Couples in business: How we balance our hustle and relationship
What you need to know:
- They spend 24 hours together and can hardly separate their personal from professional lives because they’re not only partners in love, but also partners in business.
- The idea of it seems like a tough balance, but couples who have done it say working together actually made their co-existence better.
Most couples find pleasure in doing things together to create a lasting bond and make fond memories while at it. But there’s the notion that relationships where couples spend too much time together lose flavour, after all, it is said that familiarity breeds contempt.
But is this always the case? Three young couples who run successful businesses together say it takes a little more than commitment, respect and efficient communication for them to strike a balance between raising a healthy family and building a successful business.
Isaac Ruto,30, and Christine Cheyech, 27. They come from Eldoret.
Establishing a family business guarantees a fall back plan in case of financial crisis, as demonstrated to by Isaac and Christine.
The two have run more than one business together, and looking back, they can say that going into entrepreneurship is one of the greatest decisions they have ever made.
“The businesses were inspired by our love for entrepreneurship. We wanted to be our own bosses,” says Isaac.
The two started off with a clothes business where Christine spent most of her time running the boutique while her husband delivered orders.
After operating for more than two years, they saved enough money to buy a piece of land, and with the help of their parents, they put up rental houses to increase their income.
Unfortunately, the Rutos lost their first born child, and the hospital bills and funeral expenses gobbled up most of their money.
“We had to close down our boutique. The rental houses that we jointly manage are now our main source of income. We have a joint account for the business,” Christine offers.
The business that the two have engaged in is however not in any way related to their professional backgrounds. Christine studied education at Kenyatta University while Isaac went for tourism management and hospitality.
It was during one of the school holidays while travelling back to Nairobi when Christine met Isaac in Eldoret.
“There was a heavy downpour and Christine was kind enough to offer to share her umbrella with me,” Isaac recalls. Impressed by her kindness, he went ahead to ask for her contacts, and the rest is history.
Although they have never been employed, the family makes enough to cater for their personal needs, thanks to their rental income. They have used part of their savings to buy livestock, currently being reared in their rural home by Ruto’s grandparents.
Initially, when they launched the boutique, the young couple hardly had time for their relationship and often carried work home.
“This would contribute to the time to time conflicts, working together also means spending most of the time with your partner without any time to spare to interact with friends,” explains Isaac.
“We are glad that since we started focusing on rentals, we have more time to spend together, and also some to be with friends,” Christine adds.
The couple plans to open a savings account to fund their children’s education. They have learnt to avoid procrastination and tackle assignments as they come.
“For young couples planning to start their own business, do not wait for a perfect time to start, share your idea with your partner, work on perfecting it and get down to business,” says Ruto.
“Learn to communicate with each other, remember that as much as you work with your spouse, you can never treat him or her as other workers, know your boundaries and show respect.”
The Rutos also explain that in case of any misunderstanding, couples should be willing to find better ways to solve it without making either feel belittled.
They add that couples should also allow each other to explore their strengths, and if need be, give each other space by having different working stations.
Tonly Kamano 30 and Lydia Kamano,29. They are based in Eldoret.
Music was nothing close to what the couple studied in university, but it’s now their source of livelihood.
Tonly and Lydia joined Maseno University in 2012 to study business administration –accounting and science respectively.
After dating for some time, they got married in 2018 and now have two children. Towards the end of their first year of marriage, they established a music production company called Lyton.
“Lyton Productions was born as a result of our love for music,” says Lydia, adding that since her husband was good at video and audio production, they were confident that the business would succeed.
The couple invested Sh700,000 to kick-start their business, renting a building in Kahoya, Eldoret, and buying various music production equipment. The two have assigned themselves the role of co-directors. Tonly also doubles up as the lead producer.
The two are also gospel artists, often writing new songs and producing new albums together.
Prior to opening the business, Tonly had a job at a microfinance company. Lydia has never been employed.
The duo do not plan to seek formal employment as their earnings are enough to take care of their needs.
Just like any other couple who are workmates, Tonly and Lydia have had their fair share of challenges.
“We often differ when it comes to decision making, but over time, we have learnt to be understanding and patient with each other. We have also learnt to talk politely to each other, especially when around our clients, just so that we do not lower each other’s self-esteem,” says Tonly.
According to the couple, working together has also taught them the importance of following their passion without giving up no matter how tough things get.
Tonly shares that one of the greatest decisions they ever made was creating a joint account since it ensures each of them is accountable for their expenditure.
