Couples That Successfully (and Not So Successfully) Ran Businesses Together

Destiny A. Lopez |

It’s Spouse’s Day, a day where those in relationships recognize their better half. In an attempt to protect or add to the longevity of one’s relationship, many follow pieces of universal advice passed down from generation to generation. One particular piece of advice continues to resonate: never do business with friends, family, or your spouse.

Balancing marriage and business, especially for entrepreneurial couples, can be challenging, as many factors can bring stress and strain into their marriages. High profile couples have given the world plenty of examples of what could go wrong when one business partner strays, or if the partnership goes south altogether. Last year’s Ashley Madison hack resulted in a widely published “cheaters list,” where users of the site could be exposed with the simple input of their name and email address. One of the people exposed was the company’s own CEO, Noel Biderman, who formed the company with his wife Amanda. In 2009, Frank and Jamie McCourt, the former couple behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, announced their separation after three decades of marriage. Following the team’s elimination from the playoffs, Mrs. McCourt was fired from her position as the CEO. In a fight over team ownership that took two years to resolve between the McCourts resulted in the most costly divorce in California history.

However, despite this age-old advice, couples continue to take the business plunge in record numbers. With a number projected to be on the rise, CNN Money estimates that three million US small businesses out of a total 22 million small businesses in 2000 were owned by couples.

With the odds stacked against them, including an 80 percent failure rate within 18 months, there are still a number of couples who successfully maintain and business and marriage balance.

Here are four couples that have successfully ran a business:

Tim & Nina Zagat

Both Tim and Nina Zagat were practicing attorneys when the couple founded the Zagat Restaurant Surveys in 1982. From a single New York City restaurant guide, the Zagat Surveys evolved into the most trusted source for, among other topics, restaurant and nightlife ratings and reviews in over 70 cities. The company was acquired by Google in 2011 for $151 million.

Susan Gregg Koger & Eric Koger

Modcloth began out of a college dorm and a passion for vintage clothing. Then boyfriend and girlfriend, Susan Gregg Koger and Eric Koger part-time venture grew from a passion project with the hopes of extra income, into a $100 million venture with offices located in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

Kim Peeples & Denise Solis

VOM FASS, an online and in-store retailer of premium culinary oils, traditional balsamics, vinegar specialties, and exclusive fruit balsamic vinegars, has been in business for over 20 years. Life partners Kim Peeples and Denise Solis, who started the Claremont, California-based VOM FASS, was awarded the company’s “Franchise Partner of the Year Award” last year, an award given to franchise partners who most exemplify the Vom Fass philosophy.

Julia & Kevin Hartz

To say that Eventbrite continues to do well would be a gross understatement. Founded by Julia and Kevin Hartz, the company, allows independent promoters to advertise, manage, and host successful events, raised another $60 million in growth capital in 2013 at a valuation estimated between $600 million and $700 million. Their secret to success: whether romantic or platonic, the belief that having a compatible relationship with one’s co-founder is crucial to the success of a business venture.

Could it get complicated? Absolutely. Is everything guaranteed to work out? Not at all. Going into business with a spouse, is, no doubt, a major risk. However, there are a number of couples that provide positive examples of couples maintaining a work-life balance and running businesses successfully.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:


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