Mapitso Thaisi is a travel and lifestyle blogger based in Cape Town, South Africa. Owner of the blog Sotho Girl Diaries, Mapitso aims to gather people from different walks of life together through travel, fashion, careers and brand partnerships. Over the last several years Mapitso has made her mark as a blogger, academic and fashion designer, in addition to a motivational speaker. Mapitso is also the owner of Shweshwekini, an award-winning swimwear and active wear line. To learn more about Mapitso, check out sothogirldiaries.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to start the blog?
So I’m originally from Lesotho I moved to South Africa when I was seven years old and because we were here and I started going to school here at UCT. So we’ve got the University of Cape Town down here in Western Cape Province and so when I was down here I just got this creativity – because, you know, there’s not a lot of active wear for black women or one that caters for the African ethnicity or one that acknowledges our own African prints so when I saw a niche in the market I thought well this have never done before. And so I thought well perfect maybe I should try it out. And then I tried it out and then it blew up and that’s how I started. And then I started my blog, Sotho Girl Diaries because I was in Cape Town and Cape Town has a lot of stuff like you can do anything in Cape Town so I wanted to share with my readers on ways of how to enjoy Cape Town as a visitor or someone who is a resident in Cape Town and how they could enjoy my city so that’s how I started the blog.
Your blog covers travel, lifestyle, careers, fashion and photography. What is your favorite topic to create content for, and why?
I think my favorite topic is covering careers because I feel like in South Africa especially where jobs are rare it’s so important so important for us to keep people informed about the types of [jobs], you know. I mean ideally the job market it’s always like go to school then get a job but now you see people who are rugby players, who are sport stars, who are necessarily doing so well. Even travel bloggers for that matter.
So it’s a different marketing emerging within the South African market and so I thought I wanted to expose my readers to more occupations. I mean I’m an occupational therapist and part of what we do is just adding work into peoples lives. So I thought I could use my career and professionalism and just to encourage people there is different ways of enjoying work and you [do] not necessarily need to go to school [and] study but you can gain skills in other ways. So yeah I think empowering people with knowledge is one of my favorite things to do on the blog.
Can you tell us how your active wear brand, Shweshwekini came to be?
So I come up with all of the creative designs at Shweshwekini and funnily enough I also sell a lot of services like the printing and the manufacturing of the garments. So I’ve got a lady who does the patterns and actually makes the swimsuits. So yeah, I do have like a team I outsource.
With all of your different ventures, you are undoubtedly very busy. How do you structure your average day and maintain balance?
Sure. I actually don’t have a structure. But I really try by all means. Like I got a nine to five job, I work in Insurance, so from about seven in the morning till four in the afternoon I’m at work.
And then afterwards I also do a masters course at the University of Cape town and then after I give a little time my masters and then whatever time is left is my time to do any creative work. Whether it is writing a blog post or catching up with customers on the Shweshwekini, on my Instagram so I’m really like juggling everything as I just make it work.
What have been some of your favorite brand partnerships to-date? -Thabo Makhetha
Ohh partnerships. I think it was partnering with my mentor, Thabo Makhetha, who does the Basotho cape coats so we connected because we both celebrating our own cultures through fashion. Like we turned very tradition garments – like she turned the blankets into cape coats I turned Shweshwe material which is primarily cotton into swimwear. So it was like two, you know, like people who are revolutionizing thought about the Basotho in Lesotho and modernizing it. So she’s been one of my most greatest partnerships but also-shoot I want to thank a lot. But like in terms of publishing and media I’ve partnered with a lot of magazines like Elle Magazine, Marie Claire South Africa, like South African based magazines so it’s really really been a great pleasure.
Where do you see influencer marketing headed in the next five years or so?
I think I just thought – when I started it was through travel because I had went for the first time overseas to Thailand and I thought “whoa I actually took such amazing pictures. I want to share with everyone back home”. And that’s when I seen – especially seeing a lot of black people traveling and you’re like “whoa” there’s like black Americans or other people outside of Africa traveling but there’s not original South Africans traveling. And so lie seeing people from home not traveling much especially people in my age group I just thought like, you know, you just need to emerge into that sphere and show people that it’s possible because if you do it then someone else is likely to follow. And I think we are growing South Africa although at a very smaller scale but we really do have quality support here back home. Like we’ve got probably about 15 million people in South Africa alone like 15 plus million it’s growing. And so a lot of those people are active on social media so the influencer market is definitely growing and it’s across race, gender, and you know, LGBT communities also big in that as well. So I think it’s about noticing all those voices coming up and, you know, like influencers from different backgrounds and I think that is so important for a country as diverse as ours.