• By: Kat Walcott

Founders of Ottawa apparel brand Octopied Mind aim for mindfulness, inspiration and inclusivity

There are so many fashion brands out there, but Sarah and Jill, the founders of Ottawa-based fashion and lifestyle brand Octopied Mind are using clothes to spread an important message. They are all about promoting mental wellness and self-acceptance and pride themselves on being as inclusive as possible with clothing and accessories for all genders and body types.

Sarah, who was going through a period of self-growth and spiritual awakening before starting the business, credits learning about the concept of “ego” as one of the main inspirations for the brand saying, “Learning how to tell the difference between my soul's voice and my ego’s voice through a book I read, “Awakening to Your Life's Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle, has not only changed the way I understand myself but how I approach life and build relationships. Coming to the realization that the constant stream of negative self-talk in my head did not define who I was sparked a deep desire to help others realize the same. 

First considering social work, Sarah soon found herself surrounded by entrepreneurs when she moved to Ottawa a few years back and realized that starting up a business would be great a catalyst for her to spread inspiring ideas and lessons to the masses. Her friend and co-founder Jill shares a similar story, being inspired by wisdom she gained after a trip to Nicarauga, describing it as, “…a very short but inspiring time in my life…”

Upon Jill’s return to Ottawa, she put pen to paper and soon came up with her very first logo and the name “Octopied Mind” – inspired by her newly found interest in mindfulness and a recent binge-watch of nature film Deep Blue and a fascination with octopuses. Joining forces with Sarah, Octopied Mind came to fruition. Sarah took some time to chat with us about the duo’s inspiring business and goals and to share the five keys advice to entrepreneurial success.

Ottawa Life: The consumer market is pretty saturated with clothing lines, but what makes Octopied Mind more than a fashion brand?

Sarah: We're asked this question a lot and to answer it simply, our goal is to foster a community of people who feel like they belong and are deeply connected to one another — we just happen to also sell clothing. Whether it be through audio-visual story-telling, illustrations, or in-person meetups, our mission is to find new ways for people to authentically relate to one another. Many people use Octopied Mind as a virtual healing space to hang out, engage with one another and learn about themselves. Some of these folks have yet to enlighten their closets with Octopied Mind, but it doesn't matter. You don't need to wear Octopied Mind to be a part of Octopied Mind.

Mental health and well-being seems to be an important message behind everything you do through Octopied Mind. Why is this so important to you?

Sarah: Life isn't always easy. There's work, self-care, caring for others, competition, learning, growing, healing and the list goes on. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the buzz of our own to-do lists that we forget to connect with those around us, including ourselves. Mental health and well-being is an important message behind everything we do because in some way or another, humans often feel alone in their struggles. Even after doing this for over a year, we still get hung-up about sharing personal struggles. And if we don't share, then we have no content — which creates a slippery slope of anxiety and pressure to perform. Every time we bottle things up and pretend like it's A-OKAY our community can sense it — the beautiful part is that someone always notices and reaches out. However, when we break beyond the barrier of fear of being judged, we are surprised time and time again that we are not alone. Sharing raw, vulnerable content is a challenge and sometimes we kick ourselves for building an entire business off of it, but having people respond to our content with words like "I needed this today," or "I thought I was alone" is a feeling like no other.

Almost all your clothing pieces are unisex which is quite unique. Was it difficult to come up with fits and styles that would be of taste to both men and women and flatter various body types?

Sarah: Jill and I always disliked the way most "women's clothing" fit our bodies. Even though many people think we're one person or twins, we actually have very different body shapes. With one of us also being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, clothing plays an important role in personal identity. Tired of being "too feminine" or "not feminine enough," it was important to offer clothing that focused on fitting bodies, minds and spirits. Ethical unisex clothing that is flattering for all shapes and sizes is hard to find. Unisex clothing is either too long, too short, too wide or too thin. It took us several months to find high-quality ethical options that would please most of our audience. While the majority of our customers identify as female, it's also the first time we've ever heard people say "My boyfriend steals my t-shirt."

Any advice for local aspiring entrepreneurs? What do you know now about business that you didn't when you first got started?

Patience: Take some time to reflect on who you are and what you value. The answers you're looking for are always within, but they won't be obvious until much later. Just take note of them and pursue what feels good. Remember, your business is just an expansion of yourself. By improving and developing aspects of who you are, you are in-turn developing your business.

Process of Elimination: You won't know what you want to do or how you want to do it until you identify all of the things you don't want to do. Just like self-discovery — We don't know who we are on the inside by looking at our reflection in a mirror but by relating to others and the world around us and from there, identifying the things we are not. What we're saying is, take a road – any road. It doesn't actually matter. They all lead to the same place eventually and you'll course correct along the way.

Action: Picture your business as a big block of stone -— by chipping away at it day by day you'll eventually craft a beautiful sculpture. If you have an idea, go with it. If you don't have an idea, still do things that lead you to the bigger picture. Whether that be listening to business-based podcasts, reading, networking, going to business retreats or hiring a coach. You never know who or what will trigger inspiration — just make sure you take action on that inspiration because that's the hardest part.

Mindset: Here's a secret. Entrepreneurs have no idea what they're doing most of the time. Sure, they have direction, goals and strategy but the biggest “ah-ha” moment we've had is learning that entrepreneurship is 80 per cent mindset and 20 per cent strategy. Get back to who you are and why you do what you do. If you look at why you're feeling lost or frightened, it's almost always feelings of enough in disguise. Know that you are smart enough, you are capable enough and you are strong enough to run a successful, sustainable business.

Community: Entrepreneurship can be isolating — No more coffee room chats, bonding over hard-times at work or team building. Make sure you engage with other entrepreneurs, especially in Ottawa where many of us value community over competition. Whether or not you have a business, an idea or rocking a totally blank canvas, you never know what you will learn from your community.

To learn more about Sarah and Jill’s mission, and to check out their line of clothing and accessories, visit Octopied Mind.

Photos: Courtesy Octopied Mind