There’s a lot of talk about how to achieve the all-coveted work-life balance—that is, the seemingly impossible ability to spend enough time at work to succeed and enough time outside of work to maintain a happy home life and all of the relationships, friendships, and self-care that come with it. For some couples, however, the line between personal and professional is quite a blurred one because not only are they partners in love but they’re also partners in business.
And while the idea of spending 24 hours a day with your significant other may sound like a recipe for disaster for most folks, many who’ve done it say it’s actually made both their work and their relationships stronger. Read on to learn how 15 couples who work together balance business and romance.
Deborah Lippmann and Jude Severin, Deborah Lippmann
Jude Severin picked up celebrity manicurist and jazz singer Deborah Lippmann at Birdland Jazz Club in 1996, shortly before Valentine’s Day, and the two were married a year and a half later.
Lippmann had spent much of her career working in high-end salons and stores in New York City and noticed a huge gap in the nail care market. “I had so much knowledge of what the luxe consumer didn’t have access to, and the customer needed so many products to take home if she wanted to care for her own nails,” she recalls. So, Lippmann decided to start her own nail care line and enlisted the help of her husband, even though they were hesitant about what working together would be like. “But once we started our business, we were able to see who was good at what,” she says.
More than two decades after starting the brand, Deborah Lippmann remains one of the most sought-after nail companies around, and its founders chalk their success up to implementing boundaries between the personal and the professional. “We try not to talk business at personal, social dinners, which was hard initially since we ate, drank, and slept thinking about the business” Lippmann explains. “Now, we created a rule to enforce no talking about business at dinner and no talking about it before 9AM or after 9pm at home unless there is an unforeseen problem that must be dealt with.”
Cass DiMicco and Matthew Hoyle, Aureum Collective
A few months after meeting at Coachella in early 2017, Cass DiMicco and Matthew Hoyle started dating back in New York City, where he was working in finance and she had just quit her job to pursue being a full-time content creator. Two years later, they had the idea for Aureum Collective, an affordable luxury jewelry brand. “While we weren’t always sure that we wanted to dive into jewelry, we were both excited about starting a company together and combining our complementary skill sets,” Hoyle says. “We are both so passionate and driven, so we knew we would always be on the same page about how much of our time and energy we would be willing to put in to make Aureum a success.”
In fact, the couple, who wed last year, says the hardest part of building the business has been knowing when to shut off. “Both of us love talking about Aureum 24/7 and feel like there is always something we could be doing better and new ideas we want to bring to fruition,” DiMicco notes. “It’s something we still struggle with since we are a small business with a very small team.” But having clear and defined roles and work hours has proven a big help, as has planning weekly date nights or working out together before heading into the office.
Dr. Darcy Sterling and Stephanie M. Sterling, LCSW, Alternatives Counseling
Dr. Darcy Sterling met her future wife, Stephanie M. Sterling, in 2004 while pursuing a PhD in social work at New York University. Stephanie, who was getting her Master’s in social work, joined Darcy’s practice, Alternatives Adolescent Counseling Center, soon after, and when the name was changed to Alternatives Counseling and a new company was formed, it felt like a given that she would become a co-owner.
“I didn’t even hesitate [to go into business together],” says Dr. Darcy Sterling. “We were both therapists, and Steph had been working at Alternatives from the moment we met. We’d always worked well together, and Steph is one of—if not the most—talented clinicians I’ve ever known.” Even so, the couple acknowledges that it’s not always easy and that it’s taken some time to learn how to navigate around each other’s strengths and weaknesses. “We still work on it, but every year, it gets easier,” Darcy adds.
And when Darcy was given the opportunity in 2016 to teach relationship skills on television in E!’s “Famously Single,” it brought a whole other host of challenges to their relationship. “Steph was not a fan of the idea, and I think initially she worried that being on TV would turn me into a different person or that all the stuff that comes with being on TV would divide and conquer us,” she recalls. “But because we try to practice what we preach, we went to couples counseling to process the concerns we each had and to come to a compromise on things I was willing to do for a television show and things I wouldn’t agree to do.” Ultimately, the experience brought Darcy and Steph even closer, and they even built an online course to coincide with the show’s premiere.
The therapist duo are also big fans of separating work and life. “Before Covid, it was much easier because we had a rule: on the nights that we walked home together and had a physical boundary in place, we stopped talking about work and clients at a certain point that was very close to our apartment,” Steph explains. “Now, we schedule in time for work and time for personal life, which is especially difficult since everything is happening at home and we no longer have the physical boundary. But we have our respective work areas, and we have code words and phrases when either of us needs to set stronger boundaries.”
