Though there is no magical secret sauce to being successful in business or in marriage, they have oddly similar requirements. From the ability to respect and trust one another to the need for passion and fervent communication — these fundamentals go a long way in bonding two people together in love or an LLC.
For couples who have decided to not only take a risk in love but in testing their entrepreneurial skills out together, the journey teaches them about their relationships — and their career strengths and shortcomings.
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Here, these duos give insight into what it’s like to be working toward happily ever after, all while building a brand:
Mitesh & Vernic, PlantOGram
Their company: PlantOGram, a Hollywood-based gifting company that delivers fully grown plants and trees. They can be grown from your home or apartment, and they harvest non-GMO fruits every year.
How they met: In high school in the early 2000’s. They made it official when they married in 2005. In 2007, they decided to turn their green thumb for fruit trees into a their full-time jobs. The rest, as they say, is history.
What they’ve learned about their relationship: Mitesh shares they’ve learned so much more about being a couple by founding a company than they imagined they would. “We are strong as individuals but when put in certain situations together we are a force of goodness coming at you. We are truly able to appreciate each other for the individual goals that we each have and being able to combine these goals to make a better sustainable life,” he continued.
What they’ve learned about their careers: Much like being in a relationship, Mitesh says the greatest lesson has been found in being able to celebrate each other’s talents and find ways to use them effectively. “I have learned that my wife is amazing at design, and foreseeing what something will look like in her head when completed, whereas my strength in business is forecasting sales and running numbers to have a healthy and successful business. We’ve combined our strengths and produced one of the most well-known companies in the gifting industry to this day,” he added.
Their advice: First and foremost, exercise patience. “Don’t sweat the small things. After all, they are things, and what matters more is that your commitment to each other is strong showcasing your business as one of the best in the industry. Most importantly, don’t forget to take time for each other. Dinner, movie nights, even just a walk at the mall. This is not a time to discuss business this is a time to connect and reflect on your relationship and how far you have come as a couple,” Mitesh recommends.
Cathy & Jeffrey, Hillrock Estate Distillery
Their company: Hillrock Estate Distillery, located on a farm in the Hudson Valley, a cool 100 miles from New York City. They’re one of the few ‘field-to-glass’ whiskey distilleries in the world and the first in the United States since Prohibition.
How they met: Believe it or not, they met 22 years ago — and purchased their farm in 1999. They started farming the land in 2004, growing barley, rye, and corn, and they’ve been making whiskey since 2011.
What they’ve learned about their relationship: To put it lightly: they’re both super-duper hardworking. “We are dedicated and passionate about what we do. We are a very close family and love spending time with our three sons as well. We are definitely both type A personalities. We divide and conquer. We don’t have any free time,” Cathy shares.
What they’ve learned about their careers: How to use their words to get through anything. As Cathy explains, it can make a difference in how the company is handled and how they feel toward each other. “The opportunity that we have had to work together and open a business has taught us that properly communicating and delegating is incredibly important in our careers in order to succeed. I am in charge of sales, marketing, distribution, and events. Jeffrey is in charge of whiskey production, operations, finance, and farming,” she explains.
Her advice: Especially when you’re psyched about something, taking a pause to consider another opinion can be frustrating. But if you ask Carol, it’s essential. “Listen to one another and to be very respectful. Incorporating this into your ‘working relationship’ will allow each other to feel heard and appreciated when difficult discussions come up that may have an effect on the business,” she continues. “Going into business with a spouse is essentially like another marriage, you need to work in tandem to produce the best outcome possible.”
Nicole & David, The Cookie Cups
Their company: The Cookie Cups, based out of Minneapolis, MN. Part-cookie but shaped like a cupcake, these easy-to-eat sweet treats are taking off. If you’re not a fan of sugar, they also offer savory options, too. They’re in the process of opening their second storefront.
How they met: Thanks to an encounter organized by fate, these two lovebirds met in Las Vegas in 2012. A year later, Nicole made the move to Minnesota. In 2014, they first-started an e-commerce jewelry business, but then shifted gears to open The Cookie Cups in 2015.
What they’ve learned about their relationship: The importance of picking your battles — especially since they have a one-year-old daughter in addition to a nearly four-year-old business. “We aren’t always going to agree and not everything is going to work out the way we planned. Sometimes, I bite my tongue and look past the disagreement, try to focus on something that matters more and move on. While David and I love to playfully argue, he is so fiercely loyal and unconditionally loves our family,” Nicole shares.
