“Power couple” used to be shorthand for the kind of wealth and influence that came with buttoned-up business expertise or massive success in show biz.
But for millennials, priorities have shifted.
Despite the young tech billionaires in their cohort, studies show that this generation prizes work-life balance and finding their true passion. Not to mention, getting rich is harder than it once was — becoming part of a rich and formidable pairing without family money or a pedigreed education can feel impossible.
For that reason, the couples attracting the envy of their peers aren’t the ones building glitzy, mass-market empires, but the ones living life the way they want. They’re not billionaires (yet), but they’re bootstrapping their own passion-project startups. They’re not high-powered corporate media brass, but freelancers who work just as many hours, but from their iPhones in remote locales.
As one person on this list said, the key change has been a shift from power to empowerment. The people on this list are creating their own definition of success, living exactly the way they want to live.
Nicole Shariat Farb and Michael Farb are juggling twin babies and a life of adventure with their careers as startup founders.
Nicole and Michael Farb are probably two of the busiest people in San Francisco. But with each of them running their own startup, plus twin boys to raise at home, they have become adept jugglers -- they seem to make more weekend trips with their twins than most single travellers do.
'Within a month of them being born, they were on a mountain in Tahoe,' Mike said. 'They go everywhere (with us) and they're troopers.'
Nicole and Mike are both startup founders who met in business school, although they come from very different backgrounds.
Nicole is from 'a big Iranian family with 13 cousins' in Orange County, Calif., she said. She had a pact with her strict dad that if she finished high school a year later, she could try her hand at an acting career. She regrettably found she 'had zero talent,' she said, and switched focus to study journalism. Then, after short gigs in PR and teaching, she ended up going back to business school.
Meanwhile, Mike grew up on the East Coast in a small Jewish family, and went to the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a computer science degree. He then worked for Accenture, doing systems development for big banks all over the world.
The pair finally met attending the University of Chicago's business school. There, they worked in the same group -- starting CaptainU -- the startup Mike still runs, as friends and colleagues. Mike says he selected Nicole to work on the CaptainU team because he was 'very impressed' with her.
They finally started dating at the end of the first year and have been together ever since, Nicole said.
In the time since they started dating, Mike bootstrapped CaptainU into a bustling business using no venture capital. It helps high school athletes navigate the college recruitment process, and is huge in the scholastic sports community with one million monthly members. CaptainU turns a profit by charging participating colleges to use the service, while athletes can access the site for free or pay for added features.
Meanwhile, Nicole worked at Goldman Sachs after graduation and then, after leaving, only took a month to raise a seed round for her startup, Darby Smart, a DIY marketplace that sells high-end designer craft kits.
Now, they also have their twins, who aren't identical -- 'one looks Persian and one looks Jewish,' Nicole said.
To fit it all in, Nicole and Mike stagger their wake-up times in the morning. One watches and feeds the kids while the other is getting ready, then they switch.
But they still find time for fun.
'One of our big themes is not letting (childcare) slow us down at all, so we take the kids wherever we go,' Mike said. 'We try not to get cooped up in the house.'
Kate Gilman and Kara Kleindienst turned their backs on law and politics to run their own small businesses.
When Kara Kleindienst and Kate Gilman met on OkCupid and started having marathon long-distance phone conversations, they figured they'd each found a new friend.
But what they didn't realise was that they'd not only eventually date and get married, but also inspire each other to quit their day jobs and follow their dreams as entrepreneurs.
Back in 2012, Kate was finishing law school at the University of Virginia and Kara had just left her job on the Hill in Washington, D.C., to figure out her next step in New York City. They met online and started talking on the phone. Their friendship quickly grew 'to the point where I would rather talk to Kara than go out on dates,' Kate said.
After some worrying over whether their intense chemistry would translate into real-life dating, a few months later, they finally met; thrilled to see everything fell right into place.
'Once we met, we were like, yep, this is all real, all the feelings I was hoping would be there are there,' Kara recalled.
'Once we met,' Kate added, 'it was, full stop, 'you're the one for me,' pretty quickly.'
They started dating and moved in a year later. 'We were together all the time,' Kate said.
At that point, about three years ago, Kara had already started her business, The Barking Meter. What had begun as a dog-walking gig for designer Phillip Lim became an elite 'canine concierge' business with celebrity clients that now has offices in both New York City and San Francisco. Kara credits her parents, who are two of her best business advisors, with encouraging her to take the plunge.
'I did some nonprofit, some real estate, trying to figure out what I'm going to do,' Kara said, 'while walking (Lim's dogs) Oliver and Luca and having the best time with them every day. My dad said, 'You need to be an entrepreneur and start your own business with dogs.''
Soon after they began dating, Kate founded Petal by Pedal, a bespoke florist that harvests seasonal blooms from farms around New York, including Kate's own parents' garden.
After mutually deciding to get married and surprising their families with the news, they were wed over the summer on their own rooftop in New York City.
'A power couple means empowering the other person,' Kara said. 'I don't think we're 'powerful' because we make all this money and we're the CEOs of Facebook. We're a power couple because of (empowerment), and that's what our friends feel, too.'
Here's a throwback for you: model Luke Ditella and photographer Melissa Dilger met on MySpace. Now, they're engaged.
They lived near each other in New Jersey and had friends in common, but connected by commenting on each other's photos. Four years later, they finally met in person.
Melissa's grandfather was an artist and an avid photographer and his basement is full of slides, Melissa said, and she takes after him. She studied graphic design at Monmouth University and was interested in painting, but never knew how to translate that into a real career beyond being a starving artist, she said.
She met a friend in New York City who connected her to Rolling Stone for interning and freelance work.
Later, Luke surfed with someone who worked at Sony and knew of a job opening at their subsidiary, Jive Records. The position's supervisor had a reputation of being tough to work for, but Melissa went in to interview and 'by the end of it, we were hugging.' She discovered her talent for photography at Jive.
'Melissa show everything with a PowerShot -- the little pocket camera,' Luke said. 'And people still used the photos. So that's why we all kind of pushed her to get into it.'
Melissa still isn't huge on bells and whistles, saying she'll head into a shoot with a camera and a reflector and still come away with great results. She's been freelancing for four years now and also does consulting work, meaning she gets some regular checks, but is able to make her own hours.
'I'm completely nocturnal,' she said. 'I can work until 4, 5, or 6 in the morning and sleep until noon.'
'She'll sleep until 5 if I let her,' Luke jumped in.
Although he's more of an early bird than Melissa, Luke's never had a 9-to-5 job. After he started getting paid for surfing at age 14, his job morphed into brand representation and modelling. He also reps brands like Diesel and Headlines and Heroes on Instagram to his 117,000 followers.
Luke and Melissa also sometimes get to work together on some projects, in a gender reversal of the typical photographer-romantic muse setup. They have even travelled to Norway to work on the same shoots.
'I'll get a job and they will ask me who shot this and that photo of me, and it's Melissa,' Luke said. 'Then, we get to work on the same job together.'
With their flexible schedules, Luke and Melissa have no problem travelling while they work. They also admit that they have a habit of convincing all their friends to quit their jobs and join the freelance life.
If you haven't heard of Leslie Odom Jr. and Nicolette Robinson yet, you will soon.
Leslie is currently appearing as Aaron Burr in 'Hamilton,' the new Broadway hip hop musical about the founding fathers that everyone's raving about, while Nicolette's TV show, 'The Affair,' has its second season premiere this weekend.
Nicolette is also in rehearsals for off-Broadway's 'Invisible Thread' and is working on several other shows.
Leslie grew up in New York City and Philadelphia, while Nicolette hails from Los Angeles. They met in LA when Leslie was assistant-directing 'Once On This Island' and Nicolette was trying out for the lead.
She didn't get the part -- at first.
'I would have cast Nicolette, not because I (wanted to date her), but because she had a quality you couldn't teach,' he said. 'When she comes on the stage, you care what happens to her.'
Then, the woman who did get the part had to drop out, so Nicolette was brought in. She and Leslie took an instant interest in each other, but they started out as just friends.
'We were like magnets,' Nicolette said. 'We were just really attracted to the human beings we got to know.'
Then, they went on a date, and 'fell pretty fast,' Nicolette said. 'We just kind of knew.' They got married after four years of dating and have been together for 7 years.
Both Leslie and Nicolette care deeply about the messages behind the shows they work on. Nicolette visited Uganda to meet the people who the characters in 'The Invisible Thread' -- a play about volunteering in Africa -- are based on.
Meanwhile, 'Hamilton' is gaining more and more attention as the definitive Broadway show for this generation. While I talked to Leslie and Nicolette at a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, he was recognised twice in about 20 minutes.
'Everything about 'Hamilton' feels once in a lifetime,' Leslie said. 'I hope that I keep working on things that I care about as much as I care about this project.'
He didn't realise at the beginning how significant 'Hamilton' would become.
'All you know at the top of a project is how it makes you feel,' he said. 'I knew the way those songs made me feel in my gut, I knew the goosebumps I got. And you hope. You just hope that people will connect with it as much as you do. The whole thing is a surprise.'
As actors, Leslie and Nicolette have unpredictable schedules, oftentimes with spans of unemployment between projects. This means they have spent plenty of full days together -- but also that right now, they barely see each other. Leslie is performing from 7 to 11 p.m. each night, while Nicolette is in rehearsals from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
'But we try not to complain because it's a lucky time,' Leslie said. 'Usually, we have all the time in the world.'
Although they have aspirations to work in film, too, both love theatre most of all and feel that this is an exciting time for the medium.
'A show like 'Hamilton,' a show like 'Invisible Thread,' these shows are fighting to make a statement about how powerful the medium can be,' Leslie said. 'It doesn't have to be just about escaping. It doesn't have to be sequins and entertainment. It can be catharsis, it can be community, it can be about something that is holy.'
