Founder Friday: What It’s Like to Start a Company with Your Spouse
As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!
Almost six years ago, my husband Dave and I founded ThirdLove.
And people ask me all the time, “Don’t you get sick of each other?” Nope, not really.
The truth is, we don’t really interact that much at work. We don’t spend our days sitting in a conference room together talking about the business. There are many other people on the team who spend more time with him than I do.
Actually, I’ve taken to scheduling a one-on-one meeting with him once a week to make sure we have enough time to talk over decisions and get feedback from each other.
That’s how busy we are.
But time together isn’t the only misconception people have about starting a business with their partner. We’ve learned a lot over the years in the office and at home, and have learned a few key lessons.
1. We Both Had to Go All In
When we founded ThirdLove, we knew it was a moment in time that made sense for us. And that’s true for anyone starting a company — the stars need to be aligned.
We’d been in San Francisco for two years and were both itching to do something entrepreneurial. We didn’t have kids yet, and we had enough saved to bootstrap the company initially. It felt right.
We spent a lot of time discussing whether we were both going to quit our jobs, or if one of us would keep working for a while to provide some stability. We eventually decided that both of us had to quit our jobs to really make it work. We had to be all in.
We asked ourselves if we’d rather stay on a traditional career path with more stability, or take a risk and do something interesting that could really impact people.
For us, it was a no-brainer.
2. Our Support System Became Stronger
The other night when we were driving home, Dave looked over at me and said, “You know, for all the really, really hard times we had at the beginning, it never once crossed my mind that we would fail.”
And it was funny, because I felt the same way.
I never thought about failure, in part because we were so busy and focused on the company. I didn’t have a desire to go down that road.
When I meet other founders who are doing it without a co-founder, I can’t even wrap my head around it. It’s hard. You’re very isolated, and you don’t really have anyone to talk to. No one’s going to help. You have to make it happen.
Having a co-founder was a huge advantage when it came to making it through all the peaks and valleys we experienced. It’s a bonus when it’s someone you trust completely like a partner.
3. Work Came Home With Us
I won’t lie, the early days were hard on our relationship.
There were low moments when we felt like we wouldn’t be able to raise money or figure out product-market fit — and that sort of thing comes home with you. I remember many nights when we sat in the kitchen arguing about the business.
When things are great, it’s great. Everyone’s happy. When things go wrong, people start second-guessing decisions and wondering why certain choices were made. And you argue.
In retrospect, going through that gave us a new perspective. Surviving those low points together made us stronger and more appreciative of what we’re building.
4. We Learned From Each Other’s Strengths
Dave and I temper each other. We’re very different in some ways, but it works because we balance each other out. And that’s a really important aspect of running a company together.
If you’re exactly the same, who’s bringing something new to the table?
Dave always pushes me to do more, to be better — and he would say the same about me. He’s also the type of person who doesn’t take no for an answer. There were definitely low points for us in the earlier days where I thought — we’re never going to be able to close this round. We’re going to run out of money.
And he kept saying, “We’re going to do this.”
It took more meetings, more pounding the table, more pushing through people telling us no. And I can say honestly if it had just been me doing this, I probably wouldn’t have made it through.
Starting ThirdLove together was the right move for Dave and me. We balanced each other out and pushed each other when we knew we were capable of more. It’s a great support system that works for us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.