How This Brother/Sister Duo Run a Successful Small Business Together
I reluctantly spent my 4th birthday at the hospital while welcoming my little brother Eric to the world.
Even though we’re four years apart, our birthdays land on July 9th (Beth) and 10th (Eric).
I wasn’t ecstatic about this when I was four. But since then we've happily celebrated most birthdays together, many times on the golf course.
Growing up together, we experienced all of the ups and downs that any brother and sister would. And as we got older, we became closer because of it. We shared many crazy life experiences together as well!
At ages 21 and 25, both in the Army, we even deployed to Kuwait/Iraq at the same time in 2003.
Eric was stationed in Germany, and I was stationed in Italy. U.S. military units were being moved into Kuwait from all over Europe and we were both sent to Kuwait to stage for the upcoming war.
Eric got to Kuwait about two weeks before me, so I knew he was already there. But I didn't expect him to be one of the guys unloading bags from our truck when we arrived!
Luckily, we were able to hang out together in Kuwait for about two weeks before the war started. Then our units went their separate ways.
After 10 years in the Army and 10 years in 'Corporate America,' I was finally blessed with a healthy baby boy at the age of 40. Eric had a head start and already had begun a family of his own as well.
Following the birth of my oldest son Christian, I was inspired to create the Busy Baby Mat and things began to take off quickly. While filming for Shark Tank, I realized things were probably going to get too big for just me in no time.
As expected, Busy Baby started to grow to a point where I felt overwhelmed, and I asked Eric to do me a HUGE favor… quit his stable retail career and help me run the business. It took a couple of weeks, but he finally made the decision to join me on this Busy Baby journey!
We all know of at least one horror story of family and friends working together. But I’m happy to say that working with each other has been such an amazing experience for us.
To be fully transparent, learning how to work together at first was much more of a challenge than we expected. Even now, 18 months later, we are still learning how to communicate and have hard business-related conversations that you'd never expect to have with a sibling.
As siblings and friends, we thought we were VERY alike, but when we started working together, we realized we have very different skill sets and styles of learning and working. This turned out to be a great thing once we figured out where to apply ourselves in the business.
The best part about working together is that we get to be our true selves–no sugar coating anything. We FULLY trust each other and know that we are working with the best intentions and never have to question each other’s motives. More importantly, we both know that we have a lot to learn together and can support each other through all of the successes and missteps.
Another great benefit of working together is that we’ve been able to get our kids involved and teach them so many lessons.
In fact, our logo is based on a photo of my oldest son Christian (he was the inspiration for both the Busy Baby Mat and the Teething Spoon).
When Eric joined the company, we only had the original mats and the Teething Spoon that came in a clear bag with almost no branding. Now we have a line of products and a brand that looks great!
A few years after launching Busy Baby I had Olyn, now 2-years-old, who came along at just the right time to be our 'Marketing Baby' and new product tester! You can catch a photo of him on the cover of our Original Mat packaging and he’s also testing some of the new products we have coming out this fall.
Most of the product ideas we have come from real life experiences with our kids.
Aside from being our inspiration, our kids also help us run the business.
Eric's kids, Grace, Lillian, William, & Hank range in age from 5-10 years old. They LOVE to help fill our online orders and help us unload merchandise and anything else we throw their way.
Deciding to work together as siblings has turned the Busy Baby Company into a true family business and labor of love for us.
Alongside family, we’ve managed to grow our brand further than we could’ve ever imagined!
Now we have an ever-growing product line and beautiful packaging that has created a brand people recognize across the country.
Looking ahead we would love to turn it into a global brand as well. Ultimately…we want our Busy Baby products to be MUST-HAVE baby items and GO-TO baby shower gifts for parents everywhere.
And as we shared on Shark Tank, someday we’d like to sell the brand to a big company with more resources and experience and watch them take it even further.
Starting any business presents its own challenges. And we know getting into business with your sibling can present even more!
While working with family isn’t for everyone, we’re so glad we gave it a try. Our business and our brand wouldn’t be where it is today if we had not put our brains and talents together.
If you’re thinking about going into business with your sibling but are reluctant, here are a few things we do that keep us on the right path
- Take on roles that play to your individual strengths.
- Create plans ahead of time and in writing to know what to expect from each other - we review all of these plans every 6 weeks to make sure we are doing what we set out to do and are staying on track.
- Communicate daily and be transparent with each other
- Make decisions together
- Work closely to find the resources you need
Getting the right resources and people can help take any business to the next level.
By taking a leap of faith and implementing these key practices, we discovered how great our sibling partnership could be!