DiscoverCoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit
CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit
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CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit

Author: Blaine & Honey Parker

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Is building a business with your spouse the best thing ever--or the craziest? Or both? How do other couples do it? We interview successful couples who are crushing it and ask them everything from how they met to how they do it to how they argue. Whether you're working with your significant other, just thinking about it, or just like modeling other successful business owners, welcome to CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit.
105 Episodes
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Back with Olympic-caliber boxer Maryguenn Vellinga, and her big-mountain skier husband, Luke Hinz, recorded in the boxing ring at their gym, Rise Boxing. In part one, we established that getting into the ring, skiing big-mountain chutes, and starting your own business all take courage. We also talked about how these couple entrepreneurs were influenced by their own entrepreneur parents. Luke’s dad grew a hauling business from one truck to over 100. Maryguenn’s mom started a watermelon farm in arid, rural Utah. So how does being the offspring of entrepreneurial parents who became entrepreneurial parents impact raising their own kids in the business? That and more, as we talk to two of the mellowest, most likable people you can imagine…even though they can come out swingin’.
We recorded this interview in a real, live boxing ring with Luke Hinz and his wife, Olympic boxing hopeful Maryguenn Vellinga, of RISE Boxing. She’s a high-caliber boxer, which sounds intense. He’s a big mountain skier. Whether it’s facing off against a boxer in the ring, or against a deadly mountain, these are courageous people. It also takes courage to open a boxing gym in a town most noted for skiing, mountain biking and fly fishing. They wanted a franchise, but felt it limited them. They’ve embraced a hybrid business model that offers both fitness and contact boxing. It’s a career path left turn with satisfying results. She was working to help the underprivileged, but finds she’s more able to help people through boxing. And as a competitive big-mountain skier, Luke became a huge champion for this project. Is it stressful working with an Olympic hopeful wife? Or, being an Olympic hopeful with kids? And, what’s it like having a husband into the high-adrenaline adventure of skiing big mountain chutes? Also, when there’s a distinctive and specific company culture, you have to make sure that all your employees buy in…
We are back with two people who are strong in will, in stature, and in relationship. Plus, they throw axes. We’re picking up where we left off with muscular marketer Rachel Richardson, and her engineer/American Ninja Warrior husband, Duncan. They own and operate Bodies In Motion, a unique gym and family recreation facility. They train American Ninja hopefuls, offer fitness classes and martial arts, a preschool and more. Their teamwork and sense of seizing the moment are sincere. Here in part 2, we ask some burning questions, like How do people NOT work with their spouse? And how scary is ax throwing, anyway? And, Do you and your own business partner know how to ‘parking lot’ stuff? What does that even mean? And how does Leonidas fit in this picture, anyway? For that matter, who is Leonidas? Not up on the Battle of Thermopylae? Get your Greek history on, and join us for insight and inspiration from one of the strongest couples we’ve ever had the pleasure to sit down with.
These two are in seriously great shape, and they throw axes: We have a real, live American Ninja Warrior and his partner in muscle tone. Duncan and Rachel Richardson own a cool, one-of-a-kind gym called Bodies In Motion. You’re going to hear a lot about fitness—and teamwork. A hopeful for the TV show, American Ninja Warrior, Duncan never got a callback on his audition video. But then came the open-heart surgery. He and Rachel took a “vacation” at the Cleveland Clinic—and used the surgery as a video opportunity. Guess who finally got a callback from American Ninja Warrior. In their daily lives, they run a gym that trains other Ninja hopefuls, has cool stuff engineered for maximum workout and thrills and, yes, there’s axe throwing. Their dueling degrees in marketing and civil engineering have been useful. You’ll also hear about an all-in sense of partnership, and the entrepreneurial power that comes with listening to your kids. And where does a plush horse costume fit in all this?
