Bringing your work home – the rise of the copreneur

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Partnerships have taken on an entirely new meaning now that an estimated 1.4 million businesses in the UK are run by couples.

Here, nine of these so-called copreneurs give an insight into how they overcame the obstacles of working together, the secrets of their success and tips on how other couples can do the same.

They come from a wide range business types; from a luxury fashion brand to musical instrument accessories and novelty gifting.

Name: Julian, 57, and Rhona Blades, 62, run Jules B, an independent fashion retailer providing exclusive luxury women’s wear and menswear in Newcastle upon Tyne

How long have you been together? 

35 years as a couple, 35 as a business

What did you do before that? 

Julian was a self-employed fashion agent for Barbour, based in Germany. Rhona was a lecturer in fashion at the local arts college.

What has your experience been working together?

Together, we’re a strong team. I always say Rhona’s strengths are my weaknesses. Rhona oversees women’s wear while I’m in charge of menswear – we’re both passionate about great product and this is what drives us.

What is one learning/tip that you would like to offer from your experience?

If you’re going into business as a couple, it’s important to trust one another and be open to each other’s ideas. You’re probably not going to agree on every single thing, but if you are open and good at communicating you’ll go far.

 What is your top tip for anyone starting a business?

It’s important to trust your gut! Go for it, take a chance and have faith in your own decisions. Also, surround yourself with people who share your work ethic and are hungry to drive the business forward.

Company website: https://www.julesb.co.uk/

Name: Jonathan Brook, 30, and Hayley Hollonds, 31, run Text-A-Potato, a novelty gift company that specialises in quirky, unusual and funny presents: packaging and posting genuine potatoes with inscribed personalised messages.

How long have you been together? 

Fourteen 14 years as a couple, four years in business

What did you do before that? 

Jonathan was working in the mining and financial sector. Hayley’s background is in public relations and media.

What has your experience been working together? 

We have definitely learned to divide and conquer! We love having someone to constantly bounce ideas off of. Plus, it’s more efficient to manage different and separate aspects of the business so we can manage our own projects and goals.

What is one learning/tip that you would like to offer from your experience? 

Really learn to work both in the business and on the business. It’s really easy to become absorbed in the daily grind – which is essential- but it can mean you start losing focus on what the business’ broader aims and future developments should be.

 What is your top tip for anyone starting a business?

Research and use every resource that might make your job easier. There are so many companies out there that can help. For example, we developed Text-A-Potato’s online store and website via Wix, the web platform. We didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars working with a developer, nor did we need to have any coding skills. Wix enabled us to create and manage our wild and wacky ideas by making them tangible and functional without any stress or burdensome costs!

Company website: www.textapotato.com

Name: Tim Walker, 35, and Thea Paraskevaides, 32, run Beaumont Music, a Sussex-based brand of fashionable accessories for musicians – such as flute bags, clarinet cases, saxophone straps.

How long have you been together? 

Twelve years as a couple, nine years in business

What were your previous job roles? 

Tim was a Medical Doctor and I was an Academic (psychopharmacology)

What has your experience been working together? 

Great! We’re together 24/7 and work from home. It’s hard to separate business from your relationship, which can definitely be overwhelming sometimes. In fact, the night before our wedding we were in a room replying to a European distributor about an incoming shipment!

What is one learning/tip that you would like to offer from your experience? 

Make sure you get some time apart too, whether it be hobbies or seeing your own friends. Be patient with each other and have clear job roles and responsibilities.

What is your top tip for anyone starting a business? 

Intelligent naivety. In our industry, no-one had done what we’d done before, but we didn’t know it couldn’t be done, so we just did it.

Company website: www.beaumontmusic.co

Name: Mary and Peter Croft, both 34, run Bear and Babe, a luxury, fashionable, handmade baby and children’s clothing business in Sheffield.

How long have you been together? 

Fifteen years as a couple, three years in business

What did you do before that? 

Mary worked as a nanny to various families in and around Sheffield, and Peter had a number of marketing positions.

What has your experience been working together?

Working together has been a learning curve and can test your relationship. Seeing something you’ve created with your partner grow and succeed has been the most rewarding thing for us professionally. Being able to work on projects together and sharing ideas has not only contributed to more productive and creative work but has also given us the chance to learn about each other.

What is one tip that you would like to offer from your experience?

With never really being able to leave work behind, it’s important to find space – be it working out of the office or in a café.

