- Starting a business with your significant other can blur the lines between work and personal life.
- 3 entrepreneur couples who appeared on “Shark Tank” said finding a healthy balance is key.
- Gina Marie and Scott Davis, cofounders of Dog Threads, schedule family time to de-stress.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Separating work and personal life can be challenging when couples go into business together. For some, the bedroom becomes the boardroom. Romance goes out the window. Days feel dreary.
Add a pandemic into the picture, and things get even more complicated.
Three entrepreneur couples who’ve appeared on “Shark Tank” spoke with Insider about how they balance their personal and professional lives and have dealt with obstacles they have faced during COVID-19. They also share advice for other couples looking to start a business with a significant other.
Ariel and Ben Zvaifler, cofounders of
The Zvaiflers, based in San Diego, California, appeared on “Shark Tank” in November 2016 and closed the deal with Robert Herjavec for $US250,000 in exchange for 15% of their business, a monthly subscription service geared toward new puppy parents.
That’s what we saw on TV. However, after the show aired, the deal changed, the Zvaiflers told Insider.
“There were some terms in the deal sheet that we didn’t like,” Ben said, “so we negotiated away from some of the terms.”
The Zvaiflers wanted to give up “less control” of the company; therefore, they took less money from Robert at the same evaluation ($US1.7 million) for less equity. They didn’t share details of the new deal.
A year later, in November 2017, they sold the company to Petco for an undisclosed amount.
As a part of Petco, they run PupBox business internally and are given the resources they need. During the pandemic, the Zvaiflers said this structure has saved them from the stress of maintaining cash flow.
In the first few months of COVID-19, they experienced a boom in customers as puppy adoption and dog ownership began to climb. Still, they faced challenges of continuing to scale the business while managing inventory, operations, and customer service.
Ben’s job is to manage marketing and customer acquisition, while Ariel focuses on product development and operations. They both said their key to success is clearly defining their roles and focusing on separate duties.
“We know what our boundaries are,” Ben said. “And that has really helped us as we work together.”
Unlike many other couples, the Zvaiflers had already been sharing a home office for years before the pandemic, which made the transition to working remotely a “blessing” for them.
For other entrepreneurial couples, Ben’s advice is to “stay in your lane.”
“Respect each other and the decisions they take,” he said. “Keep your egos aside, and don’t let work life spill over into your home time.”
Gina Marie and Scott Davis, cofounders of
The Davises own a pet company that creates matching shirts for humans and their dogs.
During their “Shark Tank” appearance in November 2019, this Minnesota-based husband and wife team scored a deal with Mark Cuban of $US250,000 for 25% of their company. However, after the show aired, the deal fell through, they said.
“Mark was very helpful,” Scott told Insider. “He made important introductions for us but didn’t end up investing.”
Luckily, their business didn’t slow down during COVID-19. However, they faced a challenge in their personal lives.
They had their second baby in June 2020, and with Scott working a different full-time job, it was challenging to keep Dog Threads running smoothly. Since they couldn’t turn to family or friends for childcare needs due to the pandemic, they decided to hire a full-time employee to help with Dog Threads.
“With the first-born, I was working full time,” Gina said. “That was harder.”
Even with a new employee, Scott said his wife Gina is still “a bit of a workaholic.” “She has a motor that never stops,” he said.
There’s no standard workday for them, but there’s one firm rule: No work between 5 and 8 p.m. every day. Those hours are dedicated to spending time with their kids. Every Wednesday, after the kids go to bed, they have a little date night where they can de-stress and talk about everything except business.
Scott’s advice for fellow entrepreneurial couples is to “Make sure it’s something you want to do, not something you have to do.” He said being truly passionate about starting a business together will make it easier to deal with hardships down the road.
Angie Kupper and Matt Mundt, cofounders of
Kupper and Mundt are a Milwaukee-based couple who appeared on “Shark Tank” in October 2020.
After a bidding war between sharks, they landed a deal with Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner for $US300,000 in exchange for 20% equity for a piece of their company that sells an adult swaddle, the Sleep Pod. They told Insider they got the exact deal they made on TV.
Since October, Kupper and Mundt said their business has “outperformed” expectations. They have been working nonstop since the episode aired, and only took time off at 5 p.m. on Christmas and 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
While 2020 ended on a high note for the couple, it didn’t begin that way. In February of last year, Matt lost his job as an engineer and product manager.
When he couldn’t find work after he was let go, he got serious about Hug Sleep, a side hustle he’d started in March 2019.
“There was so much uncertainty in our lives at that point since he was the main breadwinner. For him to lose a job was stressful for us,” Angie said, who works full time as a therapist. “We really had to decide whether we were going to make this business work or have him pursue other employment.”
Despite the stress, Angie said losing his job made Matt even more motivated to expand his side hustle.
“The fact that he didn’t have a job was the fire he needed to push himself even harder to make Hug Sleep something big,” she said.
Since they were once a long-distance couple, during the pandemic Angie said they have also enjoyed spending more time together and do their best to “appreciate each other’s company and remember what it’s like to be apart.”
For other couple entrepreneurs, Angie said that “knowing when to close doors on the business each day is important.”
Despite their busy schedules, Kupper and Mundt make sure to take breaks to check in with each other, even if just for 20 or 30 minutes. This practice, the couple said, helps them stay united and focused every day.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.