Jeni Kurtyka, Holly Foltz, & Randi Larson
Title: Founders of Pursey
Jeni Kurtyka, Holly Foltz, and Randi Larson each have had their own element of using some sort of creative or artistic expression in their work. Jeni and Randi have each run our own part-time businesses and Holly has worked at the right hand of a small business owner for 16 years, learning what it takes to build a business. For these three, this was the first experience with fashion design, handbags, and manufacturing and it came out of nowhere! Pursey was started when Randi accidentally called her sister’s purse a “Pursey” on their way to the Women’s March in January 2017. During the march, they decided to make a Pursey and donate part of the sales to organizations that support women.
The ladies named their first design “March On” to acknowledge the thousands of ways that women march on day after day, overcoming all of the challenges that they face. At the very core women are resilient. Pursey handbags celebrate that resiliency.
“We believe in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. We stand with the silence breakers and change makers. We celebrate those who have found the courage to use their voice. Our handbags are a symbol of solidarity. The times are changing. We are proud to be part of the rise of the woman.” – The Founders of Pursey
Jeni, Holly, and Randi quickly realized that Pursey was about so much more than that moment. They are focused on creating a community of women supporting and celebrating each other as they boldly use their voices, stand in their power and take their seat at the table. They design their handbags to be a symbol of solidarity in this growing movement.
Pursey donates $20 from each bag to RAINN – The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, and their duster bags are made from recycled saris by Beauty for Ashes-Nepal,which employs marginalized women escaping exploitative situations.
For these founders, 2017 was a crash course in learning design and manufacturing and 2018 is centered around connecting women to their brand and mission. Learn more about the amazing ladies behind Pursey below!
Tell us a bit about your day to day – and what you love most about what you do?
We are building Pursey around our current jobs and families so we have a lot to juggle, but we consistently take some step forward every day. We have a general list of things that we need to get done or figure out how to do, but we ebb and flow in the timing of completing those tasks. Our goal is to take inspired action over busy work. We find that we are more effective when we are excited to do the next thing. We currently live in two different states, which mean we check in frequently through phone conferences & text messages. We are fortunate that there are three of us, with different strengths, so we are able to each take different parts of the development. What we love most is building this together. We truly love each other and it’s a gift to do something that you love with people you love.
What was the best piece of career advice you were given?
The best advice we gave to ourselves. In the beginning, we decided that we didn’t have to know how to do everything to start. We decided that someone already knew how to do everything that we were going to need to build this and that they would either show us how to do it or do it for us when the time came. We remind ourselves of that over and over because each step of development comes with its own set of skills and we are learning all of the things about each phase. Some things we learn how to do, some things we hand off. Women naturally feel like they have to do everything themselves and have to have it all figured out. That’s overwhelming and can be paralyzing. We let ourselves ask for help and trust that we will be supported. That has been invaluable.
What was your biggest challenge in starting Pursey?
Starting Pursey didn’t feel like a challenge at all. It seemed like the most natural thing to do. Honestly, we couldn’t have stopped ourselves from doing this. Our biggest challenge is reigning ourselves in, because we want to do all the things right now. As creative people, we have an abundance of ideas and they all feel immediate. Having patience in the time it takes for everything to happen is our other challenge. We are not in control of every aspect of the timing because we are working with multiple entities to create this. We have to remind ourselves often to trust in the timing of things and to be ok with not being able to control everything.
Tell us a bit about your passion behind what you’re doing with Pursey and how you’re giving back to nonprofits that support women?
We’ve come to a place in time where there is very real potential for fundamental change in how women make their way in the world. What we are seeing is unprecedented and we feel like there is a choice to be made. We want to be part of the solution. Which means that we had to reclaim our power, risk speaking up, start taking action, and support other women having the courage to do the same. Pursey gave us a platform to do that. Having each survived our own experience with sexual assault, we chose to support other women in different places of that process by donating $20 per handbag sold to recovery services for other survivors. We have a passion to support women connecting with their power and doing what sets their heart on fire. The best way we can support that, is by doing it too.
How did you come up with your designs?
Our first design was inspired the day of the Women’s March by the pink pussy hats. We used that over all shape and color in our very first Pursey. We custom designed the triangle, which we used playfully used as an “ear” in the first two designs. The triangle represents the divine feminine and is symbol of embodying personal power. Our designs mix elements of sexy and sophisticated, classic and edgy, versatile and simple, bold and subtle, hard and soft. We know that women are all of those things and so much more, yet we have been expected to choose one way for too long. We wanted to celebrate and reflect how beautifully those aspects work together to create the totality of a woman.
For other lady bosses that are looking to create a fashion line or handbag line – what is your advice to them on how to get started?
Start before you have it all figured out. Start before you’re ready. Just do something to start. Then find other women who are bravely making their way in the world too and lean into them. Fill your head and your heart with stories of people doing brave things and trust that you can do it too. Google the shit out of what you don’t know and trust that someone knows the next step. Specifically, for fashion and design www.makersrow.com was a valuable resource for us and gave us an understanding of the technical things needed for design and manufacturing.
Where do you want to see Pursey in 5 years from now?
We see Pursey as a catalyst for adding good to the world and substantially contributing financially to organizations that support women. We see Pursey becoming a house hold name and established brand in the designer market. Our desire is for Pursey to become a company that positively impacts the workplace and provides opportunities for women to utilize their talents. We see Pursey sharing a message that all women are worthy to live whatever life they want to live and can create anything that they want to.
How do you unplug at the end of the workday or workweek?
We try to take breaks from our phones and social media, since they are constants for us. We spend a lot of time together lounging in pj’s and eating Swedish fish. We hang out with our families. Holly does ballet. We all do yoga and constantly listen to Beyoncé, Jay Z, and the Greatest Showman soundtrack. Music is huge source of inspiration for us.
In moments of uncertainty or doubt, how do you build yourself back up?
We are very fortunate to have each other to talk through our insecurities. We are also committed to what we are doing, so we have to work through those things when they come up. Sometimes you need to look back and see how far you’ve already come and look at the brave things you’ve already done to remember that you have it in you. That voice of doubt and fear means you’re doing something outside the norm. It’s job it to keep the status quo, we try to remember that. When we hear that voice, it means big things are happening. She can yell and scream, but she doesn’t get the final say.
What tools/apps do you use on a daily basis that you can’t live without?
Our phones are vital. It’s amazing how you can basically run an entire business on your phone. Instagram is our primary social media platform, but we also utilize Facebook, Twitter, & Snapchat. GIF’s are also a major form of communication between the 3 of us, whether we are celebrating an accomplishment or freaking out, they seem to convey what we need to express.
If you were given 3 more hours per day – how would you use them?
We’d learn all the dances to Beyoncé’s Lemonade album.
Fun Fact: What Song and TV Series Best Describes Your Life?
“As we’ve already established, we love Beyoncé & Jay Z and they were staples of the first year. Right now, I’d say A Million Dreams from the Greatest Showman. “Cause every night I lie in bed. The brightest colors fill my head. A million dreams are keeping me awake. I think of what the world could be. A vision of the one I see. A million dreams is all it’s gonna take. A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.”
Want to learn more about Jeni Kurtyka, Holly Foltz, and Randi Larson and their company Pursey? Follow at the links below!