By Emily Olson (Co-Founder, Foodzie – acquired by JOYUS)
It was at our engagement party that my dad (with a cold Rolling Rock up in the air) said it best: “These two have done it all backwards. They moved in together, shared bank accounts, got a dog, bought a house and then decided to get engaged.”
What he didn’t know then was we were about to make one more detour in our “backwards” plan.
For the next five years, we decided to put every hour and every penny towards building a company instead of planning a wedding. We opted (at least temporarily) for a C-corp agreement over a marriage license and employees over children, and together we built and sold our company Foodzie.
People have said to us every bit of the way, “How can you work together?” “That’s kinda crazy.”
Actually it sorta was.
We had the whole domestic life in full swing. We bought a house in North Carolina, we knocked down walls (with our own four hands) to renovate a kitchen together, and we even had six chickens who pooed all over the yard, ate all of the tomatoes from our garden, and gave us six delightfully fresh eggs each day. We had a good thing going.
But in the spring of 2008, we were given the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in the TechStars program in Boulder to get Foodzie off the ground. In a matter of three weeks, we decided to sell our stuff, the house, and drive across the country to start a new life in Boulder, Colorado and then eventually San Francisco, California.
Building a company can screw up a lot of relationships. We didn’t even ask each other if it was a good idea when we started. We just went for it, but I think we both had deep intuition from five years together that we worked well together. When we look back on the madness that is running a startup, doing it together was the only way we survived it and thrived in it.
We discovered that we’re freakishly good for each other, but most importantly what it takes for a partnership to work.
Here’s three of them:
#1 – A Foundation of Trust
Before you work together, do hard stuff together, stuff that stresses you out and makes you kinda want to scream at each other to see how you communicate and can resolve things.
#2 – Complementary Partnerships Last
In a startup, you need to do a lot with a little. When you pick a partner, find someone that complements you. Not only do they help fill the gaps, complementary founding teams are much more stable for the long term. Think left brain/right brain, the ying to your yang, the chocolate to your peanut butter.
#3 – Lifestyle Business vs. Startup
Before you get married, it’s important to have the “kids” conversation. When you start a company, there are similar big questions you need to ask a potential co-founder. What kind of company do you want to build? A small lifestyle business or a startup (that’s high growth and scales)? Do you want to bootstrap or raise money? All are good options, just different and there is a fundamental difference in how you need to run them.
We ran Foodzie for about five years and the company was acquired in May. Now that our Foodzie has left the nest, we’re finally doing that whole wedding thing. It’s crazy because we’ve been together 10 years and thinking about calling Rob my husband, I’ll admit, feels a little strange. Who knows, I might just keep calling him my co-founder, my co-founder of life.
Women 2.0 readers: How will you spend your 133,00 working hours before you die? Let us know in the comments!
About the guest blogger: Emily Olson is the Founder of Foodzie, which was one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Food Companies. Foodzie is where she discovered the best products from small foodcrafters, and was acquired by JOYUS in May 2012. A passionate food enthusiast, she’s spent 10 years in the business from food writing, to culinary school to working with artisanal foodmakers. Emily has been named Inc Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs and Food & Wine Magazine’s 40 Big Food Thinkers Under 40. Follow her on Twitter at @emilyolson.