LMF Network — The past, present and future. Welcome to our evolution

LMF Network — The past, present and future.

Where we started

It was a dreary winter of 2018 filled with big ambitions. As spring approached and the new leaves grew, so did my need for community, confidence and conversations about work and life.

London’s business landscape was vast but vague, and the technology ecosystem was confined. I had no social presence, little understanding of the world as a still recent graduate and a hunger to learn, share and listen.

Like Minded Females was founded on that May on nothing more than a Linkedin closed group and an Eventbrite brunch in London Bridge. That day I woke with a spring in my step, ready to meet my new friends, only to be stood up not by 1 but by 12 people. I remember tears, tea and ice cream. I then realised how lonely I had felt and wanted to keep on going because without this, and I was just another number at the office.

What started as a love story unfolded like one. And we are three years in, with thousands impacted and a drive to do even more, even better in the future.

The 1st LMF Event with attendees in 2018

What have we done since 2018?

Since launching as a club of some kind, we have evolved from brunch to building confidence, from events to e-learning and from conversations to forming communities globally.

Without intending to, we have:

  • Hosted over 150 events worldwide, online and offline, including the UK, Canada and Malaysia
  • Upskilled 15,000 people
  • Created 900+ mentoring relationships with a 98% success rate
  • Delivered six research reports which have been published in books, articles and blogs
  • Worked with 100+ partners
  • Grown to an organic following of 50,000+ across social media channels, despite our Instagram being blocked once and our website domain hacked
  • Provided 10,000s access to friendships, opportunities, conversations and careers
  • Empowered the voices of many through our community-led blog, with 80+ blogs published
  • Launched a university society in Canada
  • Won multiple awards and was nominated for many more
  • Been the centre of a book (Unprepared to Entrepreneur) and a case study for an academic textbook
  • Featured in the press and media campaigns
  • Approached by LinkedIn as a change-making organisation
Our 1st yoga in the park event, 2018

In 2021, we:

  • Hosted weekly coffee meets for our community members around the world
  • Developed three research papers, with the mentoring report being revised for 2022
  • Had 700+ participants in our mentoring programmes (600 in our 6-month scheme and 100 at our special edition Women in Tech)
  • Grew our LinkedIn community to almost 12,000
  • Published 70 blogs to open conversations around career, mentoring and gender equality
  • LMF Queens Society grew and changed its student leaders
  • Partnered with 10 great organisations to upskill our community
2021 — Our in-person event with The Allbright

What have we learnt?

I am very proud of who we are and what we have become.

However — and the however is of great importance — we have had our fair share of obstacles and dilemmas. From limited funding to jumping on the online platform events wave in 2020, hosting over 24 events in April alone due to the fear of missing out.

We grew very fast, with little infrastructure and focused on creating impact and driving careers. But, we had not fully figured out what success looks like, and, at times, we were uncomfortable slowing down and asking difficult questions.

Our intention was always to take some time out to strategise, and yet we felt that no time was “right”. Well, it turns out that there will never be a “right” time.

In the last 3 years, much of our work has been funded by ourselves and provided for free, which supports our values of “accessibility” but has negatively impacted our growth and funding metrics. Not to mention the strain that this has put on the team.

Furthermore, in 2021 we confused our value of empowerment with enablement launching the most extensive UK based mentoring programme of 600+ people in 6 months. On the back end, we found the admin, coordination and responsibility tough as partial volunteers.

Outside of that, we have dreamt big but then mismatched our dreams with the execution of services. For example, our jobs board was our 2021 IWD service, only to realise that it’s not something we can sustain long-term, thus including it in our newsletter.

Our newsletters changed templates, as did our social media format purely due to boredom that we now have limited due to brand preservation.

We have made many mistakes, slight or significant, which have cost us months to fix — our movement into a charity being the greatest.

2021 — Unprepared to Entrepreneur book launch

What is the future of LMF?

Our execution of services will sit under three umbrellas terms: confidence, capability and careers — as the foundation of what we are creating and measuring moving forward.

For these reasons, starting in 2022, we will not place “free” value on any of our products or services — many being highly rated. Instead, we will introduce a “pay it forward” scheme where possible, alongside minimum donations of £5.

Each LMF umbrella will have the following initiatives:

1. Confidence: Social content (including blogs) & community forums (Slack and LinkedIn)

We will be hosting bi-weekly lives on our LinkedIn, which you can apply for, engaging in forums through LinkedIn and Slack and encouraging blog content by community members converted into social media content.

2. Capabilities: Life skills workshops, CV reviews, interview support & LinkedIn masterclasses

We will be hosting monthly life skills workshops designed and delivered by the team, community or partners.

We will also introduce three services — that many have asked for — led by professionals: CV reviews, interview support and LinkedIn profile masterclasses, all of which can be booked online.

A significant reason for this is that we know from our research (2021) that the top two reasons women feel they can’t enter or progress within the workspace are 1) lack of career knowledge regarding the requirement of skills and 2) lack of confidence.

3. Careers: Two Mentoring programmes for 3 months twice a year, with recognised partners

Our mentoring programme is best in class, with very few (if any) programmes able to match the impact, goals and results we can.

