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couples inc

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Couples, Inc: D’Vonne and KeAnna Own a Mail Service Business

The Postman is a family-run mail service business based in Seattle, WA. This company serves the community as a one-stop-shop for all mailing needs.

The business is owned by husband and wife team, D’Vonne and KeAnna Pickett. They created The Postman in honor of D’Vonne’s grandfather, Jacques Chappell, who was a USPS mail carrier for 37 years.

We caught up with the couple to find out more about how they serve their community while mixing business and family.

The Postman
Keanna and D’Vonne Pickett..Photo credit Rachel at Freshchalk

What inspired you to start this business?

In 2016, we were informed by a real estate developer that the local USPS store would soon be leaving our neighborhood. We looked at this as a great opportunity to get into the mailbox and shipping business.

We felt confident about this decision because the mail and shipping industry serves people and creates jobs. These are values that are important to us.

Photo credit Rachel at Freshchalk

What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur? What is the most rewarding?

The challenging part about being an entrepreneur for us is knowing the world never stops and is constantly changing. As entrepreneurs, we understand the only constant is change.

However, the anxiety and fears we experience from change also drive us to be flexible. Being flexible in our business is what helps us create solutions that serve humanity.

Like the quote says, “It’s not the strongest or the smartest of species that services, it’s the most adaptable to change.”

the postman
Photo credit Rachel at Freshchalk

How do you balance marriage and business?

Our roles in our marriage are similar to our roles in our business. In our family, D’Vonne is the CEO as well as in our company. Meaning, he is the face of the company and is responsible for maintaining our mission and vision. Keanna is the COO and handles the details in our family as well as our company.

Although we both have titles, the total responsibility is shared because we are both owners, and to have a strong successful family and business we are invested equally.

the postman

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Believe you can succeed through experiences of failure on your quest to become a successful entrepreneur. Failures should be welcomed. Through failure, an entrepreneur can test their bandwidth. Their capacity to be stretched through different experiences on their quest to expansion. The key is to become the strength of the band as you expand.

Tony O. Lawson


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Couples Inc. : Christian and Uche run a Public Relations Firm in San Antonio

EHCU Public Relations (formerly BethanyEast PR)is a San Antonio, TX based public relations firm that specializes in corporate event planning, advertising and more. We spoke to COO and Co Founder, Uche Ogba to find out how he and his wife, Christian balance business and marriage.

How did you both meet?

Christian and I met on Twitter in San Antonio, TX.  I was your typical twitter stalker at first, watching from afar and working up the courage to have a conversation with her.  I finally got a chance to introduce my self on August 19, 2018, after she asked if anyone was watching her #TweetPicTour and I responded.

I liked every photo and followed her every move that day. She then asked for recommendations on a good bar and I recommended a spot named Azuca located South of downtown San Antonio.  Told her I’ll be there, met up with her and we had the best conversation over mojitos for the next 5 hours. It was love at first sight. 6 months later we were married.


What inspired you to start a business together?

We were not necessarily inspired but instead, it was out of necessity.  EHCU Public Relations formerly known as BethanyEast PR was the brainchild and the vision shared by Christian on our first date.  She shared her goal to be a public relations professional and I told her about my goal to switch careers from a Photovoltaic Engineer to Sales & Marketing. Unfortunately, no business was interested in hiring us.  After we got married, rather than go on a honeymoon, we sold everything and decided to invest all our money in starting a business. We did not believe we were in business until Christian tore up her resume and presented a contract to our very first client.  The client signed the contract before she got home that day.


Describe your individual personalities. How you blend them in order to make the business work?

Chris is an ideator, a visionary, very observant and brutally honest.  I am very analytical, focused, highly competitive and a problem solver.  We blend our business by ensuring that we are both held accountable in our wins and our losses.  These shared experiences have enabled us to be accountable to each other. We work very well together in collectively coming to decisions and executing based on a plan and strategy.  Due to my personality, I sometimes go rouge because I get drowned in completing a minutia task, but Chris always pulls me back to focus on the bigger goals.


Where do you see your business in 5 years?

We see ourselves expanding and opening new EHCU PR offices in Detroit, Michigan and Lagos, Nigeria.


What advice do you have for couples that are in business together or thinking about it?

Listen and continue to communicate.


Contact

EHCU Public Relations

239 Center St, Unit 259

San Antonio, TX 78202


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)

 

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Couples Inc. : Kahran and Reg Run a Family Photography Business

Creative Soul Photography is an Atlanta based business run by husband and wife team, Kahran and Reg Bethencourt.

