Growing up, I had a dream to become a successful fashion photographer in New York City. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be running my own photography studio in Manhattan today, but I know that dream may not have been possible even just a few generations ago. It is so different to be a woman now, the opportunities presented to us that were never available for our grandmothers or mothers. I feel so blessed to be alive now and able to do what I love, and I know that comes from the courage of the women before me, my own determination and faith in myself, and the love and support of many other inspiring women around me.
I think it is important to take time to commend these inspiring women – both because of how far we have all come and also because of the incredible things they are doing. And I’m not alone in this – Pandora started an Inspiring Women Initiative in order to honor the incredible women in each of our lives. Part of this celebration is their new Pandora Essence Collection, a series of beautiful, stylish charms that helps women express their inner beliefs – love, wisdom, balance, courage. We presented this idea of photographing three inspiring woman across the United States as a new series in partnership with Pandora, in celebration of inspiring women.
One such woman is our friend Courtney Klein, someone I met in New York but who has now moved to the city of San Francisco. She came to the city with the intention of being a modern dancer (so gorgeous!) but fell into the world of digital production and eventually became a partner at Hard Candy Shell, a digital product agency focusing on making excellent websites, applications, and other digital media. You may have seen their work: Of a Kind,The New Republic, and Rent the Runway are among their many clients.
Now that she’s in a new city, she’s busy starting her own company, Storq, one that’s focused on empowering women through fashion during pregnancy. How does one get from partner in a digital product agency to maternity fashion?
“When I moved to San Francisco, I had the option to keep doing what I was doing or to do something completely and totally different. I was fortunate enough to be able to take a couple months and really think about what’s next, what kind of things interest me, what do I want to work on? It was a little weird to not go to a 9-5 job, and I felt a bit lost for a little while, but then I found a lot of different types of things I could potentially work on, and I ended up with this idea called Storq.”
We started the day by walking her dogs, who were getting very excited. “Today is their ‘beach date’,” Courtney explained. “They get to go to a special dog beach called Fort Funston!” How cute is that!
On the Balance Charm she chose by Pandora:
“Part of moving to San Francisco was about reclaiming a more balanced life…doing lots of different types of things, like the garden, and a career that supports not being in the office 70 hours a week. It’s hard to have a balance in New York…there’s always something going on, so you’re working and working or you’re out all the time, so it was really hard to carve out a space for myself. Here, it’s about taking a step back and allowing myself to slow down. It’s definitely something I’m working on.”
Located in San Francisco’s colorful Mission District, their house was built in late 1890s and was most recently a bar before Courtney & Zach bought it. Their bedroom was where they used to store beer! I asked Courtney if she was afraid of earthquakes after living in New York for almost a decade…she explained, “The house survived two of the largest earthquakes in modern time without any structural damage so that makes me feel good. However, when we signed the papers you have to acknowledge it’s on a particular fault line, which means your house could end up in the ocean…which is unsettling.”
All the beautiful plants inside their home were found at the S.F. Flower Market
Courtney’s husband is Zach Klein, whose previous companies include College Humor, Svpply, Boxee and Vimeo among other projects, before moving to S.F. to start what he is currently working on: DIY which focuses on teaching hands-on skills to kids (kind of reminds me of Boy Scouts!) by engaging them online and off. Here’s what she had to say about first meeting him:
“I met Zach probably two years into living in New York. There was a tech crowd that hung out, and there was a lot of overlap – if you worked in tech and you were in your twenties, you ended up running into the same people over and over again. He finally asked me on a lunch date – very New York…and on that lunch date, he actually asked me if I wanted to go sailing in the British Virgin Islands for New Year’s. I wasn’t even sure if I actually liked him or not, because it was our first lunch date, and we’d only kind of hung out, but I really wanted to go sailing. So I said, “Okay, yes, I’ll do it!” So, thank god it worked out, because eleven days with somebody I didn’t like in really close quarters would have been a nightmare. But it did, it did work out.”
Courtney’s engagement ring is from an amazing vintage jewelry store in Brooklyn, NY, called Erie Basin.
Above, their shaved-ice snowcone machine: Fujimarca is a snowcone maker that Zach gave Courtney for her birthday…On their honeymoon in Tokyo, she fell in love with the shaved ice snowcones they found there, so he bought this machine for her and shipped it directly from the maker in Japan so she can have them any time she wants!
