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Three Power Couples on Starting a Business Together

by Hannah Smith

In a world where 9-5s rarely exist and many of us toss around the idea of becoming entrepreneurs, traditional business models are (kind of) out the window. Of course, being an entrepreneur in this ever evolving model can be stressful and taxing to take on, and some have opted to take the business world by storm with their significant other. See what six business owners and entrepreneurs had to say about starting and operating a business together, and how your relationship can make or break the business.

Cyndi and Adam of Chillhouse

How did you meet?

We met when we were 21 / 22 respectively in a nightclub. We were both working there and developed a little crush on one another. We dated on and off in our early 20s and made it official in our late 20s. 

What was the inspiration behind the business? 

We were looking to get massages one day in NYC and didn’t really love our options. We then started talking about the spa industry in NYC and realized [that there were] things missing. Chillhouse [ultimately became] a culmination of those things. 

When did you decide to go into business with one another?

Adam has always been an entrepreneur – he never took on a full-time job. When I decided to go down that path, he was there for me [for every step] along the way. We started with a couple of baby businesses together, [like] an influencer agency and a skincare product, all while having our own businesses on the side. Then he opened up his first bar and I became a partner, [so I guess you could say] we haven’t looked back since. 

Has working together taken any tolls on or strengthened the relationship?

I’d say it’s only strengthened. It’s cemented our commitment to one another more than any marriage paperwork could. We go through everything together — the highs, the lows, the ugly, the scary. A lot of relationships don’t get to experience those 8 hours a day their significant other does, whereas we do. We experience everything together [and] I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Do you talk work at home, or do you set clear boundaries of when and where to discuss work? 

We definitely bring the work everywhere. That’s just the nature of being in business together and the modern times we live in where there’s no traditional 9-5 schedule anymore. That said, we respect eachother when we say we’re not in the work mood. 

What are your words of advice to people considering going into business with their partner? 

Be ready to spend a lot of time together. You have to really like each other, not just love, meaning you must like all of them, [flaws included]. Mostly,  you must have deep respect and admiration for them. There will be soooo many times they frustrate you, but if there’s respect and admiration, those moments will pass. 

Alexis and Christina of FEMPOWER Beauty

How did you meet?

Alexis: I had been through a series of shame spirling years questioning my sexuality when I finally found the courage to select men AND women on my Tinder account. A week later I remember swiping right to Christina and spending an entire day thinking about what to write to her. I finally reached out the next day and asked her quite simply if she was really a “Cretan” girl, to which she replied, “I could ask you the same thing.” Our only mutual interest was the island we were both from, Crete, so it seemed like a great line. Here we are five years+ later, so I guess it worked!

Christina: At the time we met, I was single and used Tinder when I was bored and mindlessly swiped away, but Alexis’ profile caught my attention – not only was she beautiful, but we had a mutual interest, the island of Crete! Our first Tinder conversation [revolved around this shared culture], and it turns out not only were we both from Crete, but the same city and geographical location on the west side of the island called Chania!  When we first met a few days after our first conversation, it felt like an instant connection and a sense of home I never felt with anyone before. We ended up going to Crete a couple of months after we met, [and] I feel like that’s where we both fell in love. Alexis, who practically grew up and lived in Greece for a period of time, showed me around the island, where I truly rediscovered myself and my Cretan identity in the best way possible. 

What was the inspiration behind the business? 

A: As an FIT student who admittedly grew up idolizing Samantha from Sex in The City, I always wanted to launch a cosmetics brand inspired by sexuality. I had whole pages in my notes section [of my phone] with an endless stream of ideas. I remember telling Christina about this imagination fueled brand on our very first date, and her telling me, “You can do something so much more meaningful than that.” I remember thanking the dating app Gods that night for having brought someone into my life that understood who I was so deeply after just after a few hours of meeting me.

