“plenty of people know what it's like to be married to your job, but what about being married to your cofounder?”
IN LOVE AND WORK
When founding a business, it’s always crucial to pick the right team. For some, there’s no better pick than someone you already love and trust, be it a romantic partner, sibling or even your child. As our interviewees can attest, there’s love and joy aplenty in creating something great with someone special. But blurring the lines between love and work brings its own complications." - [Source] Technically DC
1. HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO BUSINESS WITH YOUR PARTNER? WERE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT IT? EXCITED?
T:I honestly don’t recall ever having feelings of doubt. When V+B was still an idea on the back of a napkin, Ariane and I were just enjoying the time we spent together—brainstorming in the Kogod Courtyard of the Portrait Gallery, sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble reading books about starting a food business, and connecting with other successful founders and entrepreneurs. In hindsight, we were probably naïvely excited, but I would argue that we had just the right amount of healthy ignorance—enough to question the status quo but not so much to prevent us from moving forward.
A:I never aspired to be a business owner. My experience as a first-generation immigrant taught me that I didn’t always have the luxury of choosing, and my cultural upbringing taught me that there were certain societal roles women were “supposed” to play.
No one in my family has graduated from college, me included. I dropped out of school to start V+B, which is a decision I still struggle with to this day. There’s no clearly defined path to success as an entrepreneur, and the uncertainty is unsettling for someone who grew up with explicit expectations about what it meant to be “successful”—you go to school, get a stable job, raise a family, and most important, don’t stand out.
But at the end of the day, I am incredibly proud of what we are building and the opportunities we are creating for others. There is something exceedingly special and rare when you experience a sense of awe and passion in the unfamiliar, every day, with someone you love, trust, and admire – it makes it worth the effort.
2. WHAT'S IT LIKE WORKING WITH YOUR PARTNER? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PART ABOUT OR FAVORITE MEMORY?
A:The aggregate of all our experiences is worth every hard day – it's difficult to have compassion for yourself when things don’t go as planned, but having a partner who sees opportunities for growth where you see failure gives you a reason to be continually hopeful and grateful.
T:Starting a business is all-consuming. Late nights, early mornings, and 7-day workweeks are regular occurrences. Yet, despite all the stress, seemingly impossible challenges, and recurring feelings of overwhelm and imposter syndrome, sharing the journey with a loved one is incredibly rewarding. It’s difficult to overstate how valuable it is to have a partner who genuinely understands and can empathize with the unique experience that is starting and growing a business.
3. IS IT EVER DIFFICULT TO AVOID BRINGING WORK INTO YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
T:It was a first. If nothing else, starting a business with a loved one is a lesson in learning to communicate. Early on, we struggled to establish explicit boundaries between our work lives and our personal lives, which created a lot of otherwise avoidable stress and tension in our relationship.
In the beginning, our work lives and our personal lives were too intertwined—our first “office” was in our studio apartment, which was less than a block from our kitchen—which made any sort of physical separation impossible.
While we eventually learned to establish clear boundaries, it took several years, many conversations with friends, mentors, and therapists, and LOTS of patience.
A:There was a point early in our company’s life where people would ask me if “I only happened to be a part of this because I was Turner’s partner.” Comments like that, mixed with my own insecurities about not having finished college and about being an immigrant whose first and second languages were not English, really affected my perceived self-worth. I saw myself as “less than” – less important than Turner, less qualified, less capable, less significant.
On bad days, my awareness of my potential is fragile, and I disintegrate into the version of myself who is less than. On those days, it’s hard to separate the working relationship from the personal one.
We joke that we wear many hats, but it’s true – we have our romantic partner hat, business founder hat, co-founder hat, and then leader and co-leader hat – which can sometimes mean the type of support I think I need can’t be met because it muddles the other roles we have.
Expectation setting has become our number 1 relationship tool and we’ve learned to communicate in a way that we wouldn’t have if we weren’t business partners.
4. WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO GO INTO BUSINESS WITH A LOVED ONE?
A:No matter the path you take or the successes and failures you may experience, your worth is in your being – who you are outside of “this” is the most important thing, so be compassionate to everyone including yourself.
T:A few learnings from our personal experience that come to mind:
1. Community is everything. Find your community—by choice, not by default—intentionally surrounding yourself with people you admire and care about, and who aren’t afraid to challenge you. Nobody reaches the top alone, and the people around you shape you.
2. Learn to love the process. The path from here to better is rarely linear. And getting to better is an endless pursuit with no clear destination. Along the way, opportunities disguised as problems will appear. And so an insatiable curiosity and a willingness to show up—every single day—are essential.
3. Rule of thirds. When doing hard things, you’re meant to feel good a third of the time, okay a third of the time, and crappy a third of the time. If the ratio is roughly in that range, you’re doing fine. If the ratio is too far off, reflect on why. You may be working too hard, not enough, or prioritizing the wrong things.
4. Establish boundaries, set expectations upfront, and stay patient. If you’re running a marathon and expect it to feel easy at mile 20, you’re likely in for a rude awakening. Expect to be challenged and to occasionally feel awful, and be prepared to grind.