With almost a decade of working with hundreds of children, families and brands, they specialize in lifestyle photography and authentic, visual storytelling.

Recently, photos from their “Afro Art” series went viral worldwide. We wanted to find out more about them and how they they make marriage and business work.

SB:How did you meet each other?  

Kahran: We met in an urban graphic designer forum in 2004.  We were both learning graphic design at the time so we both had a common interest and community.

Unfortunately we were on two different coasts, so we dated long distance for a year and a half before coming together. “Photo dates” helped us through the long distance period and gave us something to look forward to until our next meeting.

 SB:What inspired you to start a business together? 

Kahran: When we moved to Atlanta in 2006 Reg decided to major in photography in college.  My mom helped us to get a few clients and we started our business in my mom’s garage while he was still in school.

We already loved capturing portraits of people and knew that we wanted to be able to document kids, love and connection.

 
SB: Natural hair plays a prominent role in alot of your work. Is that intentional and why?

Reg: Yes, definitely.  We feel that it is so important for kids of color to be able to see positive images that look like them in the media.  Unfortunately the lack of diversity often plays into the stereotypes that they are not “good enough” and often forces kids to have low self-esteem.

We try to combat these stereotypes in our photography by showing diverse imagery of kids who love the skin they’re in, their own natural curls and their culture.  We think that these stories are important to show in order to shatter the current standards of beauty.

SB: Describe your individual personalities. How you blend them in order to make the business work?

Reg: Kahran is a left-brain/right-brain type who has a love for data/technology as well as the creative side.  She is often the customer facing side of our business and helps to keep the business running.

Kharan: Reg is the “magic maker” and helps to create the magic on set – from props to backgrounds, lighting, camera equipment and more. Although we both shoot, we separate our other roles in the company to give us a little space and freedom to have our own “lanes”.

 
SB: What advice do you have for couples that are in business together or thinking about it? 

Kharan: The biggest thing that helped us was figuring out our lane and staying in it!  Reg is much better at some of the technical things that I am (such as lighting, prop making, retouching etc.)

I’m much better at the client side of things, business and marketing so we try to stay in our own lanes which gives us a sense of personal ownership even though we both own the business.  It has also helped us avoid lots of arguments!  ?

 
SB: Where do you see the business in 5 years?

Reg: We have slowly started to grow our business into an international business.  We’d love to continue expanding internationally so that we can take what we do to countries around the world.

 
SB: What is the most important business skill a photographer need to learn or develop in order to have a successful photography business?

Kharan: Coming from a marketing background, I’m a huge advocate of photographers having some marketing skills.  I believe that this is really important when it comes to photography.

A lot of photographers struggle with this and it makes it hard for them to get their work noticed.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG: @thebusyafrican)

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Couples Inc. : Dominique And Carl Own a Dental Practice in Alabama

Dr. Carl M. Shamburger, Jr, DMD and Dr. Dominique Askew Shamburger, DDS are the owners of Montgomery Dental Arts, a dental practice located in Montgomery, Alabama.

Between the rave reviews they’ve received on Facebook and the fact that Dr. Dominique is a fellow HU grad, it wasn’t hard for us to decide that you should hear what they have to say about “entrepreneuring” while married.

SB: How did you both meet?

Dr. Dominique: We met at the mall. It is interesting because people often assume that our meeting was somehow connected to dentistry, but it was just coincidence that we were both dentists. We attended two different dental schools.

I was shopping in my hometown with one of my friends and Carl was shopping with his sister. His sister is friends with my friend so we all ended up together. Dr. Carl and I started talking, and quickly discovered a common interest. He was in his last year of dental school and I had just graduated.

SB: What influenced your decision to pursue a career in dentistry?

Dr. Carl: While in high school, I helped manage care for my grandmother before she departed and was instilled with a desire to help and serve others. After being exposed to different medical professions, I decided that dentistry was my passion and thus began my journey to becoming a dentist.

dental

Dr. Dominique: Dentistry has always been personal to me. As a child, I suffered from very misaligned teeth. As a result I was often teased and became self-conscious about my smile. As a defense mechanism I just tried my best not to smile. Which internally limited the amount of happiness I felt.

After I had orthodontic treatment I realized that dentistry doesn’t just change smiles it changes lives. I became a much more outgoing person and for the first time I realized that I deserved to smile. At that moment I knew I wanted to help others to feel the same joy of loving their smiles.

