this whole 1 seat at the table nonsense and the fact that we have been socialised to believe that we must be competitors- for us, females are collaborators. This community was set up to provide connections for others, as much as it was to provide strength in being ourselves. Both Jui and I felt that we weren’t around good female energy and that’s exactly what we needed in order to strive.

As females, we need to be the role models for each other and for those younger than us. And we need to live, breath and create these ‘networks’ that have been clearly working their magic and helping the men to succeed. Note : we aren’t a feminist nazi group who hate men, we are a group who wants males and females to be a part of the conversation and truly empower each other (30% of our engaged audience are men and welcome to all events)!

You run a lot of events with LMF. What kind of events could readers expect you to put on?

We run the kinds of events readers want : Our 1st birthday party in May (watch the instagram for invites); a film festival in June; a half day self love event in August and loads of fun collaborations with cool communities, such as 20MC. As well as, webinars, podcasts and a retreat with our sister network for end of this year/start of 2019 in Europe!

What is the hardest thing about running a community based platform?

 2 things that can be challenging are : 1) making sure your brand values are consistent and 2) balancing the interaction community initiatives offline vs online..

What advice would you give someone looking to build something around community? Know your values and use them to guide your messages, initiatives and opportunities.

Naturally with any startup there are hiccups. What has been one that has stood out to you?

  1. The first few events we had minimal people showed up, most of them being friends. This put a real downer on our motivation and there was a moment I wanted to give up (thank God for Jui!).
  2. In addition to this, we had a rough experience with one community who we hosted an event with in the autumn; we were left at the end of the event with all the cleaning, tidying and closing; whilst she left as her friends were waiting –  the worst thing was when she then told a few online magazines that she hosted and organised the event herself and left us out. Believe me, this made me cry and I felt so sorry for myself and the team. Though, this taught us the importance of clarifying partnerships; delegating tasks accordingly and having things in writing.
  3. A few other startup hiccups we’ve experienced include small moments such as : writing the wrong location of the brunch venue (note: there are 2 duck & waffles and we didn’t specify which one); sending out forward emails without writing the correct names!

Tell us about the amazing time you hosted a TED Talk ?

I was asked to HOST a Ted talk at the University of Sussex due to my experience as a public speaker, confidence coach and most importantly as the founder of Like Minded Females. Like Minded Females is a community to empower; and the Ted Talk theme was empowerment. They wanted me to share my journey and story with the audience, as well as MC the show. I got to meet some of the most talented people I have met and was happy that 80% of the speakers were female; they got their platform and chance to shine!

What’s the best and worst thing about being an entrepreneur? Not having enough hours in the day to do everything & when people don’t take you seriously!

What’s been your best moment to date that you experienced with LMF? One of my best moments to date was being shortlisted for UK tech business women of the year sponsored by PWC 18 for the online community we’ve built and being the 1st runner up to Boohoo! Ah, and being on the BBC (more than once!)

What’s the dream? 

The dream is to take LMF full time; make sure we are truly helping females be the best versions of themselves and really drive global community. In a business sense, to help tackle some of the taboos we see; become an inclusive network that helps large organisations/communities/people to become more female friendly and provide opportunities based on skill set, not gender.

Just for fun…

In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…

money, how I am going to make a difference and where’s my next holiday.

3 startups with founders Under 30 I admire are…  

Whitney Wolfe – Bumble is genius

Anisah Britton – 23 code street – smashing it in tech and funnily enough we went to the same school!

Dami Olonisakin – Oloni – Who I recently had the pleasure of meeting and her forum is built on real female problems and issues we don’t discuss in the coloured community

The Twenty Mile Club is….

An opportunity to be yourself

To find out more about LMF head to their website here W

Instagram: @LMF_NETWORK

Twitter: @LMF_NETWORK

Find them on Linkedin here