On starting her new company Storq:
“People’s first question is always, Do you have kids? Why would you do maternity fashion if you don’t have kids? But I have so many friends and family who have had kids over the past couple of years and I think about all the conversations I’ve had with people who say, “I’m a working woman, I’m an older mom, I have my own sense of style, I have my own identity, and it was really hard for me to conserve that during pregnancy.”
In the US, birth rates are actually increasing for parents over thirty…so there’s a new, fairly sizable group of women who are first-time moms in their thirties. And these women have a lifestyle – they have an established career, they go into an office, they go out, they work out – and none of that changes when they’re pregnant.
So that was my mindset – how can I create a company that empowers women who are pregnant, who are creating new life, which is a really awesome thing, to look and feel amazing while they do it?”
Storq launches online this December with all the clothing in the line made in L.A.
Above: Courtney wears the Love Pandora charm as she checks her winter garden where they are growing kale, spinach, fava beans, carrots, beets, and a mixed variety of lettuces.
On the Love charm she chose by Pandora:
“Oh, love…you gotta have love.”
Hanging garden lights she found on Amazon!
Above table from CB2, perfect for entertaining the neighbors they have befriended, especially now that they have an open invitation every Sunday night in their garden for cocktails and conversation.
Above & Below: Her husband Zach is really great with making and growing things. He built the raised garden beds above and below, a look at the successful outcome from the pits he took of apricots they had eaten and nurtured into growing plants.
While we were chatting, I couldn’t get over the contrast between Courtney’s beginnings and where she is now. She laughed and said:
“It’s so interesting to come from political science and dance at Haverford, to New York City, to partner in a company, then selling my shares back in April…it felt like it happened so fast! I mean, I guess it was ten years, but I turned around and it was like, ‘Whoa! I have this whole grown up life!'”
Above: A real DIY – Zach made the entry wall out of a pallet they bought at a recycling center in S.F. and wired it to the loft’s high beams.
Above & Below: Bookcase is from a place in S.F. called HD Buttercup
On the Wisdom Charm she chose by Pandora:
“I think a big part of my life – both past and present – has been that I never want to stop learning. When I first started working in the digital world, it was totally sink or swim – and I would stay up all night and learn everything I needed to know in order to appear smart and prepared when I went to work in the morning. That’s the kind of person I am. There’s always something else to know, another perspective or topic or interest, and I want to feel like there’s always more wisdom I could gain.”
Above: Cool plant holder is vintage, amazing oversized floor lamp was found on Amazon (similar). Courtney runs a blog called TYDEPOOL which is a curated shopping site of amazing things she has found you can buy on Amazon and Etsy such as items like these!
How charming is this teapot?! It was a wedding gift from Schoolhouse Electric!
Scout warms himself by the fireplace they installed from Okells when they moved in which Courtney said is a common thing to do in San Francisco. The little green park seats in background are by Byer of Maine.
Above Tote from Of A Kind, one of her previous clients at Hard Candy Shell
One of the many things that amazes me about Courtney is her success in the digital field where she had no real training. When I expressed my admiration, she said:
“You know, when I started in digital marketing, it was really sink or swim. And I thought to myself, I might not have a background or a degree in this, but I felt like there was a part of me that would be thinking about these problems whether or not I worked on the Internet. I thought about the way that I use things, and how I saw people around me using things and it became a little bit like being an anthropologist and thinking, Okay, how does this translate to this client I have? I may not have the book smarts to do this but I’m good at observing the world.”
Dining table is a redwood slab they bought at a place called Burlwood in Berkeley, legs made on Etsy.
You know I love a red lip, so I asked Courtney why Storq would be incorporating beauty products: “We wanted a really kickass red lipstick, because when you’re feeling not so beautiful, just putting on some red lipstick makes you feel glamorous. A lot of lipsticks have lead and other things that aren’t great to expose yourself to, so we went about and we tested thirty different lipsticks, and then we came across this company called Impulse and they helped us create this amazing red shade.”
On the Courage Charm she chose by Pandora:
“My husband Zach always tells me, “Be brave”. I always think of that when I go into a meeting that I’m really nervous about, or when I’m working on something really hard, or when I don’t know what I’m doing. I think to myself, All right, you know what? I’m going to be brave and go for it, and not be scared.“
Special thanks to Pandora for giving me the opportunity to meet and photograph such amazing women and hear their stories around the meaning of the Essence Collection Charms they chose.