Neither families nor businesses are simple, yet many entrepreneurs discover family businesses can be personally and financially rewarding. However, family businesses contain unique advantages and challenges for budding entrepreneurs.
Judy Lewis began crafting all-natural skin creams out of her love of natural ingredients. She gave them away for birthdays and holidays, only for friends and family to begin asking for more. Noticing the potential market, Lewis teamed up with her mother and sisters to create Jael Skin Care Products.
Lewis’ sister Jerilyn, who handles taxes and financials, said knowing your coworkers is an advantage of family businesses. When conflict occurs, families spend more time and effort resolving the problems and fostering relationships than regular coworkers.
“We don’t let any disagreements keep us away from each other,” Jerilyn said. “We like to settle our differences so that we can maintain our family relationship, and when you are not family you can take someone or leave them sometimes.”
In addition to siblings, husbands and wives often create family businesses together. After her husband, Antonio Turner, moved from optometrist practice to optometrist practice, Alicia Turner convinced him they could go into business themselves. They founded Acuity Eyecare & Eyewear, with Antonio providing optometry services and Alicia managing the office and marketing. They also host a podcast about marriage, “Love Unfiltered.”
Antonio stressed entrepreneurship involves long days and stressful work. While running a business isn’t impossible for new couples, he cautions recently married couples to wait until their marriage is on a solid foundation before starting a business. He and Alicia were married 14 years before starting their business.
In addition, before starting the business both Antonio and Alicia suggested family entrepreneurs should discuss their vision for the business and its future, ironing out any differences. Once the business begins operation, Alicia suggests family members communicate regularly so everyone remains on the same page. Although they’re in the same building, it could have been easy for Alicia and her husband to work in their own spaces with minimal communication, however, that type of business relationship would hurt the company.
“That wouldn’t be a partnership and the business wouldn’t be as successful as it is,” Alicia said.
Entrepreneurs partnering with relatives should also expect family and business time to blend. The Lewis family rarely convenes without talking about their business. Their work often feels like engaging in family time, especially when they travel to shows to advertise Jael products.
“Even though [trips are] business, we look at them as a social affair too, a social affair amongst sisters,” Jerilyn said. “We get to spend time with each other. It doesn’t always feel like business, so that helps with the balance.”
The Turners create a work-life balance by making Saturdays their dedicated family day. Even when work gets hectic through the week, Saturdays provide a time for Antonio and Alicia to do activities and talk about topics other than work. This often involves spending time with their children, grabbing a meal or simply having a conversation. The Turners credit their success to dedicating time to both their professional and personal lives and recommend other prospective entrepreneurs do the same.
“Go in with an open mind and know there’s going to be some curveballs,” Antonio said. “But if you truly are a partnership going into this and you have a successful marriage in your partnership then I couldn’t see any reason you couldn’t have a successful business. … Going on the same page in marriage and going on the same page in business, it only can excel.”
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.