Lessons on thriving with your spouse, sibling as business partners

We can all learn something from these savvy business owners, who happen to be related. Sound like a nightmare? Think again – these family-minded entrepreneurs rely on their experiences and their best advice.

Aida Scarpati, Ferdi Restaurant, Reception and Service Manager; Fernando Scarpati, Executive Chef

This Westchester-based duo opened Italian restaurant Ferdi in July 2022 in the West Village and “make a great team,” Aida said. It creates challenges, but the siblings think it’s worth it.

“When I tell someone I have a business with my brother, nine out of 10 times they’re like, ‘Oh, I could never work with my brother!’ Although every family is different, I feel lucky to have done business with my brother,” she said. “I know that as a business partner and brother, he has my best interest at heart.”

Fernando echoed that sentiment. “Family is honest with you, and that’s what you need to build a successful business. We push each other to be better and make each other better.
Aida stressed the importance of establishing ground rules.

“It’s easy to let family slip on performance. However, that would never be the case if your boss was not your father or brother,” Aida said. “Treat your family members like business partners at work, hold them accountable, and call them out when they start to underperform.”

Fernando advised to remember that you are first and foremost a family. “When your business partner is your sister, it’s easy for your whole relationship to be about work,” he said. “Don’t let the pressure and stress of owning a business interfere with your ability to spend family time outside of work with siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.”

Bottom line: Running a small business with your brother is tough, but it’s worth it. “Family businesses are a complex subject — so much so that my alma mater, Cornell, has an entire class dedicated to family businesses,” Aida said. “Succession planning, management and wages are much more sensitive topics when it comes to a family business, and mishandling these issues can ruin the business your family’s legacy is on. was built.”

Lauren and Lee Gonzalez have been opening and operating hostels together since 2006.
Josh Chang

Lee Gonzalez and Lauren Gonzalez; directors of L&L Hospitality

These sisters have been opening and operating hostels together since 2006. Now Lee is based in Greenpoint while her sister Lauren is nearly 3,000 miles away in Portland, Oregon, but the space between them is hardly a barrier to a job. strong – and brotherly – bond.

“We owned and have since sold two small hostels in Barcelona, ​​Spain, and currently manage the Local, a 150-bed property that we opened in a converted warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, in 2014, and Lolo Pass, a 280 hybrid hotel/hostel property in Portland, Oregon that we opened last year,” Lee said.

Their vision started small with 10-room “boutique” hostels “where we cleaned rooms, worked reception overnight, and sold beers and Nespresso at reception,” Lee said.

With time and experience, they became more ambitious. Their Portland property, for example, was a ground construction and now houses a restaurant, cafe, rooftop bar and art gallery.

“We fundraise, conceptualize, design, buy, employ and operate,” Lauren said. “We hire great teams to run our businesses and work with some amazing entrepreneurs along the way, but, as of now, we’re incredibly a two-woman show.”

Sometimes launching your business can seem like an uphill battle. “Many aspects of what we have done and continue to do are stressful, but there is a certain levity that comes with doing business with your sister that has made it all bearable,” said Lauren, who also noted that “there’s a lot of awkwardness underlying most sibling relationships and serious business is a lot more fun when you have the precedent of playfulness.

Lauren emphasized the importance of writing an operating agreement.

“When you’re dealing with a family, going to legal defense is the worst and last case scenario,” she said. “Create a looser operating agreement that provides for likely events or changes in your personal relationships – marriages, moves, estate plans, unilateral exits, etc. We begin our discussions with “How do we define success and how do we define we fail? ”

Lauren and Lee also check in regularly on their overall level of “happiness.” “It’s something that non-family business partners are less likely to do, but when you’re an entrepreneur and your business is bleeding into your life, that’s the most important thing. If we are not satisfied, why are we doing this? Lee said.

Rebecca Bullene and Adam Besheer are partners at Greenery Unlimited.
Rebecca Bullene and Adam Besheer opened their online store together in 2015.
Shelby Pine

Rebecca Bullene and Adam Besheer; Greenery Unlimited partners

This husband-and-wife team from Greenpoint opened their online plant store in 2015 and their retail store in 2019. Their first business together, Greenery Unlimited, which opened in 2010, is a botanical design firm specializing in plants. large scale plant life installations for corporate and commercial spaces.

“We are true partners in every sense of the word,” said Rebecca. “We run our day-to-day operations together for our two businesses and are raising our two children in Brooklyn, with a third on the way.”

The couple “love having a shared vision and complete trust that each of us is working as hard as we can to achieve the same goals,” Rebecca said, while celebrating each other’s successes.

“We often joke that our relationship is a quintessential mom-and-pop boutique story. We have our own defined responsibilities, but we must be ready to step in and help each other at all times. For better or for worse, we live in each other’s heads,” Adam said.

Unsurprisingly, communication is key. “Execute each major decision in turn and make sure you’re both in agreement and have considered all possible outcomes. We give each other a veto over any decision,” Adam said.

Over the past 12 years, they have cherished the opportunity to see themselves grow alongside their work. “Working with plants is a difficult business. We started in a small loft in Bushwick on the third floor with no elevator, carrying 50-pound bags of dirt up the stairs. Today we have a 20,000 square foot warehouse in addition to our retail store and work with some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world,” said Adam.

And at the end of the day – hectic or calm, good or bad – they are by their side.

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