SB: What is the most important thing to remember when you are married to your business partner?

Dr. Dominique: The most important factor is my union to my husband. Our relationship is always the priority. It is of paramount importance for me to protect our union at all costs. We have to remember that we are partners in life first. That helps to guide our interactions as partners in business.

Dr. Carl: You have to sort of live as two people and be able to switch them on and off based on the scenario. During work hours and meetings, you have to be the best business partner you can be and think with the mind set of clinician and business owner. Outside of work, you must switch to fully dedicating yourself to being a husband and father.

SB: In what ways do you have similar entrepreneurial traits and in what ways are you different as entrepreneurs?

Dr. Dominique: We are both visionaries. We have the ability to envision a dream and work diligently to accomplish it. We both place patient care at the center of our focus. We work well at utilizing the strengths of each other to complete tasks. We are constantly keeping each other sharp and on our toes in regards to patient care.

We are different as entrepreneurs in our skills. One of us may be stronger in finances where the other is stronger in public relations. We constantly have to evaluate our strengths and make sure we are both operating in a manner that utilizes those strengths to their fullest potential.

SB: What are your 5 year goals for the practice?

Dr. Carl: We hope to become a staple in the community. We want our name to be synonymous with quality and compassionate care. We want to continue to help people achieve optimal dental health first and continue to cultivate a staff that is committed to provide our vision. We believe the practice will grow to new heights if we continue to put the patients first in our goals.

SB: What advice do you have for recent graduates that are interested in starting their own practice?

Dr. Dominique: Try to find a mentor. There are so many steps that are involved in building a practice from the ground up and it is very helpful to have someone who has done it to coach you along the way. Looking back, there are many things that we could have done differently to make things go smoother. I would also say make sure you do your research. A good well thought out business plan will help you along the way.

Dr. Carl: It would be advantageous to do as much research as possible in practice management courses and books. Stay active in communicating and networking with dentists who are already practice owners.

It will also benefit to get some experience working in private practice to learn the ins and outs of operating a private practice. Invest in yourself by honing your dental skills with continuing education and completing cases. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the journey.

Visit Montgomery Dental Arts online or at 10650 Chantilly Parkway, Montgomery, Alabama 36117.

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson aka @thebusyafrican

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Couples Inc. : ‘ Flip or Flop: Fort Worth ‘ HGTV Stars, Andy and Ashley Williams

We love home improvement shows and are constantly  glued to “Flip or Flop” on HGTV. So, we were beyond thrilled to learn that a Black couple was getting a show on the channel. Based on the social media response, we weren’t the only ones.

We reached out to Andy and Ashley Williams. This is what they had to say:

SB: Finally, a Black couple on HGTV!  It’s all everyone is talking about. So tell me, are you both originally from Texas?

Ashley: No, I’m actually from Chicago originally and Andy is from Texas.

SB: Chicago! I was just there. Your hometown is so sexy! So, tell me about your love story. I think I read that y’all met in a gym. 

Ashley: Yeah, we actually did. While deployed in Iraq, I was at the gym and Andy comes up to me. He says: “Hey, do you need a personal trainer?” And I was like, “Uhm, no”, but he was really persistent. His southern hospitality also helped.

Andy: I mean, Ashley is really beautiful. She didn’t need my assistance per se, but she needed a little help. Initially, she gave me the wrong number, I guess that’s the mid-western style…(laughs). So, I had to track her down in Iraq and eventually did find her. Quite honestly, I courted her for like six months. 

SB: What made you decide to go into business together as a couple and what are some of the pros and cons of being in business with your husband or wife?

Ashley: We had goals before we met each other. I wanted to be married and have kids by a certain time. There was a also a standard of living that we both wanted to have and we realized working in the workforce or the military alone, wasn’t going to give us that. So, it was more of a necessity. If we wanted the freedom to enjoy our kids and see them grow up and not have to always put them in childcare, entrepreneurship was really the only way.

Coming home (from the military), many civilian companies couldn’t translate our work experience so we started at the bottom even though we have so much more than entry level skills. Working on a business was our way of controlling our future.

Andy: And I was at the peak of my career but Ashley wanted me home.  And more importantly, success wasn’t defined on how much money you had, it was defined by time.  You never get time back.  [Ashley] never had to go apply for jobs. I think that was by design. We just want to spend time on things we want, and I think right now, our biggest biggest thing is our family.

The greatest thing we can do with our kids is give them character, and that’s what Ashley does so well. The other day Ash was running a marathon and they were cheering her along. She exhibited her work ethic, set a goal and stuck to it. Even though she didn’t want to run a marathon, she did.

