Evolver | Karyn Veneklasen

KARYN VENEKLASEN

COO of Muse & Co and(!) Muse & Co Outdoors

Oakland, CA


 

karyn is the kind of eternally curious soul who finds (and manifests!) joy in everything she does

truly, though: as COO of not one but two kickass companies — one an interior design and build firm, the other a creator of road trip-ready Sprinter vans — she spends her days imagining ways to turn ordinary spaces into happy places. and when she’s not working, she’s exploring her Oakland neighborhood — or, you know, the Pacific Northwest — with her husband and two kiddos. here’s how (and why) she does it.

 

where do you live?

“i live in Oakland, California, with my husband (and business partner) Noah, our two kids Emmery and Parker, our mini-golden doodle Ziggy and six backyard Covid chickens. we’ve lived in our beautiful, historic neighborhood in the hills above Lake Merrit for twelve years. i love our neighborhood for so many reasons! there’s a real sense of community here, and so many families with young kids like ours. we’re able to walk to our local farmer’s market and shopping street, and we can take long, rambling walks in the hills by just stepping out our front door. there are lots of secret staircases and passages throughout the neighborhood that are always thrilling to stumble across. our house is one hundred years old this year, and the eclectic architecture in the neighborhood never fails to make me smile.”

 

what do you do — professionally, personally, passionately? 

“professionally, i’m COO of our two businesses. there’s Muse & Company, a sixteen-year-old interior design and build company that creates unique immersive spaces for innovative companies. we’re responsible for the iconic headquarters of trend-setting technology, finance and biotech companies. we recently transformed a plain vanilla four-story office building into a completely immersive, Japan-themed environment for Crunchyroll, a leading anime streaming service. words don’t do it justice — i highly recommend checking out the photos on our website! (www.museandcompany.com) we’re coming out of Covid with a renewed focus on research and development initiatives, and are doing a lot of thinking around the workplace of the future. 


our second business is Muse & Co. Outdoors, a Covid pivot we made to keep our amazing team of designers and fabricators employed when our corporate business went “poof” and dried up overnight at the beginning of the pandemic. we knew we had think quickly, and creatively, to come up with an internal project to keep our doors open and avoid layoffs. happily, inspiration struck! we’d been dreaming of someday converting our company’s print department van into a sweet road-tripping mobile, and with #vanlife having a moment in the sun as the only safe way to travel during the pandemic, we realized there could be real value in harnessing our team’s decades of design and building experience and creating a prototype Sprinter van conversion. our family took the finished camper van on the road for a month in the summer to test the waters, and it was a huge hit. we sold one van at a campsite less than a week into our trip and realized this little pivot deserved to become a real company. so we came back and went into startup mode hyperdrive. we made a big team push to finalize the designs for the two vans in our line (a 5-seater van and a 2-seater van), created the website, and ramped up marketing and sales. we’re in growth mode now, and just starting to fundraise for our next phase. i’m really thankful to have had a passion project like this to throw myself into 100% during Covid!


when I’m not working, i’m trying to fit in all the outdoor family adventure i can. with Covid, we’re focusing on bite-sized fun. my perfect day would include morning yoga, a family hike at the beach with our dog Ziggy, mochi muffins from Third Culture Bakery, and a big movie night snuggle with everyone on the sofa.”


 

what path led you here? 

“it’s been a long and winding road. i grew up in Seattle with an affinity for Japan after spending two months in Tokyo during high school as a fashion model. that turned into an obsession with the Japanese language and a major in East Asian Studies in college at Columbia University. after college, i landed in Tokyo, where i worked for a production company creating experiential marketing events for multinational corporations in Japan. when I moved to the Bay Area after five years in Japan, i continued producing global events for companies in tech, bio tech and finance. along the way, i helped Noah found Muse & Company, but It wasn’t until the fall of 2019, just before Covid, that I retired from event production to work side by side with him. it was crazy timing — the event industry went into a tailspin that it hasn’t recovered from yet, and instead of down time, i jumped into the fast lane and didn’t look back.”

 

what inspires you?

“the boundless creativity of the team at Muse & Company.”

 

drives you?  

“to be a good role model for our kids. i want to inspire them and model independence, entrepreneurship and joy.”

 

something you’ve realized “on the job”?

“there are no problems that can’t be solved with creative thinking.”

 

we are living in crazy — but important, for so many reasons — times. what is life like right now for you? 

“it’s a whirlwind everyday! but despite all the different demands on my time, at the end of the day, it’s really fulfilling to to be leading two companies that both have mission statements around bringing JOY into the world.”

 

your summer plans, in three words?

“Pacific Northwest roadtrip!”

 

something you're doing this summer that you couldn’t last summer?

“sitting down for unmasked meals in restaurants — it feels absolutely surreal and not something i’ll take for granted for a long time to come!”

 

the takeaway from the past year that you will keep with you?  

“i thought being a working mom was a tricky balance before Covid, but the past year with periods of at home learning, no childcare, and very few social opportunities for any of us has shown how good we had it! this past year has been a process of shedding lots of habits and assumptions about the way things should be to make room for what is. as we re-enter life again i want to maintain gratitude for the precious things that are still in our lives, and be very conscious about adding back anything that doesn’t bring joy.”

 

we’re more than halfway through 2021 (!!). highlight so far?

“tickets to Outdoor Lands in October! i love that i’ve got months of daydreaming and anticipating ahead, and then get to go to an actual concert for the first time since Covid!”


 

piece of époque on current rotation? 

“i live in my organic cotton white wide neck top! it goes with everything and takes away decision making stress in the morning.”

 

SHOP KARYN'S PICKS

three random items you can’t live without? 

“the Libby app — a whole world of library books at my fingertips, pure heaven! a crab trap for catching Dungeness crab in Puget Sound on our vacation. my Apple Watch.”

 

all-around life hack you swear by? 

“setting reminders on my phone for EVERYTHING.”

 

not-so guilty pleasure?

“massages — even more wonderful now after more than a year without one!”

 

mantra? 

“this too shall pass.”

 

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