For those of us who have spent hours in yoga studios, with boring yoga mats tucked under our arms, help is at hand. Claire Keet, founder of Sentiens, is on a mission to create beautiful yet practical yoga mats that will inspire anyone looking for that perfect zen moment as they exercise and meditate.
LoA found out more about this unique business from its talented designer and founder, Claire Keet.
What does your company do?
At Sentiens we sell beautiful, functional yoga and fitness gear. Our focus is on printed yoga and active mats, which combine gorgeous aesthetics with great performance. No more dull, single coloured mats! We love that our products bring a unique visual quality to a yoga practice or workout. All of our designs are created right here in sunny South Africa and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to collaborating with talented local designers.
"We love that our products bring a unique visual quality to a yoga practice or workout."
What inspired you to start your company?
Sentiens initially began with two of us. The idea was suggested by my former business partner who'd spotted a gap for printed mats in the local market. As a designer myself, the idea immediately resonated with me on an artistic level. What a perfect blank canvas a yoga mat represented! As the business has grown, so the vision has shifted and morphed but the underlying values of 'great design' still underpin everything that Sentiens does.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
This is a question I could ramble on answering for ever because I'm still as giddily excited about our products today as I was when the business started. So I'll try to be restrained. One of the biggest reasons why our products are worth buying is that we listen and adapt. We actively seek product feedback from our customers so that we can continually try to improve our offering. Even when feedback is tough to swallow, our customers insights have guided product and design decisions in a very real way over the past year and a bit. We love that our products go out to our customers with that level of input from the people who're using them day to day.
"All of our designs are created right here in sunny South Africa and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to collaborating with talented local designers."
Tell us a little about your team
I run Sentiens full-time and have a social media manager who manages the brand's digital presence remotely. Even though I don't employ anyone else full-time just yet, we have key partnerships with a range of people who are all invaluable chinks in the Sentiens chain. Without our brand ambassador, brand photographer, shipping agents, leather craftsman, manufacturers, illustrator... we'd be in a very different place.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My entrepreneurial journey started in Asia. After university I worked for a year before going to teach English in South Korea. Two years into my four years in Korea, I started BorisHenry - a branding business - part-time, with a friend. I knew that when I returned to South Africa that I'd like BorisHenry to become a full-time business. Six months after returning home, Sentiens started up up too. With no background in commerce, I knew nothing about the mechanics of running a business and, quite frankly, will be learning the in's and out's of that for the rest of my working career.
"One of the biggest reasons why our products are worth buying is that we listen and adapt. We actively seek product feedback from our customers so that we can continually try to improve our offering."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I am starting to export customised yoga and active gear, while focusing on continuing to grow Sentiens locally.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
What I love most about my work is how much I learn all the time. Learning from books was never something I was particularly great at at school and university. The hands-on learning I have to do day to day is something I find really stimulating and exciting. Even when the lessons come in the form of tough, stressful situations, of which there have been and will continue to be plenty, I still feel so grateful about this aspect of my work.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Interrogate your motivation for starting a business. And be honest with yourself. That motivation is what you'll rely on to get you out of bed when it feels like your business is failing. It will be what helps you remain strong when you're learning the really tough lessons, of which there will be plenty. It will inspire you to find solutions for challenges that seem unconquerable. Write down your motivation and make sure it's real enough not to waver in the face of the fear, hard work, stress and challenges that you will face.
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Why LoA loves it….
For many people, yoga represents a time and space to reconnect, meditate, exercise and become more in tune with body and mind. It’s a place to find inspiration, and therefore the idea of practising yoga with a dull and boring plain mat doesn’t exactly conjure up images of an inspirational environment in which to find peace of mind, body and spirit. Claire Keet and her company Sentiens is doing something to change that from a design perspective, bringing a new source of inspiration to any yoga session - and, we love it. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa