When two college moms from Boston learned that their kids rarely washed their sheets, the compelling hygiene issues forced them to do something about it. Along the way, they learned to address the challenges and reap the benefits of being a successful partnership.
By Kirsten Lambert and Joan Ripple (Co-founders, Beantown Bedding and Bedsox)
Talk to any college kid about their list of priorities and you will almost NEVER hear "wash my sheets." It’s a hassle, it takes time and often sheets don’t look dirty. Well, what you can’t see can hurt you! Sheets and pillowcases quickly become home to millions of bacteria, mold and dust mites and beds become breeding grounds for sickness and allergies.
We were determined to find a way to enable our college kids to have a clean sleeping environment without having to worry about washing the sheets. We created Bedsox: soft, comfortable sheets and pillowcases made from eucalyptus trees, which can be used for weeks and then discarded in the trash (they are biodegradable) or the compost (they are compostable). Result: no washing! We took the idea and ran with it, and along the way learned to turn the perils of partnership into perks.
Peril or Perk?
As business partners we've experienced the negatives, the positives and ways to work at transforming the former into the latter. So what are the potential pitfalls?
Do You Take This Woman To Be…Your Business Partner?
Most articles on business partnerships warn of the dangers of forming a business with a friend or family member. In our case, the fact that we were friends first has provided us with a foundation of trust, respect and accountability that would otherwise require time and testing to achieve.
She’s a Little Bit Country, I’m a Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll
Approaching the business from different backgrounds could potentially drive conflict. Although our skills and work experiences are different (Joan’s background is business management and human resources, and Kirsten’s is marketing and research) we view them as complementary. Our differences actually bring breadth and perspective and simplify the division of labor.
We Boil at Different Degrees
Two business partners with different work styles could easily pose a challenge. In our case, Joan is a “morning” person and a perfectionist, while Kirsten thrives at night and is comfortable with the “80/20” approach. As a result, we agree to work on our own in the mornings and evenings, and together during the middle of the day. Because of our different comfort levels we don’t always agree, but we have learned to find the middle ground for the benefit of the business.
It would be so much easier if we were each risk takers, or each risk averse - we could make decisions quickly, efficiently and without second guessing. Instead, Joan is conservative, while Kirsten is willing to take a chance. Often, we end up negotiating with each other. We have learned that balancing risk is usually in the best interest of the company.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
There is no question that partners need to agree on the overall goal of the business. The perk is that two heads are better than one in pursuing that pot of gold. The peril is that, while we share a common vision for the company, sometimes we each want to take a different path to get there. Compromise by both partners is an absolute necessity in a successful partnership.
Doing the Dirty Work
There are always those jobs that no one wants to do. Unlike a sole proprietorship, the beauty of a partnership is that we get to share them, and neither of us gets stuck doing them all.
Money: Yours, Mine and Ours
As two equal partners, we can provide double the amount of the funds and share the financial burden, enabling the business to grow faster than if we had decided to go it alone. On the flip side, all profits coming back in to the company have to be shared as well!
Women 2.0 readers: Are you working with a partner? Have you experienced similar positives and negatives?
About the guest bloggers: Joan Ripple is the co-founder of Beantown Bedding. Joan received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Bucknell University and a Master of Business Administration from Pace University. Prior to her entrepreneurial venture with Beantown Bedding, Joan was a Management Consultant at KPMG. She then took on the role as Corporate Controller at Soho Natural Soda, followed by her position as College Recruiting Manager at Coopers & Lybrand. Kirsten Lambert is the other co-founder of Beantown Bedding. Kirsten has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing from University of Hawaii. Prior to her entrepreneurial venture with Beantown Bedding, Kirsten had a career in marketing and marketing research, serving as a Research Analyst and Research Manager at SMS Research in Honolulu and Walker Research in Cincinnati, and as a freelance consultant to global consumer packaged goods companies for more than 20 years. Photo credit: Andrew Taylor via Shutterstock