'We're allowing ourselves to talk about things that weren't usually talked about' on stage, Nicolette added, 'like diversity, homosexuality.'
Nicolette and Leslie are happy to be partnered with someone who's in the same industry as they are.
'When you marry someone, one of the things you're signing up to do is quite simply bear witness to their life,' Leslie said. 'Just bear witness to their journey -- they look to their left and say, 'Did you see that?' and someone's there to say, 'Yeah, I saw that' ... To have her here to bear witness to this time is just the best. It's just what it's all about.'
Tom Russell and his cofounders Yoni Reisman and Jordan Wolowitz started Founders Entertainment in 2011, and have since turned it into the company behind Governors Ball. Tom himself got his first experience working on music festivals like Lollapalooza with Superfly Productions.
Next week he'll marry Michelle Lynch, a factory manager, after his mum's friend set the two of them up.
After years of working retail, Michelle applied for a job at Nanz Custom Hardware, a door hardware manufacturer.
'When I was interviewing they asked me what I knew about door hardware and I kind of laughed and said, 'The door opens and closes,'' she said.
She was hired as a project manager and was soon promoted to run her department. She started asking questions about why orders weren't being completed on time, and now she runs the whole factory on Long Island.
She also got involved with socialising at work, and ended up on a fantasy football league with a woman who was friends with Tom's mother.
'She started talking about how Eminem was going to play Governors Ball,' Michelle said. 'She was like, 'Oh, you know what? Maybe you guys would be a good match.' The next day, she was like, 'I spoke to Tom's mum and he's not dating anyone.'
On the night of their first date, Tom had a black eye from a bachelor party hotel-hallway race gone wrong, but the date went well and they moved in together only six weeks later in Michelle's South Williamsburg apartment. Now, they live in Tom's childhood apartment in the Gramercy area of Manhattan. They remodeled it for their own use.
Tom and Michelle have busy jobs -- Michelle leaves for work in Long Island at 6 a.m. and gets back around 6 p.m., while Tom is in the Founders Entertainment office from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., but he's managing his inbox all day -- and his work load is heavier during festival season.
In their spare time, Tom and Michelle like to catch live music performances -- even with his job of organising music festivals, they can't get enough. This summer, they saw Taylor Swift in Boston and went to the Osheaga Festival in Montreal. Together, they consider themselves 'surprisingly nerdy,' Michelle said.
'We're silly, lighthearted people,' Tom said. 'We're very much in love and have the same kind of life goals and family goals, and a lot of similar interests. She's very beautiful so that doesn't hurt.'
Alexandra Daly and Hamish Smyth started a cottage business reprinting graphics manuals with cult followings.
Alex Daly and Hamish Smyth are in totally different lines of work, but somehow, they met through one of his colleagues. Now, they have found wild success joining their fields of expertise to reprint Graphics Standards Manuals from organisations like the MTA and NASA.
Alex runs Vann Alexandra, a crowdsourcing company that she started once she realised she was great at raising money on Kickstarter. She has an unbelievable 100% success rate on Kickstarter and has raised millions for her clients, who include Joan Didion, Neil Young, and TLC.
Hamish is a graphic designer from a tiny country town in Australia who moved to New York City for an internship at design firm Pentagram and is now an associate designer there. Pentagram's business structure is unique -- it has 18 partners with no sole owner, so each partner has a team that functions as its own studio. Under designer Michael Bierut, he has worked on New York City's DOT wayfinding signs, the city's parking signs, and other big projects.
They met after Alex was hired by some of Hamish's colleagues to raise $US6 million for a Neil Young project that Pentagram was designing. Alex went to a party at the apartment of one of the designers a week later, and met Hamish there.
They exchanged numbers, but their relationship almost never happened because of a technological quirk. Hamish texted Alex twice after the party, once at night and once in the morning, but she somehow never received the texts.
The next time she talked to her friend at Pentagram, she told her Hamish had been texting her. That's when Alex realised her iMessage was buggy and she'd never gotten the texts. The friend introduced them over email, and they have been dating since then.
Their careers continued to overlap -- when he first saw the original website for Vann Alexandra right after they started dating, he abruptly told her it wasn't working. He redesigned it, though, so she got a free new site out of the deal.
Then, they worked together with Hamish's partner Jesse Reed on the MTA Graphics Standards Manual, which raised over $US800,000 thanks to graphic design junkies. They're now doing the same with a NASA Graphics Standards Manual from 1972 -- who knew people were so into retro public design projects?
'People just want more and more,' Alex said. 'They're sending us suggestions of new manuals to reproduce.'
Now, Alex has discovered a new love of design while Hamish has become a member of her family. Her mother is on the board for Miami's Underline -- similar to Manhattan's High Line -- and he's handling designs.
'He's really opened me up into this new fascinating, aesthetically beautiful world,' Alex said. 'Designers love everything to be beautiful.'
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