HOW IT ALL STARTED
The story of 2b design started when the French designer Benedicte de Vanssay de Blavous Moubarak moved with her husband Raja and their children to Beirut, Lebanon after years of living in different countries. In Lebanon, Benedicte became immediately drawn to the unique style of traditional 18th and 19th century Levantine houses inspired by Venetian, French and Ottoman architecture. The massive destruction due to conflict and unchecked real estate development took its toll on the architectural heritage with very few traditional houses left standing.
Benedicte's desire to rescue a disappearing heritage was the spark that started the project. She decided to travel the country's towns and villages in search of discarded old wrought iron balustrades, railings, window frames and other pieces of architectural salvage which at best would have ended up melted down into car parts.
The aftermath of conflict created other challenges as well: lack of access to training and employment of marginalized and disabled persons, little respect for the environment, lingering tensions between different communities. In 2005 Benedicte created 2b design with the mission of “restoring the unseen beauty of the broken” and the name Beyt (House/Home in Hebrew and Arabic) was adopted as the flagship brand name.
Today Beyt’s creations can be found in Europe, the Middle East and Japan sold through different retailers. In 2012 2b design home LLC was started in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Cambridge location includes a retail shop and a workshop where restoration work and pillows, lamps and lampshades are made. The focus there is to provide employment and training to marginalized women from the community. One woman at a time. The plan over the next few years is to set up additional retail shops, train and hire more marginalized women and expand distribution through select independent retailers.
The complementary skills of the couple are ideal: Benedicte’s background includes social assistance to young prostitutes in the Philippines, volunteering with Mother Teresa in India, helping slum kids in Brazil, assisting Karen refugees etc.. her passion for design and social work led her to start local initiatives with artisans in the Middle East and North Africa. Raja has an MBA from New York University and ran different countries for multinationals such as Coca-Cola and regional companies. He has also been active in the non-profit world at board level. Raja develops the different aspects of the social enterprise and spearheads its development in the US. Benedicte searches for unique pieces of architectural salvage, creates the designs, trains the artisans, supervises production and the list of what she does goes on and on…
Why is Beyt by 2b design a business and not a non-profit organization?
In today's world boundaries are becoming more blurred between non-profits and businesses. Our choice reflects our conviction that business can have an amazing power of transformation in addressing social and environmental problems in the world. Take the example of homelessness in a developed country: the US. There are 600,000 homeless people in a developed country like America and there are millions of businesses. How difficult would it be for some of these businesses to hire just one homeless person? Wouldn't this contribute to rapidly alleviate the problem of homelessness? Apply this logic to any number of social issues in the world and imagine the results. It is no coincidence that we belong to the community of Certified B Corporations, businesses which exist to tackle social and environmental issues and strive to be the best for the world vs. the best in the world.