How to Be a Good Boyfriend When Your Girlfriend Starts a Business

In a day and age when many female entrepreneurs are harvesting the crops from the feminist seeds planted decades, even centuries, ago by pioneers including Eliza Lucas Pinckney, many men find themselves in an unfamiliar position.

Women have long had outstanding supportive female role models to the dominant male in the relationship as exemplified in pretty much every animated and live action TV show and film as long as I can remember. Men on the other hand have had no such luck. We’ve been left with very few, if any, cultural examples of how to be the supportive boyfriend or partner to a strong female business leader. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.

When I met my girlfriend Emma a little more than a year ago, she told me she had an idea for a business. “We all have business ideas,” I most likely thought to myself at the time. This will pass just like that time I tried to create a playground empire built on Pogs. Emma, full of dogged determination, was far more optimistic.

A year or so before we met, Emma traveled to Cote D’Ivoire with African art expert Jerry Vogel. Had it not been for a FIFA video game habit I had yet to kick, I probably would have only recognized the country by the English version of the name, the Ivory Coast.

An art researcher and writer by trade, Emma came across a weaving co-op on the trip with Jerry in the village of Waraniéné. The textiles the co-op creates are basically pieces of functional art but the final products at the time weren’t quite what Western consumers wanted. The co-op needed help with its product selection and getting exposure to consumers outside of nearby villages to make the business a bit more sustainable. A more sustainable co-op also means better healthcare and educational opportunities for the village.

Along with her friend Laine, a fashion designer, Emma decided to create Five|Six Textiles to help meet the needs of the co-op. And she decided to launch it with a Kickstarter. With an ambitious $20k goal.

While I refuse to take any credit for Emma and Laine’s wildly successful Kickstarter, I did learn a few lessons that future boyfriends of female entrepreneurs might find helpful.

  1. Brag About Your Girlfriend: Your girlfriend is starting a business, that’s awesome. Tell everyone you know. You’ve managed to cultivate a relationship with a bold, ambitious lady. You are winning at life. The world should know about your unqualified success in this venture.
  2. Listen: Sometimes all you need to do is listen. This one was rather easy for me. I know very little about fashion and home decor, and even less about West African art. To paraphrase Lincoln, tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool then open your mouth and remove all doubt.
  3. Be Prepared: The Scouts Motto very much applies here. There are going to be late nights when having the wine flowing as freely as the ideas is a great thing. Having a spare charger or a mophie handy when her iPhone battery runs out from checking Kickstarter backer updates is the modern day equivalent of laying your jacket over a puddle.
  4. Know the Right Time to Be a Distraction: Emma has a love-hate relationship with my John Lennon impression in that she really loves to hate it. Nonetheless, in some of the more stressful moments, my uncanny ability to channel the legendary Beatle was just enough to take the edge off. Also the wine, the wine helped a lot.
  5. Learn: Maybe one day you’ll have the same level of intestinal fortitude as your girlfriend and you’ll start your own business. Her experience in this venture will be invaluable. Take notes.

This post is dedicated to my most amazing girlfriend Emma. Her passion and dedication in launching Five | Six Textiles was beyond inspirational and I am very grateful she let me be a small part of it.