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Tricia Bacon wants to overturn some of the myths about couples who go into business together.
One is that their businesses are more like hobbies. This is not true, says business expert Tricia. “These people are all in. Setting up a business is not for the faint-hearted and for couples in business everything is on the line, but they believe they are stronger together. It is phenomenal watching them in action.”
Another is that it is mainly empty nesters who start up together when many start businesses while their families are young so they can share childcare responsibilities more equally and be around more for their children. “Work and life tend to merge and then there is the big question of whether the children of couplepreneurs are more business savvy. That is what we are seeing and hearing,” says Tricia.
Yet another is that couple-run businesses are confined to certain sectors such as corner shops, farming and so forth. Tricia says they can be found across all sectors.
She adds that people also tend to react very personally and focus on what happens if it all goes wrong. “Their framework of reference is that they couldn’t do it so they cannot understand how anyone else can,” say Tricia. “You do not enter a relationship thinking about what can go wrong,” she adds. “Lots of businesses are founded by more than one person. They can go wrong, but the couples I speak to say the fact they know and trust their partner and have a shared interest in making it work means things are less likely to go wrong than other co-founder businesses.”
She says the phenomenon of couplepreneurs is growing as more people look for greater control over their working hours. She cites figures estimating there are 1.4m couplepreneurs in the UK and that 55% of couplepreneur businesses have set up in the last four to five years. They include Tots to Travel, The Drum and Sports Factory. Yet some couplepreneurs are being advised not to mention that they are a couple due to the stereotypes. “In the future being couplepreneurs will be normalised,” says Tricia. “They need need to be recognised because they are underserved and unknown.”
Tricia set up a business consultancy three years ago and noticed that she was unintentionally attracting couple-owned businesses. She decided to make a feature of it and now runs Couplepreneurs. She wants to be the spokesperson for what she sees as a growing part of the economy as the digital world opens up the possibility of new lifestyle businesses.
Her organisation launched earlier this year and aims to provide online webinars and events/retreats for couplepreneurs, including date nights. “We provide a membership network where people can find friends who are going through similar things. Often they have been so consumed by the business that they have not had time for friends. We provide that camaraderie,” says Tricia. “People want to meet other business people with the selling associated with networking. They want to talk to each other as couples.”
She is also building a trusted adviser network to help couplepreneurs and to give advice on areas such as health and well being – and next March she is planning a big summit, including panel debates. In addition, she hopes to go global and set up an International Couplepreneur Day. This came about when she researched support for couplepreneurs on social media and had 80 couples from around the world come back to her in a period of just 48 hours. Another potential project is a book telling couplepreneurs’ stories and a TED talk. “Their stories can be so inspiring and thought provoking,” she says. “People want to tell their stories as they recognise they are part of movement. We are seeing a little couplepreneur envy from some people.”
Tricia says there are very different ways the couples she has spoken to have built their businesses, for instance, in some cases a woman sets up a business while on maternity leave and her partner helps out a little in their spare time. Then they realise there is growth potential and the partner comes on board. In other cases, couples start the business together from the outset. Usually one member of the couple is more creative; the other is more operational; one tends to be more risk taking than another. Tricia says they need to have different job specs and play to their strengths as individuals. They also need to know their boundaries.
She says investors have not recognised the phenomenon, but she feels they may soon cotton on.
“There is something really interesting about a partnership that goes home together and runs a business together. It seems odd to choose a life partner and then spend most of your days apart. There is something really potent about mixing love and business,” says Tricia.