Let go of trying to please everyone, you never can anyway! You know that old saying “What other people think of you is none of your business”? Well, it’s true! There’s something extremely freeing when you stop caring about what others think. This isn’t to say you can walk around being a jerk. It just means your decisions and actions do not need to be ruled by how others will perceive you. Be true to yourself!

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Britt Howard.

Britt Howard is the Owner & Founder of Portland Garment Factory (PGF), an award-winning, full-service soft goods manufacturing company bridging design and production with experiential marketing installations, soft sculpture, high-end custom garments and more. When Britt launched PGF in 2008 at age 25, she was looking for a way to make things for herself—mainly sculpture and clothing—while cultivating a creative artists’ hub. By 2020, with Britt’s leadership, PGF held numerous awards for their work and a portfolio boasting clients including: Nike, Intel, Adidas, Portland Art Museum, Wieden+Kennedy, Netflix and Tillamook, among others.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I was raised in the Pacific Northwest by strong, resilient women. From a very young age I was outgoing and interested in being my own boss. Alongside this entrepreneurial spirit was a creative drive to make art. I went to an arts high school and went on to study anthropology in college. I had my first child when I was 18, and so I’ve spent a lot of my life as a mom to two wonderful humans. I wear many hats in my life, but I think “creative problem-solver” sums it all up well. I opened Portland Garment Factory (PGF) in 2008 to combine my entrepreneurial and artistic ambitions and never stopped.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I have a general take away. After 13 years in business and recently turning 39, I realized that I don’t often ask myself “What is best for me?” or even “What is best for PGF?” Over the years, I’ve tended to consider the needs, worries, and opinions of others during pivotal moments (over the course of scaling the business, when my business partner decided to exit, during the pandemic…). I have learned to consider myself first — it’s an exercise in double-checking that the outcome will be successful for all. Similar to putting on your own oxygen mask first! It’s important to consider your own health, happiness, and trajectory before making big decisions, especially when those decisions affect others. The urge to please others can still be fulfilled, but we just get to be one of the “others” we are pleasing!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

PGF is unique in many ways, especially compared to other manufacturers, who often specialize out of the ideation process entirely. At PGF, our process can stretch from ideation to design and prototyping to full line production. Our crew is made up of designers, artists, and expert fabricators. Our capabilities are far-reaching because of our collective expertise, which allows us to creatively approach both challenging and interesting projects.

Two of my favorite projects to date: We got the opportunity to make flight uniforms for Michael Jordan’s private jet in 2015 MJ saw our work and said: “You get me girl!” I also love creative projects where we get to go wild, like a giant cosmic eyeball backdrop we made for the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra’s performance at the Portland Art Museum in 2019.

PGF also stands out because we’re deeply committed to sustainability. We’re a zero waste factory. That means we do not throw away any material scraps — everything is repurposed. We’re also proud to be B Corp Certified and Climate Neutral Certified.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

When I was first launching PGF I borrowed a small amount of money from my best friend’s mom. She had owned small businesses, had been in the Air Force, and worked as an engineer. Needless to say, she was a renaissance woman whom I admired! After reaching out to her to look over my business plan (it was two sheets of paper and more of a passionate monologue) she offered to loan me some money to get off the ground!

In the summer of 2008, I was setting up my tiny shop and met a woman at a garage sale who unexpectedly set me on a course to connect with many of Portland’s industry stalwarts, from retired sewing machine repairmen to iconic pattern drafters, all of whom were excited to see a young person so passionate about the then-dying manufacturing industry in Portland.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is having grit; it’s flexibility, it’s the ability to accept discomfort and work through challenges. “The only way out is through” is one of my favorite mantras. Resilient people take rejection as an opportunity to grow, rather than a reason to give up. There’s a strong inner compass within all resilient people. I believe that we all have the power to cultivate this trait, and that self-love is the bedrock of resilience.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

You need courage to be resilient; courage to move forward and work through challenges, courage to let go and close certain chapters in your life in order to welcome new ones. Courageous moments, even small ones, build resilience.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My grandmother, Bettyan Howard, represents resilience for me. She raised four kids as a single mom while working full time at the local movie theater and running her side business making popcorn. She was known as Popcorn Betty! She had real grit, and I think I got my determination and tenacity from her. I also had many teachers at my high school that come to mind, teachers who treated us as the artists we were and trusted us in our creativity. Learning to recognize this trust in myself is one of the strongest roots of my own resilience.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When the pandemic hit and everything started to shut down and a PPE shortage loomed, I identified two goals for PGF: 1. Stay in business and 2. Be helpers. With all of PGF’s work drying up overnight, we quickly set our course on making masks for the medical community. I think that for many people, what we were trying to do was a bit crazy! PGF survived the pandemic because we were able to pivot quickly and efficiently, and when we pivoted we did it with our community’s needs in mind. I saw many businesses around me close down, but I never even entertained that as an option. We made it through thanks to our ingenuity, support from our community, and the government grants available to small businesses during the pandemic. I am so grateful that we stayed the course and worked hard as a team because things are more exciting now than ever.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

