For anyone, having meaningful friendships is a fundamental part of having a healthy life. Friendships are an important part of positive mental wellbeing, and it’s been shown that strong female communities empower women to feel better about themselves, expand their horizons, and become more successful in their careers.
Having strong female communities helps women to progress in their careers, deal with personal challenges and create lasting memories.
At the same time, though, making friends and strong connections in your twenties/thirties isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Often women struggle with finding time in their busy lives, have confidence problems, and can feel a little out of place. This is especially the case for career women and those who have relocated to a new city.
It’s an experience familiar to Anna Bilych, the young founder behind Les Amis. Anna, originally from Tartu Estonia, moved to Dublin (where she worked with PayPal), and experienced a new city under the rules of the covid-era lockdown, before moving to Barcelona. During her time moving between different cities, she discovered a common struggle amongst women: finding community and finding lasting, genuine friendships. So, she decided to do something about it.
In 2022, Anna founded Les Amis, a safe place for ambitious women to connect, support each other and make lasting friendships. Anna has, so far, built the startup from the roundup, first focusing on onboarding customers before taking on investment. Without a marketing budget, she leveraged the power of social media to promote the platform, with her short-form videos going viral. To learn more about Les Amis and Anna’s vision, we sat down with her.
What is Les Amis all about?
Les Amis is about friendship, mutual support and empowerment. Our goal is to provide a safe and supportive space for women to connect, share, and empower each other to achieve more.
What inspired you to start the community?
When I was working at PayPal, I had several executive-level women mentors, who always pushed me to achieve more. They also highlighted how important for their career was having a strong circle of women – the idea I truly took away. To pay back, I started to mentor girls at the beginning of their careers, which by now more than 300, and shared everything that I got to know from these powerful ladies.
I know how hard it is to build a career in the men’s world and I believe it’s my purpose to help other women. I saw how they need my support and then everything just clicked – I have a tech background and I know how important it is to build a women’s circle.
How do the community and marketplace work?
We provide a safe online space for women to connect and discuss topics, a private social network. Attached here is a marketplace with unique exclusive events – a physical offline extension to it. Women could try something new, learn a skill, and connect with each other through shared experiences: be it a craft or pottery class, wine tasting or horse riding. We onboard local event partners to provide their experiences through our platform. Besides, we work with hotels and restaurants that host events for our community.
We have a strong social media presence on Instagram and TikTok that gives us most of our organic traffic. And now about 1/3 of all new users come from referrals – so the word of mouth works very well for us.
Finding friends for someone in their twenties/thirties is noticeably difficult. but we don’t talk about it! Why do you think it’s (a) tough to find friends when you’re older and (b) not really spoken about?
When you are young you usually meet your friends at school or university where there are so many people of the same age and a lot of time at hand to spend. As you grow older and immerse yourself into work and life duties, your time to socialise becomes more limited. And we also set so many criteria for what you are looking for in a potential friend. What’s more, is your opportunities to socialise also shrink – so most of us end up hanging out with colleagues. COVID and remote work made the process of making friendships even more complicated because everyone is working from home and we don’t interact IRL.
Loneliness is one of the biggest unspoken human problems of the 21st century. Lack of social connections – loneliness – is a much bigger problem than it seems, and it leads to all imaginable mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Moreover, it affects younger generations the most. Take the UK as an example: 25% of Gen Z and Millennials answer that they feel lonely most of the time. This compares to only 7% among people older than 55 yo. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a social stigma around loneliness. People don’t want to admit they have a ‘friend problem’, as if it’s something looked down upon, not ‘cool’. Thankfully there is a reversing trend now, with companies like Les Amis starting to appear and educate, and even some governments establishing programs to fight it. Did you know that the UK has even the role of ‘Minister of Loneliness’? Check it out!
What is the benefit of having a strong female community?
Sometimes only other women understand what it’s like to be a woman in the world. For spiritual connection, a sense of belonging, and support in these circumstances, women progressively turn to form supportive women’s circles. While having a close-knit group of trustworthy friends is essential for everyone’s wellbeing, women, in particular, get more support and encouragement from their female circle. Much research has been conducted on female friendships’ emotional support and stabilizing power.
An influential study published in 2000 by Shelly E. Taylor, Ph.D. and a distinguished professor in the department of psychology at UCLA, found out that females were more likely to deal with stress by “tending and befriending” — that is, nurturing those around them and reaching out to others.
Being connected to other women will not only make you cope with stress better, but also achieve more. Another study conducted by the Kellogg School of Management revealed that women who have a strong inner circle of female friends with whom they can exchange career advice are almost three times more likely to land better jobs than women without such a network. In fact, 77% of the study’s highest-achieving women had close relationships with two to three other women.
Additional findings revealed by the authors explain that “the gender composition of [women] network significantly predicts their job placement level”. An anticipated job placement level of women with a female-dominated circle was 2.5 levels higher than women with a male-dominated one. Interestingly, the study revealed that the composition of men’s networks didn’t matter for job placement.
Women have a lot of pressure to cope with in the modern world. How does Les Amis help women navigate modern life?
Les Amis helps women navigate modern life by providing support, resources, and a sense of belonging. There are 3 main ways how we do it:
- Emotional support: Women can face a lot of pressure to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities in modern life, and the community can offer a supportive environment where women can share their experiences, feelings, and challenges. This can help women to feel less isolated and more empowered to cope with the demands of modern life.
- Knowledge sharing: Les Amis women share knowledge and resources related to various aspects of modern life, such as career development, health and wellness. This help women to access valuable information and advice that can help them navigate these areas of life more effectively.
- Networking opportunities: in the app and during the IRL events our members build professional and social networks, which can provide opportunities for career advancement, skill development, and social connection. This help women expand their horizons and access new opportunities.
How can a social community like Les Amis help empower women?
Building social circle: Women can build professional and social networks that provide opportunities for women to connect, share resources, and collaborate. These networks can help women to overcome barriers and achieve their goals.
Support and mentorship: at Les Amis, we have a Reddit social feature where you can always ask for advice from other women in a private trusted space. Also, we host consistent Mastermind sessions through our platform to help young ambitious women to achieve more and tackle the problems that they have.
Besides, having a strong female helps you find a trusted space where you could discuss some of the doubts related to self-worth and capacity, and find external support and ‘second opinion’ on any situation. Masterminds and expert discussions that Les Amis provides is an excellent instruments to inspire and facilitate such discussions.
What’s the long-term plan?
Our vision isn’t limited to only connection and community. Our goal is to enable young ambitious women to achieve more in their life. That’s why we want to address many other problems, such as financial literacy, career, mental health and education. We are creating a vertically integrated platform for our target audience, a women’s super app.
For anyone hesitant to sign up for something like Les Amis – what would you say to convince them?
If someone is hesitant to sign up for a women’s community, I would encourage them to consider the many benefits that these communities can offer: new friendships, mutual support and professional development while exploring new hobbies and passions. Besides, you can always book a trial experience to check the community before committing to becoming a member!