How to create a thriving, loving, and supportive community of women designers without any prior knowledge
My story of developing Jessica Walsh's Ladies, Wine & Design in Moscow

• 10 min read •
Why I decided to do it
In 2019, I realised that I was completely disconnected from the design community in Moscow. I graduated from British Design School a couple of years before that and honestly, I disliked everything about the way the community operated back then. All the meetings they had, and all the parties they held were filled with painful achievements and comparisons, aggression and toxicity.
I was a young designer and felt a distinct lack of support. But the only advice I got was that I should quit immediately and get a job that would be more appropriate for a woman. No tears allowed, no emotions, no self-respect. Deep inside I was thinking that this is not right and I was making cautious attempts to find someone who would help me develop and feel more at ease in the design industry. When you have support that is genuine, and not masked bullying.
One day I stumbled upon a girls' community, Ladies, Wine & Design, hosted by Alena Alekhina, and attended one of their meetings. After five hours of very relaxed and gentle talk about design and life, I was thrilled and thought that every person should experience such acceptance in their career and personal life. I was so excited that I finally found someone who respected my values and approach to life.
At first, I was planning to attend every meeting as a guest. I know my tendency to organise everything, and I didn’t want it to ruin the feeling of freedom that comes with being just a guest. But soon Alena decided to focus on her projects and sought someone to take over the leadership of LWD Moscow — trembling I wrote to her that I want to do it. The three weeks that led to it were filled with doubts and fears. I’d never done this before, no one knew my name, they all were much better than me, and I thought of course that I would definitely fail. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go and look at what happened!

My first LWD meeting as a guest
This is how my three-year journey in LWD Moscow started
To say the first months were hard is to say nothing. I got a legacy of 300 people on Instagram, 145 people on Facebook, and a relapse of impostor syndrome for dessert. Girls were apprehensive about joining a female-only community. Right before our first meeting with me being a chapter leader pandemic hit and we started our first lockdown. And on top of it, I had no idea what I was doing. I was no one and all alone.
And if you don’t know what to do, you do one simple thing: research, research, research.
After calls with people who agreed to help me, 50 books and courses about building communities, working with volunteers, and constant self-loathing I got the idea. I decided to start from scratch.
First steps
So I made a plan
Everything seems easy with a plan, right?
The first step — is to collect interviews with girls. What community they would want to be a part of? I faced rejections and misunderstandings, tricky questions about feminism that I didn’t know how to answer, and mocking as another woman who is trying to change the world through feminism. I wanted to quit a thousand times, I was tired and lost, but I didn’t because above all I truly believed that the idea of supporting and empowering each other was something needed by many people. And I was right.
I ended up with 20 in-depth interviews 2 hours each with potential members of the community from different social and working statuses. I wanted to make a place where experienced designers and juniors may find something interesting and share their knowledge and energy. After millions of Google tables, I first got an understanding of what women need: safety, acceptance, and joint activities.
Then it was time to write my first post on Instagram, it already wasn’t just me, my voice became the voice of the whole community of people that I wanted to represent.
I thought it would be very useful for people to read women’s stories, quotes, and what projects they do. I saw this platform as a sort of role model for women where they could find inspiration for their future through women in history, in the world, and around them. I also wanted to host useful and practical events and later include more relaxed ones, where girls can share experiences, ask questions without judgment, and try themselves as speakers for the first time in their lives. I also was contacting influential female designers to be speakers on our social media or to tell about us to their audience.
Well, sometimes I won, and sometimes I learned
Creating a team of VOLUNTEERS
I started building a team
At first, I was doing everything by myself: texts, interviews, videos, podcasts, and events. But guess what? I had my own life and bills to pay. I very quickly released that I needed a team.
I was happy to provide a space if a girl wanted to test herself in a new direction, to try being an SMM manager, or editor-in-chief, or to write about women. I tried to give any volunteer we had an opportunity to develop herself and learn in a comfortable place. Many girls thanked me for my kind management and my ability to keep them motivated.
Our weekly check-ups
But how do you find people and more than that, how do you make them put in hours of work for free? You find people who share your values and believe in the same ideas. My values were: support, acceptance, empowerment, and ease. I wanted to create a space where female designers can have all of it and more. And it wasn’t just my personal wish it was something badly needed. So my team found me.

I build a strong editorial department, video production, event management, and of course design. At some point, our team consisted of 17 talented and passionate women who worked almost every day for the sake of our community. I still can hardly believe that.

