For our Couples Inc. series, we’ll be highlighting dope couples who either run a business together or separately (With the support of their partner of course!)
First up, Nicaila Matthews, founder of Side Hustle Pro, the first and only podcast to spotlight bold black women entrepreneurs who have scaled from side hustle to profitable business, and Muoyo Okome, founder of Daily Spark Media and the Daily Spark Entrepreneur Community, a fast-growing online community dedicated to the empowerment, education & support of entrepreneurs.
SB: How did you both meet?
Nicaila: Each of us has our own version of this story so this is going to be long. Muoyo is convinced I was trying to talk to him, but I’m simply a friendly lady who was doing research. So back in December 2010, having recently started thinking about going to business school, I was trying to talk to as many people as possible who had gotten their MBA.
Muoyo: I was fresh off of co-chairing a successful Wharton Africa Business Forum and was in the middle of trying to land a post MBA job while also trying not to fail the courses I had been neglecting.
Nicaila: That’s why he was putting up photo albums on Facebook (sideeye)
Anywho, I was on Facebook one night and Muoyo’s photos from the Wharton Africa Business Conference popped up in my feed. I came across his photo and thought that he looked familiar.
Then I clicked on his profile and saw that we had a lot in common. He had also done the MLT MBA Prep program and was currently at Wharton for business school (I’d gone to undergrad at Penn). On a whim, I sent him a friend request, figuring it would be cool to talk to more people before making a decision about business school.
Muoyo: I was taking a break on Facebook when I noticed one of those red notification bubbles you can never really ignore. I clicked on it and saw a new friend request from a smiling young lady in an incredible blue dress I will never forget.
Not wanting to appear too eager, I took a few moments to scroll through all of her photos and life story before accepting. Soon after, I received a friendly and mildly flirtatious message asking a few “cover questions” about the conference, the MBA experience, and MLT, so as not to appear flirtatious (women…).
Nicaila: Lies. All lies.
Muoyo: We exchanged a few more messages on Facebook and then brief phone calls over the next week and decided to meet up when I was back in NYC (where we’re both from) for my winter break.
Nicaila: A week later, we ended up meeting up for what was supposed to be coffee, but got changed to dinner. As we got to talking, I instantly felt comfortable with Muoyo, like I was meeting up with a longtime friend. We talked naturally about everything, from business school to our upbringings.
Muoyo: In the following days, I would travel across the globe to Israel, Egypt, and Turkey for an academic trip, and despite all of the incredible experiences, I couldn’t wait for those moments of wifi so I could share them with her via BBM (that was still a thing back then) & email.
Nicaila: I knew when this Brooklyn guy drove me all the way back to the Bronx that he was a keeper.
SB: Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! How are you handling those plans in addition to running a business?
Nicaila: Wedding planning has been interesting to say the least. It’s almost like having a third job! But it has also been fun to see how excited our friends and family are to celebrate with us. Their energy keeps things in perspective when we (OK, just me) are tempted to overthink stationery or linens.
Muoyo: Although it can be overwhelming at times to keep track of all the moving parts, we both know that at the end of the day we’re going to make it happen and it will be beautiful.
SB: In what ways do you both have similar entrepreneurial traits and in what ways are you different as entrepreneurs?
Nicaila: Well, the biggest difference right now is that one of us is a full-time entrepreneur (Muoyo) and one of us is still side hustling (me). So we face different things in our day-to-day. For me, I have to push through when I’m drained after a long day of working one job and come home to start working on my other job.
The good thing is that Muoyo already experienced the side hustle life. So he’s there to encourage me to keep pushing when I’m having a rough patch.
Muoyo: We have similar goals and aspirations for our life and family. When we see our future, we envision being able to work from anywhere in the world (and not have to worry about having enough vacation days!). It helps a lot that we are on the same page.
Nicaila: We are also different in our approaches and styles. Although we are both action oriented, I take my time going through learning new things and take a bit longer to act. Muoyo will learn something and be ready to start a new business that week. But as a result he learns a lot quickly.
SB: What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?
Nicaila: To relax. It’s a work in progress and practice, but when I’m tempted to freak out or have irrational fears about a new challenge in my life, I hear Muoyo’s voice telling me that it’s going to be OK and that, “every problem has a solution.”
Muoyo: One thing I really admire about Nicki is her ability to set up systems and follow them through in order to get things done. She is very detail oriented and though it probably still isn’t a strength of mine, I like to think I’ve improved since we first met.
SB: What is the most important thing to remember when in a relationship with an entrepreneur?
Muoyo: When you’re an entrepreneur, the work never really ends. You could keep working all night if you wanted to. We’ve learned that we have to make sure to set aside and prioritize time to together despite the demands of business. That means being intentional about keeping date night on the calendar and not letting our laptops and cell phones creep in on our couple time.
It’s also important to understand the highs and lows that an entrepreneur will go through and to be there for each other through it all.
SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Nicaila: Start with a side hustle. There’s no reason to be broke and stressed while you’re still figuring things out if you don’t have to. Because, as one of my recent guests Kim Lewis shared on the Side Hustle Pro podcast, “If you can’t run a side hustle, you can’t run a business.”
Muoyo: Zero in on the problem you are solving and what you want to offer the market and then become a master of your craft. Wherever you are now, it’s a midpoint, not an endpoint. We all have limitless ability to learn and improve if you are willing to put in the work.