Marriage & Business: How to Thrive While Running a Business With Your Partner
If you’re reading this, you probably know Lavender Life Company products pretty well. From those adorable Xander warmable stuffed animals that offer cuteness with a cause, to therapeutic, lavender-infused items for bath and body care, home fragrance, kitchen, and more, there’s something to draw anyone to the softer, simpler lifestyle.
You may have even read how the Bennetts envisioned and developed the lavender farm they lovingly refer to as “Purple Acres.” But, what you probably don’t know is how much goes in to everything they do, or what it has taken to build and maintain a flourishing business—even in bumpy times. Husband and wife business partnerships have their advantages and disadvantages, and not every relationship—or endeavor—can withstand the challenges that may arise. Vic and Vickie have continued to blossom in love, in life, and in enterprise. Read on to learn how they make it all happen!
How did you know starting a business together was right?
We've been entrepreneurs from as early as we can remember. For example, in elementary school, Vickie made necklaces of cow corn kernels that she painfully threaded, then set up a roadside stand in front of her grandparents' farm home to sell them. In addition, she created face creams and acne treatments, making radio advertisements on her Fisher Price cassette recorder. Her favorite words were "moist and supple." We’ve come a long way with our DermaLife products, eh?!
In middle school, Victor frequently ran across the road to an ice cream shop and bought about $5 worth of candy, which he would resell on the bus ride home for $10.
Before we were even married, we had ideas for someday businesses. Our first business started within months of being married. We hand-made amazingly cute little dolls out of discarded nylon stockings; mostly graduation dolls and brides/grooms. We loved making them and thought for sure it was a winner of an idea, but no one would buy them except at wholesale prices, and we didn't have a way to market them on our own. There was too much labor put into them to not sell them retail.
Not ones to give in, we moved on to something else. At one point, our answering machine message said, "Hello, this is Bennett’s Beauty Booth, landscaping, tutoring, produce co-op, and Mr. Bennett's Nature Workshops..." We thoroughly enjoy dreaming, strategizing, planning, creating, and building things—whether it is products, business, family, or even our home. It energizes us.
How do your personalities play off each other? Do one person’s signature strengths complement—or positively contrast to—the other’s?
We usually finish each other’s sentences, and expect each other to do so sometimes. We can spend 24/7/365 with each other. Though we are both risk takers, and love to initiate things, in many senses, we are complete opposites. Vickie loves numbers and solving problems with new ideas. Victor gravitates toward people, and toward implementing creative ways to make Vickie's ideas work. Because we both like to create, there is a lot of give and take in the process of business building and managing.
What challenges have you faced running a business as a couple—personally and
Our values of LEARNING, IMAGINATION, FRIENDSHIP, and EXCELLENCE have served us well in life and in business. Especially when our business is in our home and farm, we have to oversteer to maintain a personal life separate from business. Because our hobbies blend into farm and product development, we have to be intentional to carve out "no business" zones and times.
The propensity for both of us to create can get us into trouble, because we can get way over-extended in life and finances living exclusively in the creative mode. Ideas are expensive financially—and in time and other resources. We remind each other that the “B” in Bennett is “balance.” It is very easy for us to get way off balance.
We are also both quite trusting people, and learned early on in business that we need to be wise as foxes. If you are doing something well, some in business will try to take you down. We’ve had to trust our gut feelings through the years, many times against consulting voices with conflicting viewpoints.
We launched a $1M-plus, brand-new business just prior to the 2008 economic dearth. These were very rough days for us, but we survived by continually reinventing ourselves—actually creating a problem solving invention that got nationwide attention: our SpaValet mobile spa cart and systems. This helped us thrive in very difficult times. We’ve grown to recognize the sprint episodes, marathon seasons, and grandstand events in business.
How has your relationship benefitted from having a business partnership?
We have learned to be better spouses by working day in and day out together. We need to listen to each other, respect how God has wired each of us, celebrate those differences, and engage them in making a difference in others' lives in those things we create. We often do not agree, and have worked hard on how to communicate and work together despite our differences. We both do laundry, wash toilets, make dinner, vacuum, knowing that we serve each other in the process.
What are your favorite parts about working together?
Once or twice a year we take a road trip to have a little R&R and do a little R&D. We pray a lot, read a lot, talk a lot (sometimes we’re driving for 50 hours), sit a lot, and dream a lot. These times are very special. It also warms our souls to see the mission of getting Xander Friends into the hands of our Community Partners across the nation—presently more than 54,000 so far—knowing that a child in trauma will be blessed. Getting to share our farm and space with others is also a great blessing to us.
What advice do you have for other couples considering this path?
Start with something small like we did with our "graduation dolls;" something you do not have to make a huge investment in.
Ask people who know you both well if they think you would work well together in business. They could give you honest feedback, and perhaps alert you to blind spots that could prevent you from being successful.
Remodel a home together, or plant a garden, even if you've never done it before. It will cause you to take risks together, learn together, plan together, implement together, fail together, reinvent together, and enjoy the fruits of your labor together.
And, pray together. God melds hearts and wills when you let Him be Boss of your lives.