Jessie Randall and Brian Murphy, Loeffler Randall
Jessie Randall and Brian Murphy met while working at an advertising agency and have been together 23 years and married almost 19. After deciding to go into business together, the two got the name for their shoe brand when Murphy cut up their wedding program and put it into a shoe prototype, and they never looked back. Initially, he kept his job in advertising while Randall worked full-time on the company but soon came onboard full-time as well.
“I think I had discussed my sort of ‘goals’ with a professional coach, and they were to remain working in a creative environment, spend more time with Jessie, and work internationally,” Murphy remembers. “So, working together on this business really was a dream I must have manifested from those sessions with my coach.”
Since then, the couple has grown Loeffler Randall to immense success, and they say working together really isn’t as hard as you’d think. “We seem to agree a lot more than we disagree, and we’re drawn to the same sort of outcomes and paths to problem solving here,” Murphy explains. “And it’s nice that we divide the business—I oversee design and he runs the business side,” Randall adds. “We are best friends, honestly.”
Abigail Cook-Stone and Sayyid Markar, Otherland
Abigail Cook-Stone and Sayyid Markar met on their very first day at Columbia Business School in 2014 when they were placed on the same team, and although they briefly started out as friends, they’ve been together ever since. “Being on the same team in Business School definitely laid the groundwork for not only our romantic relationship but also our professional one,” says Cook-Stone. “During our final semester, I was burning candles all the time and couldn’t find a brand for me that combined affordability, quality, and attractive design. So, I started researching the industry, and that’s when Sayyid and my tiny 250 sq. ft, 6 floor walkup became a candle laboratory filled with homemade formulas.”
A year later, in 2017, Markar left his job in the startup world to join the candle-making efforts full-time, in the wake of Cook-Stone’s parents’ passing. “Abigail not only needed operational help getting Otherland off the ground, but she needed emotional support,” he explains. “I was also in a place where I was looking to shift into a category of business where I could relate more to the customer. So, on paper it made sense, and emotionally it felt right.”
But even as it made sense to Markar, Cook-Stone had her suspicions about working together. “When we decided to be business partners, I could almost hear my mother’s voice in my head saying, ‘do not under any circumstances ever go into business with a family member or friend!’” she recalls. “However, I felt in my heart that it was right, and that Sayyid would be an amazing co-founder. We complement each other well—as a couple and in business.”
Five years later, Otherland has soared to the top of the ever-expanding candle market, but it’s taken some time for the couple to figure out their work-life boundaries. “We used to give ourselves hard cut off rules for when we weren’t allowed to discuss work, but we quickly realized this wasn’t the best thing because we are both so passionate about Otherland and use each other as sounding boards, which helps us professionally,” Cook-Stone says. “We don’t want to force any strict rules, but at the same time we know it is important to allocate time for just our personal relationship.”
She and Markar rely on the help of therapy to ensure their romantic relationship doesn’t get overlooked. “Using a therapist has helped Sayyid and I manage our professional and romantic relationships in a healthy way,” Cook-Stone notes. “Hearing from a third party is beneficial when you spend so much time with someone, and it encourages you to look at things from a fresh perspective.”
Trinity Mouzon and Issey Kobori, Golde
Having grown up in the same small town in Upstate New York, Trinity Mouzon and Issey Kobori have known each other their whole lives, but it wasn’t until their senior year of high school that they really connected. “We were both in this intensive program for students who wanted to go to med school, and that’s around the time we started dating,” Mouzon remembers. “We don’t know the exact date, but it was sometime in late January of 2011—so 11 years now.”
Kobori, who grew up in a family candle business, had a strong entrepreneurial gene, and Mouzon had a keen interest in all things wellness, so they decided to marry their passions by launching a superfood business together. “There really was never any hesitation,” says Mouzon. “We work well together, and there wasn’t a question of doing it with anybody else.”
And while the couple always make time to do non-work activities together, be it a long walk or time tending to their garden, they both very much believe a lack of division between business and life is often what helps them succeed. “Part of building a startup is that there is an intentional blurring between the personal and professional, so if you want a job that you turn off from completely on every weekend, building a brand is probably not the right fit!” Mouzon says. “We often have our best brainstorms over a weekend road trip—it’s okay to be able to enjoy your personal and your business relationship together. It’s not all or nothing!”
Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu, Lutie’s at Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection
Chef Bradley Nicholson and pastry chef Susana Querejazu trace their romance back to Austin’s food scene, where they met working at an old-school Italian restaurant 11 years ago. And while the couple had since made waves in other markets, including San Francisco, they decided to return to the Texas capital to join Commodore Perry Estate’s dining program. “We have and had always planned on working together in future projects,” says Querejazu. “Commodore Perry Estate needed a bread and pastry program to compliment the food, so it made sense that we work together.”
And after learning each other’s kitchen quirks over the years, they both feel having their romantic partner at work has only been an asset. “Working through the pandemic has helped us roll with the punches,” Querejazu adds. “We have good days and bad days, but we do it together.”
