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The highs and lows of launching a business with a friend, by the women who did it


She's the one person you go to if you've had an awful day at work or you want to celebrate a milestone event. She'll go with you to that obscure new restaurant you want to try and she understands the jokes that no one else seems to get. There's no denying she is one of the most important people in your life.

But could you launch a business with your best friend?

We speak to six pairs of close friends who have taken the leap and gone into business together. Some spent countless drunken nights talking about their entrepreneurial dreams and others jumped in at the deep end with little forethought, seeing the opportunity as an adventure undertaken with their closest ally.

For most, launching a business with their companion has been the best experience of their careers, giving them a working environment they can enjoy and strengthening their friendship even further. But no doubt, there are inevitable difficulties that come with turning a friendship into a partnership. Read what they have to say below.

The creatives

Hannah and Rosie, both 25, met at the age of 12 in secondary school in Germany. Two years ago, they started a crafts blog as a way of staying close and working together. It became a massive success, winning them awards and leading to their business The New Craft Society

Friends in business

How did you divide the roles? "We haven't split the roles in the blog or business and we work on most things together still, depending on who has the time/skills needed for different tasks. When making most big decisions we generally go to the pub, play some Boggle and have a chat. We know each other so well and have very similar opinions so it makes meetings quite easy!"

What's the advantage of working with a friend? "We can both be flexible and honest with each other about work. There are none of the normal power dynamics that you can get with colleagues. It's also really rewarding and fun to be able to share our successes together."

What's the most difficult part? "We often lose track of what needs to be done. We meet up and naturally chat about normal life and friends and it can be tricky to make sure we fit in the business stuff too."

How do you resolve conflict? "Hannah seems to think that if we have one small business success we deserve a day of treats, but Rosie is more strict with rewards. We can't think of a time when we have really fallen out, but we are both quite relaxed so will normally settle somewhere in the middle. Then we play some boggle to clear the air."

Does your business support your lifestyle? "We're a new start-up so we're still discovering different revenue streams. It can be bitty and unpredictable at the moment! We both have to supplement our income with second jobs, but hoping to turn it into our full time job by the end of this year."

Your top tip: Make sure you fit in time for your normal friendship too, even when the business gets busy. You shouldn't ever have to compromise your friendship and you don't want to end up getting stressed out at each other.

The homeware innovators 

Twenty years ago, Ruth and Suz were introduced to each other by a mutual friend. The same night they went clubbing together and instantly became close friends. They established their own separate careers in public relations, but after 15 years in their jobs, the duo agreed they needed a change.

They first set up a tenancy cleaning company which involved getting up at 2am to fit four cleaning jobs in a day. With a strong passion for interior design, they found themselves giving a running commentary of the decor they found on their jobs, discussing the kind of cushions, wall art and duvet covers they would choose for their own homes. Turns out, they both shared a fondness for unusual homeware design. 

One year later, they closed their cleaning company to launch a home accessories website, HomeCandy.com

Friends in business

How did you divide the roles? "With both of us having our core skills in PR there wasn't a clear cut way to divide the workload.  We've started to understand our strengths through trial and error. One of us inevitably takes a lead on something and then we'll share our learnings. However, we've both learnt everything and will in time divide our roles more consistently as the business grows."

What's the advantage of working with a friend? "We are both similar in our work ethic and like to just get on with it and get the job done.  Not having meetings about meetings anymore is something we both enjoy! In fact, our company motto is 'Less bulls**t, more action'. Our shared attitude will shape the type of company we become and the type of people we employ."

What's the most difficult part? "You are always conscious of jeopardising your friendship under the strain of work. Unlike a job that you can walk away from if you decide you don't like it anymore, you don't really want to do that with a friendship. So it means having to be more mindful. Thankfully we are both fairly easy going and we've never really had too much conflict. Those disagreements we do have are always for the good of the business and can be helpful to push us on."

How do you resolve conflict? "Neither of us are hot-headed so while we may disagree that doesn't necessarily mean there is outright conflict. But that does mean that sometimes issues can brew for a little while before one of us eventually bites the bullet and brings up the issue (sometimes with a bit of trepidation) only to find that the other is relieved to be talking about it too! We've also got mutual friends who know us both really well and are good impartial sounding boards."

Does your business support your lifestyle? "We both have a background in PR so as a small, self-funded business we do dip in and out of freelance PR work as and when we need to so that we can keep injecting even more funds into the business.  And it's good to keep our finger on the PR pulse so that we can take these learnings and apply them to our own business."

Your top tips: "Setting up a business with a friend is similar to entering into a marriage - you need to accept that it's going to have it's highs and lows. Realise that this is a normal part of business which is separate to your friendship. After all, work colleagues in any job will annoy you sometimes as well as delight you.

"Also, remember that it really is good to talk. We can guarantee that if something is bugging you, your business partner will certainly be aware of the situation too. It's better to get it out in the open and have an honest chat than to bury your head in the sand - this goes from everything from finances to personal issues."