SB: Yeah, but, in addition to those values and having that time to really instill what you deem as important,  you’re setting them up for generational wealth which in our community is just something that we typically don’t have. Do you think that entrepreneurship and real estate are a path to wealth, particularly for Black people?

Ashley: It’s one of the only ways that you can save your principal and make your money work for you. If we, as a community and as people in general, figured out how to make our money work for us, we can begin to build generational wealth.

SB: I know you are invested in supporting veterans. Are you just as committed to supporting Black people, businesses owned by people of color and even women?

Ashley: Oh, absolutely! It’s not just the veteran community we are impacting. We also impact the underserved community, so it’s not just Black, it’s also Brown businesses as well as disabled businesses and those owned by women. 

Andy: Whether we’re spending a hundred thousand dollars or a hundred million,  we need to be conscious. And by impacting the veteran community, it’s important to know that the veteran community is really the minority community. Ash and I came from that community. She came from an inner city and I came from a small town but yet, we represent a community that we support and also we want to empower.  

SB: Do you have any advice for people who are interested in real estate?

Andy: I would just say start because because there’s no better way to serve your community and make money than to provide an affordable housing solution. More importantly, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It took us ten years to get to where we are.

Success looks like it’s overnight but it’s really not. Ashley and I are still enriching our entrepreneurship and we also are very passionate.  We’ve been deep in this industry for years.

SB:  Lastly, I have to ask because I’m natural: Ashley, your hair is gorgeous! Was that your decision or your producer’s suggestion?

Ashley: Mine! I’ve been natural since 2008.  And especially in Texas, it’s so hot, I can’t be walking around with straight hair, it’s too much. (Laughs) So for me, this is me, this is how I do.

Andy: Not only that, it’s important to know that Ashley actually does her own hair, even waking up at 4 am to twist and braid it.

SB: Well, girl, it looks amazing. Amazing! I love it. Good luck with the show, we are ALL rooting for you so just keep making us proud and inspiring us.

Flip or Flop: Fort Worth airs on HGTV on Thursdays at 9/8c

 

-Shantrelle P. Lewis aka @apshantology

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Couples Inc. : Brian and Autumn Own One of Chi-Town’s Dopest Boutiques

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.

Sir & Madame

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

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Couples Inc. : Natural Beauty Products Made in NY, Courtesy of Talima and Allison

Limegreen is a Multi-Use Skincare company that produces natural products using vegan ingredients. Since Dove is cancelled and we’re here for non GMO everything, we had a chat with Talima Davis, one half of the dynamic duo behind the brand. This is what she had to say:

natural
Limegreen Co-founders Allison Lamb (left) and Talima Davis (right)

 

SB:What inspired the creation of Limegreen?

TD: My best friend Tamara was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 27. It was extremely aggressive, and her doctor told her it was due to environmental conditions.

I could have just gone to the store and bought products for her, but I decided to try making them so that I knew the ingredients.

Making products turned into something I was passionate about. The same friend inspired the name for Limegreen,  I combined the nickname given to me by her and the theme of natural products – Lima + Green.

SB:How did you both meet?

TD: Allison and I met through mutual artist friends. We grew up literally five minutes away from each other, in the same neighborhood, our entire lives.

SB: Describe your individual personalities and explain how they come together to make the business work.

TD: Our personalities contribute to the success of the business in so many ways. I have such a social media and project manager brain (I was a production manager for 11 years before Limegreen) and Allison has the business and design brain (She was a creative director before Limegreen).

SB: What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey so far? What is the most gratifying?

TD: The most challenging part is the constantly second guessing of our decisions. Figuring out what to focus on is also a big challenge.

The most gratifying part is meeting with customers who sincerely love our products and hearing from them how our values motivate them to look at their choices more closely with regard to sustainability, natural ingredients, etc.

SB: What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?

TD: The most important things that Allison has taught me are to hustle and take chances – she literally would eat through a wall.

SB: Where do you see your business in 5 years?

TD: I see Limegreen in your favorites boutiques, the hotel bathrooms your stay in and big box stores like Target and Wholefoods.

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

TD: My advice is not to plan every little detail of starting a business, the best thing to do is just to do it. See if people like your concept, because numbers on a paper cannot tell you if people really want what you’re trying to sell.

To learn more about Brooklyn Limegreen visit www.brooklynlimegreen.com.

