I discovered the Sentiens brand – completely by chance – earlier this year after browsing around on Instagram. It was obsession at first sight because, 1) South African brand, 2) beautiful yoga mats, and 3) I love their presence on digital media.
I have been following their work closely for a while, and when I realised the business was owned by a girlboss, I was even more thrilled.
After I ordered my mat, I had to get in touch with Claire to find out more about the lady behind the biz. She’s as awesome and generous with her time as she is talented, and she happily answered my questions.
Q: Briefly tell us about your business journey. What led you to create the concept for your printed yoga mats? What made you want to start your own business?
A: Sentiens started with two of us. The idea to bring printed yoga mats to South Africa was presented to me by my former business partner. Coming from a design background, the concept of putting inspiring visuals onto a traditionally blank and dull canvas was incredibly exciting to me. The yoga and wellness industries are booming globally and were starting to cook locally and so it felt like a good time to enter the sector. I was already self-employed and was therefore able to jump into Sentiens more easily than if I’d been working for someone else.
Q: What was the process you followed when starting to set up your brand?
A: I own a brand agency called BorisHenry which I was self-employed by when Sentiens started. Conceiving and creating the brand tools for Sentiens was something I was therefore able to do myself. From the logo, to the online store, to the aesthetic of the Sentiens Instagram feed, it was and still is handled in-house. This allows us to keep a tight reign on what we’re putting out there.
Q: How do you manage your branding and make sure everything you do (from business cards, to packaging, to branding collateral) keeps in line with your brand?
A: Design forms the backbone of Sentiens. It’s the thing that distinguishes our product in the market. Because of this, we’ve had to also place emphasis on the standard of the Sentiens brand tools. All of our branding and product design is done in-house and adheres to a style guide and quite specific aesthetic. We work with our brand photographer once every six months or so to make sure that all of our products are photographed professionally and with the right messages conveyed.
Q: How do you manage your social media commitments?
A: I have a wonderful marketing manager who handles Sentiens’ social media. Kait was brought on at the start of this year and plays an invaluable role in getting our message out there. She keeps our various social media campaigns going and ensures that our marketing material is up to scratch and in line with the Sentiens brand aesthetic and message.
Q: How do you motivate yourself to keep going when your inner critic’s voice gets a bit too loud?
A: I think that criticism, from oneself and from external influences, is a really important part of the growth process. We ran a product survey at the end of 2015 asking just under 500 customers to critique the Sentiens products. The criticisms and insights that emerged from that survey had very real and positive impacts on our product selection for 2016. I think that if you’re clear enough about where you’re going with your business, criticism should not be viewed as a demotivating thing but rather as a tool for improvement. Not every little shred of criticism needs to be taken on board, but fostering an environment in which people feel they can approach you with concerns and insights has been really helpful for us. I think the same applies for the inner critic’s voice.
Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned since you started your business?
A: There have been a lot of really tough lessons in the life of Sentiens so far, and I have no doubt that they’ll keep on coming. One of the biggest ones has been finding a balance between work and life outside work. After two years of working from home, I moved into a shared warehouse space. Putting some distance between my work and my life has been really important for me. Hiring Kait to manage Sentiens’ social media has meant that I need to be on my phone less before and after work and on weekends.
I’m so proud to feature Claire on my blog, and I highly recommend her heavenly yoga mats. You can find them on Facebook and Instagram at @sentiensyoga, and on their website: http://www.sentiens.co.za/.
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.