The fashion designers

Though Hannah, 27, and Suki, 25, knew each other for three years, their close-knit friendship developed while discussing how unhappy they were in their day jobs over a couple of drinks. Suki was thinking about starting a business of her own, but wanted someone to take the leap with. Hannah realised she wasn't sure what career she wanted and was at a point where she had nothing to lose. A few months later, they both handed in their notice and - neither having taken any formal training in business or design - began working from their kitchen table and swotting up on all things business and fashion.

Three years on, they've managed to turn their idea into a successful clothing business called Bundy and Webster with celebrity customers such as Ellie Goulding, Kylie Jenner and Aluna from AlunaGeorge.

Friends in business

How did you divide the roles? "At first we did everything together as neither of us knew anything about running a business, nor had we gone to fashion school so it was a case of learning as we went along. As things have grown, we’ve naturally settled into our roles, but we still work together on all the main decision-making aspects of the business."

What's the advantage of working with a friend? "Since starting the business, we’ve laughed together, cried together and it’s amazing doing that all with a best friend. Being close also means you can support each other through the tough times and it makes the good times even better. If you work with someone you know really well, you trust them implicitly and that’s really important when there’s something as precious as your own business at stake."

What's the most difficult part? "It’s sometimes difficult to separate our working relationship and our friendship. We are in constant contact even when we’re not together and we have all the same friends so it can be pretty full-on!"

How do you resolve conflict? "We haven't had a huge argument as such, but as we draw closer to a collection release, things do become really stressful under the pressure as we're working very long hours and have vital decisions to make. You can end up taking it out on each other! We find the best way to resolve any tension is to take a break. We'll work from home in the morning or for a day, and that space tends to help us get perspective."

Does your business support your lifestyle? "B&W is both our full time jobs, but we do do various ad hoc bits on the side to supplement our lifestyles."

Your top tip: "Before starting something with a friend, especially a close one, really think about whether you can spend that much time together and whether your friendship can stand the pressure. It’s important to be totally honest with each other and learn not to take it (criticism) personally - that was key in building our business together. Also, make sure you still make time for each other as friends. We plan at least one thing a week together where we have a good old chat about anything but work" 

The foodie duo

Having met each other back in 2007 at various intern events while on internships in Central London and lived with each other right after they graduated, Nisha and Nishma, both 27, knew each other very well.

After long and unsociable hours working in the city, the flatmates always found themselves whipping up quick and easy toasties for dinner. They devoured more grilled cheeses while visiting America on holiday and decided to revive the humble snack in the UK. They started by researching everything about melted cheese sandwiches, tasting recipes and coming up with ideas based on what they liked to eat themselves. Soon after, Nisha and Nishma's market stall Grill My Cheese was born and they've been working on it for two years.

Nisha and Nishma

How did you split the roles?"We split the roles based on our strengths, for example Nishma handles the accounts, where as I (Nisha) look after our PR and social media. Despite this, we still do most of the work together. Ultimately, the most important decisions are made as partners."

What is the advantage of working with a friend? "We generally start out by disagreeing on everything which turns out to be beneficial for the business. Having both sides of an argument means you can come to the best conclusion. We know each other quite well, so we can tell what the other is thinking just by looking at each other, which can be useful in group situations, or knowing when to take the lead in dealing with something. Most importantly,when things are looking bleak, it's nice to have that other person there to laugh it all off with (usually over a drink)."

What's the most difficult part? "Despite how long we have known each other, when you start a business together, you are thrown into a tense environment from which you can't escape. Living together is a good test for this, but even then, you have your own room, or you leave to go to work somewhere else. Working together means you have to face the music and it can be really difficult to say what you need to say, whilst not wanting to hurt the other's feelings. For us in particular, there is a lot of physical work, often standing in the cold, and when you aren't making any money it can be an incredible strain and cause tension. Luckily, we're good at getting over arguments quickly and returning the focus onto the business."

How do you resolve conflict? "Our biggest argument was on a business/research trip to the US. We were with each other 24/7 so there was likely to be some tension. As we know each other really well, we can usually tell when to give the other some time to cool off. Our rule however, is to deal with an issue as soon as it arises. We can argue something out, but we move on straight away to avoid it building up in to something bigger."

Does your business support your lifestyle? "We have had to downsize our lifestyle since starting the business. At the beginning it was difficult to secure pitches at markets, which meant revenue was very sporadic. But now, we are able to support ourselves. It's not the lifestyle we were used to, but we hope to continue to grow the business."

Your top tip: "Setting up a business is difficult at the best of times, so you have to be sure your friendship is strong enough to work through the good and the bad. I remember, during the early stages, having a conversation on how starting Grill My Cheese could ruin our friendship, and there was a risk that if anything went sour, we would end up hating each other. It sounds dramatic, I know, but it was worth outlining. Accepting that you will argue helps ensure that when it happens, it's not that big a deal. You will end up having fights, but as long as you get over them quickly you can move on. It's not personal. Being brutally honest about your friendship is a necessity. We both have other great friends, but we wouldn't have started this business with anyone else."

