Meet three MOMeo/DADeo Combinations
Marriage takes work. But what if your marriage IS your work? In other words, as the case with these married-couple entrepreneurs, what’s marriage and family life like when you own a business with your spouse?
There are multiple benefits to having a life partner who also is your business partner: never-ending together time, living with someone who completely understands your work life, and no worries about being fired. But reaping the benefits – and business success – takes time, effort, support and understanding between spouses, says Mary Ann Hardman.
Mary Ann, along with her husband William “Sonny” Hardman, owns and operates Persimmon Creek Vineyards in Clayton, Georgia. The 110-acre estate produces four varieties of wine, sold on site and in restaurants. The Hardmans also oversee three cottage retreats on the property.
“If you want your business and your marriage to work, you have to have great trust in one another,” says Mary Ann.
“You can’t feel you have to be tied at the hip. You can both do your jobs, do your thing, and have respect.”
All Hands Working
What works for the Hardmans, married 17 years, is a clear division of labor. Sonny, a full-time physician, owns his own dermatopathology practice 1 ½ hours south of the vineyard, in Athens, near the family home. He commutes every day to and from the vineyard to his lab, and on weekends, he handles much of Persimmon Creek’s manual labor.
Mary Ann lives at and runs the day-to-day operation of the business, including marketing. The couple’s sons – 11-year-old twins and a 15-year-old – also pitch in with gardening, trash pick-up and cutting grass.
Persimmon Creek is truly a family business, Mary Ann explains:
“It’s all hands working together,” she says, “you don’t do your children any favors by not including them.”
Sonny’s hands originally created the vineyard in 2000, when he planted 10 acres of grapes in North Georgia to cultivate his passion for grape-growing. Still living in Athens, Mary Ann focused on the boys, then toddlers. “My role at that point was just to wave out the door and say, `See ya later! Have fun planting,’” she recalls.
In 2002, they bottled their first wine. A year later, Mary Ann decided to try selling to local restaurants. Gradually, as the boys – and her marketing savvy – grew, Mary Ann became more involved in the wine business. Currently, she employs two full-time workers in the vineyard and has part-time help in the summer.
Today, the Hardmans are surrounded by the fruits of their labor – literally. The family’s home is on Persimmon Creek property.
“You have to have one goal in mind: success. And success is all about working,” says Mary Ann.
“I let Sonny do what he needs to do and he lets me do what I need to do. You have to be confident you’re both doing the right thing.”
Doing the Duty
When Brian and Michelle Lewis had their daughter in 2004, they felt cloth-diapering her was the right thing. A self-proclaimed environmentalist and political activist, Brian says cloth is better for the environment and healthier for baby:
“It was never a question…of course they would be in cloth [diapers].”
Many friends commented they, too, would choose cloth if there were a local diaper service. So, in early 2006, with a son on the way, the Lewises started Brian Lewis’ Diaper Duty, which delivers clean cloth diapers to customers in South Florida and picks up dirty ones. They introduced the service at holistic birthing centers and through parent groups throughout their community.
“We were quite surprised, without any advertising or promotion but just word of mouth,” says Brian, “there was a lot of interest.”
Currently, Brian Lewis’ Diaper Duty has 45 customers. He and Michelle also offer diapering seminars and plan to start carseat checks, and other parenting classes and groups. Brian continues his full-time job as a data networker for a telecommunications company. Michelle is an elementary school teacher. For them to quit their day jobs, Brian says, they need at least 150 customers and would hire out several duties, including washing.
Today, though, the couple pools responsibilities for the business and their two children, now ages 5 ½ and 3.
“We do what needs to be done at the time,” Brian explains, adding that they have a delivery driver. Brian handles customer and public relations while Michelle manages behind the scenes, website management and diaper washing. “The division of labor ebbs and flows,” he says. “It’s not as though we do a duty chart between us. It’s just `did this get done yet? OK, I’ve got it.’”
“(Work) has to be incorporated. When I’m wearing the diaper hat, we’re all a part of it,” he says. “We’re having our parent time, our couple time, while we’re doing Diaper Duty. If we were to have [work and family time] separated…we’d never see each other.”
The plan is for the Lewis children to eventually inherit the business.
“To have your own business and incorporate your family and raise your children to see your business grow into something in the world that has value,” says Brian, “is tremendous.”
By Their Design
Ten years ago, Stamford, Connecticut, businesswoman Fabienne Fredrickson started Client Attraction – an entrepreneurial coaching program and book series to help a mostly female clientele to recognize their value through growing their businesses. As she signed more clients and sold more books and other products, Fabienne realized it was time for a business partner. What better place to look than her own home?
Husband Derek, director at an investment bank, was increasingly dissatisfied with corporate life. So in summer 2008, he started working part-time with Fabienne on day-to-day operations of Client Attraction, including staff management and systems operation. The arrangement worked so well by that September, Derek quit his day job and joined his wife full-time as CEO.
“We’re both fully invested in the business,” he says. “We have double the implementation and speed to react to changes together. We control our income, our business, our life. We live our life by design.”
That life includes children ages 6 and 4, and a brand-new baby boy, born in August. To keep both the business and family successful, the Fredricksons rely on the support of a daily housekeeper and an au pair. The children also travel with their parents to Client Attraction events, workshops and speaking engagements, “so they can see Mommy and Daddy working together and feeling good spending time together,” Derek says. “Marriage and being together with our family is priority first. Business comes second.”
Unlike the Lewises, the Fredricksons have strict rules about not mixing family and business time:
“We close our desks every day at 5:30 p.m. – no exceptions.”
“We have end-of-day routines and transitions like walks, reading, or going to the gym. All of these are key [to maintaining balance].”
Though they separate work and marriage, owning a business together has strengthened their bond, according to Derek.
“We have a greater sense of respect and admiration for what each other brings to the business and how we learn from each other.”
Those, too, are some key traits to maintaining a successful mom-and-pop/husband-and-wife company, he says. “There is also an element of faith in being committed to making it work,” Derek explains. And, he adds, both in work and in marriage, “it doesn’t hurt to have a sense of adventure and creativity.”