“The joint account requires each of us to have the highest level of financial discipline to keep the business running. We only withdraw money after seeking each other’s consent with a good explanation on what the funds will be used for,” says Tonly.
Establishing the production company remains one of the couple’s greatest achievements yet. It has enabled them to explore their dream of spreading the gospel through music and motivational speaking.
They advise young couples looking forward to starting a business to put God first in whatever they do, share their ideas and work towards making it a success.
“Start small, trust the process and do not be in a rush to make decisions. As a couple, our favorite quote is Habakkuk 2:2-3, ‘Though it tarries, wait for it, because it will surely come.’’
“Trust is also yet another important aspect when it comes to our business and money, whatever you do with the funds, ensure that by the end of the day, you are accountable,” says Tonly.
The two are currently working towards making Lyton Productions one of the best audio and video production houses in Kenya and Africa at large.
Preety Lodenyi, 30, Kysh Roberts, 31, are from Kisumu.
While chasing their performing arts dreams at Yawa Cultural Trust in Kisumu, Preety and Kysh fell in love. Years later, the two are married with a daughter and run a dance mentorship and training academy in the lakeside city.
"When we opened the training centre in 2017, our aim was to teach the next generation of young dancers with a focus on ballet, yoga, contemporary African dance and hip hop," says Kysh.
The couple made an equal contribution totaling Sh15,000 and set up the establishment. The initial capital was used to rent a space in Dunga, Kisumu and purchase a number of musical equipment.
Preety is a trained wellness and fitness coach and a dance teacher at the academy, while her husband works as an events’ organiser and also a dance teacher.
"We both love working with children. Our daughter also loves dancing too," says Preety, who says that their decision to tap children’s talents was partly inspired by the daughter’s love for dance.
Dealing with young adults in the course of their work has granted them an opportunity to be better parents while keeping them closer. They visit schools each week where each dance lesson lasting an hour.
"We have a timetable for visiting various schools in a week where we take turns to teach and sometimes work together. Whenever any of us is committed elsewhere, the other party steps in to avoid missing lessons," explains Kysh.
So far, the business has been smooth for the couple, apart from what he describes as minor misunderstandings common among couples who work together.
“For instance, Preety always wants her lessons conducted in a particular manner. Initially, this would lead to a misunderstanding, but we have learnt to find a common ground to enable a smooth flow of events," says Kysh.
The couple also notes that working with children from different backgrounds has trained them to handle each of them favourably to ensure that they feel motivated to do their best.
The downside of their business is that most parents are yet to embrace dance as a profitable skill and prefer to sign their children up for other extracurricular activities or clubs such as science or debate clubs.
"Our greatest achievement is being able to change the mindsets of the parents and seeing more children enroll for classes or perform dances on stage,” says Preety.
The duo is proud whenever they see the youngsters master dance moves, learn to express themselves and become active in the club.
"My advice to couples planning to start a business together is to find something they are both passionate about. Also, communication and trust is key, do not at any point make your spouse, who is your business partner, feel inferior or sidelined," says Kysh.
Philip Odino, the co - founder and CEO of Winam Capital that offers business consultancy, and also a resource mobilisation expert, shares his views on couples planning to establish their business empires.
“It’s a common line of thinking to keep your work and personal lives separate, yet since a business partnership can be similar to a marriage, it makes sense that many spouses and romantic partners do work together in a company.
Of course, a professional relationship between romantic partners comes down to the dynamics between two people.
What works for some couples may not work for others, and no two couples are the same.
However, the following tips will be helpful if you’re considering starting a business with your partner, or if you’ve just started working together.
Do not expect that both of you will give 50 percent contribution all the time: While co-founders typically split responsibilities and workloads down the middle initially, time shows that it’s never fully even.
The same is true of marriage or any relationship — at different times, one person is going to be giving more than the other.
The same is true in building a business. While it can be hard to separate this from the relationship, recognise that one of you will always care more or give more than the other, even if that changes at times.
Use “I” statements instead of “you”: Using “I’ statements can help convey the way you’re feeling and promote a productive, positive conversation, instead of hurting your partner’s feelings or ego.
Understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses: Accord each other roles according to your strengths and allow yourselves to execute the jobs in your own way.
You can offer support without making the other feel inferior, this might make your partner feel like you do not trust them and might compromise their production.
Take time away from your partner and the business: When working at the same place with your partner for long hours, take a break to engage in different activities.