I can’t help…forming a biz…with you.
Co-founding tips for fools in love.
A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.
👋 Welcome to For The Love, so happy to have you all here!
Today we’ll be discussing:
For The Love of love (and business)
A roundup of new launches this week, including a high-priced play on words
What not to take to the beach this summer.
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💣 For The Love of Startups
Creating something new is a personal investment of time, effort, and emotion.
When you’re trying to bring a new idea or product to life, it can also be all-consuming.
That’s why so many people hold sacred the separation between work and the rest of their personal lives — a separation that potentially goes out the window when you’re starting your business with a significant other.
That’s why I was a bit apprehensive about starting a new business with my husband, Charlie.
On the other hand, the upside is that you truly share your successes.
So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I asked for advice from people who know — couples who doubled down on their commitment to one another and started successful businesses together.
Here’s what they said.
THE MYTH OF WORK/LIFE BALANCE
In the current world where work/life balance seems unattainable at the best of times, I was curious how partners in work and life balance the two.
The answer? They don’t.
Kara Goldin, Founder & CEO of Hint, whose husband Theo Goldin is Hint’s COO explained:
“The truth is that we really don't. When you launch a start-up — while having four kids under the age of 6 — both your business and personal life are intertwined. It's totally unrealistic to compartmentalize one or the other to a specific time of day.”
Most of the founders I spoke to, even ones without four kids, agreed.
Helena Price Hambrecht who co-founded Haus with husband Woody Hambrecht told me:
“We’ve accepted now that work and life blend together, and work is a huge part of our marriage, whether we like it or not. That acceptance has actually helped us become better at navigating both the business and personal aspects of our relationship.”
“We’ve found it easier to accept that business and personal are fundamentally intertwined. It doesn’t mean that you won’t take breaks, or inject empathy into messages that are ‘hard to swallow’ for your partner. But in general, tip-toeing around the fact that the two are related can create a buildup of frustration or sensitivity.”
Ian Wishingrad, who co-founded Three Wishes Cereal with his wife, added — “Margaret just tells me when to stop talking about work.”
Despite the fact there’s no division between work and personal, it’s important to have a division of labor.
Matthew Malin, who founded Malin+Goetz with longtime partner Andrew Goetz, explained:
“While each of us brought a skill set different from the other, it is surprising enough to mention how helpful this is. It not only allows for an effective division of labor but offers personal time and ownership from one another.”
“We decided to create Dally because we have complementary but not overlapping skills — we make a great partnership,” Elizabeth Egan told me, who founded Dally with her husband Kevin. “We suggest studying and identifying each other's greatest strengths that you want to leverage for your company. Then be very clear and intentional about what each person is responsible for so there are clear lines of ownership that leverage each other's strengths.”
Sara Shah, who founded Journ with her husband Mir Anwar, agrees:
“I think we also compliment each other really well. I’m the methodical lawyer who needs to add structure to everything while Mir is more creative and wonderful at ideating ideas that seem crazy but really help us differentiate. He comes up with the crazy ideas and I create processes to achieve them. That in a nutshell is how we operate!”
And Kara Goldin advised:
“Pick a partner in business and in life that compliments you. Find someone who is different from you and who enthusiastically takes on those tasks that you don’t gravitate towards. Make sure that that person has a shared passion and curiosity for solving the problem your company is taking on. And finally, find a person who you know can pick you up when challenges weigh you down.”
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
By far the most consistent advice was around communication. When asked how they resolve disagreements, there were a few approaches —
Part 1: Compromise
Acknowledging that someone may win and someone may lose is a good start.
“For the small things, we hash it out. As a rule, one of our arguments rises to the top (because of expertise, rationale, or maybe being the loudest) and that person wins. We move on. We have to,” explained Matthew Malin.
How do you do that? Tayler Carraway, who founded Happy Medium with her husband Rett, made this suggestion:
“Adopt a ‘no blame’ culture — we win together, and we lose together, no exceptions.”
Elizabeth Egan added the importance of listening to the communication equation:
“We both care SO MUCH which is a great foundation for the partnership but can also lead to conflict. We talk through it and make sure the other person is heard.”
Part 2: Make Time
All of this obviously takes an investment of time. Tory Waxman, co-founder of Sundays, shared how she and her husband accomplish this:
“Michael and I have monthly marriage check-ins. It gives us each the space to be honest and open about what is going well and where we could improve individually and as a couple. Sometimes it's a two-minute conversation and other times it lasts longer but we put it on the calendar to make sure it happens.”
Getting professional help isn’t a bad idea either, as Helena Price Hambrecht explains:
“We’ve become pretty good at working things out ourselves, but we have a couples’ coach to help us work through tougher moments. We recommend all founders have a coach or therapist, and if you can work as a team with one, even better. The returns for your business are tangible.”
If you’re perhaps looking for a less expensive investment in time, Roxana Saidi, who’s building Táche with her fiancé Kyle Henry, has a simple solution:
“One thing that has been great for us and that we do pretty consistently, is go on a 20-30 min walk every day as a time for us to be present with each other and try to keep the conversation void of work. Some days that walk is more like 10 minutes, but even the brief time away from the computer helps.”
Part 3: If all else fails… apologize
Obviously, it’s not always going to go perfectly — so what did these co-founding life partners suggest when things get really tough?
Ian Wishingrad emphasized the following:
“Don’t bury stuff. Hash it out no matter how painful and always make sure you like each other...I apologize. Even if I'm right, I'm wrong.”
Cris Cantino agreed:
“Recognize you’re both going to be assholes from time to time, no one’s perfect — the best you can do is try to be the first to apologize.”
In my research for this article, I discovered another co-founder couple — Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, who in 2002 took a break from their lab work to get married, and then promptly got back to work.
In the years since, they’ve “authored hundreds of academic papers, filed hundreds of patents, founded two non-profit organizations and two billion-euro businesses.”
Oh, and they invented the COVID vaccine.
Clearly, they work remarkably well together, but it sounds like even they have their moments — Dr. Tureci told the Financial Times of her husband:
“‘He has a very high hit rate when it comes to predicting outcomes,’ — a trait she jokingly admits was initially ‘annoying’.”
Great — now when I get annoyed about Charlie always being right, he’ll just add, “See, we’re just like the COVID vaccine couple!” 🙄
🔥 For The Love of Newness
“Birkinstocks” — the new launch from MSCHF that’s exactly what it sounds like.
Hally Hair is a new ammonia-free foam at-home hair color.
Gossamer x Offhours re-released the limited-edition Dogwalker Homecoat— “a self-care outfit for navigating your feelings, or eating them.”
Aunt Jemima is now…Pearl Milling Company?
Colgate but make it Gen Z.
🔍 For The Love of the Details
Advanced targeting is a mysterious black box — so mysterious that sometimes, I don’t even understand what the products are that it’s trying to sell me.
So, 300 million people are saving BIG on summer…portable radioactive experiments? I mean, I guess becoming a superhero overnight would be a great way to get in shape for the beach this summer.
Speaking of the beach, I won’t forget to pick up some…
Clay pigeon launchers? Or is this some kind of weird 1950’s era exercise tool that does a lot of jostling, without much actual impact?
Either way, catch me on the boardwalk hopping by in these…
What makes Wish think that I might want to pick up rollerblading again after 25 years, but that I also might want to switch out the wheels for... Inspector Gadget springs?
Go go Gadget…
Ask one question…create ten others.
Why is whatever the heck this thing is being held up by a TINY DOLL HAND??
Thank you for being part of For The Love! Happy Valentine’s Day!
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Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.