What they’ve learned about their careers: Sometimes, the good/bad cop routine pays off for this dynamic duo, when they’re figuring out vendors and making corporate decisions. Nicole credits this to a joint vested interest in the shop. “In business in general, you can’t do everything on your own. You hire people that have different skill sets to complete certain requirements you need to help you grow and prosper. We are lucky to have such different skills and be able to work together toward a common goal,” she explains.
Their advice: Remember that it’s okay — and healthy — to disagree. “Going into business together can be a very positive thing but it can also be very trying at times. You won’t always agree on everything but you have to agree to disagree and not let the business conversations interfere with the relationship. You also can’t always be working. Shut off your computers and phones and set aside downtime to enjoy each other and regroup,” she adds.
Laura & Eric, Runamonk Maple
Their company: Runamonk Maple, where they produce barrel-aged, infused, smoked and most importantly, pure maple syrup.
How they met: When they were attending graduate school at Duke University, they met each other and something clicked. They moved to Washington, D.C. after graduation where they both had jobs in the environmental non-profit sector. However, they grew disenchanted and decided to make the move to Vermont to start an organic farm. Nine years later, they switched gears to maple syrup. By 2016, they were up and running — and growing.
What they’ve learned about their relationship: They have 19 years under their belt — and they’ve figured out how to push one another forward. “We are very lucky in that we complement each other. Eric is much better at the business strategy behind the scenes while I am more comfortable being the public voice of the company and interacting with customers. Eric is very good at spending all day in meetings tackling the nuts and bolts of running a company while I prefer to be more hands-on, in the kitchen or the woods. It would have really taxed our relationship if we both wanted to do the same job,” Laura shares.
What they’ve learned about their careers: Unlike when two people work different gigs in various industries, Laura shares there’s a certain foundation that comes from being in business with your partner. “ When you have to cover all of that territory you have no choice but to divide and conquer. It forced us to examine which aspects of the business each of us was good at and jump into those roles. What has been great about working with my husband is that we respect each other’s abilities; knowing someone you trust is in charge makes it that much less stressful,” she explains.
Their advice: Respect goes a long way. “There are always going to be joint decisions that come up in which someone is not going to get their way but if you can keep those to a minimum, you will be healthier for it. In the end, it can be a great thing for a relationship. We each do our own thing but we also deal with the same people, have the same worries about the industry and put our hearts into making the same company move forward,” she adds
Suji & Geoff, Skeem Design
Their company: Skeem Design, an indie boutique that sells match bottles, scented candles, perfume, and incense.
How they met: During college, these two then-kids met through a mutual friend and lived as roommates. A few years passed and they decided to move in with their respective significant others — but realized they were actually meant to be together. Eighteen months later, they got married. Four years later in 2001, they founded Skeem Designs.
What they’ve learned about their relationship: For Suji, it’s confirmed all of her original notions that they’ve made an incredible team. “ In every aspect of our lives, our personalities and our very different ways of looking at the world complement one another. Geoff is more of a dreamer and I am more of a doer. He will say, ‘I would love to do this or this would be amazing,’ and I am off and running to make it happen. Or I will bring a project to him, only for him to turn it on its head and come back with something so much better than anything I had dreamed of myself,” she continued. “Of course, it is these differences that can cause conflicts, but for the most part we have so much respect for each other and our individual talents, that we are able to work through these differences pretty easily.”
What they’ve learned about their careers: Even though they both had killer jobs before they became entrepreneurs — Suji worked for Anthropologies, while Geoff was at an advertising agency — they knew the corporate grind wasn’t for them. “We started Skeem Design with a mission of having a healthy life-work balance. This original mission still guides us on all our major decisions. We have never grown for the sake of ‘bigger, better, more,’ as we have always known we would take freedom and time over money. We strongly believe that time is a currency more valuable than money and that is a hard thing to hold on to when you are growing rapidly,” Suji shared. “we both grew up in entrepreneurial families, so it was natural for us to start our own business one day.”
Their best advice: Let each other have final say in their areas of expertise. “I will always defer to Geoff on any creative or design decisions and he will always defer to me on any business or financial decision,” she shares. “Having a shared, well-defined mission about why you are doing this in the first place is helpful. For us, we can always go back to our mission and say, ‘Is this good for us, is it good for our lives?’ ”
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