Co-founders

These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

There's an old cliche that you're not supposed to mix business and pleasure, but these co-founders who are also lovers prove that's just B.S.
These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love
Image credit: Brooklinen
Entrepreneur Staff
14 min read

There's an old cliche that you're not supposed to mix business and pleasure, but these co-founders who are also lovers prove that's just B.S.

With love in the air, Entrepreneur reached out to business partners who are also partners in life to ask them what came first, business or love, and how they balance their lives.

Click through the slides to see their answers.

These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Get creative in mixing love and business.

Get creative in mixing love and business.
Image credit: Lucy & Co

Ahmed El Shourbagy and Ashley Paguyo El Shourbagy, @dogsofinstagram and Lucy & Co.

What came first: business or love?

Ahmed: Love did definitely come first and still does. When we first started dating, our idea of romance was sitting at a coffee shop dreaming up business ideas. I guess in many ways, our dates haven't changed much.

Ashley: Ahmed founded his pet project, Dogs of Instagram, one week prior to us meeting. I like to think that we fell in love first, but that developing a shared project is what strengthened our relationship. We learned how to work together, how to communicate more effectively,and how to resolve inevitable conflict faster through the work. Because we were both invested in elevating Dogs of Instagram, our monetization strategy grew organically and efficiently -- there were two brains behind it and more shared excitement. Together, we kept riding that momentum and parlayed it into a company that we birthed together: Lucy & Co.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

Ahmed: It's really hard to keep the two apart so what often worked for us was mixing work and love in creative ways. Some of our best ideas have come while brainstorming on a sandy beach far away from home or during a brunch date. Our honeymoon was full of business inspiration but that didn't stop us from having an unforgettably romantic experience.

Ashley: I actually wrote a blog piece full of advice on this very topic last year. One piece of advice I shared was, “stay in your lane.” Here’s an excerpt from the post:

“Naturally, our strengths began to emerge and we let each other to own certain functions of the business. This isn’t to say that we don’t weigh in on developing conversations. Simply put, in tie-breaker situations, we defer to the master of that particular domain, allowing the more informed partner to make an executive call. That works really well for us.”

Related: The Couple Behind 'Dogs of Instagram' Started It as a Pet Project and Now Have 4 Million Followers and a Successful Ecommerce Business
These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Carve out time for yourself.

Carve out time for yourself.
Image credit: Namaste Nail Sanctuary

Michael and Mecca Elliot, Namaste Nail Sanctuary and Hammer & Nails Grooming Shop for Guys

What came first: business or love?

Love came first. We have known each other for almost eight years and have been married for three years.

I have known about my husband, Michael, for a long time. I heard him on a podcast, and I found myself truly inspired by his message, so I continued to look for other recordings and speeches of his.

Our paths finally crossed when I took a screenwriting class in Miami and Michael ended up being the guest speaker. Shortly after, we became friends and then he became a mentor to me. We eventually started dating and got married.

Michael is a truly passionate individual and he inspires me every day. After he pursued his passion of entrepreneurship through the creation of Hammer & Nails Groom Shop for Guys, we realized it was time for me to follow my dream, so we came together to create Namaste Nail Sanctuary to combine my passion of meditation, health and wellness.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

We make sure to constantly carve out time for ourselves. Both of us have our own lives outside of the business, and even outside of our marriage. We try to actively keep up with the hobbies that bring us happiness and help us escape from the stresses of the world. We also carve out time to be together and put the business conversations on hold. It’s important to understand that your marriage is sacred and holds priority over your business. If you both share that mindset, you’ll create a stronger understanding and bond with your spouse.

Make sure you both fully understand what your ultimate goals are and what you have to do to accomplish it. Your business life and married life may cross paths while you strive to achieve that goal but if you’re both on the same page about what it takes to get there, you’ll have a better sense of understanding when the two intertwine.

These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Enjoy the experience.

Enjoy the experience.
Image credit: Emmy's Organic

Samantha Abrams and Ian Gaffney, Emmy's Organics

What came first: business or love?

Love.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

We don't separate “work life” and “love life.” We can sit at home and discuss important work decisions or work on our computers and at the same time we can take a walk or lunch break together during the day. When there is no separation there is no lack in one or the other.