IG: @thebusyafrican

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Couples Inc. : Beauty Supply Store Owners, Quintin & Megan Lathan

After all the conversations about how too few Black people are involved in the beauty supply industry, we were glad to learn about Quintin and Megan Lathan. They own Beauty Plus, a beauty supply store in Baltimore.

How did you both meet?

Megan: We met through Quintin’s cousin who was my co-worker at the time.

How do you decide what products to carry in your store?

Quintin: A mixture of customer/professional stylist requests, social media, and different cosmetology industry publications.

It has been said that it can be difficult for non Asian business owners in the beauty supply industry. What has you experience been?

Megan: Once our business was established, we had immediate access to most hair products. The only difficulty we had was with purchasing hair from certain hair companies.
 

In what ways do you both have similar entrepreneurial traits and in what ways are you different as entrepreneurs?

Quintin: The number one trait we have in common is that we believe in good customer service and drive. We differ on inventory selection and marketing ideas at times. 

What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?

Megan: Quintin has taught me to be more focused and intentional with how I spend my day as it pertains to the business.
Quintin: Megan has taught me patience and how to be steadfast on certain business decisions.
 

What is the most important thing to remember when you are married to your business partner?

Quintin: To not get into heated arguments about the business so much that it affects the marriage because the marriage is more important than the business. Also to always make time for romance and quality time.
 

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Megan: Don’t wait to start and commit to ownership. 

Contact: Beauty Plus
Address: 2107 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: (410) 685-0955


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Couples Inc. : Luxury Handbag Makers, Gregory and Terri “Sylvia” Pope

Gregory and Terri “Sylvia” Pope are a North Carolina couple that created a luxury handbag and leather goods brand, Gregory Sylvia.

We reached out to find out more about their journey as partners in life and in business.

SB: What inspired the creation of Gregory Sylvia?

Greg: We have both always wanted to be business owners even before we met. Terri has always loved handbags but realized there weren’t any prominent Black-owned handbag companies in the market.

Gregory Sylvia

So, in 2010 we worked to establish our company with our name, logo, manufacturing, etc. We wouldn’t start sales until 2012 but we sold out of our inventory at our first event and had to take backorders so we knew we were on to something. The rest is history.

SB: What are the biggest challenges you encounter as entrepreneurs?

Terri: Our biggest challenge is that we’ve encountered as business owners is creating brand awareness. Unlike our large handbag competitors, we don’t have the big marketing dollars to make high end commercials or ads so we rely a lot on social media and word of mouth.

Another challenge we had to overcome was finding the right manufacturer. We’re perfectionists so finding the right manufacturer that can execute our designs and maintain a very high level of quality has always been a very important focus.

SB: You describe your products as luxury items. How did you decide on the price point for your bags?

Greg: We describe our brand as luxury because of the high quality leather and hardware used to make each product.

Through the use of pricing formulas, we work to keep the prices for each of our bags within the affordable luxury price point. Overall, we want to provide value by giving our customers a super luxurious design and feel at a great price.

SB: What advice do you have for other couples who are in business together?

Terri: The best advice that we can give to other couples in business together is to continue to make time for each other. Just like how you put in time and energy to grow your business, you need to do the same for your marriage.

We have a scheduled date night once a week in which we may go out or stay in but we can’t talk about our business. We both enjoy our business but having time away with each other is very necessary.

SB: Describe your individual personalities and explain how they come together to make the business work?

Greg: When it comes to business we are complete opposites. Terri is a left brain thinker so she is very logical. She is very detailed oriented and loves numbers.

I’m right brain oriented. He is very creative, passionate, and a big-picture thinker. Together we are able to marry our thinking and abilities in a way that we can leverage each other’s strengths while covering for each other’s weaknesses.

SB: Where do you see the business five years from now? 

Greg: Five years from now we see ourselves selling more than just handbags. Our goal is to expand our product offerings to men’s accessories and other types of non-leather accessories.

Our products and brand will also have much greater exposure with expansion into more specialty boutiques and large department stores.

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Terri: Make sure your business is structured properly and that you have a solid business plan. Understanding your finances or having a CPA to help you manage your finances is also key.

Know that not everyone is going to support your business and that’s okay. Your best customers will most likely be people you don’t know.

Another piece of advice is to invest in people. Network, build relationships, find a mentor and build a team that can assist you along your business journey. And finally, remember if it was easy everyone would be doing it. Don’t give up.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)

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Couples Inc. : Nicaila & Muoyo Use Tech to Inspire Entrepreneurs

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.

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson