Whether it comes to business, friendship, creative projects or family life, these co-founders know how to get it done while having fun along the way.
How do you know one another?
Hannah: I met Jen through work and we immediately hit it off. Our dry, sarcastic sense of humour coupled with our ‘lets get it done’ mode was a match made in heaven. As far as personalities go, Jen and I are polar opposites. She’s a creative and I’m operations oriented. She’s quiet and I’m more loud. But I think that’s what makes our partnership and friendship so dynamic.
Jen: I’d say it’s a perfect example of complementary skill sets held together with aligned work ethics and outlooks on life. We have a lot of fun working together, and know how to take the work seriously without taking ourselves seriously.
How did Otto Studio come to life?
Hannah: Jen and I have always dreamed of being in business together. We’ve discussed ideas here and there, but mostly in fun. When this business opportunity came to us, we did the research and it made sense. There was a gap in the marketplace for folks in our age group who we could directly relate to.
Jen: I’m constantly trying new design avenues, and the chance to explore surface pattern design and interiors was hugely interesting to me. Plus, I’d been wanting something different when it comes to interior decor for my own house – and like a true entrepreneur at heart, I immediately started dreaming up ways to solve my own problem!
How would you describe your home?
Jen: A creative, graphic mishmash! We live in an old apartment building that’s seen better days – but we’ve added so many fun elements to make it ours. Our floor is painted with a triangular grid of black, pink and yellow. Our couch is cow print! We’ve got a framed photo of the original Wonder Woman in black and white in the bathroom that was here when we moved in – i have no idea why it was there – but we kept it because it still makes us smile. My partner has a music studio filled with synths, guitars, and mixing boards, and I’ve got a whole station for my art, sewing, design and whatever else I’m into at the moment. We’ve got art made by friends and local artists all over the place.
Hannah: I’m currently living in an apartment with my family and it’s getting a bit small for us! Ultimately, having defined spaces within my home is important. A place where my kids can play, a space for my home office and where we can spend time with guests. We’re making it work for now and will be upgrading to a larger space for our family soon.
What inspired you to create a contemporary wallpaper studio?
Hannah: From day one, we wanted to create a brand that people in our demographic could deeply resonate with. We wanted to give options to the marketplace as we saw a gap through our own research.
Jen: I think we’re coming out of a long period of a spare, minimalistic aesthetic. While I love that too, I think what we’re craving now, culturally, is fun, expressiveness, texture and colour. Being able to offer something that helps people love the space they’re in while being flexible enough for the reality that we might need something different in a year or two’s time – that was attractive to me.
“Being able to offer something that helps people love the space they’re in while being flexible enough for the reality that we might need something different in a year or two’s time – that was attractive to me.”– Jen
Who were the people who have been the most helpful in getting you to where you are today? How have they impacted your life and career?
Hannah: My partner, friends and family have been incredibly supportive. I feel a lot of validation when I’m talking with someone about Otto and they say something like “I’ve been looking for exactly this product and can’t seem to find it online”. This happens all the time.
Jen: My grandmother was the creative force in my family, and although she passed when I was nine, I still feel her impact all the time. She was incredibly resourceful and worked in many mediums. My partner is always supportive to my creative ambitions and various projects, and tolerates me making messes and taking up space! And I’m lucky to have friends, creative collaborators, and mentors along the way, who have placed their trust in me. When you do things like design and art which can be so subjective, that trust can be the difference between having the courage to pursue your craft, or not.
In shaping this business, we also had the support of an incredible mentor we were connected with through The Forum (hi, Ada!). She was instrumental in keeping us accountable, guiding our thinking and connecting us to helpful resources along the way.
“Prototype, build, launch – then iterate as you go. It doesn’t have to be perfect before you launch a business or idea.” – Hannah
What lessons have you learned while bringing Otto to life?
Hannah: I think as an entrepreneur and owner of a small business, there are always going to be competing priorities. Getting really clear on the most important is a skill one needs to master as an owner. Prototype, build, launch – then iterate as you go. It doesn’t have to be perfect before you launch a business or idea.
Jen: I think part of why Hannah and I work so well together is that we know failure is part of the journey, and that never failing means you’re never trying anything new. It’s been a longer road than we anticipated to launch Otto, so I suppose the first lesson is that things always seem easier when they’re on paper! But, to be fair, creating a business during a pandemic is no small feat.