You know how you go into those organic baby stores and hold up bamboo cotton booties the size of your thumb, and it makes you want a baby just so you can buy it clothes? Storq will make you want to be pregnant just so you can buy their ‘bundles’: packages of beautifully made basics for moms to be. Founder Courtney Klein started Storq in response to the new wave of mothers who didn’t want to wear floral muumuus and and elasticated jeans for those precious 9 months. This is Courtney’s story on finding opportunity in unlikely places, how she launched a business and had a baby at the same time, and the weirdness of waking up one day and realizing you’re a grown up.
“Before moving to San Francisco and starting Storq, I was a partner at a design agency called Hard Candy Shell in New York. My husband had been in New York for a decade, had received an offer in San Francisco, and really wanted to try somewhere new. As a kid, New York was my number one dream and I’d worked towards living there my whole life. So I was very resistant to the idea initially. Once we moved, I had to decide whether I was going to keep doing digital design work… maybe start an agency out here, or go work for one. But I decided to take bit of time to think… What’s something I want to learn about? What’s a new direction I can take now that I’m in a new city? It was the first time in my entire life where there was a moment of pause. I had never really had a moment to think, am I really doing what I want to be doing? In my mind, I was like, this will be nice. But those in-between months were hard for me. The reality of waking up in the morning with all of this unstructured time was different from the idea of it. Coupled with being in a new city and really missing New York, I struggled with that open-ended schedule and the general ‘what am I doing?’ nature of my days. I’m grateful for that period now, but turns out I’m not very good at sitting idle.
At the time, a bunch of friends and family were getting pregnant. After a few conversations I got to thinking—how do you maintain your identity and style when you’re about to become a mom? It seemed like the market hadn’t really adjusted to this new idea of motherhood, where you don’t have to be a martyr. That just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you want to wear ruffles and bows. There was this new batch of soon-to-be moms that wanted to balance the demands of pregnancy, but to also just be themselves. When I started looking into it, a lot of the demographic information supported this. Currently, there are more babies than ever being born to moms over 30. There are a lot of reasons why that’s happening, and especially living in an urban area, you see it. It makes sense why pregnant women have evolved wants and needs: we’re having kids at a completely new life stage where we have established identities and are looking for practical solutions. Having your first baby at 20 is a lot different than having your first baby at 30. When I’d discuss this with pregnant women they would say, ‘I just want to feel like myself. I’m already doing this crazy thing, and to hold onto who I am as I make this huge life change would be really empowering.’ Sure, you could debate it’s only 9 months of your life. But when a woman is pregnant she’s doing something really amazing, and she has the right to feel amazing.
When it came to forming the business, there’s that moment at the edge of the diving board when you think OK, I have to jump. What I kept saying to myself was, if I get this wrong, the consequences aren’t that bad. Like, oh no! There’s no new maternity brand, all is lost! We can’t possibly continue civilization! It felt very important to me at the time, but I had to say to myself, it’s OK to fail.
It’s OK to jump off and not know where you’re
going to land.
My husband was really encouraging on that front. He was like, just put something out there. It doesn’t need to be perfect. If you want all the answers before you start, you’re never going to do it. You could stay on the edge of that diving board forever, and sometimes you need someone to walk up behind you and push you off. I gave myself a date to start talking about it. I decided, when people start asking what I’m doing, I’m going to say, I’m working on a new lifestyle brand for moms. Once you start saying it out loud, it becomes more and more real. Those conversations help form your ideas, also—you’ll talk to someone who will add something new add to your arsenal, then you think—this is what I’m doing. Let’s make this happen. Start small but deliberately. Focus on the few things that you can get right, instead of a million different things.
When I started working on Storq, I knew babies were on the horizon at some point, but I didn’t have any kids. This might make me sound naive, but I had this vision of that kind of thing taking time. When I got pregnant so soon, I felt very fortunate, but it was a bit shocking. It was funny to get pregnant throughout the process and think OK, this is definitely working, but we need to switch this around.
Running a new business with a newborn was interesting! We launched in January and I had my daughter in June. 2 days before she arrived, I was in the Storq office packing inventory to send to our new fulfillment center. She came 2 weeks early, and I don’t know if this was down to procrastination or denial, but everything for her was still in boxes. I was like, she only needs a couple things, it will be fine. Then on the way to the hospital I was saying to my husband, ‘We should have thought about this! I just don’t know! We’re not ready!’ Leading up to her birth I was all, ‘this isn’t going to change me.’ The reality is that it changes everything, from how you think to how you work. That said, I was so pleasantly surprised when she arrived and I hadn’t been completely lobotomized. Even though I was working on a motherhood brand and was all ‘pregnant lady power,’ I was so worried about becoming a mom.
But I looked over at her and thought, she’s incredible and I’m totally still me.
My priorities shifted, but I didn’t completely lose track of who I am. I took a couple weeks off with no Storq, then eased back into it. I’ve tried a few ways to balance both. I went through a stage of working really early in the morning and really late at night. I’d get up at 6am, work until 10:30, then be with her until 7pm. Then I’d go back to work again. That was a funny experiment. In the beginning it kind of worked when she was sleeping all the time, but my brain had trouble switching from mom mode to business mode and back again. So I’ve just started her in daycare. I thought I was going to be really emotional, and the first day I was and it was tough. At the same time, the flexibility I’ve had with her over the past 6 months made the timing feel right for me. I love being with my daughter, but continuing to have interests apart from her is really important to me. I see it as a decision to be a role model for her, and I want her to know that being a mom doesn’t mean you suddenly stop being a person. It’s okay to be who you are and do what you love doing.
This past year has been a whirlwind, but I feel so lucky to have this business I’m excited about every day, and also this adorable sweet baby. You grow up thinking your parents have superpowers, that they can solve anything.
Then when you become a parent, you realize parents are regular people still trying to figure their own shit out.
It’s weird to wake up and think, I’m a grown up. I was at the airport recently and there was this teenage girl bouncing around in exercise pants. I was holding my baby and looking at her thinking, that was so long ago. Somehow I got from there to here. I really thought that I wasn’t going to know how to run a business or how to be a mother, but you realize there’s so much you can rely on with gut instinct. There’s this information overload out there, which I think can erode your self confidence. I’m growing and learning and making tons of mistakes, but I’m creating my own path. It’s much harder to follow someone else’s.”
Photography courtesy of Storq
As told to Amy Woodside, March 2015