Taking a step back means taking a leap forward. Meet Bernard and Patricia Otto of Awaken the Haus. This brother and sister team grew stronger, professionally and personally, as they both carried the hardships and celebrations that their journey has laid before them. Their passion and values speak mountains through their story; Protecting a mind of strong will and a heart of self-love. The Love Anyway Project is excited to share with you their words. Enjoy!
Awaken the Haus is primarily about Eco-friendly fashion. We produce wardrobe staples and accessories that benefits the local community where we design and manufacture here in Brisbane but also benefit our home community back in PNG. All this whilst minimizing the impact on the environment and following our ethos “to be kind to the earth and its inhabitants”.
Why have you chosen this path?
For me (Bernard) personally, I was a Business Development Manager travelling too much and with young kids I decided to change tact and be a stay at home Dad to spend more time with them. At the same time my sister, Patricia had already started up the business and needed some help. In conversation along with my skill set and growing desire for sustainable living, so I jumped on board and became her Business Partner. For Patricia it was a skill set she developed over several years. But at a point in time found herself dejected from the fashion industry with common practices that had little value on everything except the value of the dollar itself. And so a pursuit not just for ethical fashion but for a betterment of the world began.
What was the specific event that triggered you two to begin and pursue this dream?
The dream started with my sister. Working in the “Fast Fashion” industry, she became all too aware that the pursuit for profit was priority above all else. The exploitation of not only her and her colleagues but with the developing communities, made it hard for her to continue in the industry. So in 2014 she took some time off, a “gap year”, to reinvent herself and she found that fashion was still her passion. She wanted to design and make clothing with a purpose and took the “leap of faith” and started her own business. As fate would have it, I (Bernard) was on a similar path. Discovering ways to minimize my impact on the earth and improve the local community, it seemed a logical step. When Patricia asked, I jumped on board.
Bernie, as a stay-at-home dad how did you know it was time to take on more responsibilities? How do you deal with the stresses of family and work?
There wasn’t really a point in time rather a series of many small events. All these small events were things that I “wanted” to do and it seemed to naturally put me on this path. Because I “wanted” to do these things they never really seemed as responsibilities. So I guess all these small events have pooled up into the responsibilities I have today but I guess when you do things you “want” to do the more you “want” to do them. However balancing family and work is key. Family is everything to me and so trumps everything. But I understand the importance of working for my family and me but again because it’s something I “want” to do, as stressful as life gets, work doesn’t become a burden.
Patricia, during your time of finding yourself what were some of the activities or practices you’ve explored that helped you along the journey? And what have you held on till this day?
I started to focus on my health holistically, my mind, body and spirit. I took up yoga, started eating right, getting adequate sleep and removing negative things and people from my life. It was during that time I discovered I have PCOS, am gluten and lactose intolerant. These may have remained undiagnosed had I not stopped, taken a step back and assessed my environment. I also started to practice being present, which in the past has been difficult for me, because I’m an over-thinker. Doing simple things like watching and appreciating the sunrise, sunset, full moon rise etc, meditating and yoga has helped immensely. I still practice these now. Sometimes I’ll schedule a whole day to myself (Pat time) when I’m feeling a bit stressed, tired (more so than usual) and overwhelmed.
Having a scheduled day to myself, practicing self love and just being present helps to keep things in perspective. I find that when I get back into work after some “Pat time” I feel refreshed and energized.
I know many that are on the path of finding themselves and would love to hear what you both learned through your experiences.
It’s a very common theme for people finding themselves or their path and it can be very simple. Find something that you love doing… and do it.
How did you overcome the hesitation or reluctance to start?
For Patricia, it felt like something she needed to do and not something she wanted to do. And for both of us it was also things we were doing anyway, so because of that there wasn’t a great deal of hesitation or reluctance to start. So everything progressed organically and as we persude our passions, our passions morphed and developed into a business we are very excited to grow and develop.
What are some challenges/obstacles you both face daily?
For us it’s very much the lack of education and awareness about (and within) the fashion industry. The cost of producing our garments as opposed to fast fashion is far greater. Not to mention the cost to the environment and communities that are being exploited. So when you understand the reasons behind it you can make a more educated and informed decision about the products you buy and the impacts (good or bad) they might have
How do you overcome them?
We very much believe in the products we sell and the myriad benefits that come out of it. So it really is just “spreading the word”. We don’t want to preach but it’s very much providing an alternative choice to what is out there at the moment and just sharing our story. With everything we do, we stay true to our ethos and that always helps overcoming any (seen or unseen) challenges that come our way.
I understand with business it can be tough and mixing business with family can even be more tough. How do you both overcome this barrier? What would you like to share with those thinking of starting a business with family?
For Patricia, as the primary carer for her son it is challenging juggling the two, at the best of times. She found that getting creative with how, when & even where she works helps to overcome this. For example, when her son has his weekly swimming lesson, she uses that 30 minute block to brainstorm content for social media for the week ahead.
But starting a business with family can be done harmoniously. We think it’s important, while aiming high, to also keep realistic expectations and have good time management. There are so many useful tools and apps to help with time management.
And if things don’t go according to plan, to not beat yourself up. There’s always tomorrow or next week! We were and still are aware of the pitfalls that can arise with working with family but it is because we are aware of it that we ensure that business is business and at the end of the day, family always comes first.
What have you both learned from this experience personally and as a unit? Would you have done anything different approaching it with the knowledge and better understanding of yourselves?
For Patricia, personally she has learnt that it (business, parenting and life in general) is easier when you don’t feel as though you’re doing it alone. As a unit, keeping an open mind and always remembering that we’re on the same team.
Looking back she definitely would have started networking early on. Also appreciating the power of no and setting boundaries. And asking for help and accepting it, even when she didn’t think she needed it.
For me (Bernard), just doing this interview I have a thought I would like to share. Think of raindrops as small actions, events or just things that you “want” to do. The more you do, the more it rains. Eventually, they pool together and start to flow. Now you’re on your journey and as you continue doing the things you want to do the faster it flows. You can imagine a gentle flowing stream or a raging river and anything in between. Water flows in the path of least resistance and will continue to flow as long as you do the things you “want”.
What advice would you give to those trying to pursue their passion in making a difference in the world?
Just like us, just do your passion. What ever capacity great or small, just do it. Those smalls steps can turn into leaps and bounds and you never know how big an impact you will make. But even small steps will eventually get you to your goal.
The Love Anyway Project commends the passion they bring forth through their business and in life. Patricia shows grace for herself and others as she courageously commits to pursue and turn her dreams into reality. And, Bernard brings a soft strength and strong will that carries his family towards that reality.
Thank you both for enforcing the value of family and dreams,
Thank you both for persevering through the raging rivers,
Thank you both for continuing to Love Anyway!
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