Siffat Haider and Nish Samantray, Arrae
Although they met in university and have been together for nearly 10 years, Siffat Haider and Nish Samantray had very different career paths. Haider worked in fashion media before starting her own blog, while her now-husband worked in tech, but when she decided she wanted to launch her own wellness brand, she knew he’d be right by her side. “I always knew that if I wanted to start my own brand, I’d have to have Nish (or his clone) as a cofounder,” she says. “He has all of the skills I lack, and I knew that together, we’d make a very strong team.”
Two years after founding Arrae together, they say working alongside one another has only strengthened their relationship. “Building a startup is both the hardest and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done, and to have Nish there to experience the rollercoaster with me first-hand has been something I’m really grateful for,” Haider explains. “If we weren’t working together, I don’t think we could be there for each other in the same way.”
The couple doesn’t implement any hard and fast rules around when to work and when not to, and instead, they actually incorporate their professional wins into their personal life. “We try and celebrate milestones of the company by turning them into fun date activities which only the two of us can enjoy,” Samantray says. “For example, we used to buy bottles of wine which were a fraction of the total sales we did for the month as a way to celebrate a revenue milestone.” But at the end of the day, they know that Arrae won’t thrive if they don’t thrive as a couple, so they are always happy to take care of themselves and take time away from the business as needed.
Nak Armstrong and Walter Marcantoni, Nak Armstrong Jewelry
Nak Armstrong started his eponymous jewelry brand in 2011, just a few years into his relationship with Walter Marcantoni. For the first six and a half years that they were together, the two commuted between Austin and Puerto Rico, but in 2015, Marcantoni moved permanently to the Texas capital. “I was in Austin every month and would work remotely from Nak’s studio, so by the time I moved permanently to Austin, I was well-versed on the ins and outs of the company,” Marcantoni says. “My background in business management and marketing was the perfect complement, and we started working together.”
And for Armstrong, his romantic partner proved to be a lovely addition to the brand. “There’s no substitute for someone who is as invested as you are and who cares as much as you do, and it’s very rewarding to be building something together,” he notes. “Of course, as everyone knows, owning a business is not a 9-to-5 job, but we manage to find a good balance.”
Andrea Lisbona and Ruggero Grammatico, Touchland
Shortly before meeting Ruggero Grammatico in 2012, Andrea Lisbona had started distributing hand sanitizers for a new business. At the time, Grammatico was working at an engineering company, and he quickly became her go-to person to consult on designs, ideas, and product concepts, so when Lisbona asked him in 2014 to leave his job and launch Touchland with her, he didn’t hesitate.
“I am a very rational and strategic person, so I would never bring someone into my dream project just because we’re connected romantically,” she explains. “I think it’s actually the opposite—when bringing in a romantic partner or even a family member to a project, you have to think twice as there are too many risks associated if plans fall through.” But their skillsets were complementary as can be; Lisbona took on the vision and passion behind the company, while Grammatico assumed the technical side of things, and eight years later, the company is thriving as a result.
“Everyone always says that it’s impossible because the reality is most couples don’t make it through the first year, especially as there are so many challenges that can affect everyone mentally,” Lisbona notes. “I feel so lucky to have gone through so many obstacles and overcame them together, so I truly believe it can work so long as there’s mutual respect and understanding between the couple.”
Jersey Banks and Lyon Porter, Urban Cowboy
For Jersey Banks and Lyon Porter, the ultra-cool couple behind boutique hotel group Urban Cowboy, working together is nothing new. “We actually met while working at the same real estate company back in 2013,” says Porter. “A business partner introduced us initially and after about six months of being apart to travel, we reconnected at a holiday party. The rest is history.”
In what started as a passion project after both falling in love with a boutique hotel in Nicaragua just one week apart from each other, the couple was inspired to create a similar property in Brooklyn. “We began this project as a fun way to hangout with friends and loved ones,” Porter recalls. “Six months later, the space, which is now called Urban Cowboy Brooklyn, was being featured in every travel magazine in the world, even though when we first opened, we didn’t even have any way of taking payment. We just figured it out together, and here we are.”
Eight years later, the business has grown to include two more properties—in the Catskills and in Nashville—and the couple couldn’t be happier they get to do it all together. “What was most surprising was how much the business changed our lives for the better,” Porter says. “We’ve met so many new, amazing people, and it’s been great to see how much the growth of the brand has really mirrored the growth of our relationship.”
