You will never be the only one, so what’s your USP? — The key learnings (and failures) of 2019

sonya barlow
4 min readDec 31, 2019

2019 has been a roller coaster of a year — with unexpected twists, “wow I can’t believe that happened” moments and so many “failures”.

Like Minded Females (LMF) have grown to a 9,000+ strong social community, met 800+ of you offline and hosted 20+ interactive events. Personally, I have delivered two TED talks, facilitated 15+ corporate workshops and been recgonised as one of Pitch Fanzine’s 100 superwomen.

Yet, the highs do not come without the lows. So, I share the year’s key learnings to shine a light on the journey thus far.

Most people I have spoken to have found this year to be defining — of character, status or mindset.

Thank you in advance for the spark, stories and sisterhood!

1. You will never be the only one, so what’s your USP? -

This year, Like Minded Females gained momentum and stormed forward.

After 12 months of hustle, 11 curated events inc. our 1st Film Fest & 1st Birthday — we found ourselves comparing. Comparing to other brands, networks and individuals who were trying to empower and educate, as were we. Worst yet, the time we spent comparing misplaced our focus and this led us to being copied. Our wording, (generic) mission and values were being shared — under a different name, brand and colour palette.

They say that imitation is flattery. But the realisation that you will never be the only brand, network or company in the world -brings forth the question — What makes you different?

I know it’s silly to say, but we hadn’t given it much thought — we were riding the wave.

What can you do?

  • Define your vision, mission and values
  • Create a long term business plan defined by achievable quarterly goals
  • Narrow down to 3 core offerings in specific industries/areas rather than being a jack of all trades (aka. USP)

2. Burnout happens to even the best of us (and especially those who deny they’re stressed) -

In September 2019 I burnt out — something I often don’t discuss.

As a result, I had to step away to make some “adult” decisions on priorities, future and work.

Ironically, it was around the same period we launched our mental health & wellness series with Taboola. We curated workshops themed “overcoming negative thoughts” and “balance vs burnout”.

As a woman in technology, I often shy away from talking about health, especially mental health, because often the comments are

“What do you have to be stressed about?”;

“You don’t have kids, so you are free!”;

“But you look fine”.

Mental health concerns 1 in 4 of us, often induced by the working environment and life’s stresses.

What can you do?

  • Plan/take sick days or annual leave when your brain doesn’t feel well, not just your body
  • Check in on those around you; friends, family, colleagues etc
  • Educate your community (and yourself) on how to create inclusive & safe spaces. E.g becoming more vigilant of the signs, learning mental health first aid and practicing softer skills such as empathy

3. Connecting doesn’t need to be complicated -

Connecting seemed to be a 2019 buzzword.

Everyone was seeking connections offline and online. A connection with others who shared similar values, ideas or journeys. Despite the want, I often saw individuals shy away from conversation and lose their confidence (myself included).

What once seemed so simple now felt complicated.

So, how does one connect?

There isn’t a rule book — it’s a skill you’re expected to know. But, the majority do not find comfort in starting conversations, let alone sending a friend request.

In order to overcome this hurdle,

I created the 3–2–1 rule — A step by step guide to simplify connecting

What can you do?

  • Start conversations with 3 people. Openers include: “what is the main reason for attending this event/joining this community?”, “what are you working on this month?” to “how can I help you?”.
  • Connect with 2 people online. Linkedin is always recommended to keep things professional.
  • Grab a coffee (or tea) offline with 1 person per month.

This enables one to meet at least 36 new people, gain 24 new connections and have deep thought provoking conversations with 12 — at least.

2019 has been a blessing in disguise -

I started this year as a keen-ready-to-learn employed technology consultant and am ending it as a self employed Founder of a Diversity & Inclusion company.

I cited the notion of failure in the introduction — it’s through these same failures (in work, life and relationships) that I share -

Failure is a social construct and should be considered as a temporary disruptor. Regarded not with sadness, but as an enabler; facilitating you to adapt to a new course; determine priorities and redefine success.

Here’s to starting the new year on a high*

Like Minded Females Linkedin, Instagram, Website, Youtube

Sonya Barlow is changing the narrative of inclusion through life skill workshops, community building and corporate training. She is the founder of Like Minded Females, a TEDxSpeaker and Technology leader. For more information, please email hello@sonyabarlow.co.uk

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sonya barlow

Award Winning Entrepreneur, Author & Traveller, BBC Radio Presenter. sonyabarlowuk