Bound in Business & Marriage

By Lara Alsoudani Weeks

I always get two completely opposite reactions when I mention the relationship I have with my business partner — who is also my husband — to people. It’s either: “You’re so lucky to get to spend so much time together” or, “I can never imagine myself working with my boyfriend!”. Nevertheless, the struggle is real, no matter how sweet it looks on the outside.

We met in 2009 and our journey started with a conversation about his artwork. Then it became about my artwork. Later that night, we ate falafel and critiqued its crispy texture and how complex the toppings were. Kind of like two kids showing off their talents.

We hit our second year of relationship off with a business plan that changed our lives for good. I always knew the only way for me to be creatively whole is to be with someone that can understand the passion and motivation of our industry.

You are expected to work 3 times as much, give up date nights and weekends, suck up your ego, and remind yourself that it’s always about the whole.

8 years, 4 business names, and 762 falafel sandwiches later, we are still working on creating an environment that can keep the balance between our friendship, our marriage, and our business. Here are 4 things that I have learned:

Delegation is King. We both deliberately decided after many trials and errors to give up some control on who does what. I learned the hard way. Each of us had to stop wearing too many hats and specialize in what we do best. We are both very determined and strong-minded so giving up leadership was tough. Realizing how a strong leader has to trust others was a steep hill to climb. We are still working on trusting each other’s calls while trying to be the best at what we do as individuals first, and as a team second.

Building a business as a couple is tough, and inspiration can become very diluted as days go by. Client proposals and presentations can begin to drag on, color palettes start to become a lesser representation of our business identity and our home can easily be turned into a dungeon after countless nights of no sleep and Uber Eats. Having a one-year-old up at 2 am doesn’t make things easier either. So even though some of the initiatives we take for inspiration might seem mundane to some, they work SO WELL for us:

  • We take long walks and talks with our baby girl.
  • We visit the museum every other month.
  • We cook, A lot! After watching a whole lot of Travel Channel and Food Network of course.
  • Then we show off our skills on perfecting brussel sprouts to our friends.
  • We search for compelling Netflix TV shows and we binge on them then critique them episode by episode. Our most favorites are the Get Down, GirlBoss, Luke Cage, and Dear White People.

When two people get married they become sub-brands of their over-arching brand, if that makes sense. It’s a time consuming process to stay true to yourself. You’re either influenced by your partner’s image and personality or your intention is to keep up the family name when seen in public. Starting a business, especially a creative one, is even more meticulous. I had to give up some of my pastel colors and delicate line work and started fusing a bit of grunge and bold colors in my designs. Whereas my husband had to realize that not everything is or should be a harmonious chaos. On the other hand, we had to learn to appreciate each other’s skill sets and invent new ways to incorporate them into our studio’s identity.

In both our cultures (Arab & Afro-Caribbean) family comes first. We are blessed to have a family that is very supportive and involved, but our entrepreneurial spirits take a toll on them too. There are times we have to decide between them and our business. We ALWAYS feel guilty with whatever decision we do make. If it’s family over business, we never get work done. If we pick business over family, we never spend time with them and phone calls never stop. The solution to this one is to always be balanced. We learned to accommodate our time for others because that just might be our inspiration.

On a smaller scale, our tiny family is the hardest to manage when it comes to time. I will never forget the day after our daughter was born, we received an RFP, and with my newborn in my arms and my husband and his laptop on my side, we managed to land the project within a couple days. Like I said, the struggle is real, but it’s worth every bit.

Once we get time for ourselves, I used to shut every ‘work’ related conversation down so I can recuperate and clear my head. But I realized that it wasn’t working for my husband, and eventually it stopped working for me. It’s like I was forcing myself to get distracted from the things that mattered. Doing what we do requires our all, so sneaking in a 30 minute conversation about a project can make our night go a whole lot smoother.

Building a business with your partner is not easy whatsoever! You are expected to work 3 times as much, give up date nights and weekends, suck up your ego, and remind yourself that it’s always about the whole. If the business doesn’t succeed then the relationship will be tremendously affected and vice versa. Regardless of all the difficulties, there is nothing like sharing a passion with your spouse and watching them thrive.