For episode 100, we’re digging into the archives for choice clips from the first six couples we interviewed: Ryan and Crystal Waugh of Waugh Cellars and Waugh Family Wines. They’re the first interview that made us think, Wow, we need to be a better couple. And during the interview, we swear we watched these two fall in love all over again. Robin & Jim Whitney of Whitney Advertising in Park City, Utah. They met in big New York advertising, and for over 20 years, they’ve been running their ad agency in Park City, and do most of the creative work themselves. They work directly with small business owners—a job that has unimaginable impact on the client. Sam and Mary Giveen of Dr. Sam's Eye Care had dated as teenagers, reconnected at middle age, and she became Director of Operations at his clinic, growing the brand. Mary’s an extravert, Sam is an introvert, and she spends a lot of time making him nervous. Trish and Jared McMillen of McMillen Galleries are landscape photographers who share a brain. They literally spend days together in the wild, preparing to shoot the same photograph. Their gallery is filled with huge, fine-art landscapes that take your breath away. Nile Zacherle and Whitney Fisher run Mad Fritz, the Napa Valley nanobrewery, infusing it with a winemaker sensibility. This is not your dad’s fizzy yellow beer. Linda and Charlie Graves of Athletic Republic. It’s a unique training gym franchise, with over 120 training centers on three continents. They are dynamic and driven and probably in much better shape than you are.
We are back in Grass Valley, California with travel writer/photographers Michael Hodgson and Therese Iknoian and their globe-spanning blog, HI Travel Tales. These award-winning journalists have transformed their print careers into digital success and are loving life. In this episode, we discuss the importance of acknowledging who’s the boss—and how that can be less challenging than you might imagine. A couple in business also requires a certain level of trust, and must be able to call BS on each other. A sense of humor is key. We discuss a quality that creative pros are good at, and which might be good in your own relationship. Remember to never treat your spouse merely as a colleague. Working together is a dance. And, does everyone really end up, at some point, being intolerable?
We’re in Grass Valley, California with travel writer/photographers Michael Hodgson and Therese Iknoian of HI Travel Tales. They’ve been to all 50 states, and 45 countries on all 7 continents. Both are award-winning journalists—there’s even a Pulitzer—and they transformed their careers from print to digital and are loving life. He was once a consultant, but gave it up because he couldn’t hold back—an apt metaphor for their lives together: they can’t do anything just halfway. The challenge of loving your work, being good at it and driven to do it, is that it becomes hard to not work. We also talk about bad places to take phone calls. And what’s it like being “old farts with ethics?” (They’re not that old, frankly.)
Chad and Katie Babcock of JumpTime indoor trampoline parks, TumbleTime tumbling, and SoccerTime indoor soccer, have operations around Idaho and Montana. They are both exceptional athletes with teaching degrees, and this empire began when Chad, a freestyle skier and self-described carny, started a TumbleBus business. For them, everything is about education. We’re going to hear them discuss the importance of developing thick skin, learning how to separate business from married life, and motivating each other in ways that we might not expect. Get ready for everything from big air—to small-child bodily fluids day at one of the businesses. They also tell a tale of a terrifying first-day on the job. There’s the school bus fire, and the power of just turning off your damn cell phone.
This guy calls himself a former carny, so maybe the question is: What kind of a carny becomes a successful sporting business entrepreneur with his wife, and half a dozen operations and 80 employees around Idaho and Montana? These two are objects in motion. Chad and Katie Babcock’s businesses are JumpTime, TumbleTime and SoccerTime—indoor trampoline, tumbling and soccer. They went from being teachers to educating in a much different way. They’re doing a job that’s fun, but also gives both kids and parents confidence. They’re respecting developmental levels, helping kids discover their talents, and helping parents understand them. Their favorite thing to do is teach. They also have an interesting perspective on management: Really, it’s also education. They like giving their employees a sense of ownership, and are also learning from their employees. And like Katie says, a day without learning something is a day wasted. And to think this little empire began with a business in a used school bus. That caught on fire.
We are back in Golden, Colorado, where Amy Dannwolf and Jordan Jones are crushing it in ski retail. Their brick-and-mortar and online retail store Powder7 is huge, both in size and stature—11,000 square feet of warehouse space, and a local retail sales floor, all run by a staff that has helped them earn kudos from Outside Magazine as a great place to work. We hear about how and why they have such great team members. And how does a business launched in Mom’s basement have an easier time being principled than some other businesses might? Powder7 also has something in common with Southwest Airlines. It regards the single most important person in the business equation and—surprise—it’s not the customer. How have this pair, with no retail or ecommerce experience, done so well and developed a huge operation with a global fan base? Possibly because they had no reference standard for what’s possible. They just did it.
