Lessons we can learn about building a social brand from Seatbelts&Openspaces

thuto sekate seatbelts&openspaces being lizzie
It is important to incorporate a social issue that can be part and parcel of the story behind your brand Click To Tweet

Social branding is important in trying to build enterprises that are btoh sustainable and socially responsible. We can learn a few lessons from Seatbelts&Openspaces CEO, Thuto Sekate.

Seatbelts&Openspaces is an ethically social brand which produces sustainable merchandise including up-cycled arts and crafts, clothing, and décor made from organic material, old clothes, trash and scrap material.

1. What influences your brand?

For Thuto, a #MotherlandMogul making vintage clothing with environmentally friendly products, her influence is from her past.

“Seatbelts&Openspaces is a result of an ethical father and mother. My dad once worked for an NGO that dealt with social issues, then moved on to work for a can recycling company. Later, my mother started a glass and paper recycling company while I was still a minor. So caring for the environment was naturally drummed into me.”

In university, she had the experience to cover a topic of sustainable fashion. This exposed Thuto to her calling to address her social issue of choice through eco fashion.

When building a social brand, it is important to incorporate a social issue that can be part and parcel of the story behind your brand.

Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook
Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook

2. Clearly define your brand

Through her platform, Thuto directly addresses environmental issues, making clothing from waste or recyclable material. She also upcycles, with ethical practices such as using natural dyes like coffee and tea in her production.

Thuto’s focus is incorporated in every fabric and material she makes which is clearly visible in whatever she sells. Through her style of fashion, Thuto reduces the carbon footprint by handcrafting her work.

There is a conscious effort in her work to ensure that her brand clearly associates itself as environmentally conscious and friendly.

Thuto Sekate directly addresses environmental issues through Seatbelts&Openspaces Click To Tweet

3. Learning from others

“I am definitely following other social brands, both fashion for their trends and just eco brands for the information of staying eco conscious.”

Thuto learns a lot from more developed socially responsible brands that help her find better ways to structure her business. This way, she can improve her process and technique as well as raising her integrity associated with being a “woke” brand.

Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook
Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook

4. There will be challenges still, SLAy

In countries like Botswana, building a eco friendly brand is not common or well known as part of the business process. So not everyone will understand immediately your work.

“Awareness of the cause is still building up in Botswana, so very few people understand the deeper meaning of the brand. The educational part of the need for such a brand needs to be built before we can successfully make a significant social impact.

I guess that’s why Seatbelts&Openspaces is a need. Our attempts are to close that gap of understanding and rocking the brand while creating employment opportunities for the youth. Mostly the balancing of profit and good will.”

Beyond looking to make a profit, your brand has to look at long-term sustainable solutions to ensure it meets its targets and impacts its community positively.

Building a social brand requires realizing that you improving your space in one way or another Click To Tweet

5. Be a game changer

Building a social brand requires realizing that you are different and improving your space in one way or another. Your platform can influence others on how they perceive social challenges around them, especially now in Africa.

“The possibilities are endless for us, we are the actual future. With the amount of “woke” young people in my circle alone, my faith in humanity is restored daily. Photographers, weavers, bloggers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, online store owners are each tackling different social issues.

From documenting poverty in photos, offering artisanal skills to the less fortunate, selling art made by locals all over the world at fair prices, giving locals an opportunity to grow beyond borders or awarding free medical services, with the help of crowdfunding. We do need to make profit, but it should not be at the expense of others.”

Seatbealts&Openspaces does not shy always from realizing the task of changing the narrative on consciousness in business in the Motherland. Neither should you.

Safaa Ouchen: You’re going to succeed over those trying to break you

With the rise of social entrepreneurship, more and more Motherland Moguls are using entrepreneurship to address economic and social problems. One of these women is Safaa Ouchen. In 2013, Safaa started Enactus ENA with her friends to address social and economic problems through entrepreneurial action. Here, Safaa clues us in on how she ventured into social entrepreneurship, how she plans to be part of Morocco’s solution and why the haters never matter.


How did you get into social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is a passion I discovered when I was 17 years old through my work with Anoual Association. Anoual is a NGO in Kentira, Morocco that aims to develop our community in the field of education and to supports the development of social entrepreneurship. Since then, I’ve always been aware of the economic and social problems in Morocco.

When things started to get worse -with rising unemployment and millions living below the poverty line- I knew I wanted to be part of the solution. In 2013, with an amazing team, I founded Enactus ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Architecture, French for National School of Architecture). Enactus ENA focuses on the power of community development and the entrepreneurial spirit.

My work with Enactus has given me the chance to deepen my knowledge about social entrepreneurship in Morocco and how business skills can be used to improve lives.

What is Enactus? How did it come about?

Enactus is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. It represents a network of 36 countries around the world with more than 1,740 university programs, and works with more than 69,000 students.

Enactus provides a platform for teams of outstanding university students to create community development projects that put ingenuity and talent at the center of improving their livelihoods. Guided by educators and supported by business leaders, students take the kind of entrepreneurial approach that empowers people to be part of their own success.

