How many of us have wanted to pivot our work lives to something more aligned with our personal values? It can be scary, but then we have to choose: staying where we are can be hard, or moving into something entirely new can also be hard. Leigh Pearson and Bart O’Brien decided to take a mid-life leap out of their previous careers and start the fan-favorite Be Hippy clothing brand. As they like to say, “Choose Happiness.”
It was a journey that began decades earlier. Leigh and Bart met in 1991 while seniors at the University of Tennessee. They dated for a bit then Bart moved to Australia and Leigh left for Colorado. Twenty-four years later, circumstances would have them reconnecting at a music festival in the high Rocky Mountains. Two years later, they founded Be Hippy, based around the values they deeply felt. This was a long way from their previous careers in real estate and finance; in fact, they had no experience in sustainable apparel at all, other than great admiration for the brands sustainably produced. But those brands didn’t have the joyful spirit that they both brought to Be Hippy. As Bart told me today after he just returned from a hike up nearby Mt. Sopris, “This is the life we have both always wanted.”
They now split their time between Denver — where their distribution center, 20 employees, and main store are located — and their mountain getaway in nearby Basalt, Colorado. It is a grassroots brand that comes directly out of their life experiences, exemplifying a passion for music, the outdoors, traveling, fashion, and living life to the fullest. This is what brought them to our attention: the inexhaustible optimism and love of life that they bring to the world via Be Hippy.
What are your ages?
Leigh is 53 and Bart is 52.
Where do you live?
We live in Denver, Colorado.
When did you start Be Hippy? Have you had experience doing a clothing brand in the past?
We started Be Hippy in 2014 with no experience in apparel, apparel brands, or anything similar.
You both seem so chill, but running a brand can be demanding. How do you balance that?
We get outside and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer.
Running a Brand in Your Fifties
What are the advantages of running a brand in your fifties?
Hmmmm… We definitely have a better idea of who we are, where we want to go, and what we want to accomplish… Experience comes with age!
What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome?
The challenges are limitless when you create something new, something that hasn’t yet existed in the world in this particular form… Be Hippy!
Have Covid and the related disruptions caused you any problems?
The disruptions related to the shutdowns are enormous. The supply chain disruptions have been a hurdle and require one to be nimble and creative. And where did all the people go? Finding employees has become extremely challenging since the shutdown.
“We love all the things that allow us to get outside and enjoy the 300+ days of sunshine we have in Colorado”
You both seem fit. What sort of activities are you involved in?
We hike, bike, camp, run, golf, fish, paddleboard, raft. We love all the things that allow us to get outside and enjoy the 300+ days of sunshine we have in Colorado.
What does being part of the “1% for the Planet” mean?
As an expression of the Be Hippy lifestyle, we embrace community, responsible living, and giving back. Being a member of 1% for the Planet, Be Hippy recognizes that we have a responsibility for our planet. This partnership allows us to work with other organizations that are spearheading positive change in the world.
What do you want people to feel when they wear a piece of Be Hippy?
What are your ambitions for Be Hippy?
We created Be Hippy to have a positive impact, to change the world! Be Hippy is a movement to inspire people to live an adventurous and happy life. That could be experiencing a beautiful sunrise over the mountains, finding solitude fishing on a great river, or taking off on a Wednesday to ski a powder day. We hope to encourage folks to join the tribe and live the life they love!
“Be Hippy is a movement to inspire people to live an adventurous and happy life”
Love your dog photos! Tell us a bit about him.
Boone is an 8-year-old Goldendoodle. He has been a part of Be Hippy since the beginning. Boone traveled everywhere with us in the beginning… to all festivals, shows, markets, etc. He was a huge draw. Everyone loves Boone!
Who are your heroes?
Yvon Chouinard, Zach Bush MD, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, MLK Jr., Gandhi, and all those who are fighting to save our planet from the inundation of chemicals in our water, soil, and air. All those musicians & artists who have had an impact on our spirit and allowed us to dance through the negative with a smile on our face. Anyone who challenges the system and approaches life with exuberant energy, prolific kindness, and a passion for truth. Those who never give in to the oppressive bully.
Where do you want to be personally in 20 years?
On a mountain with a smile on our face.
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