Sofia Appelgren: A beacon of change striving for equality and diversity in the whole industry

Top 10 Empowering Women Leaders of the Year, 2023

Taking charge with a strong purpose and determination to bring a change, Sofia Appelgren, Founder of Mitt Liv, aims to create a society and labor market where equality and diversity are valued. She is driving the wheel of her company in the right way by deploying short and long-term plans amalgamated with smart and innovative strategies.

Brewing the idea into the reality

Sofia started Mitt Liv at the age of 25 while juggling a baby and new startup together. She laid the foundation of the company on her strong purpose, passion, and determination to bring a change.

She adds, “I knew and felt in all my body that a strong and inclusive society and a labor market that values diversity is the only road ahead. I started to explore with actions to take in a small context to see if I could develop solutions, and when you do the right things, they grow. So, I didn’t have a plan to build a business, my drive was our vision and purpose, and the company is the “tool” to reach that goal.”

She knew that her deep interest in cultures, people, behaviors, empathy, and entrepreneurship would bring her somewhere where she could make a real difference.

“What doesn´t kill you makes you stronger.”

Sofia believes that there is growth in everything in life if one chooses the right mindset and solution to every issue if one chooses the right course of action. She adds, “I always think and have experienced that it takes 9 closed doors to match 1 open door, which says something that nothing is easy, and you have to be ready all the time to find new ways to move forward.”

While overcoming challenges in life, it is crucial to remember the “why” factor in it. It is important to focus on it as it drives the person to push limits and overcome the challenge. While fueling the growth of Mitt Liv, Sofia learned that it takes the right person in the right job to boost the growth of the company. It is important to shift gears at the right time. She adds, “I was CEO for 9 years but left 3 years ago, and that was the best thing for both the organization and me.”

As a founder, she evolved and learned to let things go, focus on vision, nurture the spark in others to take charge, and bring wonders for the whole company.

About Mitt Liv AB (svb)

Established in 2008, Mitt Liv is a social enterprise working for an inclusive society and a job market that values diversity. To this end, they work with employers by giving them strategies and practical tools for successful work on diversity and inclusion. Within their consultancy operation, they train over 5,000 people each year and have around 45 partners in their network. They also run Sweden’s largest mentoring programme, Mitt Livs Chans, where mentors and a wider network of contacts improve the chances of academics with a foreign background finding a job befitting their qualifications. Each year they support around 800 mentees who have been unable find a job commensurate with their competencies in Sweden.

Transforming the industry with Mitt Liv

Mitt Liv is a social enterprise dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in the Swedish labor market. They are a do tank and not a think tank in the first hand. She adds, “We have an increased pressure from investors that want to have the right requirements on their investments, boards that need to make place for social sustainability topics and increased knowledge to make sure their management groups get the right budget and mandate to start working with D&I.”

They also make sure to spread the word and lift people who do the right things, not point at everyone before they have taken or gotten the chance to start working with D&I.

Innovation at core

Adding a layer of innovation helps in doing things in new ways for better results. For that, no one should ever stop twisting and turning situations to look for new solutions. Thus, she always ensures to create a diverse team where everyone puts forth their unique ideas and perspectives, which helps in imparting new solutions.

She shares, “With regards to staying on top, we always have the biggest ear and “sensors” out in the “market” to make sure we catch trends and as many perspectives as possible. We also involve and engage people with the power to make the change together with us. We can´t change this industry alone, so we stay curious and “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

She believes that incorporating a strong company culture where one can walk as one talk and dare to say ‘no’ when it doesn´t fit one’s values is the key to maintain overall transparency. Further, being one’s authentic self and making room for innovation to expand by “innovation meetings” or creative team days is helpful. She also allows her teams to stay open to new ideas and let her teams try and fail. In this way, everyone in the company learns about what works and what doesn’t work with the mindset “how can we know what works before we tried.”

Solution-driven leader

As the Founder & board member of Mitt Liv AB, Sofia’s role mainly revolves around spreading their word, doing more to attain more success, and becoming a role model for everyone. For her, every day is a new workday. She has been working on different roles ever since the beginning. However, from now on, she is building up a new operation within Mitt Liv that will prioritize spreading their word, actions and share experiences in contexts where they can support overall shifts in political structures and mindsets.

Working together with 8 different CEOs in large companies in Sweden (Deloitte, Hemköp, Duni Group, among others), they will push further to bring a huge metamorphosis so that everyone is able to participate and be included in the Swedish labor market.

Balancing both fronts

Sofia opines in fact, “Rome wasn´t built in one day. It takes time to build trust and a sustainable company.” She knows that for this, she needs to give it all always. However, she values her time with her children as well. She embraces her motherhood and cherishes all the fun times with her children. She also follows a workout regime and has continued doing martial arts for 20+ years to maintain her focus, energy, and strength. Moreover, she also reads and paints to reflect on her creative side.

Motivation pumps in automatically since the CEO encourages the team to take time off whenever it becomes too hectic and also ensures that all employees use their full vacation every year and take time to collaborate and hang out with the teammates even after work hours.

Leading Mitt Liv to New Scales

Sofia is presently working on Mitt Liv’s new growth journey, and for that, she and her teams are growing their mentorship programs in Sweden along with meeting all the demands of their consultancy globally. She further shares, “We have all in place with the best quality and team on a smaller scale and are ready to bring it out for more. I will, as mentioned, build up “Mitt Livs Voice” to make sure we inspire more to take real actions, but also involve and engage within new platforms more voices to be heard.”

Sharing pearls of wisdom, Sofia states, “If you want to be in the game, the work with D&I is a no-brainer. It will bring you creativity, innovation and make sure you stay close to markets, new customers, and attract the talents.”