The bakers

It was Georgina, 25, and Adesukhun's, 26, business idea that brought the two closer together. They had known each other for four years and Georgina came up with the idea of launching a baking service during her undergraduate degree. But it was only until her Masters that she decided to turn it into a business. That's when Adesukhun realised she too had a passion for baking. They've been working on their baking company Dreamy Flutters for four years. 

Friends in business

How did you split the roles? "We initially baked all orders together but since graduating from university we live on opposite ends of London and we only bake together for large orders and split the smaller orders based on location and our availability because of our full-time jobs."

What's the advantage of working with a friend? "We always have the best time when baking together, even when it is stressful and we have flour in our hair and have to run to deliver the cupcakes on time!"

What's the most difficult part? "The most difficult part for me is always being on the same page and communicating well with Adesukhun," says Georgina. "I can be very independent, and tend to act on impulse without checking in with her."

Adesukhun says, "I often wait for Georgina to let me know what she is thinking, but I should be asking her myself. That way I'm not caught off guard when an issue does arise. Georgina is definitely the more business-orientated one out of the both of us, but I have been learning from her and become much better at it."

How do you resolve conflict? "Most of our arguments caused by miscommunication, so we find our disagreements are always resolved once we speak about what's happened."

Does your business support your lifestyle? "Oh no it doesn't. Georgina works full time as a Public Affairs Executive and I work as a Locum Pharmacist. However we would like for our baking business to support us in the future," says Adesukhun.

Top tip: "Before launching a business together, have a very open conversation to ensure you have the same goals and are willing to put the same amount of time and effort into the business. Always remain open and honest, and your friendship should always come first," suggests Georgina.

Adesukhun recommends learning to take constructive criticism from your friend. "You have to remember that although you are friends you are also business partners and you should not take disagreements as a personal attack. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage."

The DIY team

Claire and Amy, both 29, met through a mutual friend who Claire shared a studio space with in Brighton. Amy used to pop in for an occasional tea and to help with styling her outfits for a regular post on her blog. "It was so odd because we were instantly like ... er are we the same person but one really short and the other tall?!" says Amy of their union. "It sounds silly but we just clicked! We had such similar work ethics, dry sense of humour and a passion for doing what we loved. We would all go dancing and then get home late and drunkenly chat about setting up a business together"

After a year of being friends they decided to make it happen. They've now been working together on Super+Super, a craft and co-working space in Brighton, for three and a half years.

Friends in business

How did you split the roles? "Claire and I have very complimentary skills which have merged more over the last three and a half years. Claire has always been pegged as the style blogger and tech whizz, while I'm the craft specialist and workshop planner," says Amy. "But to be honest when you run a business there is so much overlap in planning, forecasting, budgeting and the day-to-day stuff such as admin is more about who has time to get it done first and most efficiently that whose role it is."

What's the advantage of working together? "There have been times when we have been in fits of laughter over the most random thing like a song on the radio or an inside joke that our studio members have had to check we are ok. It's great because we make the rules, we want to have fun at work as often as possible... that's why we did it. I guess it's also that closeness that comes with building something as huge as a business with your friend. It's a massive responsibility that you share and have to make it work and grow. Jeez, I mean we had a joint bank account and loan together before either of us did with our boyfriends!"

What's the most difficult part? "We both work freelance jobs alongside Super+Super and that can mean we sometimes don't see each other for several days at a time. We talk every day on WhatsApp and email, but it has always worked better when we are in the same room. We thrive off each other's energy and if one of us is having a bad day or can't deal with the stress of the business, as well as all the other stuff in our daily lives, the other tends to be having a good day. It's like this weird yet brilliant balance. Claire is the first person I speak to at 8am in the morning and the last person at night. For a while our boyfriends couldn't deal with that... they got over it!"

How do you resolve conflict? "Talking things out seems to be the best way to resolve even the most difficult situations. You can't just pretend its not happened, it's always best to deal with problems when they happen instead of letting things get blown up out of proportion. Though, failing that, a stern email stating the facts can help!"

Does your business support your lifestyle? "I think we turn over 50-60k a year but the overheads for the studio building are big! We got a book deal last year and our first two books have just been released across the UK so our priorities and finances are changing a lot at the moment. But we both freelance - Claire as a consultant and Amy designer/lecturer - as well as running the studio."

Your top tip: "Make sure you have your plan A, B and a get out. Get a good accountant and write a thorough yet flexible business plan because a successful business is one that can change its course to fit in with you and the climate or any other unforeseen eventuality. And don't neglect your friendship. Make time to go for a drink or lunch together once in a while and take time out!"



How to launch a dream business while working full time


Meet the mothers and daughters who run successful businesses together


Sisters in business


Meet the high-flying women who walked away from huge salaries


How to trick yourself into doing tasks you dread


How personal branding can help you nail your dream job



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