Justin Dubois and Fi Stewart, Slip
Fi Stewart and Justin Dubois are the kind of couple who’ve been together so long that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how long, but the founding of their company, slip, in 2004 marked a whole new chapter in their relationship. A year earlier, Stewart was prescribed acne medication which resulted in extremely sensitive skin and thinning hair, but when her dermatologist suggested sleeping on a silk pillowcase, she was unable to find one. So, she and Dubois sourced the best silk they could find and wrapped it around her pillow, and they were astonished by the results. Realizing they’d stumbled into something great, they launched slip as a side hustle, shipping orders from their garage, and over the years, it’s grown into a leading brand.
“We’ve found that our individual skill sets complement each other well and we agree on the big issues and the direction of the business,” says Dubois. “Maybe we were young and naïve, but it didn’t occur to us not to do it together.” And in many ways, working together has enabled each of them to have a complete understanding of the dedication and sacrifice involved in building the brand. “If we didn’t do this together I don’t know if the other person would understand the level of time and effort required to make this all happen,” Dubois adds. “It’s been an amazing rollercoaster ride and such a big part of our lives. We can’t imagine either of us missing out on that.”
Scot and Jacq Tatelman, STATE Bags
Scot and Jacq Tatelman basically haven’t left each other’s side since they were set up on a blind date in 2007, but six years into their relationship, they took that to a new level by starting a brand together. “Our idea for STATE Bags initially sparked when we were hosting our annual Camp Power scholarship award winners in Boston for a weekend. While rushing everyone to the train to get back to Brooklyn, one child, who was using a plastic shopping bag to hold her belongings, ripped her bag and her things scattered everywhere,” Scot explains. “We scrambled to find something to replace the bag and that night started talking about a company that could serve kids and communities, similar to the ones we’d gotten so close to in Camp Power, but in a for-profit structure.”
Many conversations, decks, and meetings later, STATE Bags was born. “The truth is that the intention was never for us to do it together,” Jacq admits. “It originated as an idea being built for Scot while I settled into becoming a first-time mom.” But as design came to the forefront of their dialogue, they knew her background in fashion would be a major asset, so she came on as cofounder. “We had this weird instinct that no matter how challenging this was going to be for us as a married couple, new parents, and first-time entrepreneurs, our foundation was rock solid and we could work through all of it, and we have!” she says.
Lindsay Silberman and Matt Stevens, Hotel Lobby Candle
Lindsay Silberman and Matt Stevens met in 2007 at a nightclub while on spring break from college. “It’s certainly not the place you would imagine meeting your future spouse and business partner, but I suppose crazier things have happened,” Silberman says of their meet-cute. “We got to chatting and realized that not only did we go to the same school—Syracuse University—but we were actually next door neighbors. Even more coincidentally, we realized that we were born at the same hospital.”
As Silberman began her career as a travel journalist, often taking Stevens along on her trips around the world, they noticed that each and every hotel they visited seemed to have its own scent. Always enamored with the idea of bringing that scent home with them, Silberman had the idea to start a candle brand that would do exactly that, and when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and her travel slowed, she decided it was the perfect time to pursue it. It soon became clear, however, that Hotel Lobby Candle would be too much to manage for her to manage on her own, so Stevens left his job to focus on the brand full-time as well. “I always thought starting a brand with Lindsay would be great because we get along really well, and our personalities balance each other,” he says. “There’s always a bit of nervousness involved (we watch a lot of “The Profit” and see in-fighting amongst families all the time), but I knew going into this that we’d likely find and stick to our own lanes, and that would minimize potential conflicts.”
Now in its second year, Hotel Lobby Candle has found some footing but still very much feels like a startup, which means that separating work and life can be a challenge. “Everything is moving so fast and curveballs are thrown at you all the time,” Stevens notes. “Thankfully we’ve been able to maintain a ‘keep your eye on the prize’ mentally to preserve our sanity and our relationship.”
Alya and Tim Gonta, LESSLESS Robes
Alya and Tim Gonta always knew that they work well together since they started their dating while both at a television network, but it wasn’t until their elopement in Monterey, California, that it occurred to them to start a business together. “One day we went to the beach, and I threw a freshly bought vintage kimono over my swimsuit and ended up spending the whole day wearing it: heading for a cocktail at the rooftop bar, shopping, even meeting friends,” Alya recalls. “It was so chic that I wanted to find something similar in stores, but they offered either vintage stuff or just plain loungewear.”
So, she and her new husband decided to launch their own brand of robes made from the highest quality materials. “I’m very good at developing creative strategy and visual aesthetics, and Tim, who originally has a degree in physics, is strong business-wise,” Alya explains. “We were very excited about staring our own brand, but there was so much work and so many things to learn.” The couple has found that, despite the cultural disdain for mixing business with pleasure, doing so has actually been the best thing for their relationship. “We’ve found even more things in common, there has never been a problem about working and talking about business, even while on vacation,” Alya says. “Everything feels so fluid, comfortable, and natural. Work is a part of our life, and it’s always exciting for us.”