What if you shared a bedroom with your business partner? Or a womb? What if you and your best friend actually quit your jobs and started the business you’ve been semi-seriously joking about for the last five years? What if it was successful? What if it was the best thing you ever did?
This week we’re talking about Dream Jobs: how to identify them, how to get them, and what it’s actually like when you do. Ahead, we meet five pairs of professionals who had a bright idea with a person they loved, held hands and jumped off into the unknown. From a Caribbean street food business, to a creative agency, to a jewellery and homeware shop, these couples, best friends and siblings (shot by photographic duo Morgane and Jonny, also a couple) have built strong, exciting businesses with passion, hard work, resourcefulness and guts. Here’s how you turn your wildcard idea into a full-time occupation with your favourite person.
Luke, 32 and Jess, 27
Describe your business in a few sentences… We are Only Jerkin', a street food trader that puts a twist on dishes with traditional Caribbean flavours. It’s all about creating dishes that are big on flavour, combining old recipe traditions with new. We trade at multiple lunch markets around London including a seven-day-a-week spot in Camden. We also take bookings for private events and plan on holding our own events in the new year.
How did you come up with the name, Only Jerkin'? Jess thought of the name long before the business began, back when we dreamed of having a jerk nugget stall and thought it would be a funny name.
When and why did you decide to start a business together? We both LOVE food and would often visit street food markets around London. The dish came before the business idea – Luke made a dish one evening using fried diced chicken breast coated in jerk marinade and seasoned flour, and jerk nuggets were born! We felt like there was potential in the dish and began to experiment and develop the recipe – this included adding a triple-dip process and ginger beer batter. Once we were confident with the dish and had a name, we began applying to weekend markets. We thought it would be fun!
Who does what within the business? Luke does the recipe writing and testing. He has an amazing taste for flavour and of course a strong passion for Caribbean cooking from his upbringing. He’ll take charge when it comes to designing new dishes for events or tailoring menus for clients. Jess focuses more on creating a strong brand identity, through our branding, social media and the aesthetic of our sites. Jess also takes the lead when it comes to the logistics of running multiple sites and the management of staff, as well as most of the fun admin stuff that comes with running your own business.
What did you both do before starting the business? Jess was a set designer and maker at Storey Studio, mainly for fashion. Luke was a psychiatric nurse for adolescents working at a hospital in London.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? The sheer length of the average working day! We were naive at the start and underestimated the hard work that goes into building a street food business. That and trying to negotiate the use of a shared kitchen with our housemates when trying to make masses of jerk marinade… We definitely ruffled a few feathers before we got our own kitchen space.
How do you find working and living together? There’s no doubt that it’s hard and it’s definitely tested us as a couple and as business partners; there were some teething issues at the start, but now we’re able to complement each other’s working styles. It’s made us stronger for sure.
How/ when did you meet? It was actually Tinder that brought us together four years ago!
Best thing about working together? We have complete trust in one another and there’s an openness that I’m sure we wouldn’t get in a normal working relationship. It’s cheesy but, essentially, we both get to work with our best mate every day. Obviously we wind each other up and things can be hard but watching the business grow from an idea we had is so rewarding.
What are your hopes for the future of the business? We have an exciting new year ahead of us – with the new food truck up and running we get to finally trial our first festival season next summer! Plus we have our first Only Jerkin’ sound system event date in March 2018, which is something we’ve been dreaming up for a while. It’s all about celebrating Caribbean flavours with food, drink and music and hopefully it’ll become a regular fixture.
Any advice for other couples thinking of working together? You need to make sure both of your hearts are in it and that you both share the same vision for the business and the direction you want to take it in. We were both very confident in the business from the start, which I think has been really important in the growth of Only Jerkin’. @onlyjerkin
Danielle and Nicole, 32
Describe your business in a few sentences… We work as freelance hair and makeup artists respectively and while it’s amazing working together [as 'Kahlani' – their surname], the shoots we do separately are so important for us in building our own identities and to be seen as individual artists. When we are on set together though, being twins means we’re so comfortable giving each other honest feedback, especially if something isn’t working, and it really helps us to push each other creatively.
