From the altar to the boardroom: Why I’m starting a business with my future husband
When I tell people I’ve started a business, they look at me with admiration and excitement. When I tell people I’m starting a company with my very soon-to-be-husband, Leighton, they look at me like I’m crazy. But here’s the thing: our romantic partnership works for the same reasons any business partnership does — we’re ambitious, we have complementary strengths and skills, and we’re passionate about our purpose. So, we’re putting our corporate careers on hold to dive into entrepreneurship together. But. We’re not jumping in blind.
Til death do us part
My friends call me impulsive. It’s not un-true. So, the fact that we’ve started Sharesies so quickly is completely my style. But there’s a backstory. And it’s not a tear-jerker.
In the middle of 2016, six days before we were boarding a plane to London to take our careers to the next level, travel with friends, and be closer to my mum, Leighton was told his cancer was back. The doctor told us he needed chemotherapy as soon as possible. Our world and our future completely changed in that moment. We knew we had a gruelling few months ahead, but obviously for Leighton those months were going to be even harder. During the treatment, Leighton showed me a strength I didn’t know he had. And I grew stronger too. Ultimately, we were brought closer together and we knew for sure we could tackle any obstacle that would come our way.
It wasn’t until Leighton’s last chemo treatment that I learned the biggest lesson from this experience. I still have the words ringing in my head today. Leighton and one other women were in the room for their final chemo treatments. There was this sense of joy, excitement and exhaustion in the hospital room. Once Leighton’s drip came off, we felt both relief and trepidation. As we went to leave, the woman said to us in a serious voice:
And it’s these words that have helped shape our actions since.
Speaking of obstacles…
Mixing business and pleasure comes with many positives — and some negatives as well, especially as we’re about to tie the knot. Yes, our big day is just around the corner, and damn those bills are adding up! We also have mortgages to pay, but we managed to save up enough money by living on one income for a while to cover these expenses while we build Sharesies and organise our wedding. Perhaps starting a business right now seems foolish, I mean, the risks are real. But we’ve got the drive and will to succeed. We really can’t see it not working–and that’s not me being naive. I guess I just feel that none of the risks or challenges outweigh the passion we have for this project. That goes for starting a business and a life together.
Doing it now
Leighton and I both have great corporate careers. We work for purposeful companies that put their people first. We told our respective employers about our business idea, and along with the other 5 founders of Sharesies, we were accepted into the Fintech Accelerator. We also told them that program was full-time for four months, meaning we’d have to take a break from working for them. They had no hesitation in letting us go on extended leave to give it a crack. They also offered to mentor us throughout the process, generously giving us the guidance and tools we need. Chur Kiwibank and Xero.
We’re passionate about our purpose
Having both worked in banking, Leighton and I know our numbers and how investment opportunities are typically left to the rich and super rich. And it’s not on. We’ve seen first-hand through family and friends how low levels of financial literacy increase financial inequality. This is why we’re so committed to changing the system. We’re united in our love for each other, but also in our desire to drive change. We want everyone in New Zealand to have the same opportunities. This is why we’ve created Sharesies.
Tips and tricks to make it work
Working with your business partner, then going home with him or her every night brings a level of closeness that most couples never encounter. It also comes with its share of challenges. Here are some tips to keep you on the right track if you’re thinking about doing the same!
1. Balance & Laughter.
The old saying goes: keep your work and personal lives separate. Well, I say: impossible. It’s unrealistic in our tech-centred world (and biz) to unplug from work at five. It’s just not gonna happen! Nor do we want it. We’re in the startup phase and we’re in it to win it. Which means we have to work extra hard to make time for each other without talking about work. While we don’t want to fall into the ‘all-work-and-no-play-makes-Jack-a-very-dull-boy’ thang, we also can’t restrict our working hours in this part of the startup process. So, how do we do it? Well, we make sure we clock-off every day to either exercise together, meet friends, go for a walk or just chill.. And if the convo sways to work, we go with it without hissyfits or judgement. Sometimes a random conversation fill of laughter and a cup of tea are enough to remind us that we’re partners first, and business partners second.
2. Know your strengths.
That ol’ adage opposites attract — we totally use this to our advantage. Leighton and I decide our roles and delegate responsibilities based on our individual abilities and interests. This way, we can make sure we’re complimenting each other and letting each other shine in our own right. For example, I’m on the growth & investor hustle, networking leveraging my strength of making personal connections easily with just about anyone. He’s more leading the operational direction making sure our business is run as efficient as possible. Together, along with the incredible Sharesies team, we’re kinda unstoppable!
3. Communication is key.
We’ve got a plan. And to make this plan work, we need to talk about it all the time. I’m talking everyday here. Maintaining open lines of communication is vital for our relationship and the relationships we have with the other members of Sharesies. Regular progress updates (and a dose of Leighton’s dad jokes) keep us in tune with each other’s ideas and help us avoid pesky roadblocks before they even arise. Nope, we don’t always agree! But that’s what we want as a team- diversity in thought is key so challenging conversations also challenge us to do better.
4. R e s p e c t.
It’s easy to let tempers flare when business is involved, especially when you’re organising a wedding at the same time! We make a point to speak to each other with empathy and respect, at all times, no matter what. If we’re getting hot headed, we take a pause. That might mean a walk around the block, or jammin’ to some beats. We always maintain a high level of dignity in the office as we do at home. This prevents small disagreements from turning into full-blown issues, and keeps our feelings for each other intact.
5. Love is all you need.
I truly believe that our business is only as strong as my personal relationship with Leighton and the rest of the team.
If you’re contemplating going into business with your life partner, or even friend, and you’ve got the same drive, passion and vision, I say go for it. Whatever you’re putting off–do it now!
To find out more about how you can be a part of Sharesies, get in touch.
P.s. we’re also starting a Microbrewery in Wellington & get married in one week. Fun times!