We work on projects in three main fields: health and well being, architecture and tourism.

Enactus was started with your friends, what steps have you personally taken to grow Enactus?

It was during an internship on a construction site that I noticed workers didn’t have decent or respectful shelter to sleep in. What they had was made of lightweight material, which can cause serious health problems. Adding to that, their insufficient salary didn’t allow them afford the basic needs for themselves and their families.

After analyzing this problem, I scheduled a meeting with four of my teammates. Then I shared my project idea; a hut made of cardboard. Cardboard is cheaper but resistant and can make sustainable lodging. Together, we brainstormed and came up with more ideas to make the project even better. Then I assigned my team to do more research on implementing the project.

Tell us more about your cardboard housing initiative.

My team responded positively to my idea of finding innovative solutions instead of waiting for others to take the first step. We then came up with more strategies to increase positive outcomes:

  • Training workers to build these cardboard huts so they can work with us in order to increase their incomes.
  • Selling these huts made of cardboard to construction companies.
  • Establishing a production chain that will ensure both descent housing for the workers and a stable income for people who will build the booths.

It’s been 10 months since I started working on this social venture. My team and I have been through a lot of challenges due to the lack of information concerning the cardboard. It was difficult coming up with a prototype, building it and fulfilling the goals we defined at the beginning.

How has your background as an architect affected or helped you at Enactus?

As an architect I learn that results don’t come quickly and it needs time. When I’m working on a social problem now, I have learned that complaining about the results that don’t come quickly never changes anything.

So, I keep an eye out for a better way. I’m always on the lookout for new activities and new procedures, while keeping both short-term and long-range objectives in mind.

What is the one thing you dream of reaching? How do you plan to get to it?

I believe that I’ve never wanted to do just one thing. I wanted to do all the things! While growing up, I learned that most of the successful people succeed because their potential is concentrated on a specific thing. On the other hand, the people that failed did so because their potential was spread out in too many directions.

One of my biggest passion and dreams is to launch my own business and create positive impact in my community. This is the reason I created my social business which aims to solve the problem of temporary housing for workers. My experience in social entrepreneurship and social work has been so helpful in developing my business. Now, I’m actively planning out how to achieve accomplish each task on my ‘dream plan’.

What advice would you give young women looking to start an international NGO?

Go ahead and start it. You might meet people who are going to try to break you and tell you that’s not going work. Don’t pay attention to them. You’re going to go over them and you’re going to succeed.

My other piece of advice is, to forge connections with people inside and outside your communities. This is in order to build a network that going to connect you to different profiles. You’re probably going to need them while setting up the organization.


Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

4 things you need to know about social entrepreneurship

Before Jesse Williams’ woke speech and Kendrick and Beyonce’s performance at the BET awards, there has been a growing consciousness around business. Maybe like myself, you have been wondering about social entrepreneurship, a growing field in its right that is gaining gang attention.

It has been hard for many to pinpoint exactly what a social entrepreneur is. However, there some things you can look at to be able to know the kind of business you are and if you stand a chance at being a social enterprise.

It’s about people

Social entrepreneurs, beyond the glory of coming up with an amazing product and service, are highly inspired by the people they are trying to assist. Their products and cutting edge solutions are a response to problematic issues in society no matter the sector.

It is almost like having the heart of Mother Theresa but the drive of Oprah. Outside just trying to get that paper, social entrepreneurs ensure that they meet the needs and improve communities in the same vein.

These businesses are motivated primarily by caring about social change and reaching as many people as possible.

It’s about innovation

Social innovators are always looking for solutions to pressing societal issues . As a result, they have to come up with new, sustainable and inventive ways to respond to these issues. Social enterprises move past the textbook responses and find ways to help people and these solutions should be long term.

If people need food, a social entrepreneur won’t be thinking about giving out handouts  but also about training  them to have their own eco-friendly gardens so they could grow their own produce whilst protecting their environment.

Ladies, you don’t have to be Florence Nightingale. But you can look for opportunities or approaches that have not yet been adopted in your market and implement them at home, hashtag thinking globally, acting locally.

It’s about collaborationgiphy

It just makes sense to do it with a squad. Social entrepreneurs not only build strong connections with people but also with other companies, entities or individuals to reach a greater number of individuals.

Some social entrepreneurs are purely not for profit and so have to think outside of the box to ensure they are making waves in the community.  This can’t be done alone. You have to look at others who might have the expertise to take your efforts further so you can get in formation.

It’s about passion

It would be awesome to help people, get cheddar and change lives. Yet it will be hard if you are not actually passionate about people or the solution you are trying to build. Social entrepreneurs are both community conscious and business savvy.  So, you are bound to face challenges and constantly develop new ways to improve your enterprise.

If you are not really into it, you are likely going to harm the people you are trying to save. So, if you know you care about business and driving social change concurrently more than pizza, you probably are a Motherland Mogul and a social entrepreneur.