Second, have fun! Starting or running a business with your partner should be fun. Ian and I regularly check in with each other and ask “are you having fun?” That's how we gauge if things are working. If there is a particular aspect of our work that isn’t fun for one person, we do something about it.

Related: This Popular Cookie Company Was Started on a Whim by a Couple Out of Their Home
These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Take time to get away from the business.

Take time to get away from the business.
Image credit: The Liquor Store

Lisa and Luis Toro, The Liquor Store

What came first: business or love?

For us, business came first. Our story began through work, which is likely in part why we’re able to continue to work together so easily. My agency was looking to hire a freelance designer on a specific client project, and my neighbor just happened to work in the design group at Hilton Worldwide. When discussing the project with him, he mentioned Luis and suggested I reach out to see if he had any availability. This was almost 10 years ago.

My business partner and I met Luis for lunch and we struck up a conversation about my travels to Venezuela and his hometown of Caracas. We didn’t end up landing the client project, but Luis and I remained friends and would see one another at numerous industry events. Timing being everything, when we both found ourselves single, I remember sending him a direct message on Twitter asking if he’d like to meet for a drink. The rest is history.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

For us, balance comes through travel and time away from Memphis. Memphis is a big small town. We’ve built an incredible support network over the years and have mentors and friends we can turn to when we need advice or simply a sympathetic ear. This city is quick to embrace new entrepreneurs and those willing to step out and take risks in order to move the city forward. It is also filled with some of the most generous people you’ll find anywhere. When we’re here though, it’s difficult to separate ourselves from all the day-to-day needs and necessities.

When we travel, we’re able to remove ourselves entirely and simply enjoy one another. Even if it’s an overnight trip, it works wonders for our peace of mind.

These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Pay attention to what the other person says.

Pay attention to what the other person says.
Image credit: Club Tattoo

Sean and Thora Dowdell, Club Tattoo

What came first: business or love?

Our love came first. As a matter of fact, it came the moment we met each other. Sean founded the business in 1995, and we met in 1997. After knowing each other for only 10 days, we moved in together and were married a year later. That’s the most risk either of us had ever taken in our young lives. Leading with your heart can eliminate good ol’ common sense -- in our case, it proved we were equal risk takers and wanted to extract the sweet nectar of life with wild abandon.

Looking back, we would never give that advice to our own children or anyone we know. Shortly after we were married, we decided to combine our individual skills, energy and motivation into one direction and started working together at the first store. Little did we know, we would eventually create a multi-million-dollar brand. It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies; it still isn’t. It takes persistence to the keep your eye on the goal, loyalty to your marriage and a great sense of humor to get through the tough times.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

Balance is an illusion for entrepreneurs. When you love your spouse and love what you do professionally together, there is no balance. It is a 360-degree obsession of your mind. Paying attention when the other person speaks or expresses themselves is far more important than giving "time.” You can spend all of your free time with someone, but if you're not present mentally, or making a significant effort to becoming a better mate and lover for your spouse, then all you are doing is wasting time. It’s unreasonable to assume you can leave work at the office once you’re home, but you can make a conscious effort to turn off work talk for a period of time to be present for your family.

There are times when we are so busy going in different directions, we don’t get to connect until we get home, and even then, the work can continue until bedtime. We determined that both of us need the freedom to say, “I don’t feel like talking about anything work-related right now,” without holding it against each other. Respect “the withdraw” as a deposit in the love bank. Don’t badger, a tired mind being pushed causes disagreements faster than a fresh, happy mind. When you are away from the office, focus on self-care. We both think it’s important to let our brains rest. We do things that we individually enjoy, connect with our kids together and separately, and go on weekly date nights planned by Sean. All of this is crucial to us functioning well together at work, and at home.

These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Respect your time away from the office.

Respect your time away from the office.
Image credit: Brooklinen

Vicki Fulop and Rich Fulop, Brooklinen

What came first: business or love?