One of my last calls as a chapter leader
Things done
So what have we achieved in the last 3 years?
It’s always hard to talk about your achievements, you think you could have always done more. However, it is important to value things that you’ve done well, and sometimes better than well.
First of all, it was a non-profit
So all the dreams I had, had to be realised through persuasion, inspiration, and shared values. And I was very ambitious about changing people’s lives. I wanted to showcase new names, create a safe space for women on different platforms, host our own women’s festival, and save the whole world. I also had to work and pay bills, and I had very limited time. So I learned how to build teams, contact potential advertisers, open doors with a smile, and promote Instagram without any additional money. Well, I think the result speaks for itself.
The second achievement is in publicity
In the beginning, no one knew about us. Three years later, we have a 5-star podcast, big corporations are inviting us to discuss important gender issues and to find the ways they could solve them within their companies. We help conferences in finding female speakers and we supervise those speakers from start to finish. In the beginning, I knock on every door, now people come to us.
Last but not least of my achievements is fighting misogyny
You can’t change the way people think in one day. I’m not able to change every person in the world, but I can help those who are near and ready to listen. I already see and feel that girls from LWD are much more tolerant, supportive, and kind to each other. That was the thing I was focusing on while moderating public events, chat talks, and our community meet-ups to create an atmosphere of safety and acceptance. Women looked at how I act and how I protect every person, so they learned to do the same. We also talked a lot about toxicity and were learning to break this link. While working with our team, I held 1-to-1 calls every six months to check how they feel, what problems they have, and how I can help them to adapt. It was important to find a way to motivate every team member, to make their time with LWD interesting and meaningful, so they would promote the same everywhere they go. It wasn’t easy, but I see the results, and this is very thrilling!
Numbers and Images
Design system
Social Networks
At first, we followed the style of the main chapter, but later I decided to make a new identity that could expand the topics I wanted to cover. We began by showcasing artwork and the stories of women worldwide, throughout history, and in Russia. This last point was particularly important because many talented women are hesitant to speak about their achievements. Initially, we searched for names online, but later we started conducting interviews with members of our community and sharing their stories. We also chose a monthly theme to guide our written pieces, events, and podcasts.
Web Site
As the community grew, I realised that our Facebook and Instagram pages were not enough. We needed to create our own space that would provide comprehensive information about events, advertising, tickets, benefits, and, most importantly, my dream: a database of all community members, categorised as freelancers, speakers, and mentors. This would enable those seeking female specialists to locate them easily. Although the database is still a work in progress, I am hopeful that we will soon have it up and running.
This was the core of everything I did — our members should not be afraid to be themselves, to ask silly questions, or to look for help. Every event was moderated by me and I was looking after everyone, so everyone felt comfortable, engaged, and heard.
The second step was empowerment
At the events, I gave voice to girls who were ready to speak and helped many of them become speakers (on podcasts or at events) for the first time. I could sense the energy that they felt afterwards and saw that they were ready to live a better life. We also posted interviews to show that not only stars are making designs but regular women like you and me. I wanted to help them feel confident in their abilities and personalities. I wanted to demonstrate to the industry and, more importantly, to girls themselves, that they deserved reasonable fees for their work, that they could seek and receive help, and that they could spend time together without fear of judgment.
When we gained weight, we started to work with Design Festivals
It was challenging for them to find female speakers. Even if someone directly approached a potential speaker, she might be hesitant to speak in public. So, we decided to help festivals by finding and supervising female speakers. We assisted with creating a presentation and storytelling, conducted test presentations, and offered support so that they could clearly emphasise the important things that they had to say.
And finally, big corporations
…who wanted to change the usual course, asked us for help in hosting events focused on feminism, empowering women, and what can be done to achieve these goals. They wanted us to help them figure out what can be done better for women in IT companies for example, and asked for our expertise. I was thrilled to speak and offer my assistance.
We met at picnics and bars, talked about feminism and work-life balance, discussed illustrator's copyrights, visited print offices, listened to history lectures, learned to promote ourselves and stop toxic approaches in and around us, weaved with beads, tried to survive the quarantine together, and drank Prosecco!
35 events
36 speakers
29 videos and lectures
For many of the speakers, it was the first experience ever to speak publicly because I believe that to learn something new you need to listen to new people, and I’m glad that I was able to make it smooth.
42 episodes
36 000 listens
Ranked top 1 in Design
Despite the very high quality of our podcast, most of the episodes were recorded like this
Interviews with girls from community
Women quotes
Women in History
Articles about women Artists
For three years we had our own section on one of the biggest Deign Festivals in Moscow. We supervised speakers from the community and provided juries to dilute the same names coming at every festival.
1 section
Ladies, Wine & Design section on G8
9 speakers
at Design Festivals
15 Juries
Women in History
community chat members
channel members
Instagram followers
community members
Three years passed
I was stubborn enough to fall and then stand up. And now, looking back, I’m happy to see the supportive community that is left after me, girls supporting girls, making projects together, giving kind and gentle feedback when asked, new speakers and educators, a new way of thinking actually. Today, I am proud to see new names emerging in public talks and a fresh way of thinking that centres on women supporting women in the face of life’s challenges. It won’t be possible without the great support of my team and all those who helped me on this path, those who supported my values and beliefs. Through this experience, I discovered my strengths in being a creative leader, managing teams, public speaking, and providing support and consultation.
So this is how I learned how to build a supportive and loving community. And this is how I did this.
*Many thanks to Anna Osprey for helping me to write this text!
What the girls from the community say
When I was working on this part I asked about the feedback from the girls about my involvement in the community life. I still can believe in so many kind words and every time I read them I’m ready to cry with happiness with great thanks to all those whom I met during my journey, my wonderful crew and finally for me, who didn’t give up in the middle.