I Kin Relate
These mother-daughter duos grew into business success stories
There is no family dynamic more complex than the one that exists between a mother and her daughter — an emotional blend of equal parts rebelliousness and devotion, respect and regret.
Now imagine going into business together. Does the idea sound like a nightmare — or the chance of a lifetime? Can mothers and daughters really work well together? Placing two family members in business together might seem like one way to set the stage for explosive results. But in fact, when today’s new generation of moms and daughters join entrepreneurial forces, both have the chance to win and make a good living.
Historically, bringing the kids into a family business usually meant grooming a son to take over, but the steady rise of women in the work force has progressively changed things. Mothers and daughters are jumping on the small business train and reaping personal, as well as financial, rewards. In an unsteady and often unpredictable economy, it’s wonderful to watch a small company succeed but more so when it’s kept all in the family.
These three mother-daughter teams attest to how feminine ambition and tenacity can be a profitable partnership.
Funky Meets Classy
Set on the picturesque 30A, The Blue Giraffe is a charming boutique run by a mother-daughter pair that possesses a combination of feminine wisdom and Southern class. This unique shop offers a good example of exactly how a successful business should run.
Christi Sheffield, 41, and her mother, Debbie Taylor, 58, agree that the store is a success because their personalities and work habits are complementary. Born out of a mutual love of books and art, the two women bought an existing art boutique in 2010 and expanded it to include books by local authors, a wide variety of jewelry and textural art, including paintings, home décor and inspirational curios.
A particular strength of their small business is their ability to respond quickly to changing economic conditions. Taylor believes that part of their success is due to knowing their customers personally, as well as their ability to meet local and tourist desires for funky decor.
Photo by Scott Holstein
Both inside and outside of the their cheery shop, Christi Sheffield (left) and Debbie Taylor (right) live their motto: “No drama, be happy.”
“We fell in love with this shop and wanted to keep the heart and soul of the business when we bought it,” Taylor says. “We surround ourselves with ‘beachy’ art that is happy, feel-good and colorful,” Sheffield adds. “It’s a very happy place to work.”
When asked about how they maintain a professional relationship in a swirl of personal family dynamics, Taylor says, “We never argue. We had a great relationship before, but now it’s even better. We even schedule time to talk business.”
Clearly the division of labor is part of the key to this harmonious relationship and upbeat attitude. “Christi deals with the day-to-day business, the artists and the bookkeeping. She also handles the inventory aspect. I handle the budgeting, marketing and financial end,” Taylor explains.
Both agree there is no way they could or would want to keep separate their personal and professional roles. This twosome believes that their greatest asset is the fact that they are best friends.
The Blue Giraffe currently shows the work of approximately 38 artists and designers utilizing a unique mixture of mediums. With an eye for growth, the pair hopes to break into the wedding market, offer art classes, incorporate an artist-of-the-week feature and utilize the on-line potential by offering art through their website.
“We have so much to offer, and we’ve only just started,” Sheffield says. “Business is up 12 percent from last year, and I think we can do more retail magic,” Taylor adds.
This business is an endeavor of the heart mixed with old-fashioned common business sense and class.
Old Treasures with a New Twist
Working together for this effervescent mother-daughter partnership is “second nature.” Susan Henry, 54, and Courtney Hood, 27, opened the doors to Ava’s Attic, a consignment shop, in 2009. They grew steadily from 1,400 square feet of space into a 12,000 square-foot section of a strip mall where the business currently resides. They haven’t had time to let the dust settle, and they’re already planning to keep growing.
This pair has the experience to run a successful business since the Henry family has owned and operated one business or another for more than 35 years. What better way to learn the ropes than in the security of your own family? Now Hood and Henry are the next family members to forge ahead on their own in the business world. This cheerful team turned a few storage units of extra furniture into a successful and thriving consignment shop. The store is literally packed with thousands of high-end, name brand items from furniture to shoes and everything in between.
“I didn’t want to do it, but mom made me write a business plan,” Hood jokes. “I just wanted to start selling stuff.”
