loading
drag

What’s it really like going into business with your partner? I ask four Australian couples

WORDS BY HANNAH COHEN

 

It’s a labour of love.

Getting into business with your partner sounds like the ultimate gamble. As someone with completely separate career ambitions from my partner, I couldn’t possibly imagine how the dynamics of a relationship would change by deciding to combine both party’s assets and ideas into a mutual business pursuit.

I envisioned a recipe for disaster – an obstacle course of tricky hurdles to jump over together to maintain that ever-crucial work-life balance. How do you navigate the gradually blurring lines between work and home? Are there certain routines that need to be put in place to make sure you aren’t always talking about work? What if the business (or the relationship) is put to the test and crumbles?


Want more career advice? Check out our Life vertical. 


It turns out my preconceived notions about jumping into business with your partner weren’t entirely on the money. I chatted with four Australian couples that decided to see through a business venture hand-in-hand. 

They proved to me that while taking the plunge and committing to a shared hustle isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, there’s something special about working towards a joint goal and experiencing meaningful career milestones with the one you love. Here’s how they make it work.

Patti Chimkire and Luke Whitten, Mali Bakes

Patti and Luke’s love story flourished while they were both working on Melbourne’s infamous Smith Street. After meeting through a friend, the couple bonded over their shared love of Melbourne’s inner north music scene.

Flash forward to the present day and the couple has been together for five years, working and living in their sunlit space in Thornbury, home to their colourful cake bakery Mali BakesPatti told me that the move to start up their business together was a very natural decision. 

“Mali Bakes only started like last year doing lockdown and at the time, we were living in a sharehouse. So it was me and Luke and two housemates,” Patti told me.

“Baking in that kitchen… was kind of hard to keep up. We [decided to] look for a place and were hoping to just get like a normal rental home so that I could fully be a home baker in that way. But then we ended up finding the space that was kind of perfect for us.”

After a five-month renovation to create this flexible new space, Patti now spends most of her time baking copious amounts of orders in their commercial kitchen built by Luke. Luke can often be found in the studio where he works on his art sculptures, popping in to help Patti when she needs it. 

The couple said that navigating budgeting and time constraints while working alongside each other presented challenges that tested their relationship in the initial stages of getting Mali Bakes off the ground. 

Despite these stresses, Luke and Patti revealed that with patience and a focus on maintaining a balanced amount of responsibility within the working relationship, going into business together has deepened their romantic partnership.

“I think it’s nice to get to know your partner on a work level, because you know them intimately, you know them in all these different ways. But actually, the way somebody works is like a big part of who they are. When you do that together, you kind of see another side of your partner,” Luke shared. “It’s one hundred per cent brought us closer.’ 

malibakes.com

Lara Fisher and Andy Kepitis, P0ly Designs

In an iconic first meeting, Lara and Andy got together over 10 years ago at a music festival. While they both come from creative backgrounds, during the earlier stages of their relationship, the couple explained to me that they certainly didn’t anticipate starting their homeware design business, P0ly, together.

P0ly was born organically in the midst of Melbourne’s COVID lockdowns last year. Lara had lost her job and Andy wasn’t working. “It was a pretty tough time, like being at home and applying for jobs… there was just nothing out there,” Lara shared with me. 

“Our house is full of plants and we thought about all this spare time. Our other housemate is a tradie and he helped us make a plinth to put the plants on. They were elevated and colourful and so we made one and put it up online not thinking it was going to be a thing. Then someone ordered one, then their friend ordered one and then their friend ordered one. So it wasn’t like a planned thing that we did. Once the ball started rolling, we thought, let’s do it.”

Now with over 20,000 followers on Instagram, P0ly has taken off dramatically since its inception. Lara takes care of the sales, client relations and invoicing while Andy leads the way in the construction and tiling of the designs. 

Andy told me that the separation of the roles aids with the cohesiveness of their working relationship. “We thought initially that we’d never be able to work together,” he revealed. “But I think because we have very different roles, one’s hands-on, one’s the people person… I think that really helps.”

The couple agreed that while they talk about P0ly around 90 per cent of the time, working on a business they’re jointly passionate about has added an exciting new team-like element to their relationship.

“Before we started this… we were very independent. We did our own things on the weekend, we did our own jobs, we were independent together. But now we do everything together. We get up, we go for a walk, we have our coffee, we start working, then we break for lunch… and it’s really nice,” Lara told me.

The P0ly founders revealed that for them, the key to feeling secure about jumping into business with a partner is being prepared to have open conversations about the more daunting, serious stuff (read: the financial and legal aspects of the business that need addressing). “It’s important to foolproof your business.”

@p0ly_designs

Abbey Walker and Tom Elder, Choose Jewellery

High school sweethearts Abbey and Tom have been together for nearly four years and launched Choose Jewellery at the beginning of 2021 as an extension of Abbey’s original art-focused Instagram account. Initially, it was Tom who encouraged Abbey to take her artistic talents up a notch and turn her creative outlet from a hobby into a joint hustle they could pursue. 

“I’m such a little introvert. I just paint and create and I just do things with my hands and then Tom told me ‘You can do things with this, you can make your life and make money out of this’,” Abbey shared with me.

Combining Tom’s business smarts with Abbey’s eye for detail, Tom takes care of the website and manages inventory whereas Abbey steers the creative side of the jewellery line, designing and hand-making all of the pieces.

The couple admitted that starting a business together hasn’t been easy by any stretch, with the pressures of kicking off an emerging label leading to some self-confessed “stupid” arguments. “It’s not anything bad. It’s just like, really little things,” Abbey revealed.

“I’m so particular about everything. If I look at a product and don’t like it, I don’t like it. There’s only so much I can do about that unless I fix it. And then Tom’s like, ‘No, we just need to get the website up to make sales’, that’s all Tom’s thinking about.”

Petty arguments aside, the Choose founders told me that there’s a shared rush of excitement worth celebrating when a sale is made or when a customer is spotted wearing one of their ethically sourced pearl necklaces – a feeling that makes it all worthwhile.

“You get so many rough periods and things that just don’t work out that can be so annoying. And then when you get just a sale, or even just seeing someone wearing [the jewellery] that loves it. It’s just like, okay, we got this,” Abbey told me.

choosejewellery.com

Bridget Lee and Daniel Durham, Bandd

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by b&d (@bandd.official)

University students Bridget and Daniel had only been together as a couple for six months when they decided to launch their clothing label Bandd in the midst of lockdown. The couple explained to me that each of their roles in the business fell into place naturally.

Daniel takes care of the initial stages of a garment, such as logo designs, ordering, printing and sewing the pieces by hand and Bridget takes the lead on packaging and marketing. Daniel admitted to me that at the beginning of their business venture all he could think and talk to Bridget about was Bandd – it was a struggle to stop talking shop. 

“We ended up having to make a set meeting time, where we would sit down at a table with our laptops and just talk about it. It helped because we got so much done in that meeting and it was all focused on [Bandd] rather than having it intertwined with personal things,” he said.

Would they recommend other couples starting a business venture together? They say it depends on the couple. “We’re lucky that we’re both interested in business and design so it works in that way, because we’re both passionate about the same thing, and bring skills from different sides. So I think it works for us,” Bridget told me.

However, Bridget and Daniel cautioned that if you’re thinking about starting up a business with your partner, it’s important to consider discussing contingency plans in case things get messy. “We made two solutions for if we were to either break up or if we wanted to split the business or something,” Bridget shared. “Thinking about the worst I think helped in making the business work.”

bandd.store

Want to learn more about going into business with your partner? Head here.

Lazy Loading