Vicki: Love! We met in our apartment building -- a mutual friend invited Rich over when his power went out upstairs -- and we’ve been together ever since. Shortly after we got married, we took a quick trip to Las Vegas where the idea for Brooklinen first arose. We slept in the most amazing sheets and tried to buy them from the hotel, but they were crazy expensive. This got us thinking about why it’s so hard to buy sheets that look and feel amazing, at an affordable price, and some years later, Brooklinen was born!

What's your best advice for balancing your work and personal lives?

Rich: We leave work at the office and when we’re home we try to do things together, like cook and binge shows we love. When we go on vacation, we know checking in on work is inevitable, so we plan out time slots to check email and handle any last-minute deliverables, and then we go offline for the other parts of the trip.

These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Keep communication lines open.

Keep communication lines open.
Image credit: WIN Home Inspection

Tom and Dianne Knapp, WIN Home Inspection

What came first: business or love?

Love came first, followed by love of the business.

When we met, it was love at first sight. We had an obvious connection and soon honed in on the fact we both had high goals and aspirations for business. We began working together early on in our relationship to reach our goals. When we started WIN Home Inspection, we had been in business together for six years and were looking for a new project.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

The lines between business and love are often blurred -- and that’s OK. As long as there is a commitment to open communication and active listening, let the two be intertwined. The commonality of our core values has really allowed us to work incredibly well together. Everything boils down to your belief system and if that is aligned, your relationship and business will thrive.

We’ve also found our skill sets and strengths complement each other. While they are very different, it allows us the autonomy to excel in our individual areas of expertise and then come together, working as a team.

These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Set time to talk about work.

Set time to talk about work.
Image credit: Pique Tea

Amanda Wee and Simon Cheng, Pique Tea

What came first: business or love?

Love. Always love. Even when it comes to business, it's rooted in love. We fell in love with each other and our shared mission to help everyone unlock the benefits of tea so we can all unleash our innate potential. This is a mission rooted in love and compassion. The longer we work at Pique together, the more I realized that we love working with each other. This allows us to travel together, face adversity together, go on new adventures and create incredible memories all the time.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

The main thing is not to let work encroach on our personal lives. So we set hours when we engage with each other about work. We're both really fun loving people and enjoy each other's company so it's easy to carve out time for each other. The boundaries don't prevent each other from working during personal hours given the 24/7 nature of building a business but any suggestions, questions or feedback get directed to email or other messaging platforms. It's a no no in our books to bring up stressful work related issues in person during our personal off-work time.

Related: The Company That Created a New Way to Drink Tea Is Truly a Product of Love
These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Be clear with your expectations.

Be clear with your expectations.
Image credit: Goldfish Swim School

Chris & Jenny McCuiston, Goldfish Swim School

What came first: business or love?

Love. We were high school sweethearts at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich. We started Goldfish Swim School Franchising after graduation from college.

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

Set clear expectations and stick to them. Designate time for work and time for your personal lives and hold each other accountable. It’s all about communication, boundaries and respecting each other -- at work and at home.

Related: Making a Splash: How a Swim-School Franchise Found Success
These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love

Integrate family with business.

Integrate family with business.
Image credit: Burn Boot Camp

Devan and Morgan Kline, Burn Boot Camp

What came first: business or love? 

Love! Devan and I met in sixth grade and were high school sweethearts. Burn Boot Camp was born from the ground up together when we had no one but each other. Thankfully, we have had each other through the many ups and downs our business has experienced. What always remains a constant is our love and respect for one another and for our shared passion for the business and impact our brand is making. 

What's your best advice for balancing your work and love lives?

We don't always separate the two! So often we hear people talking about work-life balance and how it can be so stressful to manage both. Over the past five years, our lives have been all about integrating our family with our business. We don't let the stress of the business carry over into our marriage, and if we disagree on something in the office, we leave at the office.

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  • These 10 Entrepreneurial Couples Share How They Make It Work in Both Business and Love
  • 1. Get creative in mixing love and business.
  • 2. Carve out time for yourself.
  • 3. Enjoy the experience.
  • 4. Take time to get away from the business.
  • 5. Pay attention to what the other person says.
  • 6. Respect your time away from the office.
  • 7. Keep communication lines open.
  • 8. Set time to talk about work.
  • 9. Be clear with your expectations.
  • 10. Integrate family with business.
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