“Like every good mother-daughter relationship, I tell her what to do and she does what she wants. That’s why we’re successful,” Henry says with a laugh. She believes a huge part of their relationship is that they have opposite personalities and at the same time share traits that make working together a treat. Hood agrees.
Photo by Scott Holstein
After 17 years as small business owners, the only thing Susan Henry (left) and Courtney Hood (right) do not “haggle” over is who loves running a family business together more.
Courtney is the fashionista and works on the clothing and accessories side. I’m more of a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of girl so I stick to the furniture side. We get to work together but have our own sides of the business to run,” Henry explains. “Courtney is very organized and task oriented. She does the books and paperwork. I’m the chatty one so I get to do the fun stuff. I can talk to anyone,” Henry adds. They both agree they have discovered a very nice balance in their relationship that equates to a large profitable business. “December was a record month,” Hood says with a smile. “Usually, that’s a slow month for us.”
This is truly a family affair. Brother Brett Henry and dad, Tommy Henry, do lots of the heavy lifting and moving for the ambitious women who rule the consignment shop. It’s not even uncommon to see a few dogs and a grandchild roaming in and out of the rows of endless items.
With understanding that the economy is precarious, Ava’s Attic donates unsold inventory to Caring and Sharing, which donates to families in need.
This thriving business plans to go beyond consignments and clothing. They intend to start their own line of furniture, clothing and accessories in an effort to keep Ava’s Attic growing strong. All the hard work this extremely friendly pair has put in is definitely paying off.
Treats and Sweets
Local business owners Nicole and Vanessa Poch have their own ideas about what defines a family business. While this mother-daughter twosome doesn’t share a business, Cupcakes by the Beach and 3 Dogs and a Chick operate next door to each other, offering tasty treats for both humans and their four-legged canine friends.
In 2004, Nicole Poch, 32, began baking doggie treats in her home and selling them in local farmer’s markets while working as a second grade teacher. When customers were “begging” for more dog treats, she collared her courage and started her business. “I have a passion for both dogs and baking, so this was the perfect marriage of my interests,” Poch says.
Through hard work and the support of her family, the teacher-turned-baker expanded from a work area in her home to a 5,000 square foot space. Even though her responsibilities have changed from teaching children to pampering pets, she still finds the time to make all the dog cookies by hand.
Nicole’s mom, Vanessa Poch, has always been sweet on the idea of running her own business. In 2010, she made the jump to small business owner when she opened Cupcakes by the Beach. She came up with the idea after noticing that Fort Walton Beach didn’t offer the latest culinary craze — a cupcakery.
“Baking has always been something I enjoyed, but the cupcake design and creations we produce are what I really enjoy most,” the cupcake baker said. Her specialties include cupcake concoctions such as Pink Champagne, Milk and Cookies and Chocolate Overload.
Photo by Scott Holstein
Whether baking bones for dogs at 3 Dogs and a Chick or cupcakes for kids at Cupcakes by the Beach, Nicole Poch (left) and Vanessa Poch (right) have figured out the secret ingredients to a successful mother-daughter business.
Becoming the girl-business next door made perfect sense. “People bring their dogs to the park for a walk along the water, then come into our shop for doggie treats and pop next door for a cupcake. Dogs are welcome to shop in our store at all times and are welcome to sit in mom’s courtyard while their humans enjoy their cupcakes. It’s just a fantastic arrangement,” says Nicole.
These two women may not share the responsibilities of one business, but they often find themselves helping each other out or sharing employees. It’s not unusual to find Nicole frosting cupcakes or Vanessa helping out in the dog bakery. Mom and daughter share daily struggles and triumphs and love working together to come up with creative ideas on treats for both shops.
Family businesses have their fair share of conflict and drama, but the biggest advantage they have is implicit trust that each is working to do their best for continued success. Open and honest communication, a good sense of humor and unending love seem to be the cornerstones for these successful teams. For these entrepreneurial mothers and daughters, finding the perfect business partner meant looking close to home and identifying the talents and passions each possessed. Here’s to cashing in on girl power.