What’s it like to run a business with your spouse? Ask our co-founders…
Starting a business is hard work. It is a risk, an adventure, and more than anything, a challenge. It’s a challenge often undertaken with partners, and going through the stresses and challenges of starting a business has been known to strain even the strongest of relationships.
So, what happens when your business partner is also your life partner?
Here at Bombfell, two of our three founders have navigated just this situation for the past eight years. Sarah Lee and Jason Kim are co-founders of Bombfell and, you guessed it, married… with children.
Since they have years of battle-tested knowledge on what it’s like to start and run a business with your spouse, I wanted to get their perspective on the joys they’ve shared, the challenges they’ve faced, and what they’ve learned on their journey.
1. The joys.
As someone who works at Bombfell, I’ve observed firsthand that Sarah and Jason seem to have a healthy working relationship. They clearly enjoy having each other around and running the daily operations of Bombfell. I was curious about what exactly they valued about having their spouse around at work.
“We get to talk and share in the business together,” Jason told me, “whether things are going well or poorly.” He also added that he simply enjoyed getting to spend more time with Sarah.
For Sarah’s part, she says she simply loves solving problems with Jason, whether that’s building a business or raising children. “It’s fun seeing how his brain works, and I enjoy learning more about him through the process,” added Sarah.
Many couples never get to experience their partner’s ‘professional persona’, but it seems you can get to know your partner on a deeper level when you get that chance.
2. The challenges.
Starting and operating a business is a crucible for relationships, whether personal, professional, or romantic. Especially in small businesses and startups, the workload can be overwhelming and the risks numerous.
In speaking with Sarah and Jason, I got the sense that they actually thrived taking on these challenges and pulled closer together. That doesn’t mean, however, they haven’t had to struggle and work to get to this point.
“I think it can be difficult not making things personal at work,” Jason told me. “It also takes a lot of communication and understanding to make this work, there has to be a level of faith and trust that we’re looking out for the best, not just for each other, but for the company as well.”
As an introvert myself, one of this writer’s biggest questions was about the challenge of fitting in ‘me time’ during the work week. While they both said this was a subject that took some negotiating, Sarah makes sure to take time to see friends and attend theater, while Jason spends time at the gym (no ‘dad bods’ here — trouble fitting shirtsleeves around his arms).
They both agree that the biggest challenge they have faced in the process has been to not mix work and home life.
Sarah says, “I’ve had to practice compartmentalizing because it doesn’t come naturally to me. Of course, there are moments when we do have to make decisions together about work while we are home or about home while we are at work, but I think we’ve gotten much better at handling these situations as they come.”
Jason agreed that it was very challenging to begin, but that he “couldn’t imagine it any other way.”
3. The learnings.
Sarah and Jason both say that the process of starting Bombfell has taught them a lot about themselves, their partner, and their relationship.
Jason feels like he’s been able to experience a side of Sarah’s personality that he hadn’t got to know before starting Bombfell. He got to see firsthand “how competent and capable she is at dealing with people and crises” and has come to greater appreciate those skills. Jason credits Sarah with being an “incredible people person.”
Sarah, who describes herself as “a very emotional person,” credits Jason with teaching her how to approach things with a more level head and for pushing her to be her best. She said she may have known this about Jason prior to Bombfell but that she’s learned a lot from getting to watch him work and stay cool under pressure over the years.
For Sarah and Jason, starting Bombfell has almost been an affirmation of their relationship. They cover for each other’s weaknesses and amplify each other’s strengths.`