A family business was never the goal for my mom and me, but it came to be after a lifelong passion for creative projects sparked an idea for a baby gift. As a young child, I spent many hours watching my mom and nana craft together, joining in at any chance I had. They are both immensely talented women who can do it all…cook, sew, craft, bake…you name it! Nana especially loves her garden and taught my mom everything she knows about gardening and flower arranging. This was the inspiration behind our Connecticut based business, Baby Blossom Company.
As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and it was certainly true for us. We needed a baby gift. And not just any gift would do. This was for a very special person in both of our lives—my cousin who had recently married and moved across the country. When she found out she was expecting her first child, we were beyond excited but also sad we couldn’t be there in person to celebrate with her. Finding cute baby outfits and accessories for her was easy, but we didn’t want to just put them in an ordinary shipping box.
“It’s better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” —Herman Melville
That was when the idea came to my mom to present the items in the form of a flower bouquet. She used the techniques she had learned from my Nana to assemble the bouquet. She absolutely loved it and was so touched by the thoughtfulness of the gift. We knew, at that moment, we had an idea that would help other people share a similar connection during a special time. Mom turned to me and said, “That’s it—this is going to be our business.” I was a 17-year-old junior in high school, but I didn’t think twice. We jumped right in, and ten years later, I could have never imagined we would be where we are today.
Since our launch in early 2009, my mom and I have worked together to provide new moms adorable and hassle-free gifts without sacrificing style, practicality and quality. Neither of us had experience running a small business, and we were completely self-taught in a time before there were many resources for new entrepreneurs developing handmade products. We learned through trial and error, and we faced many challenges along the way, including working in my parent’s cramped basement on a folding table for the first seven years we were in business. It took a lot of patience and planning, but today we work out of our dream space in my new home that was purchased with the intention of the business occupying half of the space.
Business with a family member is challenging, but a parent/child relationship has an entirely different dynamic. It works for us because my mom looks to me to lead our business and trusts my judgment, and her belief in my abilities gives me confidence. In turn, I look to her for guidance that only her experience can give. Although we’ve always had a close relationship, this venture has enhanced our relationship even further.
Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life. —Mark Twain
Integrate Balance in Your Family Business
Stay away from 50/50 ownership One person needs to have the deciding vote. I own a larger percentage of the company, which is the opposite of most family businesses whereby the parent partner typically has the majority share. My mom recognized that I had more of an entrepreneurial knack and was best suited to lead our team. We still make all decisions together, and I would never push through an idea or change that she is not on board with. Choose a leader based on who is truly best for the role. Age alone should not be the deciding factor.
When starting a family-based business, it’s important to define roles based on what you are best and most passionate about. Sit down together and create a list of everything—what you like to do, what you want to do, what you want to learn and where you think you’ll succeed the most. From there, start to develop a plan that you can implement for at least a few months, then decide how it’s working for you. Trust me, having those roles defined will save you time, money and stress. We were fortunate to have settled into our roles with ease. I have an eye for design, so I fell into the product design role, and my mom had experience with floral arranging, so she took over arranging all the bouquets. That’s one example. We also never cross into each other’s jobs which makes the product assembly process more efficient. I handle product design, cake design and assembly, as well as, social media, website management and photography. Mom handles product assembly, customer service, shipping and finance.
Schedule time for regular check-ins
While it can be difficult given time constraints, we do hold monthly meetings to review our business stats, as well as, any issues either one of us wants to discuss. This allows for an open forum and dialogue between us, as well as, a chance to discuss any changes one of us may want to make. We also use this time to air any grievances we may have, and no matter what is said, we do not allow personal feelings to get in the way of our business.
Keep business and family separate
We quickly learned the importance of keeping business conversations out of family time. In the early years of our business, we found ourselves talking business during dinner, which left my dad and brother out of the conversation. While moving our business out of my family home and into our new studio helped immensely in keeping business separate from family, we still have to make a concerted effort not to talk shop at all times! Just as important is that we keep our mother-daughter relationship alive as well. We don’t want to make it all business, so we do try and make time for shopping, lunches and especially our favorite past time—spa days!
Both partners should be equally invested
Both partners should be equally passionate about the business. If one partner isn’t completely on board, the business will never succeed and the mother-daughter relationship can also be strained. I wouldn’t recommend going into business with your mom or daughter if you don’t have a solid relationship to begin with. Running a business can be stressful and challenging, and if the core relationship isn’t strong, it will only add more tension to the mix.