On April 19, 2021, I got that 5AM call that no one ever wants to get. I was told that PGF’s building, our home for over a decade, was on fire. When I showed up at the site, I was in total shock. The fire had started outside the building and spread quickly. To see everything I’ve worked for literally go up in flames was a harrowing experience I will never forget.

The day after the fire, I gathered with my team across the street from the wreckage. Together, we made a list envisioning a dream building — more production and office space, outdoor space, natural light, a dog run, and more. It was cathartic, looking at the past we couldn’t return to while thinking forward to our next chapter. Fast forward 6 months later (past seemingly endless insurance paperwork) and we’re in that dream space! Our new factory is everything we wanted and then some! It’s an incredible opportunity to do more of the work we’ve always envisioned — this kind of event really shifts your perspective on what you want to pursue.

I don’t want to sugarcoat the experience. It has been very hard, both physically and emotionally, but I am so grateful to my team, my family, and community for supporting me and PGF during what has been a very challenging time. I still mourn the loss of our old space, and everything that we lost, but now that experience is part of my history. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow, and for that I’m grateful.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Becoming a mother at any age is bound to build resilience in oneself, but becoming a mother at 18 comes with a set of challenges that speeds up the process! I attended college while working two jobs and raising my son. Looking back, it doesn’t seem possible! We got around mostly on a bike with a baby trailer, and by public transportation. I realize it was a very trying time in my life, but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything — waking up in a fluster after having fallen asleep while putting my son to bed, only to realize I had wasted three precious homework hours! Somehow I made it all work and my son still commutes on bike. He happens to be pretty resilient himself!

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

My top five steps towards resiliency are:

Step away to gain perspective and get outside! I’ve been known to take 100 mile solo hikes to work through issues I’m facing. It started the summer after my old business partner left PGF in 2016. Solo hiking and camping along the Pacific Crest Trail was both physically and mentally challenging, and very beautiful! It was just what I needed to clear my mind, and find my path forward.

Let go of trying to please everyone, you never can anyway! You know that old saying “What other people think of you is none of your business”? Well, it’s true! There’s something extremely freeing when you stop caring about what others think. This isn’t to say you can walk around being a jerk. It just means your decisions and actions do not need to be ruled by how others will perceive you. Be true to yourself!

Lean on your friends, family, and community during hard times. Be there for others when they need you. After PGF’s fire I was showered with messages, calls, food drop offs, and more. Having that support, even when it was a simple text that said, “I’m thinking about you” helped me through a deep state of grief. And when you’re on the other side of it, when someone else is in need, always reach out. You never know what your words will mean to them when they are having a hard time.

Ask yourself “what can I learn from this situation?” This will help you to see past the current frustration or fear, and look towards your future, wiser self who has gained a valuable perspective. I encounter challenging situations on a regular basis. Of course I get frustrated! But I find that if I can remove myself emotionally from the situation, and look at it from the perspective of “what is this teaching me, what i can do differently next time” then frustration melts into empowerment.

Prioritize your health. Drink water! Eat well! Move your body! Laugh! Rest! It seems simple but it’s so easy to get distracted and abandon the simple things that will keep you whole. This may be the hardest and most important practice towards cultivating resilience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“Do Whatever You Want” is my personal mantra. It’s partly humorous but I also really mean it! Do what makes you happy and fulfilled, allow yourself to change over time. What you want now may be different from what you want in five years. That’s what keeps life interesting, right? Do Whatever You Want encourages you to take a leap, to walk toward the fire or face your fears. If I could inspire a movement, it would be one of uplifting people to live their most creative, joyous, and authentic lives, compassionately. As far as how I’d lead this movement… I’m still working on that!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Michelle Obama, for being the ultimate inspiration! She’s always working towards creating a better future for the next generation. During our lunch we’d discuss the tactile and aesthetically amazing playground we will create for children to run and play and be themselves. The world needs more spaces where children and teens can thrive. Michelle, are you in?

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit our website portlandgarmentfactory.com or follow us on Instagram, @portlandgarmentfactory

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.