When Story Shop began, the pandemic was well underway and lockdown was just around the corner.
A recent survey we commissioned for our clients showed that more than a quarter of couples would consider taking a similar step to Story Shop’s co-founders Gregor and Scarlett in deciding to start a business together.
While you can read the full article here, which also features commentary from our clients POTR, I thought we’d tell you a little bit more about how and why Story Shop began with the transcript of the full interview Scarlett did for the Huffington Post.
How long have you been together as a couple? Can you explain the history in terms of working together with Story Shop
We’ve been together for over ten years and have been married for five.
Before starting Story Shop, Gregor worked in an agency and I (Scarlett) worked in-house.
We would always talk about work and often dreamed of starting our own thing – but back then we thought it would be a B+B rather than an agency. We both went freelance at the end of 2019, and decided to launch Story Shop in March 2020 – just a few days before lockdown was announced. The company was borne out of all the conversations we had back when we were in full-time jobs about the challenges of agencies with perspectives from both sides.
How do you keep work life and personal life separate? What happens if you have a personal fall-out?
In the three years since starting the business, we’ve had two children – Miles, who is two-years-old and Sasha, who was born in October last year. This helps to create separation as there’s no “free” time – we’re either looking after our children or the business! We often work after the children go to bed and find that can be the best time to do more of the big-picture stuff. There are frustrations with each other from time to time but really they all come back to the same thing that we are both feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all – we don’t really fall out as we don’t have the time to. We’ve also clearly defined our responsibilities; we both know we’re striving for the same things – a healthy family and a healthy business and we’ll support each other to make sure both happen.
What’s the biggest challenge you would never have anticipated?
Aside from lockdown hitting just days after launch, having children has made it a lot harder; we didn’t expect when we started this that we’d be doing job interviews with a crying baby in our arms or outdoors socially distanced during lockdown. We’re both sleep-deprived, and struggle to find enough childcare. While we’re incredibly proud of the company, we always feel it could be better – I suppose that’s what keeps us going. However, that constant pursuit of more is exhausting. On a purely business level, the hardest thing has been hiring. We have a small team and very high standards for who we bring into the team. With everyone we’ve hired so far, they’ve been amazing. We’ve loved working with them and they have really helped us shape the business. But with every great person you hire, there’s even more pressure to make sure the next hire is just as great, so we don’t spoil the great thing we have going.
What are the advantages of running a business with your other half? How does your close relationship help?
We trust each other completely which would take a lot of time with another co-founder. There’s a lot of psychological safety in knowing someone completely “gets” you at work – they know when you’re low, stressed or if you’ve had two hours of sleep because a baby’s been up all night crying.
There’s a constant flow with your life. While I’ve been off on maternity leave, I’ve not had a to-do list but I have been able to be a sounding board for Gregor as we go through big decisions. I wasn’t able to have a maternity leave with Miles as the business is so young, but now I’ve been able to have a break which has been great, but I’ve also still felt very close to the business and been involved in every big decision, which I love too. Starting a business, whether it’s with a partner or not, can be all-consuming. It’s been helpful for both of us that we completely understand the level of commitment required. In business and in life we have very different skill sets which has made it easy to define roles and responsibilities.
Are there any disadvantages?
One of the challenges is that when we go on holiday, we’re both out of the business. If you started with a co-founder normally, you would be able to schedule different holiday times. It’s also stressful as all our eggs are in one basket. There’s no salary to fall back on and the team will always come first! It’s nearly impossible to switch off as inevitably, the company becomes an amorphous beast that bleeds into every part of your life.
Is it something you’d recommend and knowing what you know now, would you do it again? What advice would you give to others?
100%. We are so proud of Story Shop and everything it’s become in such a short space of time. We’ve had a chance to shape a business that we’re incredibly proud of and doing that together makes it even more special. For us working together was a no-brainer, we have very different strengths and weaknesses and we’re stronger together. For all it’s a challenge, we love our work. We love working with great, inspiring people to build brands. Doing it together makes it even better. Our main piece of advice to others would be to make sure you have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. For us, it’s simple; Gregor’s job is to grow the business and mine is to run the business. We also didn’t take any time off during the first year or so – that was far too long and we both definitely felt burnout. Take a break earlier – everything will be fine!
To find out more about working with Story Shop, email email@example.com