This is a retail story for the digital age, when local businesses are worried about competing with Amazon. Amy Dannwolf and Jordan Jones of Powder7 in Golden, Colorado started a business in his mom’s basement with some lightly used snow skis. Today, they have 11,000 square feet of warehouse, and a retail storefront that serves customers from around Denver—and even around the world. They made this business work probably because they didn’t know anything about running retail or building websites. They had no expectations or preconceptions. They’re both track stars who met at Boston University. Jordan’s a history major who became a Denver cop, and Amy is an economics major who joined him in the business. He taught himself how to code websites with books for Dummies, and the rest is history. Powder7 is a model for how a local business really can compete with online monsters. Instead of an online retail business with faceless, anonymous transactions, Powder 7 is a business with global reach, worldwide fans, and even personal relationships. Would you ever think about walking into Amazon? Plenty of online customers have walked into Powder7—which speaks to a company culture like you wouldn’t expect.
We are back in Los Angeles with the killer couple behind Surprise Hit Films. W. Bruce Cameron and Cathryn Michon are best known as co-screenwriters on the box-office busting movies from the film franchise that began with A Dog’s Purpose. They’ve been involved in studio pictures, independent film, TV, and bestselling novels. In this episode, we hear about how important is knowing who’s the boss—and handling staff complaints about the boss in a way that honors the partnership. This is especially important when the business is clearly not a democracy. There’s also a special warning for a couple considering collaboration—and why you might not want to do it. There’s an very, very VERY important question for any couple in business together: Ever wonder why your favorite scenes from your favorite movies are the scenes they are? (Who saw that coming?) And how Bruce and Cathryn support each other in business is instructive—and speaks to the power of a proper collaborative partnership. Hear some interesting and useful tips about the dynamics of working as a couple with staff—especially when it comes to having a conversation with contentious potential. You’ll hear a few references from Part 1, including “Amber on the slide.” She’s a capable and enthusiastic stunt dog. And there’s a reference to Ruddy McCann, who’s the hero of Bruce’s Repo Madness novels. We get more Hollywood moments from their real life together. They include romantic incredulity and projectile crying. And there’s maybe the best lightning round ever. (Will they win the Ginsu knife?)
Hit movies, TV series and bestselling novels: meet Hollywood creative power couple, Cathryn Michon and W. Bruce Cameron. They’re best known as screenwriters for the Dog’s Purpose film franchise. The first film, A Dog’s Purpose, starring Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton, broke $200 million at the box office on a reported budget of $22 million. Cathryn is a writer/actor/director, known for her independent comedy films, Muffin Top and Cook Off, and the Grrrl Genius books. Bruce’s bestseller, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, became an ABC sitcom. At this writing, Bruce is touring to promote the third in the Dog’s Purpose novel series, A Dog’s Promise. All these separate projects. Isn’t this supposed to be about couples working together? Yes it is. And these two are dynamic business and creative partners. Everything that goes out the door, they've both worked on. She edits his books. He works on her movies. They’re funny, and share a potent creative and business dynamic. They also have a useful decision making structure that every CoupleCo should consider. And, that they’re both dog people is important. Without dogs, and without Bruce spontaneously telling Cathryn a story that eventually became a New York Times bestseller, we might not be here today. (And a lot of Hollywood dogs would be out of work.)
Can you become so efficient, you don’t think you’re busy—even when you are? Good bartenders are good listeners, but these bar owners are a great case study for couple entrepreneurs. We’re back with Michael Eccleston and Katy Willis of Quarters Arcade Bar. Their story has interesting intel about couple cooperation, business insight, and will cure you of any fantasy about owning a bar. This convo is where yin meets yang and chaos meets lists and notes. (One loves a list. The other? Well…). There’s learning about, coping with and forgiving each other’s idiosyncrasies. And, bonus, in a case of business topology, you’ll learn more than you ever imagined about efficient bar design—which is an object lesson in efficiency for ANY operation, even yours. Plus, more hilarity than ever in the lightning round.
