Separating your personal life from your business is a sound ideal. Of course, it can be a bit difficult when your business partner happens to be someone who sits across the table from you in the boardroom, and at Thanksgiving dinner.
Rebecca Minkoff, founder of her eponymous luxury fashion brand, and Trinity Mouzon Wofford, founder of wellness and beauty brand Golde, share an unusual set of circumstances. They both focus on making traditionally exclusive products accessible to a wider range of customers, and they both co-founded their company with men they can't avoid--Minkoff with her brother, Uri, and Wofford with her life partner, Issey Kobori.
Minkoff has navigated this tricky intersection between business and family through very practical means: therapy and boundaries. For example, she and her brother agree to never talk business when they are together for family reasons. If they have issues to air out, they meet with a mediator in a safe space.
However, the process hasn't been seamless. "There was one time where I was disobeying his orders as CEO and he was like, 'You don't get to disobey me just because you're my little sister,'" Minkoff recalls in a new Inc. video. "I couldn't just be the little sister who's like...'You can't tell me what to do.' There's a more professional way to go about it."
For Wofford, mixing business and pleasure has been a fairly positive experience: "It's been, for the most part, pretty great," she says, noting that the high stakes of running a business come with a need to "get back to it" if little fights surface.
Despite their similarities, Minkoff and Wofford are in very different places professionally. Golde launched in 2017 when Wofford was only 23; two years later, it landed on shelves at Sephora. Minkoff, on the other hand, has been running her company for 15 years. And while there are advantages to being an established brand, Minkoff says, there are also a lot of perks to being a smaller company.
"I think someone marketed to us that once [your company] reaches a certain size, you get to coast and it's easy," Minkoff says. But, she says, once your company gets bigger, the stakes get higher and it gets harder to maintain the nimble strategies that used to work.
"Younger generations want to be marketed to 100 percent differently than previous generations," she adds. "So as a larger company now, how do you keep up and how do you stay nimble? It's easy when you're younger as a company."
Big decisions have loomed over the brand every step of the way. In 2008, Minkoff's business dramatically reshaped its approach to pricing in response to the recession. "If she's making less money, has no savings, or her 401(k) is evaporated, we still need to be that brand for her," Minkoff says. "So, we lowered our prices, in some cases by 50 to 75 percent."
It took three to four months for customers to respond to the change, but once it started working, the business grew significantly.
For someone equally concerned with making sure customers can afford her products, Wofford is curious about whether a similar approach would work for her brand. "We need to price things approachably, but as you mentioned, if you go too far in that direction, then there are no profits," Wofford says to Minkoff. "How do we make sure that we're making this accessible to the consumer, but that we're also optimizing for the long-term health of the business?"
"You will find a supply chain as you reach scale that will allow you to give your customer the price you're giving her now," Minkoff says. "It's an investment in hope, in the fact that you're going to grow, and that you'll find someone who can rise with that demand."
No matter what the future holds, Wofford finds comfort in having the support of her business and life parter. "I don't know how people do it alone," Wofford says. "It doesn't seem possible to me."