Katie & Maggie
Founders of Larken
Mothers to 2 daughters each
The first time we had the opportunity to chat with Katie and Maggie from Larken, we could hear the passion and excitement in their voices when talking about the amazing brand they've build, and products they've created. It reminded us a lot of the inspiration and partnership that's behind The Returnity Project, and we just love everything they're doing.
Katie and Maggie are moms of two little girls each, and met during orientation at Notre Dame Law School. They instantly connected and have practiced law at large law firms and Fortune 100 companies over the last decade.
They were fortunate to experience so many of the same milestones together, including pregnancy. When returning to work from maternity leave, they both struggled to maximize their time at the office while frequently stepping away from their desks and meetings to pump. Frustrated with the options on the market, they set out to design clothing essentials that could simplify the nursing and pumping experience - both at home and in the office.
Learn the full story behind Larken, what gave them the courage to start their own business, and advice these two amazing moms have for working moms everywhere.
Head to their website and use the code RETURNITYPROJECT for 15% off any item! https://www.shoplarken.com/
The Returnity Project: Tell us a little bit about both of you and Larken.
Katie & Maggie: We are each moms of two little girls and met during orientation at Notre Dame Law School. We instantly connected and were close friends and roommates throughout law school and have practiced law at large law firms and Fortune 100 companies over the last decade. We’ve been fortunate to experience so many of our milestones together during and after law school, including celebrating weddings, growing our families, supporting one another through moves and career changes and eventually, starting a business together.
We were both pregnant with our youngest daughters at the same time and were preparing for our maternity leaves and subsequent returns to work. With our oldest daughters, we each struggled to maximize our time at the office while frequently stepping away from our desks and meetings to pump. Undressing and redressing in and out of uncomfortable pumping garments several times a day was both time-consuming and stressful. Frustrated with the options on the market, we set out to design clothing essentials that could simplify the nursing and pumping experience - both at home and in the office. Without any experience in the apparel industry or manufacturing, we took a methodical approach to learning the field and designing a solution.
After obsessing over the details, the first prototype arrived to Maggie the same day Katie went into labor with her second baby. From there, we created focus groups and tested the designs ourselves while nursing and pumping with our youngest daughters. The result was Larken’s innovative line of essentials for pregnancy, nursing, hands-free pumping and beyond, which officially launched in January 2019. In particular, our patent pending “Larken X” is the first all-in-one discreet nursing and hands-free pumping layer without any irritating elastic, snaps, zippers or other cumbersome hardware. We are focused on creating ultra-comfortable solutions that can help mothers during pregnancy and all stages of postpartum recovery. All of Larken’s essentials can be worn alone or layered with favorite wardrobe pieces and seamlessly transition from play date to date night, morning snuggles to the board room, or whatever else is planned for the day.
TRP: What inspired you to create Larken, and what gave you the courage to start your own business?
K&M: Our personal struggle as mothers, and in particular, as working mothers, was the initial inspiration to create a solution. Our breastfeeding and pumping journeys were both difficult for a variety of reasons, including lost time at the office, bouts of mastitis and more. We knew we were not alone in our need for a comfortable, versatile and simple solution.
Our own daughters and the other mothers who we’ve connected with throughout our entrepreneurial journey are what gave us the courage to start our business and are what motivate us to keep going each time we encounter a new challenge or unforeseen obstacle. With respect to our own daughters, we want to show them that they are capable of finding work that they are passionate about, accomplishing their goals and making a difference for others.
We are also on a mission to support and elevate all mothers. Larken is a name meaning “fierce” and was chosen based on the recognition that motherhood is beautiful, but it isn’t always easy. We have been inspired by the many mothers we have met along this journey who have struggled not only with breastfeeding challenges, but also infertility, loss, postpartum depression, life-threatening deliveries, and all of the everyday challenges motherhood brings. Beyond designing easy-to-use nursing and pumping garments, we aim to shine a light on the beautiful, sometimes messy, honest motherhood moments and create a supportive community of women helping other women.
TRP: Many of the stories we've shared on The Returnity Project focus on both the challenges, and beautiful moments of motherhood; specifically the return to work. What was the return to work like for each of you?
Katie: There were a lot of highs and lows. I experienced the roller-coaster of emotions that so many of us experience, which included incredible angst over leaving my daughter in the care of someone else, excitement over adult interaction and using my brain in a way that I hadn’t for the last few months, and then immense guilt over feeling excited about anything that resulted in me leaving her. I also struggled to accept that the schedule I maintained before I had children and my approach to work in general was going to be different, but that I could still be just as good, if not better, at my job. It wasn’t until I got comfortable with the idea that it was perfectly ok, and in fact, a good thing, for me to find things that excited and fulfilled me outside of being a mother that I got into a better groove.
Maggie: As a working mother, you constantly struggle with whether or not you are allocating your time between your children and your career appropriately - and it is never perfect. I worked full time up until the day I gave birth with both children. I closed large transactions while pumping between calls and there is no way to sugarcoat it - it is hard. The so called “balance” brings anxiety, pressure and uncertainty. I have realized that you need to let go of the constant perfection and cherish the moments of success at work and the cuddles and “I love yous” at home. One of the goals of Larken is to try and make the challenging aspects of motherhood a bit easier and more manageable.
TRP: What advice would you give to other working moms?
Katie: To take the phrase “it takes a village” to heart and to cut yourself some slack. So many of us strive for perfection and impossible standards and want to get there on our own. In many instances, we’ve been able to do that and can let our pride get the best of us. Whatever your village looks like and whatever stage you are at, embrace it and dive in. I am a better mother when I recognize and accept the help of the many family, friends and caretakers who have stepped up to help in a variety of ways over the years. My husband and I feel incredibly lucky that our girls have that so much love in their life because of this village.
Maggie: Sometimes, it is okay to feel like you cannot do it all. In the workplace, you may look at other co-workers who do not have children - or have partners that can do more in the home - and feel that you cannot have the career that they are blazing. At home, you may look at stay-at-home moms that do not work outside the home and feel that you cannot be with your children in the way that they can. And you may question yourself. It is important to take a step back and realize that you are doing great and you cannot compare yourself to others.
TRP: What are you most proud of?
Katie: In addition to raising my two daughters and the amazing girls that they are becoming, I'm proud of diving head first into this entrepreneurial journey. I have always been someone with a plan who followed a straightforward path and was fairly risk-adverse. At a relatively young age, I had mapped out my life and becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t at any point on my radar. However, throughout my career, I struggled to find passion in the work that I was doing. Becoming a mother completely changed my perspective and focus. I have so much hope that as my daughters grow older they find something that they are passionate about and a way to incorporate that into their daily lives and hopefully, their careers. I wanted to show them by example that this was possible. Our entrepreneurial journey has been nothing short of a rollercoaster, but I'm proud of us for diving in head first, learning an industry that we had no experience in, and using this platform to empower and support other mothers. I can't wait to see what is ahead and all that we’ll continue along the way.
Maggie: I am most proud of my babies - growing and raising two children has been the most beautiful and challenging thing I have done. But, to echo Katie, I am very proud of Larken - a company that we have built from nothing. While each working and raising two children, we created the patent-pending Larken X because we wanted to create something to make nursing and pumping easier for mothers. We are both attorneys by background and dove into the unknown world of fabrics, manufacturing and sewing because we wanted to try and make a difference and bring our idea to life. We sacrifice sleep and any spare time we have to build up Larken. I may not have a manicure, waxed eyebrows or enough sleep, but when I hear reviews from customers telling us they are constantly living in our products and that they have made a difference in their lives, I am proud.
Shop Larken now at https://www.shoplarken.com/