When and why did you decide to start working together? Was it always the plan?We’ve always been super close, growing up with a shared love of art which we both studied and then later we went to LCF together to learn hair and makeup. It all happened naturally, we definitely didn’t plan to work together. Danielle was more drawn to makeup and I loved working on hair. We often got into trouble handing in a project we’d done together rather than separately.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced working together over the last seven years? Trying to prove to clients and the fashion industry that being twins isn’t a gimmick is a challenge. We take our careers very seriously and work really hard at presenting ourselves professionally and as individuals.
Nicole, what's the best thing about working with Danielle? I love working with Danielle, she’s my best friend (cheesy I know), we can always have a laugh on set and an arm around the shoulder for a cry. In this industry it’s important to have relationships with people who will give their honest opinion and I always respect Danielle’s as I know it comes from the right place and with love. We’ve been lucky enough to travel and work around the world together. It’s always nice to have each other in unfamiliar places.
Who goes first on a shoot, hair or makeup? We often tend to do hair and makeup simultaneously as time with a model or artist isn’t always on your side. Our relationship means we feel comfortable working closely in each other’s space and if necessary, pushing each other out of the way (like sisters do).
What are your hopes for your careers in the future? Any special projects you can share, or dream projects? Our dream is to be a success in our industry but also open our own business, which we’re currently working on and will launch next year. We want to continue to travel and work around the world together. We want to be proud of what we do and feel good about the things we put our names to. We’d love to become ambassadors for the brands we love and earn enough money to live in pink-goth mansions next door to each other.
Any advice for other sisters or siblings thinking of working together? Make sure you establish yourselves separately. You have individual talents and it’s important you’re recognised and appreciated as such. Focus on making your work recognisable and allow each other to gain equal credit. www.kahlani.co.uk
Nellie, 27 and Claire, 27
Describe your business in a few sentences… We are Babyface, an independent creative agency based in east London. We began as a platform and community where women could talk seriously about their work and careers, and we've since evolved into a fully fledged creative agency where we offer lots of services such as cultural programming, insight, events, market research and content creation. This year was the first year we were able to step away from our 9-5 jobs and do Babyface full time, which feels amazing.
When and why did you decide to start a business together? We started Babyface just under four years ago, P.I. (pre-Instagram). Way back then, people weren't so self-promotional and we wanted to do it for them so we started by interviewing someone and having them recommend the next 'Babyface girl'. We were surrounded by so many inspiring and wonderful creative women that it seemed silly not to formalise some sort of community on and offline where we could all hang out and work together. We thought it was important to create a community of support and encouragement for women starting their own businesses or working in non-traditional ways, because it can be tough out there. It was about a year into it that we became a limited company and started to strategically think about how we could make this our full-time job.
How did you come up with the name? We're both under 5 ft 3, have a penchant for a clog and colourful ensemble and look younger than we are; hence the name Babyface. At times it felt like we weren't being taken seriously and facing everyday sexism when it came to being judged on how we looked, and we reckoned it was a feeling lots of young women could identify with. We felt frustrated that jobs that involved strategic thinking or larger budgets were on the whole being siphoned off to our male peers offering similar services, so we wanted to reclaim our "baby faces" and prove everyone wrong.
Who does what within the business? If anything needs to be written, Nellie does it. If it's a production-heavy project, Claire will take the reins, but on the whole we share the workload equally between the two of us and try our best to support one another. We also have a pool of fantastic freelancers who we work with on various projects, who have become a little travelling circus of contributors, like our fantastic editor-at-large Brooke McCord, who writes all the interviews for our site.
What did you both do before starting the business? We've both been working in the fashion industry for the past five years. Nellie worked as a journalist at various fashion titles such as Refinery29, Marie Claire and ASOS Magazine, and Claire was deputy events manager at Dazed & Confused and before that, senior events executive at the British Fashion Council.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far? For a really long period, it was time. We crammed everything we could into our evenings and weekends but since making the jump to full-time self-employment, which affords us a full seven days a week (if we need it), we'd say it's acclimatising to being your own boss. Trusting your own decisions and riding the wave of risks that comes with starting your business.
