Sir & Madame is a men’s & women’s clothing brand and luxury lifestyle boutique, based in Chicago. The brand is the lovechild of the creative husband and wife team, Brian and Autumn Merritt. We reached out to find out more about their journey as partners in life and in business.
SB: How did you both meet?
Autumn: We met in Grammar School, or as non-chicagoans say: Elementary School. I was in the 7th grade and Brian was in the 8th grade, but we didn’t get together until my senior year of college.
SB: What inspired the creation of Sir and Madam?
Autumn & Brian: Sir and Madame was birthed from our previous business, Solemates, but with Sir & Madame we wanted to create our own lifestyle collection.
We both wanted something timeless so we came up with Sir & Madame, which has really been a perfect fit considering we’re husband and wife.
SB: You have been in business for about a decade. What would you attribute your longevity to?
Brian: Probably authenticity to the brand and the store by not following trends or not doing anything that we wouldn’t wear ourselves. I think people respect authenticity.
SB: Describe your individual personalities and explain how they come together to make the business work.
Autumn: I’m definitely the more outgoing person in the relationship, which works because sometimes I just need Brian’s energy because it helps me to slow down.
My personality fits with my role since I’m the Director of Retail And Marketing. I have to engage with a lot of different people everyday. Brian is the one managing our manufacturers and dealing with product development, so he’s more behind the scenes.
Brian: Yeah, I’m definitely more of a low-key, quiet thinker kind of guy. I’m not really excited about running a retail operation, but rather the behind the scenes aspect of it like meeting with manufacturers and doing the dirty work many people don’t really get to see.
I think it works well because it’s a totally different contrast between our two personalities. I actually call Autumn my Pit Bull because she’s sweet, but she’s very smart and knows how to protect her own.
SB: What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey so far? What is the most gratifying?
Autumn: I think the most challenging thing is just finding the means to make your dreams come true at the end of the day.
We are still a small business so there are times where funding is an issue, but we push through it, and our business comes out stronger because of that.
The most gratifying is being able to see something come to fruition that we’ve worked so hard on building together as a family, with very limited resources, that our kids could ultimately take over as adults.
SB: What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?
Autumn: I think to be fully present because it’s easy to lean on your spouse at times, which is great, but you still need to be able to give 100% in order to really be successful. Rather than you both just giving 50/50, you need to give 100/100.
Brian: She taught me communication is key with the business, and in life as well, making sure we’re both on the same page at all times. It’s easy to forget that when you’re used to doing behind the scene stuff, but it’s always the bigger picture you have to remember.
For us the bigger picture is our business and our family, and a key part in the success of that bigger picture is communication.”
SB: What advice do you have for couples that are also business partners?
Autumn & Brian: “The more quickly you can identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the easier it is to orchestrate specific roles, and the better off you’ll be when it comes to operating a business with your spouse. It really does make your at home relationship so much better too because it makes the communication more streamline.”
Find out more about Sir & Madame at their website.
– Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson