If I had to describe Courtney Chew in one word, it would be “builder.”
She’s a builder of brands—including her own eco-swim line called Ocin, and her consulting studio that works with companies like Reigning Champ and Monos. She’s a builder of community—anyone in her hometown of Vancouver who’s been to one of her events can attest to this. She’s a builder of ideas—her love of collaboration is one of her greatest assets. And she’s a builder of style—her effortless aesthetic, ranging from her clothing to her home, is a manifestation of her holistic worldview.
Chew is our Eucalyptus muse; she represents the freshness of ideas, the ease of beauty, and the calmness of energy that this new Stone Diffuser color embodies (plus, green is her favorite hue). Over coffee at a local brewery in Vancouver, we discuss leadership, letting go, simplicity, and success.
How has Ocin changed since you started it?
I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want it to be just another retail brand. And I was definitely trying hard to figure out what our purpose was—what makes us different, what makes us unique. I’ve always had this vision of Ocin being a platform and a resource to really inspire people to connect to themselves, and then also how that transcends into connecting to things that they care about—whether it’s oceans or the people around them. Realizing that every little thing that you do and put out there really does matter; we can make really cool things happen when we come together and put aside our differences and lead with open hearts and open minds. That was always the premise of it. But also, four years ago, with me being the only person doing it, it was very much an extension of myself. And I think in that way, it opens up all these doors to being super vulnerable.
Over the years as I’ve grown as a person, I think that it’s also pushed those boundaries of the brand, because a lot of myself is embedded into the brand. The things that I believe in and want to have a voice in or want to share with the rest of the world that I’m learning—because I definitely use Ocin as a learning tool for myself. And I hope that comes across to other people as well, that we’re not all perfect, and I definitely don’t say that I’m perfect. I definitely don’t say that Ocin’s perfect. We’re wanting to always be better every year, if we continue to get the chance to be around. So I think because we have this learning-growth mindset, the brand will continue to change as we grow and scale.
When a brand is so much of you, how do you start to let go?
I think it really comes down to just being able to have that trust in and respect for the people I work with. I’m honestly so grateful to be able to work with people that I’m able to work with. I’ve always loved working in teams, and I love being able to empower people and utilize their skill sets. I know I’m very capable of doing everything, but I also know my limitations and I know how much better things can be when you allow people to help you.
It is fun to be able to create with people. It’s a privilege to be able to collaborate with one another, so why not just make the most of it and rely on each other’s skill sets? If you’re hiring someone to do something, let them do it. That’s what you want them for—you want them for their talent but also for their mind for their energy, so give them that space.
It’s a good leadership mentality, too.
I’ve definitely managed a lot of teams over the years. And it’s really important to remember that people are your biggest asset. I don’t know why it slips the mind, sometimes, of some bigger corporations, but your people are what get you to where you’re going. And if you have the most inspired, empowered, focused team, they want to be there. They want to do things, they want to put in the extra time, and they want to work with you. And that’s something that you can’t take for granted.
With so much on the go, what do you do to carve out time for yourself at home?
I struggled with that for a long time. I was not very good at work-life balance. It was definitely more like: work-priority forever. I had to learn that the hard way, for sure: burnout, all that shit. It’s very real. I like to think of it more as work-life integration now. Especially owning my business, it’s very, very difficult to separate. And especially because I have a multitude of different things that are going on, I’m always thinking about different things. Every conversation I have sparks a lot of ideas or collaborations, even if I’m just going for a random coffee. There’s opportunity everywhere.
Work is such a big part of my identity. But when work is gone or when work is not as prevalent and as all-consuming, who are you? What is important to you? What do you prioritize? How are you doing things like taking care of yourself and spending time?
I’m really big on making Asian herbal teas, and they take a long time to brew. So literally taking like 20 or 30 minutes to brew that is a nice reminder to slow down, because I just have to focus on that. I started taking baths again; I hadn’t taken baths in years. They are very lovely. And not sending text messages but picking up the phone and calling someone. That has definitely seen a lot more prevalence in my life these days.
At the end of the day, I really am super grateful to be able to do what I do every day. And I just want to put that energy out to keep doing as much as I can for as long as I can. Because I know it is a huge privilege to be able to do that: to wake up and be able to create freely; to run a business and work with a team and collaborate with friends.
And how about scent, where does that fit into your home routine?
I’ve always loved scent. Whenever I travel, I pick up a fragrance from that place—whether it be for my home or myself. With the diffuser, I love that I can mix different oils together. It’s that creating piece.
How do you define success for yourself?
Success is an evolving concept, and it’s unique to each individual and their experiences and values. It’s more than what society deems as measures of fulfillment: personal goals, financial stability, a house, a car, a career. Success to me is the sum of all that makes you feel truly whole. It’s the people and energy you surround yourself with; the way you choose to lead your life, sharing that openly and vulnerably with those around you; giving back to what you believe in—be it people, communities, social causes, youth, the planet.
It’s about understanding and connecting to yourself and your intuition, and being able to live each day with intention, presence, gratitude, compassion, and humility. It’s seeing all that work come to fruition in front of you and realizing the great impact that you have as a human on this earth. It’s what you choose to do with that awareness and mindset—leaning into that to shape your purpose and focusing your energy on the opportunities you get to develop. It’s continuing to be better and pushing your boundaries.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.