Today, we are talking to a pair of publicans. We are in downtown Salt Lake with Michael Eccleston and Katy Willis of Quarters Arcade Bar. This is not about that place where everybody knows your name. If you ever thought about owning a bar, this is the story that might scare you away. We’re talking about everything from the kind of investor relationships that should make you very afraid, to the power of persistence that demonstrates how overnight success is years in the making. This is also our unofficial, talking each other off the ledge episode. We’re going to be examining the power of a solid brand and purposeful, intentional brand marketing. We’ll talk about the things you don’t ever want an investor to see. And this is the first CoupleCo convo that features a Zoltar machine.
We continue talking with Dave Lakhani and Sarah Skeem of digital ad agency, Growth Foundry. We discuss treating both customer and employee well, and the things in your business that marketing won’t solve. There’s an unexpected lesson from a digital agency. We talk about making clients cry. (It happens. We’ve done it at our agency, Slow Burn Marketing.) What if your marketing is the difference between your kid going to college or not? Why does hiring a marketing agency run by a committed couple have an added benefit? And, as a business owner, why is connecting on a human level so important? Hint: Marketing is about connecting with people on that level. There’s the power of story-based marketing. And how is a coupleco different from mere entrepreneurship? Plus, will your couple-owned business make you feel an even greater obligation to your spouse?
She was going to change the world by becoming a lawyer, a politician, and the first woman president. For a while, he was living life angry. At 16, he had the courage to leave a religious cult and go out on his own. Today, he’s a marketing and persuasion pro. He’s been seen on CNN and CNBC, and in magazines like Success, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. As long as these two have been a couple, we kept wondering why they weren’t working together. Well, it happened. Dave Lakhani and Sarah Skeem finally started a business: a digital marketing agency called Growth Foundry. They wanted to build an agency that defied expectations, and it’s working. We talk couple dynamics, the conflicts in 21st century marketing, the difference between advertising a business versus growing a business. We discuss unhealthy advertising, like things that are ego driven or generate too big a response. Dave and Sarah have wildly different experiences in life. And be prepared: Dave doesn’t care if you like him, but he’s going to tell you the truth. Sarah cannot understand that.
Back with Reverends Paul and Laura Whitmore of Southport Congregational Church in Southport, Connecticut. Not obviously an entrepreneurial couple, they’ve accomplished something that requires a distinctly entrepreneurial sensibility: by their wit and wisdom and coupleco cooperation, they’ve grown a membership by over 300%, and increased the annual budget by 500%. In this episode, we get an up-close and personal idea how staggering the divorce rate is for married clergy. We also hear more about the job and relationship in terms of a Venn diagram—sometimes together, sometimes apart. But, can there be too much together? And can there be too much equality in the business? What advice would the clergy couple have for any other couple in business together?
This episode is unusual. Some might argue that these two are not really a CoupleCo. Paul and Laura Whitmore work together in a category with a ragingly high divorce rate: married clergy. The Reverends Whitmore are ministers who run a congregational church in Southport, Connecticut. We’ve interviewed all kinds of people from all kinds of faiths, from faithful evangelicals, to fallen Mormons who follow the Jedi, to atheists who converted to Judaism, to everyday agnostics. Here, it doesn’t matter who or what you believe, as long you are a couple committed to your mission and each other. This is a story about having faith in building something big. What Paul and Laura have done requires entrepreneurial sensibility, intense cooperation, and shared vision. They’ve been building their church since the 1990s. In that time, they’ve roughly quadrupled the congregation and tripled the annual budget. This from two people who swore they would never work together. Not unusual enough? Wait for Paul’s assertion that spirituality and marketing go hand in hand. This is a conversation with parallels and even allegories for all couples in business together.
We’re back with Mike Tuiasoa and Cori Christine, proprietors of an unusual mashup of a comic book store and coffee shop in Salt Lake City. We’ll be talking about the crowdfunding campaign that they used to fund their newer, better location—a campaign that succeeded in part because of national attention from important people. We’re also going to get even more candid. As nerds who were misunderstood and even harassed as kids, they have now found themselves with a business that is a haven for nerds, misfits and the under-represented. We’re going to be talking about their marketing, which shows how you can build a following with media that is cheap or even free. ADVISORY: This episode has some discussion of sexual orientation. It’s neither graphic or explicit, but it is couched in the context of being part of a group that’s misunderstood.
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