In Business With a Friend? Yes, It CAN Work!
If you asked me five years ago where I would find myself in 2017, I would have probably shrugged and replied with a non-committal “I don’t know, maybe thinking of moving back to the Philippines to be closer to my parents and settle down,” which still sounds like a wonderful parallel life, but not just yet.
As I ring in the fifth season of my fashion start-up, Mestiza New York, with my partner-in-crime Louisa Rechter, my own life predictions were totally off-base, and in the best way possible. Starting a business with a friend is daunting for sure, but we both recognized an equally passionate drive in each other, an untarnished excitement for what we’ve created, and an ambition that lead us to fundamentally believe that “failure is not an option,” nor will it ever be. So here I am, giving unsolicited (albeit good advice I hope) to those seeking to do the same.
Separation of Roles:
It is tremendously crucial to define what it is you bring to the table from the get-go. In our case, Louisa and I have managed to create a well-oiled machine where we have a distinct separation of responsibilities within the company: I am the Creative Director and Louisa is the CEO.
I believe that behind every great creative has an even greater business mind that propels the brand forward: you both need to understand and appreciate the necessity of each other’s abilities. Know that you and your future business partner each bring different talent to your venture and that what you are creating will be only successful because you are both working equally hard towards the same goal. Overlap is of course going to happen, but it is counterproductive to be always working on the same things. It important to outline your roles and responsibilities, and trust that your business partner will deliver on what they know.
Share Your Value Prop:
Define your unique value proposition together and make sure you both passionately believe in an identical vision. From day one, you need to be on the same page about all of the big picture items: how what you’re creating solves a problem, who your customer is, a deliberate pricing structure, the brand identity, and dare I say it…an exit strategy. As fun as it is to talk about the exciting parts of a start-up, you also need to be realistic. Defining these key things and sticking to them will save you both a headache in the long run.
Be Equal Motivators:
In order to move forward, you need to take accountability for what you do, mistakes and all, and make sure you are operating on the same frequency as your counterpart. I believe that a lot of Mestiza’s milestones have come from the fact that Louisa and I are continuously pushing each other and equally striving towards the ultimate success of Mestiza New York. At the end of the day, we trust each other!
Be Friends First:
Don’t ever forget that first and foremost you are friends, so compartmentalizing your work relationship and personal relationship is so necessary to building something with longevity. Arguments will arise and obstacles will come up; as long as you always know that when you disagree, it is simply because you are both passionate and want your “baby” to eventually be a success. Louisa and I live, eat and breathe Mestiza from the moment we wake up in the morning, so it is difficult to turn off that part of our brains when we are together. We have created a rule that after 6PM, unless it is an absolute emergency, we don’t talk about the business. It’s created a much more productive work environment, and keeps us excited and passionate about our work every day.
Dare to Dream:
With so much of our time being spent on running the business, it’s important to press pause every once in a while and think about the big picture. Where is the company going to be in five years? Ten years? Is it something that is going to have the longevity and live beyond the two of us? Dreaming gives us the spark we need to continuously be inspired to keep the engine running. At the end of the day, I believe that every successful venture needs equal parts a dreamer who has their heads in the clouds, an unstoppable driving force to move it forward and of course, a healthy dose of luck.
This post was authored by Alessandra Perez-Rubio
Alessandra is a classically trained graphic designer, launching her career in New York as an advertorial designer at the New Yorker, The Knot and Architectural Digest. She also worked at Shopbop, responsible for designing their iconic lookbooks. In 2011, she launched bridal shopping website Idojour with her two sisters. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Design from the Sam Fox School of Design at Washington University in St. Louis. Since launching Mestiza in 2015, Alessandra has been responsible for all the creative development and design for Mestiza New York. In 2016, she was chosen as a top 4 finalist in the Design Entrepreneur Program at Fashion Institute of Technology. Alessandra grew up in Manila and Atherton, California. Her expertise lies in Fashion Design, Product Development, Creative Direction, Communication Design, Brand Building and Technology.