Leyya Sattar is one half of The Other Box. The Other Box is an award-winning platform for increasing diversity in the creative industries that celebrates people from underrepresented backgrounds – in other words, people who have ever felt ‘othered’ or invisible by the (generally white, middle-class) mainstream. The Other Box runs workshops and training on unconscious bias and how to create more inclusive workplace cultures, brand partnerships and a creative consultancy as well as nurturing a community of creatives of colour around the UK, connecting them to opportunities. Since launching in 2016 they have built a banging community and have attracted the biggest and the best brands. The Other Box is undoubtedly one to watch this year! Check out their insta…
Name: Leyya Sattar
Age at time of interview: 28
Where’s home? London / Manchester (or anywhere else I connect to wifi automatically)
Profession: Co-Founder of The Other Box
After university was it a clear cut path as to what you wanted to do?
I knew I wanted to be in the creative industries, but really struggled to get access or find the full breadth of opportunities.I tried for over 18 months, applied to over 200 jobs and was unsuccessful until mid 2014 where I met my old boss who had a design company and she was looking for an intern. The rest is history!
What is The Other Box and when did you launch?
The Other Box is an award-winning platform for increasing diversity in the creative industries that celebrates people from underrepresented backgrounds – in other words, people who have ever felt ‘othered’ or invisible by the (generally white, middle-class) mainstream. We run workshops and training on unconscious bias and how to create more inclusive workplace cultures, brand partnerships and a creative consultancy as well as nurturing a community of creatives of colour around the UK, connecting them to opportunities. We launched in September 2016.
How did the idea for The Other Box come about?
The Other Box was born out of frustration at the diversity conversation not being very inclusive, and mainly focusing on gender – and gender being in very binary terms focusing on white women specifically. As a working-class, South Asian woman from up north, I didn’t see myself reflected or as part of the conversations that were happening and needed to change that. So in September 2016, after another un-diverse diversity event, my co-founder Roshni Goyate and I had enough, and The Other Box was born!
What challenges did you have when getting the ball rolling for The Other Box?
For 18 months we balanced The Other Box alongside full-time jobs (and Roshni was also studying for her MA too), and so time was the biggest challenge. We managed to create and launch something amazing but it was fitting around our day jobs and other commitments so we only had evenings and weekends to work on it, until we took the plunge and went full-time in Summer 2018 just before Roshni had her baby!
Do you have a mentor?
I have several mentors. They have been integral to my personal growth and development, as well as the growth and development to The Other Box. Not only do they provide TOB with information and knowledge, they see where we need to improve where we often cannot as we are too close to the business. I don’t remember ever formalising the relationship with a ‘Will you be my mentor’ but each relationship with my mentor has been informal, and based on a loose structure of regular check-ins.
How do you and your co-founders skill-sets differ?
From the very beginning Roshni and I have been very different, from the fact she’s a copywriter by trade, I was a designer, and then down to our personalities and ways we work – but in a way that makes us the perfect business partners. We complement each other perfectly.
What is a typical day working for The Other Box?
Every day is completely different from the next but what I love is that we are building a company that is flexible, and works around our lives so each day can still be fun! Whether it’s running our workshops, working with organisations on their diversity and inclusion strategy, running creative projects, working with brands on upcoming activations, or supporting our community’s events and projects – each day is so different and I love it.
How can people get involved with The Other Box?
Come to our events, follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @_theotherbox, and join our online community for creatives of colour, and people from other underrepresented groups.
You run unconscious bias workshops, what do these entail?
Our flagship workshop Know Your Bias looks at how to create more inclusive workplace cultures, and raises awareness of our unconscious biases. Whether or not we like to admit it, we all have unconscious biases, and they affect our perceptions, our decision-making processes and our workplace cultures. Becoming aware of an unconscious bias is the first step to changing that and it can ultimately help us all create a more inclusive and productive working culture. But unfortunately unconscious bias training is fast gaining a reputation as an ineffective, underwhelming snoozefest; death-by-powerpoint; a box-ticking exercise. The Other Box is not about that! We’ve designed a series of thought-provoking, interactive workshops where everyone can take away practical tips to apply straightaway at work.
How can brands work with The Other Box?
We’ve work on brand activations, creative projects and diversity and inclusion strategy – Get in touch!
How many people work for The Other Box and how does your business intend to plan to grow?
As of February, we are a four-person team and work with a larger network of facilitators, trainers and creatives depending on the brief and project.
With any business there are hiccups along the way. What’s a memorable hiccup you can look back and laugh about now?
A business hiccup I made at the beginning was saying yes to every opportunity that was presented, without qualifying if it was the right opportunity for me or the longer-term vision for the business. And it was mainly due to the fear of missing out, something quite common with – dare I say it – millenials. What I learned from it was that I am just getting started, there are so many more opportunities waiting to be had that are better suited to my mission and goals.
What personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
How strong and resilient I am.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up The Other Box?
There have been so many, but I think the one that brings it all together was The Other Box 2nd birthday party in September 2018. We had just gone full-time 2 months prior, and so it was a great to celebrate this huge leap, and bring together some of our amazing community and people who have supported us along the way – you can see a video from the night here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAKB1u1P0cI
What do you think is next for The Other Box this year?
Finish the end of these sentences…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…work, life and balance!
3 startups with founders Under 30 I admire are…I am lucky to have met so many amazing entrepreneurs since starting The Other Box. If I had to pick three off the top of my head I would say: gal-dem, 23 Code Street and Creative Debuts.
The Twenty Mile Club is…a needed platform.
Find The Other Box on their handles: @_theotherbox / @leyyax