Working with Simon
Let me remind you that when we first started, Simon and I hadn't even known each other for six months. I suspect that most couples who decide to go into business together at least believe that they have a long term chance at survival. For us, the whole, "Will you be my girlfriend?" came about 2 weeks before the, "We should create a business and see where it takes us." Yes, Simon pushed for both (I did not ask him to be my girlfriend) and I was reluctant (to both), but eventually I caved in.
Back then, both of our roommates were business partners in the midst of launching their own food business. I pitched in by creating all the desserts and Simon was helping out with the odds and ends. In general, Simon's a super helpful guy who'll help out anyone he can. However, I suspect that since a lot of the craziness was going on at my apartment, Simon was pitching in to help so he could hang out there. At some point, he was there more than I was and I would see him whenever I came home from work or school. As we watched our roommates reviewed numbers, discussed menus, and prepared for their opening, Simon got it into head that we could set up a business together.
We started to set one up, but hadn't gone very far in the planning process before we found the opportunity at the Hester Street Fair. There were a few obstacles though. I was 2 months into pastry school and still struggling with perfecting my macarons. The Hester Street Fair was on the weekends and I was in a weekend program. Simon knew nothing about macarons.
So those early days were wild days. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted our product to be like, so Simon was very reluctant to make moves without me and I spent most of my week either at my desk job or in school. I'd come home from work frustrated about how little got done, from packaging, to answering emails, to putting together our orders on Etsy. Simon had to build our name on his own - he had to go to the Hester Street Fair and set up, sell, and try to open more wholesale accounts. We didn't know how to scale our production, so we were in the kitchen for 12 hours in order to make something ridiculously small...like 300 macarons. At least once a week, we wouldn't get home until after 4 am. I had my sisters help in the kitchen. Simon had his cousins help at the markets. There was much yelling, arguing, and of course, tears. We fought about money, we fought about the direction of the company, and we fought about how messy his house became since it became our home base. I cried a lot from working late until sunrise while knowing that I had to show up at work in a few hours. Generally, when it came to the business, a lot of it sucked. The redemption was in having fans who enjoyed our products - that surprise on their face after the first bite, and seeing them again week after week. We knew we had something good that could be great.
I never grew sick of Simon. Even when we fought, I never felt like I just need alone time away from him. In fact, I would get really pissed if he thought I needed alone time. During the toughest week we've had as a business, Simon would constantly tell me how much he missed me while out making deliveries, even if we had just spent 18 hours together. There is a lot of crossover between our personal lives and our business lives. We've met many of our close friends at markets and with our irregular schedule, seeing them at events or in our production kitchen comprises most of our social life. If we get into a fight in our regular life, we can have a really tense day at work. If we argue at work, there's no reason to not continue after the production is finished. We talk about cafe furniture over dinner. We talk about dinner while piping. We bring macarons to 90% of the social events we go to. We go on dates to bakeries. We have never been apart for 24 hours since starting the company.
Even though things were very difficult at the start, over time, things changed. We had one really big order that changed production for us forever. We took classes where we learned about how other people make macarons. We smoothed out a lot of our issues and divided up our responsibilities for example, Simon handles all of the customer service and I handle all the recipes. I went from being reluctant about being a girlfriend, to asking when I can be a wife. We spend so much time together, that it feels awkward to be apart. We go to meetings together, we make all of our decisions together, and eat dinner together every night. We're just attached at the hip.
Things don't work out this way for most couples. Our siblings have successful careers independent of their spouses, which sometimes means spending a great deal of time apart. I've always been a very independent person, so I had envisioned my life would end up that way, too. However, things are not that way when you own a business with a person. You see them a lot. My parents still work together, and Simon's parents had a successful business and are now happily retired together. I know that my parents feel lost without the other. We grew up watching our parents spend most of their days with each other and maybe that's why it feels so natural to us.
It works for us. I don't recommend it to anyone else because it could easily go very wrong. Work stuff can become too personal and your personal life can ruin your work. I've met couples with successful business together, but I've also heard of things going not so well. I'm so happy to be able to see Simon all the time, but right now, our life isn't that complicated. We have a good job, a comfortable home, and we eat really well for really cheap (5 dumplings for $1 on our block!!). If we have kids, or the store doesn't work out, then we're in a bad position. It's not like, if I lose my job, at least Simon still has his. We have a very specific skill set and we've got a lot invested in this, so we are actually putting all of our eggs in one basket.
Although there are a few things to worry about, at the end of the day, I'm happy and Simon's happy. We're going to continue our uncomplicated bliss for as long as we can. Eventually, we'll have to grow up and be adults and adopt other responsibilities, but not in the near future and I am totally fine with that.