By Elizabeth Vocke, Special to Live Local! magazine
For many couples, the day begins with a mad rush to get out the door. Maybe they’ll share a quick cup of coffee as they search for their keys or they’ll stop for a kiss goodbye at the door, but they won’t meet up again until after the 5 p.m. rush hour.
For other couples, it’s a different story. These are people like us, who work day in and day out with our spouses.
My husband Devon and I started our marketing company, Evoke Strategy, LLC, because of “circumstances and opportunities,” Devon likes to say. I was considering going back to work after taking time off to raise our daughter. Devon is a consummate entrepreneur, and when we realized how aligned our goals are and how complimentary our skills are, it made sense to start our own business. Devon is forward-thinking and a risk-taker. I’m more strategy-driven and focused. By working together we bring different perspectives and have a chance to ensure our ideas are creative, yet still sound and fleshed out, before we present them to clients.
But working together isn’t always easy. I tend to always imagine the worst-case scenario, so if we are at odds on something I think we’ll never come to an agreement. Somehow, though, we always do.
On the personal front, working together is rewarding. “It’s knowing that you are not just business partners, but partners in all aspects of your lives,” Devon says. “The other person is there for you, regardless of the situation.”
OO OO OO
Here are the stories of three other Tampa Bay entrepreneurial couples who are not only making it work, but also loving (almost) every step along the way.
Jo-Anne & Craig, Historic Shed
Jo-Anne Peck and Craig DeRoin met on a jobsite 16 years ago and two years later started a historic preservation business. Six years ago, they started yet another business speializing in historic design and construction of garages, sheds and other storage options.
The key to owning a business together, the Brooksville couple says, is that they have different skills. “I’m the practical one that implements his ideas,” Jo-Anne says. “Everything we do compliments each other. Interestingly, the more difficult the project, the better we work together.
We know we’re heading in the same direction and we really team up.” And if they do disagree on something, they can’t stay mad at each other for too long or the business would fall apart. They have to get over it and move on. The downside is one that many entrepreneurs face: always working. And for couples working together, this creates a unique challenge, because there is little time apart and work talk seeps into everything.
“I’ll be reading a book, just starting to relax and he’ll start talking to me about business,” says Jo-Anne. “But when it gets really bad, we’ll tell each other we need time off and need to stop talking about it for a little while and we both understand.”
The benefits far outweigh the challenges, they say. “I can’t imagine not working with my spouse. I’m a workaholic, he’s a workaholic. It’s what we do. How can you live with someone you couldn’t work with?”
Melane & Doug, Growing Up
Being married already is a business arrangement, Doug Nelson says. “Hopefully, if you’re working with someone you love, you have a ‘working’ relationship already.” Knowing how to negotiate, compromise and be respectful in life helps make things work in business, he explains.
Two years ago Doug and his wife, Melane, opened Growing Up, a children’s store specializing in natural products and classes in St. Petersburg. Though they run the business jointly, they don’t work together 24/7. Melane has a full-time job at Franklin Templeton and works at Growing Up in the evenings and weekends. Doug handles most of the weekday operations and takes care of their children after school. Melane came up with the idea for the shop after they had their second child and couldn’t find natural baby products. She started a side business online and soon saw the need to have a brick and mortar store.
Melane and Doug’s backgrounds in human resources and retail management come in handy. “I make myself available during my off time, but I also have to know when to cut the cord at the end of the day.”
Owning a business together isn’t that different from making things work in a marriage, both say.
“We all have our own personalities and quirks,” explains Doug. “We are both stubborn.
Sometimes she thinks she’s right and sometimes I think I’m right, but we’ve had to learn how to talk things through and not take them personally. They’re the same things we deal with in marriage.”
Kimberly & Lisa, Charlie Tulum’s Dos Tacos
Kimberly Platt owns Charlie Tulum’s Dos Tacos, a food truck and Dunedin restaurant specializing in specialty tacos and other Mexican dishes. The truck recently celebrated its first birthday, and Kimberly and her wife, Lisa, have worked together since the beginning. Kimberly looks to Lisa as her “right-hand woman.”
“Lisa works the window, she’s the cashier, she’s there for everything I can’t do,” Kimberly says.
For some people, working in such close quarters as a food truck would be difficult. But Kimberly and Lisa both say that for them, it works well. “We know each other and can anticipate our needs,” Kimberly says. “Lisa knows the food, which is a huge time-saver when on the truck. The last thing I want to do when I’m cooking is to have to explain what something is.”
The downside is that, like any co-workers, they can get annoyed with each other, and sometimes a spouse is an easy target to vent frustrations. “It’s easier to snap at each other because we know we can work it out in the end,” Kimberly says. “We know it will go away and we’ll talk about it later.”
Supporting each other is most important, Kimberly says, adding that Lisa has her own goals, too, and is studying to be a vet technician. “She will branch off and own her business and I’ll help her.”
After all, that’s just what happy couples do.
Live Local is published by LocalShops1, Tampa Bay's leading advocate for small businesses.