In January of 2017, the idea for EMPOWER was born on a couch in Christina’s apartment. The conception was simplistic in our minds. For centuries, men had been the only people telling the stories of beauty —why wasn’t there a woman’s perspective? Beauty generate billions, we need to reshape beauty in a way where giving back is just as important as the latest color trend. 

C: I never had the desire to start a brand per se, but I did always want to give back to the world and challenge thinking in creative ways. I’ve played around with the idea of starting a non-profit, but when Alexis and I started thinking about giving back to people and our community, we realized that FEMPOWER BEAUTY is the perfect opportunity to synthesize both of our passions. The more that I learned about the beauty industry through Alexis, and by just watching her experiences in her career, it became fairly obvious how controlled it was by men! 

To challenge this and enlighten minds, we felt we needed to go back to the beginning of time and the story of Genesis, the ultimate archetypal story of the patriarchy and the beginning of this trend. The more research we did, the more we realized how we need to bring this story to light in a new way, and re-negotiate the emotions of these characters through a Fempowered lens. 

When did you decide to go into business with one another?

A: Something happened on Christina’s couch that night in January.  Sure it was another idea, a great one at that, but something inside both of us kept us thinking about it intensely—even while we were both consumed by our jobs and a big move on the horizon into our first official apartment together. In my mind, I decided on the couch that night, similarly to our first date when in my head something about Christina screamed she feels so right to me. I knew I had to do whatever it takes with Christina, that she was special, and the feeling was very similar with FEMPOWER. 

C: I never met anyone who had a passion for makeup that went beyond the surface, and had emotional connections that was evident through the passion in her tone. As our relationship developed, it was clear that this passion was rooted deeply into her character, as she grew up with beauty and it truly was a language she spoke fluently and effortlessly. I always wanted to start a non-profit, or something that could give back to the world in a larger way, and as an educator, I always liked to challenge my students to look at the world differently than what we’re taught. So when Alexis turned to me that evening of the Women’s March after watching it all go down on television and asked a simple question, “What if each one of those people donated just $1,” we both knew that we had to do something about it.  

Has working together taken any tolls on or strengthened the relationship?

A: We get this question a lot, and I secretly love it, because each time I think about it I realize the answer has evolved because we have evolved  in our relationship. We are faced with business challenges on the daily that push us right out of our comfort zone and force us to grow not only as individuals, but as businesswomen, and inevitably as a couple. Every day inevitably becomes an opportunity to enhance our communication style, to find better ways of working, and to learn how to make optimal decisions. One caveat to all of this, is that we are two women who experience PMS, and all the maca root and communication in the world can’t rescue us that week. 

C: It actually feels so weird because FEMPOWER Beauty is our baby where, at times, our life can revolve around it. You would think that that sounds like a bad thing, but in a lot of ways it showed us how much we trust and rely on each other to make the right decisions. Sometimes it does feel like FEMPOWER Beauty has taken over our world, but that is because we are two co-founders at early stages of our business, and I don’t mind that because it magnifies everything that is RIGHT about our relationship! This is not to say that we don’t have times where we argue, but this is usually [because of] stress, or even worse, PMS!

Do you talk work at home, or do you set clear boundaries of when and where to discuss work? 

A: When you love something as much as Christina and I love what we are building with FEMPOWER, we realized it is SO hard not to talk work at home. We have desperately tried to keep iMessage sacred and have a no work policy on there, diverting all of it to Slack. The only place we have set as sacred outside of iMessage is our bed. But I can’t tell you how many times each of us has woken up from a dream in the middle of the night and were bursting to tell the other [something we thought of] because it was an incredible solve to a problem we had been mulling over for days, or sometimes weeks. FEMPOWER is a huge part of our life, and there is no perfect formula for how to operate. It’s evolutionary and grows and as long as there is communication, love, and respect for each other all around we are succeeding. That formula is rock solid. We follow what feels good for us in each moment and respect each other needs -whether that means no work tonight, or full steam ahead.  