What is your top tip for anyone starting a business?

Don’t hold yourself back. You’re never too young and most likely will wish you started it earlier. Don’t worry about making mistakes or not having experience (unless it’s legally required!). Most of us have and still are winging it to some degree.

Company website:  www.bearandbabe.com

Name: Mel and Ken Wood, both 48, from Surrey, run Fidgetbum, a sleep aid (compression sheet) suitable for children and adults.

How long have you been together? 

Eighteen years as a couple 18 years (married for 16) and eight years in business

What did you do before that? 

Ken was running a golf business, and I was a stay-at-home mum to our two daughters.

What has your experience been working together?

Generally, we work really well together.  Our skills complement each other: I’m the chatty one and find it easy to meet people and make new connections, whereas Ken is really good with the technical side of things so he focuses on the website development and various online sales avenues.

What is one learning/tip that you would like to offer from your experience?  

It can be tough working with your husband, as you never seem to be able to leave business at the door.  This is especially the case with our business as it’s like our third baby, so we’re always thinking and talking about it.

What is your top tip for anyone starting a business?

If you believe in your product, persevere, persevere, persevere. What began for us as a simple solution to stop our baby daughter from kicking her covers off at night, developed into a recognised sleep product.

Company website: www.fidgetbum.co

Name: Sally, 44, and Robert Fielding, 43, run Sally’s Cottages is an agency letting holiday cottages in the Lake District

How long have you been together? 

Twenty-five years as a couple, 16 years in business

What did you do before that? 

Rob was a dry stone waller and grave digger, and Sally was a web designer

What has your experience been working together? 

It’s been great. Before we started working together, we were very independent of each other.  I was worried that it would be difficult working with each other because we had such separate lives but that all changed once we found that we shared an interested.

What is one learning/tip that you would like to offer from your experience? 

Respect the value that your partner brings to the business; give and take feedback, and use it to become stronger. I’m convinced that the business is successful because of Rob’s input while Rob is convinced it’s successful because of me.

What is your top tip for anyone starting a business? 

Save the boring jobs for when you’re too tired to think any more. Employ people who are better than you – and then let them get on with their job.

Company website:  www.sallyscottages.co.uk

Name: Jana Reinhardt, 40, and Ross Cutting, 41, run Jana Reinhardt, a jewellery company specialising in bespoke commissions and fine collections in Worthing, West Sussex

How long have you been together? 

Eighteen years as a couple,13 years in business

What did you do before that? 

Jana was a master goldsmith for Lara Bohinc, and Ross was master goldsmith working for EC One London jewellery

What has your experience been working together?

We work pretty well together and are lucky that our different skill sets complement each other. Jana designs much of the jewellery as she’s very artistic and Ross sets all the stones due to his previous experience.

What is one learning/tip that you would like to offer from your experience?

Try lots of different things and don’t put all your investment into one avenue. We hired expensive specialists to improve our SEO ranking. It delivered results initially, but the firm had used unscrupulous techniques to boost our rankings quickly, so later on our web position and traffic all bombed. Now we work on a much smaller scale with different firms using different techniques.

What is your top tip for anyone starting a business? 

Tell all your friends and contacts about your business and get them to spread the word. This is a great, free way to get your name out there and let people know what you do and begin to establish yourself and your client base.

Company website: www.janareinhardt.com

Name: Jon, 41, and Zoe Welsman, 32, run Natures Healthbox, a natural health, beauty and home goods supplier in Brighton

How long have you been together?

Seven years as a couple, six years in business

What did you do before that? 

Jon was a Manager Express Chemist, and Zoe was a Sales/Admin Express Chemist.

What has your experience been working together? 

Great. We both know what the other is doing and we have a great time working together. We leave any business issues in the office until the following day.

What is one learning/tip that you would like to offer from your experience? 

It’s harder than we thought. We came from a business that was turning over just under £3 million per year and thought it would be easy to turn over £300k. How wrong were we. We fully believe if you want it and you’re prepared to work hard at it, you can achieve success. However, even if it is difficult and you have bad days, it is worth it in the long run.

What is your top tip for anyone starting a business? 

Really do your research. Look around and get quotes. I jumped straight in and went with the first offer I saw to build and design a website. Six months later had, I had to move it to a magento platform, which cost us around £15K. This was all because the excitement of getting our business off the ground took over, and it ended up being an expensive mistake.

Company website: www.natureshealthbox.co.uk