Since 2004, my wife Sonja and I have worked together at Motionbuzz.com. The practice of working with one’s spouse isn’t revolutionary. Family farms and Mom-and-Pop businesses are the cornerstones of the American Dream. However, this arrangement still requires patience for newly indoctrinated spousal business partners.
Our business partnership wasn’t really planned. Prior to having our first baby, Sonja worked as an office manager. I had been in business since 2000, but I was still wearing all of the hats. One of my biggest weaknesses was keeping up with the books, invoicing clients, and dealing with taxes—important parts of any business. Sonja made me a proposition: she would manage all of the hateful paperwork if she could quit her job and stay at home with the baby. Losing her steady paycheck and health benefits gave me heartburn for a few months, but we were committed to our new plan.
I’m not saying it was easy, but we made it work. We’ve increased revenue each year, landed some great new clients, and expanded into new markets. On the home front, we’ve kept a very cozy work-life balance. We even found time to pop out another kid. Our office is a short drive (or bike ride) from our home, we keep our overhead low, and we just try to KISS as much as possible.
Sonja and I read an interesting article in Business 2.0 a few years ago about how “startup couples blend business and pleasure.” It included insights from the co-founders of Six Apart, Flickr and Bebo. It’s still an interesting and relevant read for aspiring husband-and-wife internet entrepreneurs.
In between client projects, we’ve been working on ideas for our own web communities, eCommerce stores, and web apps. Our goal is to launch one or two of our own sites this year. As part of my market research, I spend time each day reading industry blogs, magazines, and social media feeds. There are so many talented people doing so many cool things, but I want to specifically highlight three sets of inspirational husband-and-wife internet entrepreneurs:
- Collis & Cyan Ta’eed of Envato: I can’t believe they created so many cool design communities, marketplaces, tutorial sites, and other ventures in only three years. Very impressive! This video interview is particularly interesting. They both seem to be really passionate and down to earth.
- Lee & Sachi LeFever of CommonCraft: Watching their explainer videos puts a smile on my face. After viewing Twitter In Plain English last year, I went to their site and read their story. I’m a big fan of their lightweight business design.
- Heather & Jon Armstrong of Dooce.com: I came across dooce.com a few years ago, and I was amazed how this chick could make a living blogging about her family life. Heather pulls it off with wit and a matter-of-fact writing style. Plus, she writes about poop and boobs a lot, and who doesn’t like poop and boobs? Jon also has a blog.
I’m particularly inspired by these three teams because they built their businesses from the ground up. From what I’ve read on their sites, they haven’t received any outside funding. Also, they utilize a few different types of revenue streams including subscription fees, licensing, and advertising. Plus, they all embrace open source technology (in particular, CommonCraft.com uses Drupal and Dooce.com uses WordPress just like Motionbuzz.com). Lastly, they all seem like really interesting, well rounded, and genuinely nice people—just like Sonja and me. Ha! I’ve been self-employed most of my adult life and worked with my wife most of my married life, so I really don’t know any alternative. I do know one thing for certain: Sonja and I are both incredibly grateful for the opportunity and freedom to do what we do in this wonderful country.
Do you know of other entrepreneurial husband-and-wife teams? We appreciate your comments!