Nellie, what's the best thing about working with Claire? Her close-to-godly organisational skills. She also laughs at my jokes and stops me from feeling sorry for myself. I think we also have very similar taste so it's reassuring that 99% of the time we agree on the look and feel of whatever we're working on together.
Claire, what's the best thing about working with Nellie? It doesn't feel like work! Sunday work fear doesn't exist anymore. We're both very lucky to come in to a studio every day and essentially work with a bunch of our mates.
How did you meet? We met at uni. Unwittingly we'd both been at Sussex University, we'd just somehow managed to not bump into each other for a whole three years. We then graduated, left Brighton, dumped our boyfriends and reached London at exactly the same time.
How does working together affect your friendship? We'd be lying if we said it wasn't tough. Spending (almost) seven days a week with any one person can get pretty tense, but we try to put our friendship before the business. The wonderful thing about working with another woman is that you end up discussing absolutely everything!
What are your hopes for the future of the business? That thing about "Every time you make a plan, God laughs" is sort of how we work. We're less world domination, more "maybe a mortgage?!" type gals. The business is growing up with us, so we're reactive. But we have some goals, like next year we've agreed it's time to employ someone – officially – and we want our own studio and we have a target list. We're agreed that the long-term goal is to create beautiful, interesting, challenging work, to foster an IRL community and to bring about some positivity and female solidarity. Modest mice.
Any advice for other friends thinking of working together? We have a few golden rules. No one is ever allowed to swear at the other one. Always be polite, and always make time with each other that's not orbiting work, ie. a cinema trip, dinner at the other person's house. We know how testing working with a friend can be, so best to make sure that friendship is made of stern stuff before embarking on what will no doubt be a long and prosperous partnership. www.bbyfce.com
Jonny, 33 and Morgane, 28
Describe your business in a few sentences… We are photographers. We shoot fashion, portraiture and lifestyle images for brands, agencies, and print and online editorial [under the name CochraneLay – their surnames]. Although it’s not always necessary to do every job together, we consider ourselves a team and feel we are stronger as a pair.
How/ when did you meet? We met eight years ago through a friend while Morgane was visiting London from her home in Biarritz, France. Thanks to the wonders of Skype and budget flights with Ryanair, we managed to endure a three-year long-distance relationship while she completed her law degree in Bordeaux.
When and why did you decide to start working together? While Jonny wasn’t tied down to any fixed job and Morgane was sick of law, we figured that moving in together in London and pursuing our passion for photography and desire to be self-employed was the best way forward. If things were going to work out between us as a couple, then spending our time together doing one of the few things we had in common certainly couldn’t hurt.
Who does what within the business? How do you share the load, do you have defined roles? Over time we’ve learned to share the workload pretty well. When we're on a shoot together we’ll tag in and out with the camera, which can be invaluable when it’s a long day with loads to think about and your brain is starting to tire. It’s also great to have one of us help position the model, make suggestions for the composition, tweak the lighting, and speak with the client while the other has the camera. We actually spend quite a bit of time sitting at the computer together for image selection and post-production. It’s always good when there’s a second opinion creatively and to be able to see things from both a male and female perspective, although it’s obviously tricky if we don’t agree! On the business and admin side of things, Morgane tends to deal with French-speaking clients and therefore has the joy of commuting on the Eurostar to Paris more often than Jonny, who’s usually left holding the fort at home.
What did you both do before working together? Jonny was working as a photographer in London, building up a portfolio shooting for various magazines. Even though Morgane had always been into photography, she made sure to finish her studies in law before making the leap to being a self-employed creative in a foreign country.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while working together? In the past Morgane has found it difficult to face the fact that so many people we’ve come across, both professionally and personally, have the assumption that Jonny is in charge and she is his assistant or some kind of tag-along. As a female and clearly the younger of the two of us, she felt she had to make an extra effort to prove her worth. This probably causes Morgane’s competitive side to show more frequently, so managing this between the two of us both at home and at work can be challenging. Nevertheless, we are learning to give each other the space we need as well as the support required to better ourselves and stay happy.
