Looking at starting a venture with your spouse?

Gargi Banerjee

Remember that thrill you felt when you first got together? Talking, arguing, finding out what you had in common. If you’re still talking all the time, throwing ideas back and forth, and looking to go into business, you could take your relationship to the next level, quite literally. Have a baby, as it were. And spend the rest of your years contentedly watching it grow. But then again, when your spouse is your business partner, there are some ground rules that need to be established.

Share The Vision

Leave the quibbling for the kitchen table. If you’re starting a company together, you have to be on the same page. As in the perfect marriage, you must share the same vision, and hopes and dreams about your venture. Take Hina Ashra and Ashwin Palkar, for instance. This husband-and-wife duo runs I Wear Me, a Mumbai-based apparel start-up that focuses on art in T-shirt design. They are both artists and designers at heart, and always felt the urge to create something that allowed them the freedom to express themselves. Instead of spilling their hearts on canvas, they decided to do whacky T-shirt prints and turn it into a business. Their designs struck a chord with youngsters immediately. “It is very important for you and your spouse to share the same passion about the venture,” say Hina.

Identifying Skill Sets

So he pokes fun at her cooking and she at the way he dresses. But, mind you, when working on a business venture together, knowing your spouse’s strengths and weaknesses is a huge advantage. Assess what each of you brings to the table. Identifying and making the most of your individual skills to handle the business is important. Delegation becomes much easier under these circumstances. Pearl Uppal and Gaurav Kachru, who run 5ideas, a seed fund and accelerator, have been in the start-up space for well over a decade. “It is wonderful if spouses have complimentary skill sets. It gives your venture a greater chance of success,” reveals Gaurav. The Kachrus should know. While Pearl excels in areas such as consumer handling and distribution, Gaurav is the last word in finance.

Keeping Turf Separate

Once you have identified what each one can bring to the table, you can easily define roles for each other. However, when your start-up is in its nascent stage, roles may overlap in the interest of business development. “Keep your roles separate but swap when necessary,” says Ashwin of I Wear Me. In fact, he thinks the biggest advantage of spouses working together is that they can step into each other’s shoes, when necessary.

Handling Finances

When you’re living your dream, it’s easy to get carried away or overconfident. Guard against putting all your eggs into one basket. It makes sense to have another source of income to fall back on, or substantial savings you can dip into, just in case your dream venture goes wrong.

Work-Life Balance

This is the curveball – keeping work separate from your personal lives. Work-related talk and chores invariably spill over into your personal space. Whether an evening after a hard day’s work, a weekend outing, or even vacations, work seems to tag along everywhere. While it may seem exciting at first, it starts to drag your relationship down. As spouses, you have to know where to draw the line for the sake of your marriage. Set aside some ‘we time’ for yourselves, where work is the last thing on your mind! Difficult to achieve in the beginning but make sure you get there eventually.

Successful Co-Preneurship

The Kachrus of 5ideas have a simple mantra: get into business with your spouse only if you’re convinced that he or she is the best partner you would have otherwise chosen for your venture. Assess factors such as compatibility, trust and compassion before you take the plunge. Why should things be any different when it’s your spouse? For the Palkars of I Wear Me, the magic of doing business together is that they are never fighting challenges alone. Remarks Hina, “It’s about knowing that the most important person in your life is there to support you both as a spouse and a business partner. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

Finally, believe in yourselves. There will always be naysayers, but if you truly believe you can build a dream together, let nothing get in the way!

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