C: The one thing that Alexis gets on me for is that I do a lot of my work alone, and sometimes don’t tell her everything that I’m doing, [or] I tell her as it comes up. I used to do this across the multiple platforms we communicated on – Instagram, text messages, Slack. It was a little crazy, so we set up some clear boundaries to only communicate with one another for business related ideas on Slack. Can I confidently say that no conversations happen in text regarding [the business]? No, definitely not. I am definitely guilty of still texting Alexis about FEMPOWER in-between conversations of grocery shopping. But, we have a mutual understanding that text messages are usually for more brainstorming, and if something comes up where we need to take it to Slack, we just write “Take this to Slack,” where we easily continue our conversation. 

What are your words of advice to people considering going into business with their partner?

A: As I mentioned previously Christina and I worked seamlessly together in our relationship. There was a period of about a year+ where we were apartment hunting, and then subsequently fixing up and furnishing said apartment. I call that period of our lives the test drive. If you can get through a contracting nightmare, lack of control during extended periods of time, and really unique problem solving with a low budget without fighting on the daily, then you can start to think about going into business together. I would also be remiss not to bring up the M word ($$$$$). There will be dialogue surrounding this topic, so much more than you could ever imagine, and if you don’t have a plan as to who is responsible for what, and what the expectations are of each income at the start, it is going to be impossible from any relationship to recover from the strain of financial stressors permeating the relationship like a virus.

C: I think why FEMPOWER Beauty was such a no-brainer for us is because we are so much on the same page with so many things, even though we brought value from different arenas. There are so many people who tell me that they feel they would never be able to work with their partner and that they would “tear each other apart.” I would say that if you feel that sense of “uh-oh” or a hesitation about going into business together, think about the reasons as to why that is. Also, [this] doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with your relationship! There are A LOT of couples that going into business together could actually really be unhealthy for a relationship, depending on how your relationship operates. Think about what makes your relationship work, what the other person could bring, and if you are ready for this level of transparency. And if you are, be mindful that a business can easily take over a relationship. Make sure you find ways to foster and keep those elements that brought you together in the first place, and if you can find ways to do this through your business, that’s the key.

Trinity and Issey of Golde

How did you meet?

Trinity: We go way back! We met formally in our senior year of high school. We were in a county-wide program for kids who wanted to be doctors. We started dating in January of 2011, when we were both 17. The funny thing is, though, our families both remember us as little kids because we grew up in the same town in Upstate New York. Issey’s dad worked at the local health food store that my family frequented, so you could say we were united via wellness from a pretty young age! We also recently found out that we were in the same pre-school class!

What was the inspiration behind the business?

T: We ultimately both decided in college that we did not want to go down the med school path, but I really had this strong interest in wellness and holistic health. I was looking at my own experiences as a consumer in the wellness space, and feeling a bit caught between the worlds of the “crunchy granola” stuff that we both grew up with in the Hudson Valley, and the ultra-luxe offerings that were becoming the new normal. We wanted to build a brand that centered around the idea that being well should feel good. We wanted it to be approachable, inclusive, and fun.

When did You decide to go into business with one another?

Issey: My parents have operated businesses together for my entire life, and so I sort of grew up knowing that one day I wanted to do the same. With Trinity, it all came very naturally. She started spitballing ideas and I would bounce my thoughts back. There was never really a thought of not doing it together.

Has working together taken any tolls on or strengthened the relationship?

I: This answer always surprises people, but I think it has strengthened our relationship. We got started on this at age 22, and we’re both 26 now. We’ve grown together and learned from these experiences. I think now we have a deeper respect for one another.

Do you talk work at home, or do you set clear boundaries of when and where to discuss work?

I: [We talk work] all the time. It’s hard to create boundaries when your work and personal life are so intermixed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We really just try to keep it fun and balanced.

What are your words of advice to people considering going into business with their partner?

T: I think whether it makes sense really depends on the dynamic of your relationship. Some partners are best off keeping work and personal life separate, and that’s okay! As long as you’re both going into it with honesty and respect for one another, you’ll be just fine.

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