Sam Leetham and Saasha Burns are the powerhouse couple behind sustainable wellness brand BEAR. We visited the creative duo at their Byron Bay home on the Eastern coast of Australia to talk about creating a meaningful product and why they strive to live in the moment.
The coastal town of Byron Bay has always held a special significance for Sam Leetham and Saasha Burns. It’s where the couple met 11 years ago, a time they vividly remember. While staying door to door at a local beach hotel for an end-of-school event, Sam slipped a card under Saasha’s door, Saasha recalls. Fast forward a decade and we sit in their lovingly furnished home exemplified by their love for mid-century furniture. From here, they run BEAR, a sustainable wellness brand. It’s also home to BEAR’s creative arm, BEAR Originals, an agency that specializes in strategy and content solutions for international and emerging brands. BEAR means so much more than organic skincare and daily vitamins—its philosophy stems from the couple’s strong appreciation for nature and sustainability, which is undeniably informed by their lifestyle.
Sam and Saasha grew up in Melbourne where they studied communication and advertising, respectively. Sam added an MBA to his resume, the course for which he completed between Melbourne and St. Gallen in Switzerland. From Switzerland, the couple embarked on many travels, finding inspiration in a myriad of European cultures, which later fueled the foundation for their company. Before relocating to Byron Bay, the couple lived in Sydney where Sam worked for Daimler and Saasha modeled for local and international fashion brands—a time they describe as very busy, but which laid a strong foundation of an incredible work ethic, Sam reports. A palm tree falls down behind us as Sam enthuses over the high living standards in Byron Bay. He chuckles as Saasha chimes in: “This wouldn’t necessarily happen in Melbourne.”
“The community in Byron values work and life as being one pursuit and doesn’t separate the two.”
How would you describe Byron Bay and the lifestyle you enjoy here?
Saasha: Byron for us is absolute paradise. You’re so close to nature, high-quality food—we love going to the local farmers’ markets—and some of Australia’s best beaches. It really is a slower way of life and time seems to be on your side up here. But it’s also a very creative, entrepreneurial community, so it’s a great place to base ourselves in between our international travels.
And how does it represent Australia?
Sam: To us, Byron Bay is the epitome of the modern Australian way of life. It encapsulates what wellness represents to us, physically but also mentally and spiritually.
Saasha: We’re so happy we chose to wake up to the sun and instead of being part of that daily grind and the morning commute and the traffic, we get to go to the ocean, go for a long beach walk with our dog, Minnie, or a swim, or a walk to the lighthouse—that’s how we start our day. Often we’re doing some of our most fulfilling work when we’re not actually sitting at a desk. We often joke that we come up with our best ideas or solve our biggest problems when we are sitting at the beach.
Sam: The community in Byron values work and life as being one pursuit and doesn’t separate the two. That’s still very much a city culture and belief system, so we’re always trying to encourage our families and friends in cities to really look at life that way. That you don’t want to work to live but you are ideally doing something that you love and are passionate about and it just becomes how you live your life.
How does Byron Bay differentiate from the bigger cities?
Sam: We love that there’s this huge sustainability movement that’s really being led out of Byron Bay for Australia and hopefully BEAR can play a big role in taking that conversation throughout Australia but also throughout the world. It’s so ingrained in the community.
Saasha: In a city it’s all about convenience and if everyone’s doing something people just follow the trend. Whereas when you’re so close to nature and the ocean, you really care about nature and wildlife. It’s the little country towns and communities that are at the forefront of this movement and I think it will take time for people living in the cities because they’re so removed from nature, so it can be a little bit slower.
And how does that lifestyle inspire your brand’s vision?
Sam: What underpins our philosophy is that we believe that wellness is our greatest luxury. That’s what BEAR has been built for, to be able to help our customers and our community with their own health and wellness journeys. It’s the most rewarding part of our brand, and it’s something that we take very seriously.
What does wellness mean to you on a day-to-day basis and what role does your location play in it?
Sam: We really wanted our home to be a sanctuary when we are traveling to a city each week, we’re in an international city each month. Over the last few years we developed an appreciation for local artists—we’ve got an amazing original work by Bobby Clark, which hangs where most people would have their TV. We just find that it’s such a relaxation point to be able to sit on the couch and..
Saasha: ..have a good conversation and a wine instead; to unwind at the end of the day.
Sam: Which is such an important part of wellness. Sometimes we’ve overlooked that in the past, having prioritized physical wellness over and above everything else. And sometimes the best thing for our health is to have a nice glass of wine and catch up with friends.
How do you complement each other as business partners?
Sam: Saasha is absolutely more the creative element of the business, but everything is so shared, which is one of the core insights we took away from my MBA [the commencement speech addressed the power of twos].
Saasha: We respect each other’s opinion and both understand all sides of the business.
Sam: There’s a real strength in having two points of view. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we really push and challenge each other’s ideas. I think that’s absolutely why we get really strong outcomes.
“What underpins our philosophy is that we believe that wellness is our greatest luxury.”
What’s next for your brand?
Sam: A new studio space which will be really important as we grow. Most excitingly we’re finally getting to a point where we’re happy with our new products which have been in the making for two to three years.
Saasha: Everything takes so much longer than you think, which has been another important lesson. You really only get one chance to launch something so why not make sure that it is perfect?
And for you personally?
Sam: We’re trying to spend more time being present and living in the now, wherever that is at that point in time.
Saasha: Especially for the business it’s so easy to always be looking ahead. It’s nice to just slow down and enjoy the moment.
Based in Byron Bay, Australia, Sam Leetham and Saasha Burns are the founders of sustainable wellness brand BEAR. Inspired by the couple’s strong appreciation from nature, BEAR offers its customers a range of essential daily vitamins, single origin superpowders, and natural skincare products made with carefully sourced ingredients from around the world.
This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with German fashion brand Windsor, as part of which we have also featured culinary entrepreneurs James and David Ardinast as well as Helsinki-based designer Tero Kuitunen.