An Interview with Monica Lofstrom, Founder of eLLe Foundation.
After two decades in the tech industry, Monica Lofstrom founded the eLLe Foundation in 2016 with the vision to create an approachable platform specifically designed to lift women’s voices. Since then, she has profiled a diverse group of women artists and entrepreneurs and has interviewed hundreds of women from more than 15 countries. Her goal is to make them feel “heard, seen, and supported.”
fyi50+ wanted to know more about the woman behind the foundation.
fyi50+: What inspired you to start eLLe?
Monica Lofstrom: My passion has always been to share [women’s] stories as a girlfriend-to-girlfriend experience, so we’re more approachable. I didn’t really see that out there before starting eLLe. There’s a lot of publications out there, a lot of lifestyle brands, and that’s amazing. We need those. But when I really did my research for two or three years, I found there wasn’t a platform out there that was transparent and authentic for other women.
fyi50+: Considering your background in tech, did you mainly start out interviewing women in that world? Were there specific characteristics you had in mind?
ML: I knew I didn’t want these interviews to meet any typical criteria. I wanted to break all those barriers. I started just reaching out within my community. I got this incredible board of directors. It’s very grassroots. There are no investors, there’s no stakeholders. I knew that my formulation for what I wanted was very outside of the box, outside thinking. And when I looked into digital publications, I kept seeing the same format and structure. I knew I didn’t want to do that.
eLLe is the gamut. We have women who have started three companies and we have women who are still, because of the pandemic or other extenuating circumstances, trying to get their company off the ground. I’m willing to share those stories because these are everyday women behind the scenes doing amazing work no one’s shining on.
fyi50+: What have you learned from interviewing so many women over the past four years?
ML: My vision originally came from a space of still seeing colleagues and old friends meeting the challenges of being an entrepreneur, or still working in corporate America or tech, and still really not feeling supported. What I noticed from interviewing those first 100 women were three recurring challenges. One, they felt incredibly alone through their journey, even when they felt their company was off the ground and they’d made it to the top. Second, they didn’t feel fully seen. Third, they didn’t feel heard. I kept doing research, looking at other organizations, publications, magazines, and forums for women, and there really wasn’t a place I saw, especially from being a woman in that space, that you could feel supported, heard, and seen.
fyi50+: How do you find the women you interview? What’s your general process like?
ML: I just kind of went behind the scenes and started contacting women through email. And I would say, ‘I love what you’re doing. I see what you’re doing.’ I knew there was probably an incredible story there and really that’s how it worked. There’s no strategic marketing behind it whatsoever. I feel very adamant that, whether there are two women’s stories or 200,000 women’s stories, it is all their perspective and their voice, not me leading the story to what I think it should look like for other people. The only strategy behind it is me connecting one-on-one with these women. I have grown this from one conversation at a time.
fyi50+: Has there been anyone you’ve interviewed recently that has really particularly inspired you?
ML: Yes, absolutely. A young woman I interviewed, Ally Pruitt, overcame a lot of adversity to become a lawyer. She started a foundation called the Impact Project with two other lawyers to not only inspire high school students to go into law, but also to let them know that it’s not impossible to become a lawyer just because their father or grandfather isn’t or wasn’t one. I don’t think I realized how biased law school is towards people in families with generations of lawyers behind them.
I found it very tenacious of Ally to say, ‘Wow, everything was incredibly difficult for me.’ People kept telling her if she didn’t follow these certain steps, she would never become a lawyer. She presented it in a way of, ‘This is what I want and I’m going to go after it.’ And she’s so young. I saw a lot of myself in her: The drive and to not give up. And that’s what I hear all the time from these women.
fyi50+: What are your short-term goals for eLLe?
ML: My number one goal for this coming year, 2022, is instead of me telling the stories and being the voice, is to have the women in the community be 100% the voice of the digital publication. That is my number one focus.
If I can inspire one woman from anywhere on this beautiful planet who is about to give up, who is just tears at her desk because her company isn’t where she thought it should be, or she can’t get it off the ground, or she can’t get investors — if one of our stories is relatable to her and can inspire her to keep going, then I have done my job.
I always knew, whatever I created for women would not be my voice. It would be their voice.
You can learn more about the eLLe Foundation at its website and Instagram, both of which Monica runs. She continues to interview women while further developing an efficient platform to showcase their work. Follow the eLLe Foundation to keep up!