Family businesses come in all different shapes and sizes. But for all the times you see the "& Sons" stretched across a company's logo, it's downright rare to see "& Daughters" emblazoned in quite the same way.

Naturally, there are exceptions. In honor of Father's Day, here are three father and daughter duos that have managed to launch successful companies without falling into the usual pitfalls that plague family businesses

Sustain Natural's Meika and Jeffrey Hollender

Many would squirm at the thought of uttering the word "sex" in front of their fathers. But Jeffrey and Meika Hollender spend every day talking about condoms, lubricants, menstrual products and after-sex wipes. Meet the father-daughter duo behind Sustain Natural, a New York City-based maker of all-natural sexual health products marketed to women.

"There's no f--king way I'm ever doing that," was Meika's initial reaction to starting a business, after observing from an early age the hard work that accompanies entrepreneurship: Hollender is a veteran of the consumer products industry. (In the late eighties, he acquired the company that would become Seventh Generation; he would later be let go by the company's board of directors). Her attitude changed as her father began work on developing an all-natural condom. Meika conducted research and found a gap in the market: Women purchased 40 percent of condoms, yet the products on shelves were marketed exclusively at men. Enter an opportunity for father and daughter to start a business together.

"Family business usually looks like the younger generation sort of coming in to the older generation's business," Meika says. "I had hoped that we were starting out really as partners that this would be quite different and it really was and has been."

Of course, there have been hiccups. Jeffrey and Meika both have trouble relinquishing authority. "While we [are] partners, there was always a part of me that thought in some things, he did know better and he had experience and I should defer to him," Meika says.

Yet there were some areas in which Jeffrey found himself learning from his daughter's expertise. Meika is, after all, in Sustain Natural's target customer demographic. The 30-year-old naturally has a better grasp on what sells to women her age. Moreover, when the company expanded from retail to direct-to-consumer about a year ago, he relied on Meika, who has proven something of a marketing maven. (She was one of Inc.'s 2017 30 Under 30 honorees.)

To keep the peace, the Hollenders say it's vital to set boundaries. "We have rules that I try to enforce--not always successfully--that there are no business conversation before 7:30 in the morning and after 9 at night," he says. 

Deep Isolation's Liz and Rich Muller

Many entrepreneurs pride themselves on their ability to weigh the odds and calculate the correct business decision. But Rich Muller of Berkeley, California-based Deep Isolation enjoys a different sort of calculus.

"All this business stuff had me overwhelmed so yesterday...I took a break and did some differential equations," he says.

As you might guess, it is Liz Muller who is the business mind in this father-daughter duo. Rich spent 34 years as a professor of physics at UC Berkeley and has received a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship. When Liz found herself needing Rich's technical expertise in her work as a consultant, she decided she could accomplish more by going into business with her father.

Four businesses later and the pair are working on their most ambitious project yet: Deep Isolation aims to use the drilling techniques developed in the fracking industry to store nuclear waste underground. The Mullers argue this is safer than the above-ground facilities where waste is currently stored. The entrepreneurs have an approved patent for the technology, and two more are in the works.

The business--with both Mullers at the helm--works because it is a true partnership, Liz says. "I think if we had a hierarchical relationship, with him being the boss and me doing what he told me to do, I don't think it would work," she says.

Rich further suggested that other fathers attempting a similar run with their daughters would do well to check their pride at the door. "Make sure that you're absolutely comfortable with your daughter being more expert than you on a key aspect of the business," he says. "In this case, business."

Tonik's Pip and Glenn Summerville

Pip Summerville had a problem that only her father could solve. She wanted the health benefits of apple cider vinegar but had trouble swallowing the pungent spoonfuls. Could her father Glenn, who spent 40 years as a pharmacist, package the power of the natural elixir into tasteless capsules?

He could, and thus Tonik was born, a Gold Coast, Australia-based nutritional supplement company which transforms the likes of turmeric and coconut oil into easily digestible capsules. Tonik products are currently sold on Gwenyth Paltrow's lifestyle website Goop as well as in select Free People online and retail locations.

As the duo hopes to break into the U.K. and Asian markets, they noted the importance of having separate roles. "Your skill sets have to complement each other," Pip says. "He's got the...pharmaceutical background and I've got the e-commerce." In addition to Tonik, Pip founded and is creative director of The BASE Agency, which in its list of clients includes companies with e-commerce platforms. 

To wit, Glenn's experience operating retail pharmacies for over three decades has been invaluable to Tonik. "It's knowing why something is sitting there and what it looks like on the shelf and why there's a product sitting next to it. We don't want [Tonik] to sit next to other gory-looking bottles," says Pip. Both emphasized that Tonik eschews the traditional health and convenience stores, instead looking to the more brand-appropriate beauty market.

Glenn has also learned the value of letting his daughter lead. "I may give guidance," he says. "But I leave the decision making to Pip." 

Published on: Jun 17, 2018