Indie Beauty Brand Founders On The Dos And Dont’s Of Great Business Partner Relationships

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 12 brand founders and executives: How do you ensure your relationship with your business partner is a good one?

David Calle Co-Founder, ANTIDOTE 1848

We invested a lot of time upfront getting to know each other’s business approaches, personalities, and values. Of course, some of this came out in the design of Antidote 1848: deciding on our target consumer, developing packaging, and choosing our go-to-market strategy. Our choices taught us about our business approach.  

We also spent time learning about our personality types using the 16Personalities site as a guide. This taught us how to work better together as well as our strengths and blind spots as a team. What really helped to set us up for a fruitful business relationship was talking about our values through broader questions like what scared us the most, and how we’d each handle a product issue or difficult retailer.  

Like most independent beauty brands, we’re an extension of ourselves, so understanding what makes us tick early on has made the process of building the brand faster and more fun.

Lisa Pineiro Founder and CEO, Glotrition

Well, I’m engaged to my business partner, so we pretty much want to kill each other on the daily. Seriously though, I think it’s important for there to be clear duties and responsibilities, and a strong contract that enforces that.

Being in business with someone else isn’t always easy, so having a business document that clarifies each partner’s respective lane and what to do if you no longer want to be in business together is key.

Kevin Leung Managing Director, Noelle Australia

Ideally, the founders must come from a different expertise background, but share the same vision. They must take a role within the company which they are adept at so that the other founders of the company are assured that different aspects of the business are looked after well. Hence, there is trust within the company.

In terms of financial reward, each founder should receive the same salary. For profit sharing, we think it should be pro-rata to the equity contribution of each founder. When each founder is well-respected and rewarded equally, this should ensure harmony between them.

Ido Magal Founder, Lavido

With all of my team and partners, I believe people should do what they love in terms of business, and they should work within that category. Everyone is so different, and I like to take time to discover an employee’s passion, and make sure they are working to fulfill this passion.

For example, our company sales manager in Israel is so passionate about the products, she can sell them to me and make me use them again if they aren’t currently in my rotation. She has a passion for sales and products that drives happiness and a good business relationship.

Lynette Reed Co-Founder, Fluid Fragrances

Since my co-founder is also my life partner (boyfriend) it is always a challenge to keep boundaries with our business and the other parts of our life.  I can be a bit bossy and have very strong opinions when it comes to the business, but in our relationship I'm very easy going so I'm sure it can cause a lot of confusion to my partner!

The most important thing for us is to try to turn off the business and have time as just a couple (that is way easier said than done) but we have a great deal of respect for each other and that, to me, is the number one thing that makes our business relationship work.

Kara Soule CEO and Co-Founder, Verdant

Oh, brother(s)! Since my co-founders are also my brothers, you could say we’ve been preparing for this for, oh…about 30 years. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned along the (sometimes hard) way.

We may not always agree (what siblings do?), but we’ve learned how to challenge each other kindly, compromise when necessary, and start each day with a fresh approach. We may each bring different perspectives influenced by unique professional backgrounds, but we’ve learned to value each other’s opinions, pitch in wherever needed, and guard against focusing on who was “right” or “wrong” in a given instance (after all, we’ve all been wrong).

Starting a new business is like riding the world’s craziest roller coaster. Through it all, we’ve learned how to be in the moment, appreciate one another and celebrate victories, whether large or small, that propel us forward.

Ultimately, though, we’ve always agreed that no amount of business success is worth risking our relationship. We know we’re stronger together and have committed to always put each other first.

Sébastien Tardif CEO and Co-Founder, VEIL COSMETICS

The relationship between the co-founders got easier with time, I must say. At first, there was so much at stake, and we were all learning to work together and often stepped on each other’s toes. Today, we still have a hand in everything, but we understand how to let everyone blossom within their own field of expertise.

DANUTA DUDEK Founder, Cotarde

Don’t step into each other's area of expertise! It’s an ongoing effort based on common goals and trust. In practice, it means you need to create your own “code of conduct” on a daily basis, and work in the way that it spreads out to your teams and also translates well into the outer world. Ultimately this is what’s called corporate culture in large organizations and, basically, originates from the founders' characters, way of being, and doing things.

DAVID SIMNICK CEO and Co-Founder, Soapbox

It's all about open and honest communication. I think that goes for any relationship. It's about respecting ideas and opinions and having an open dialogue and understanding that there are going to be times of differing opinions and finding a way to get on the same page.

Ultimately, our goal is to see Soapbox be as successful as possible with our products, mission, and team. Having the same goal helps us to detangle from conflicting ideas and lay things in perspective that we're here to make a huge impact and which idea (or how can the ideas be blended) will achieve that goal.

Brooke Boles Co-Founder and President, Copperhed Hair Care

As a serial beauty entrepreneur for 20 years, it was always my dream to find my soulmate to build a beauty empire with. After meeting my husband Jeffrey Swartman at a distributor meeting in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada of all places, I instantly knew he would be my partner in crime and business.  

Working with my spouse and baby daddy for the last 14 years has been incredibly rewarding yet challenging. Here are four tips on how to make sure your business and personal relationships thrive while achieving your business goals without killing each other or burning the house down.

  1.  Define your roles: Identify each others strengths and weaknesses so each one can be effective. Avoid micromanaging which causes stress and counter productivity. It's OK not to be good at everything.
  2. Laugh together: Find time with your partner daily to laugh over coffee. Once or more a month go out for an intimate dinner, especially if you're raising kids, to break from the minutia and strengthen the bond that formed the partnership. Monthly date nights with music and laughter, but no business or kids talk. Quarterly weekend getaways build creativity, supply inspiration, and allow the opportunity to experience the local retail shops and brands.
  3. Set alone time: Just as you share in the success, you also share each others failure. It can become complicated if you live together. Two people carrying the same negative energy can be devastating on other family members. Self-care is a must. Going on workouts, massages, or a simple guys/girls nights out. Also, if you have kids, use this incredibly valuable opportunity to share your knowledge and love for entrepreneurship while you navigate as a team. After all, they may be running the business someday!
  4. Know how little you know: Though we have 70-plus years combined of industry experience, it's so important to recognize how much your industry changes before your eyes. Attend seminars, trade shows, join networking groups, and make new friends. Attending the Beauty X Summits in NYC and LA while exhibiting at the Indie Beauty Expo in both cities was a true blessing which helped us to gain a new perspective on the beauty landscape. And don't forget to pray for your partner, shed light, meditate, wish good luck, whatever you believe in.
Phoebe Horak COO and Managing Partner, Bra in a Box

My co-founder is my mother! We’ve always had a great relationship, but creating this business together has been a special experience. It has allowed us to bond in a different way. We strive to always be open and honest with each other about our ideas and the direction we want to take, and we promised each other we would never be offended by the others’ opinion. We share our ideas, discuss, and make decisions. We truly respect what each of brings to the equation and that seems to guide us well.  We truly are a great team and are excited about all the plans we have together.

Michelle Lundqvist Co-Founder, Skoy

Our brand just celebrated our 10 year anniversary! We were two stay at home mom’s that began this venture for fun! Skoy (Skoj) is a Swedish word that means “just for fun”. We have brought this philosophy into our business relationship and our products. We spend more time together working than waking hours with our husbands. So how have we managed to do this, have a working relationship and be friends?

We think it is because of good communication, openness, and compromise. Of course, it is not always easy, but through the years we have learned to be respectful of each other. We have always been grateful for what we have as we know that creating a business like ours is unique and what many others dream of having. We are lucky!

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].