by Sima Kumar
June and July have been a whirlwind of activity at The Other Box. Admittedly, like many startups where everyone is doing everything, we haven't been the best at keeping our community and clients up to date via our blog. But that was the past! We are growing as a team and as a business. Moving forward, our goal is to share more of what goes on behind the scenes. Beyond the highlight reel of Instagram, you can expect to learn the good the bad and the ugly of this exciting and precarious journey.
But before we show you the guts and glory of growing a business, here is a quick recap of where we've been and who we've been hanging out with during June and July. Building allies and growing our community is at the heart of our work in the diversity and inclusion space. As we educate clients, we also attend many events to learn from our peers and those who are leading the way, and collaborate with the many inspiring people working to make workplaces representative of the way the world is in real life.
Inclusion Matters Conference
Management Today held an event in Canary Wharf in late June called the Inclusion Matters Conference. Leyya spoke on a panel which was chaired by Nicola Kemp, Managing Editor of BITE and was joined by Madeleine Morris, Founder, The Society of Very Senior Creatives, Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager Fulfilling Work, Centre for Ageing Better and Bejay Mulenga, CEO, Supa Talent. The topic was about finding common ways of working and collaborating across generations. This is an issue we are passionate about at The Other Box as our leadership team now spans generations. Leyya is in her twenties, Roshni is in her thirties, and I am in my forties. You'll be hearing a lot more about the benefits of multi-generational teams from The Other Box in the future as we tackle age bias, something women in the creative industries especially, face daily. News flash! We don't have an expiration date!
You Must Be Layla
A highlight for June was our collaboration with author and activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied for the UK launch of her book, You Must Be Layla. Leyya hosted the evening, Yassmin read from her book while also having a conversation about the book and her journey with Hafsah Dabiri which was followed by a Q&A with the audience who were all very keen to have some face time with Yassmin and have their books signed. It was an especially heartwarming evening for The Other Box with so many community members participating in the event. Saliah Bryan designed all of the assets, Saima Khalid was the event photographer, and there were numerous community members in attendance.
Mindshare: Diversity Week
July began with Leyya speaking on a panel at a Mindshare event for Diversity Week. Hosted by Burnt Roti Magazine editor Sharan Dhaliwal, Leyya was joined by fellow Burnt Roti cover stars make-up artist Umber Ghauri and artist Soofiya Andry. The conversation titled: Are we ticking your box? focused on topics about identity, diversity, representation and creativity.
The Creative Industries Alliance
In the evening on the same day, Leyya and I attended the Creative Industries Alliance launch event in Mayfair. Invited by inspiring and trailblazing Nina Bhagwat, the chair of the Creative Industries Alliance and Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Warner Music the evening featured talks from Karen Blackett OBE, Country Manager for WPP, Sharon White Chief Exec Ofcom, Stuart Murphy CEO at the English National Opera, Ben Roberts Deputy CEO, BFI and James Currell, President Viacom International Media Networks UK who shared their story as champions of diversity and inclusion and the challenges along the way. Nina Bhagwat called the glaring truth already known by anyone who works to improve diversity and inclusion within the creative industries: not enough has changed. The last speaker of the evening was Dr Doyin Atewologun, who discussed her report 'The Middle' which focuses on the power of collaboration in accelerating minority ethnic talent into leadership roles. The alliance was formed to create a community of like-minded leaders with the belief we are stronger together than working towards diversity and inclusion in silos.
Pitch 100 Superwomen Breakfast
The next day The Other Box founders attending the Pitch 100 Superwomen Breakfast. Leyya and Roshni were there to support Pitch fanzine's 100 Superwomen class of 2019. The formidable group of attendees included Heleana Blackwell, agency Strategist and co-founder of The New Work. She hosted the morning talk with panellists Aimée Luther, Managing Director of Fortnight Collective London, Adrian Walcott, Managing Director of Brands with Values, Joce Capper, Creative Director of Cinelab London, Nene Parsotam, Executive Creative and Art Director of Vine Creatives and Co-founder of We Are Stripes, Toby Tomkins, founder of CHEAT and Ete Davies, Managing Director of AnalogFolk London. A few of the super Superwomen took to the stage, and it was an inspiring morning, to say the least.
Then, as our American friends celebrated 4th of July, The Other Box kept it quintessentially English (the new diverse English, not the old colonial English) by celebrating with many of our community members at the House Festival, a summer festival put on by Soho House for house members and their friends. Leyya and Roshni were invited guests of Nishma Rob who is Ads Marketing Director at Google UK and long-time supporter of The Other Box. Being full-time founders of a bootstrapped startup can look more glamorous than the grind it is. It was an excellent opportunity for Leyya and Roshni to let their hair down, enjoy fantastic food (there was lobster on tap!), let their hair down and shake their booties to a spectacular DJ set by David Rodigan, which both reported to be a highlight. You may have caught their moves on Instagram stories. We are waiting for new mum Roshni to teach a booty-shaking class. She's got moves even Cardi-B would be envious of!
You Make It
Roshni made a solo appearance as a speaker at You Make, a charity who run a holistic and creative self-empowerment programme for young, unemployed & underemployed women. The focus of the talk was freelancing and running your own business. Roshni is a new mum to a one-year-old. This made her the perfect ambassador to speak some honest truths of what it is like trying to run your own business and balance the wellness of your family, her personal struggle with finding time for self-care while doing her MA. The added bonus was being met with a very engaged audience who put her through her paces and asked some brilliant questions. To learn more about You Make it and how you can get involved, here is a link to their site. http://www.you-make-it.org/
London City Hall with Mayor Sadiq Khan
That same morning Leyya was at City Hall for the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and Stonewall London's 30th Anniversary. The event was hosted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. London's current mayor is acutely aware that under-represented voices often go unheard. We also got the opportunity to hear from Stonewall UK CEO, Ruth Hunt. This year’s event focussed on the experience of younger LGBT+ Londoners aged 16-30 – particularly those from BAME backgrounds. As a company dealing with diversity and inclusion from an intersectional point of view, Leyya was able to hear the challenges and barriers faced not only socially but culturally by so many. It was also an opportunity to listen to the Mayor's approach to equality and meet new people.
UK Black Pride Event
During Pride weekend, Leyya met up with members of The Other Box community at UK Black Pride's official celebration in Haggerston Park in East London. In the 50th year since the Stonewall riots, where the gay liberation movement was started by black trans women and sex workers, Leyya said she could feel the power, love and unity in the air as black people, and people of colour came together.
The sun was in full beam shining down on everyone, and the melanin was glowing as people danced to live music from MNEK, and DJ sets from the likes of BBZ London and Hungama. There were also panel discussions happening on identity and culture, as well as product and information stalls.
And the month isn't over yet! We are still out and about. Juggling events and lending our ears and expertise where we can to do our part in being the change we want to see in the world. Over the coming weeks, you'll learn more about Leyya, Roshni and I as individuals and what we have in store for The Other Box as we plan for fall and winter! We have exciting plans, and we are all exhausted but with equal doses of excitement.