From the feedback from the three schemes we have delivered so far, we will reduce the programme from 6 months to 3 months, delivered twice a year: March-June and September-December.

We will also work with two exclusive partners per programme to design and deliver workshops, job opportunities and mentors.

Each programme will be limited to 100 places remotely and consider a nominal donation of £30 per person, which will help us to fund the technology software, programme manager and materials.

The amount we charge has come directly from the feedback provided by those who have participated in the programme.

2021 — Unprepared to Entrepreneur Book launch with LeWagon

LMF ambassadors

We will also be taking away the LMF Network focus on the team by introducing a new ambassador programme so that you can be a part of the more fantastic community from anywhere in the world.

The programme will start with 24 ambassadors globally in 2022, who will lead our monthly blogs, workshops, and Linkedin lives. They will also be part of the closed ambassador community meeting every quarter and invited to capability building events and other members-only initiatives.

Diversity and Inclusion

Sonya Barlow at RecFest 2021 keynote sonya barlow

Our diversity and inclusion services, programmes and workshops will be handled by Sonya Barlow under her brand and delivered by LaunchEDI, the world’s first operations and management software company for diversity and inclusion.

The team and societies

The team will be centralised in the UK by working 100% remotely, with LMF Toronto closing its separate doors and uniting its efforts under one giant umbrella.

We want to take this time to thank the LMF Toronto team for their hard work, support and belief though moving forward, and we believe that streamlining is the best way to create impact and drive change.

In Canada, we will carry on the LMF Queens Society and provide digital assets in the second half of 2022 so university students can apply to start their societies.

2021 — Unprepared to Entrepreneur with Georgina + Sana (LMF Ambassadors and volunteers)

Partnerships

With a social following of over 50,000 and a monthly reach of 100,000+ impressions, we will have to kindly reduce the number of partners we bring on board unless they can offer reasonable and fair compensation.

In the past, we have naively bitten into partnerships that sound great in name but required more work than their impact on our community and us.

If companies, businesses and organisations are serious about CSR, inclusivity and community engagement, it’s time they put budgets behind these initiatives and not just seel the tick-the-box exercise.

What does that mean for the LMF impact?

We will focus on enabling women at work to break the bias. Our efforts will be directly linked to our impact: of opportunity, skills, confidence and community.

  • We are excited to launch our new website alongside our more comprehensive LMF programme.
  • As a volunteer-led organisation, we will officially file for Charity status in January (a process that can take up to 6 months) and ask for donations for all initiatives.
  • We will prioritise our staff’s mental health and reduce digital anxiety by automating as many processes as possible, from signing up to become a speaker to applying for the mentoring programme. We will also limit our email responses to twice a week.
  • Our LMF ambassador programme will shine a light on our outstanding members whilst enabling them to build their brands to ensure equity. To take part in this, please do drop us an email at hello@lmfnetwork.com.
  • The 2022 LMF advisory board will be announced in February 2022; individuals who have supported us thus far are eager to cement the work LMF has been doing past, present and future.
  • All efforts will be placed upon our three mission terms: confidence, capability and careers, with the community being at the centre of all our decisions.
2021 — Unprepared to Entrepreneur LMF book launch with Le Wagon

2022: Enabling women at work to break the bias.

Our 2022 theme is “Breaking the Bias”, amplifying the international women’s day 2022 theme, which we will be doing through boundaries, breakthrough mentoring programmes and bridging the gap between charitable efforts and sustainable long-term growth. And our yearly focus will be “women at work; to educate, enable and empower women into and outside of the workplace through building their confidence, capabilities and careers

How can you support the LMF Network?

LMF 2018 — Our 1st workshop-style event
2021 — LMF in numbers from 2018

A massive thank you to the team, volunteers, community, believers and partners without whom, LMF would not have become the amazing network and community forum it is today. We are so grateful to have your continuous support and are humbled that despite our many obstacles, we have been able to achieve so much in so little. This is proof that teamwork really does make the dream work.

SONYA BARLOW IS AN AWARD-WINNING ENTREPRENEUR, FOUNDER OF @LMFNETWORK & LaunchEDI, TEDx SPEAKER, LINKEDIN CHANGEMAKER 2021, BBC RADIO HOST AND AUTHOR. IN 2021, SONYA PUBLISHED HER DEBUT HANDBOOK ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP, BUSINESS & BECOMING YOUR BOSS TITLED: UNPREPARED TO ENTREPRENEUR AND WAS ANNOUNCED AS THE HOST OF BBC ASIAN NETWORK’S THE EVERYDAY HUSTLE.

IN 2020, SHE WAS NAMED AS ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN TECH (COMPUTERWEEKLY), WINNER OF THE WOMEN IN SOFTWARE CHANGEMAKERS (MAKERS AND GOOGLE), TOP 50 BAME ENTREPRENEURS (TECHROUND), FUTURE SHAPER 2020 (MARIE CLAIRE), AND FORBES 30 UNDER 30 SHORTLIST RUNNER UP 2021. SHE HAS DELIVERED TWO TEDX TALKS AND IS ACKNOWLEDGED AS AN INTERNATIONAL KEYNOTE SPEAKER. SONYA HAS HAD HER ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN METRO NEWSPAPER, SIFTED EU, AND TELEGRAPH.