How do you find working and living together? Spending so much time together has its ups and downs. It’s very unusual to have a quiet day at home without feeling the urge to finish a bit of editing, reply to a bunch of emails or keep on top of social media. Therefore we have to make a conscious effort not to drive each other mad talking about or doing work when at home and definitely need to make clear plans of how to spend our non-work time.
Jonny, what does Morgane bring that you don't? Morgane is great with people and will always find the right things to say and connect with anyone in any situation, when I feel a bit shy and awkward. Her French accent certainly sounds sweeter than mine, too! She’s a killer Instagrammer, which has definitely helped bring us new clients.
Morgane, what does Jonny bring that you don't? I am a bit of a stress-head at times and worry about literally everything. Jonny is calm and optimistic, always encouraging me to see the glass half-full. He helps keep my messy side organised, so I don’t lose track of important things like backing up files carefully and replying to emails.
Any advice for other couples thinking of working together? Be sure to clearly set aside plenty of time to have fun outside of your work life, so it doesn’t dominate. Spend time apart. Be prepared to not always get your own way and accept that there’ll be times you might not be doing the most fun task. Accept your strengths and weaknesses to make the business work. www.cochranelay.com
Rachel, 28 and Michelle, 29
Describe your business in a few sentences… We are OH | BOSTON, a jewellery and homeware shop with a focus on handcrafted products by independent brands. This space is also our workshop, studio and showroom so it is a multifunctioning space by nature. When customers walk in we are often working on bespoke engagement ring jobs on our jewellery benches, which are built into the shop counter.
How did you come up with the name? Although we curated and built this shop together, we are very much our own two separate brands when it comes to our jewellery. We have such a different approach when it comes to jewellery, but we found over the years that we share a very similar love for a certain aesthetic and ethos for other designed objects (like homeware). We ended up with OH | BOSTON (an equal representation of our last names) because we wanted to create a space where we are at once one and also individual in what we do. Also because it looks cool in neon.
When and why did you decide to start a business together? We’ve always been around each other, through years of university and then later for more years in shared studios. It used to be just talk: "Wouldn’t it be nice to have our own shop?" "What would you have in the shop?" We kept on talking like this for years without really realising that we were building a business model, and before we knew it, we had a shop!
Who does what within the business? Not at all embellishing, we actually do everything together. From the fun stuff (decorating and laying out the store) to the really boring stuff (we sit next to each other every quarter and do the accounts one line at a time). Everything is 50-50 here, we share all the ups and downs together.
What did you both do before starting the business? We were both running our own individual jewellery brands, with a workshop in east London that we shared, where customers could come for consultation on appointment. We still do this now at the shop, except now people can just walk in and see everything already laid out and looking beautiful!
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? Making the switch from a mainly online-based business into a business that combines the online and the real world of retail was something we had to learn and adapt to along the way, and we’re still learning new things constantly.
How do you find working together? We’d shared workshops for six years plus during university so we knew how to get on, working together very naturally. There were no big shocks when we started the store because through sharing the previous workshops and running our individual businesses in parallel to each other, we had seen firsthand each other’s work ethic and style of handling situations and knew already that we were in tandem.
Michelle, what's the best thing about working with Rachel? Where do I begin? Rachel is the type of person who thinks of everything, she is so organised and prepared for everything that it makes me feel so safe and secure knowing she’s got my back. She is also so dedicated and passionate by nature, she gives 200% to anything she does, whether it’s in designing or listening to me when I need a friend to unload to; she doesn’t do things in half measures and I love that about her. She is my biggest supporter, a real friend and a powerful business partner.
Rachel, what's the best thing about working with Michelle? Michelle is a ray of sunshine always, she has an incredibly calming and kind energy and is the most supportive person when times are tough. I never get tired of spending time with her, she brightens up even the most stressful of days. She’s also very generous with her time and advice and I’ve learnt so much from working with her. She’s totally business-savvy and always thinking of the next thing and how to make it bigger and better. I see her growing her own business and our own very far and I’m happy to be beside her for the journey.
Any advice for friends thinking of working together? Make sure you still like each other even at your/their worst. Work with someone you not only like hanging out with, but also have genuine respect for outside of the personal zone. Be honest about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, enhance and support each other to become the ultimate dream team. www.ohboston.co.uk