Husband and Wife (and baby) Startups Part 2
It’s been almost 3 years since I first wrote about what it’s like to start a company as a husband and wife team. One of the things I told myself in that post is to enjoy the early days, because if we get lucky and things work out, it will soon be much bigger and much harder. Lucky for us, that’s exactly what happened.
We were able to find great product market fit for Loveseat.com, our online / offline vintage furniture business. Along the way, we raised a little bit of money, hired close to 30 employees, opened warehouses in San Diego & Los Angeles and most importantly have grown revenues 20x in under 2 years.
But, all of that was a cakewalk….an absolute cakewalk compared to our biggest accomplishment.
We had a baby.
Our daughter, Isabelle, is now 15 months old. She’s the joy of our lives, but boy oh boy can she be a handful. We also have #2 on the way, but we’ll save that for another post. :)
This post is all about the challenges of having a baby and running a company at the same time as a husband and wife team. Let’s unequivocally get this out there. It is INSANELY hard.
Like Columbus sailing his way to America, there was no map for this journey. So if you are thinking about going down the startup aisle with your spouse and baby, get ready for advanced level life.
Here are some small lessons learned…
1. Splice out a small chunk of non-company time every day.
Having a baby and a startup means the concept of ‘work life balance’ is gone. There is no balance. It’s one big thing. We put our lives into our Vitamix and turned it up to max.
Somehow, we’ve managed to keep our sanity.
One helpful thing we do is take one small moment every day to be a normal couple. That moment for us is our morning dog walk.
Every morning we go on a mile long walk with our dog, Django and our daughter, Isabelle. During this walk, we are banned from discussing work. This keeps us together as a couple and as a team.
2. Get life helpers.
You cannot run a company as a parent without helpers. This means you need daycare, family, a nanny, etc.
We are extremely lucky that my parents moved to San Diego from Philadelphia. The combination of a granddaughter and the sunshine were a strong enough magnet to get them to rent an apartment on the other side of the country.
They went back to the Jersey Shore for the summer, so we’ve had a to hire a nanny to help us out. While the nanny is watching Isabelle, Jenny and I take turns on who will work from home that day. Check out Care.com if you are looking for a nanny. It’s an amazing resource.
3. Go to bed soon after the baby.
Sleep is your friend. Sleep won’t bring you happiness, but lack of it will ruin everything. The nights of staying up and watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine are a thing of the past. We need to hit the ground running every day, so getting a good night of sleep is the highest order priority.
Our daughter is in bed by 8pm and wakes up at 6am, so we get to bed soon after her. Jenny is asleep by 9:30pm and I’m asleep by 10pm. If we stay up late to watch a movie or do some late night work, our next day will be shot.
4. Focus on your mental health.
I can’t express how important this is for anyone running a startup under any situation. I can speak from past personal experience that this often gets ignored.
When you have a second major responsibility in your life, like a baby, you don’t really have a choice. You have to prioritize your mental health.
For me, that means a few simple things each day to center myself.
Meditating, reading and exercising.
Doing these three simple things each day, combined with a good night of sleep have changed my life. I’m much more productive and able to handle a more significant workload.
5. Be prepared for a higher investment bar.
Whatever level of traction you think your startup needs to get to your next level of funding, increase it by 2x. Why?
VCs and professional investors don’t like married couple founding teams.
They like married couples with children even less. It’s easy to get all “Woe is me!” over this bias, but if you stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense.
When a founding team has a bunch of personal distractions (like a child) the chances of failure, at least on paper, are higher. So if you are an investor and are evaluating a business, but are worried that the personal situation of the founders, you might take a step back. The easiest way for the founders to overcome any potential bias is to have super strong traction.
In our case, we go under the assumption that we need to do 2x the traction numbers of a startup run by a non-family team. We’re fine with this and have no problem with it.
As I’m sure other founders can appreciate, it’s hard to really get a perspective on progress until you take a step back and look how far you’ve come in just a couple years.
We’ve made our lives much harder than they would be if we were a normal couple with normal jobs, but the fact is that we’re just not normal.
We’re having an absolute blast building a company together and the fact that we’ve made it this far is testament to our bond as partners and spouses. It’s us vs. the world.
We wouldn’t change a thing.
Please check out Loveseat.com and get some amazing vintage furniture!