Remember Madeline? She’s the adorable Parisian girl who lives in a boarding school with her 11 friends and her teacher, Miss Clavel. Donned mostly in a yellow school dress and a hat to match, she made popular the quote, “We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love each other”.
The quote rings true as well for 5 Malaysian entrepreneurs who happen to have the exact same partner for business and also for life. Instead of bread and butter, perhaps what could be replaced in the statement would be ‘business’.
There is a saying which suggests to never mix business and pleasure, and there should be a line between work and relationship. However, what happens when this line is crossed? Well, these 5 entrepreneurs spill all.
1. Giden Lim and Penny Choo from BloomThis
Flowers are the pillar stone of their relationship and career. Giden and Penny from BloomThis, a bespoke flower subscription service in Malaysia, are startup partners and are also dating. Giden told Vulcan Post that the biggest challenge of working with someone you are in a relationship with is to differentiate between what is work related and what is relationship related.
“This is always going to be a tough one especially when we have differences in opinion—which happens quite often!” Giden shared. However, like with any problem, the pair is able to overcome the challenge by making it a point to spend simple quality time together and taking a short break of a few hours in the week to separate themselves from work and do “couple” activities.
“Spending this quality time helps to strengthen our relationship and it’s essential to our success in every area of our lives. Of course, clarity and tactfulness in communication is very important,” Giden said. The couple also has a 24-hour policy whereby they will bring up matters which they disagree on, and deal with them on the same day. As such, Giden says that he won’t have it any other way when it comes to working with his partner in life.
He noted, “Penny is really my strongest source of strength and the most important reason for me to succeed and not give up in what I do. Given a choice, I will never do this any other way. It is a great privilege to be able to do what you love and to do it with the person you love!”
2. Ravena Hundal and Jonathan Koshy from Venuescape
Venuescape is a Malaysian-based startup company backed by a team who specialises in event management, and they help people to seek the right venue for their event. Co-founders of Venuescape, Ravena and Jonathan happen to be engaged in business and life.
With all things business, there would tend to be hiccups along the way. Ravena told Vulcan Post that the biggest challenge that they faced was understanding the risk they were about to take when they started Venuescape as a couple.
“We knew there were sacrifices that needed to be made in order to secure our future and our business together. We come from different family backgrounds and it was difficult for our families to comprehend, especially in running a startup. But with time, they understood and have been our pillars of strength,” Ravena said.
Hence, it is a matter of finding a balance between investing equal amount of time in their business and relationship. Ravena admits that it is trickier than it seems. “It’s been two years of running a business together, and initially our relationship went through so much, but we realised that at the end of the day, we were chasing mutual goals and that’s how we learned to divide time.” Being partners, she noted that it has no doubt been difficult but it has taught them a lot about themselves and they would never change that.
3. Chris Ching and Jerry Hang from GetDoc
Health is an important aspect of life and it often times determines the quality of it. With startup GetDoc, users can locate a healthcare provider based on their convenience and preference. As with the importance of one’s physical health, so is it important to have a healthy relationship. Chris and Jerry are co-founders of GetDoc as well as partners in life.
The pair face challenges in maintaining a healthy relationship because the main challenge of a couple working together is that they tend to always mix their personal life with work. Chris shared with Vulcan Post that, “We would quarrel with each other at work and bring the negative energy back home, because we tend to get into it too personally.”
As such, they learn to compromise with each other in order to battle the problem, as well as understand that work is work, and life and relationship is something that is separate. “From our experience, we know that it’s easier said than done. However, if you have the heart and a positive mindset on this, you would definitely overcome it,” Chris said.
The couple see the challenges faced in being startup founders who are also in love, but they choose to have it no other way. In fact, when asked if they would give it all up to work with someone else of whom they are not in a relationship with, Chris was surprised. “We will need to give it all out in everything we do, not just when we work together, but also with our own life partner. So our answers are, why not?” Chris said.
4. Christine Liew and CK Yap from Shoppertise
Mobile commerce is synonymous with startup Shoppertise and it empowers small businesses with a smarter way to manage their online business. Christine is the creative founder of the startup whilst her partner CK, is the technical brain behind Shoppertise. They have also surpassed a decade together as life partners, and that certainly is not an easy feat.
“When you’ve been together for more than a decade, it’s hard not to try to manipulate your partner or fall into old habits sometimes. And of course I don’t mean it in a bad way—you’re in the same boat together so you would want the best for the company and for each other. What I meant is, when you know your partner so well, you can probably imagine what he’d say or how he’d react to a certain situation, so you’d tend to be very creative in finding ways to turn things around if it’s not how you want it to end up,” Christine shared of her experience.
As such, at Shoppertise, the pair learnt how to listen with an open mind and communicate better with mutual respect every single day. This has allowed the couple, despite their different backgrounds, to challenge each other and grow in terms of relationship and business.
“Having built and bootstrapped a company from the ground up, I would never imagine doing it with someone else who I may not have the same level of respect, trust and understanding. I have found a partner who not only pushes me to do things I’m afraid to do, but he also has a very positive attitude and mentality that I greatly respect and treasure,” Christine said.
5. Kimberly Wong and Tan Ser Fei from I’m So Sleepy
Feeling lethargic after a full day of work or classes would mean that the commute home would be a complete drag. Not only that, more people these days are comfortable with using their lunch break as a time for rest, and that is what I’m So Sleepy, a sleeping pod located in Damansara Uptown is all about. The entity is co-founded by Tan Ser Fei and his wife, Kimberly Wong, also known as Kim.
Kim shared with Vulcan Post that the biggest challenge of working with a partner is that you cannot push your way through like how you would want to, because you know that the person is more important than the task itself. In short, Kim puts it as, “You will want to win the relationship and not the argument, which for me is a big challenge, because I always think I have the best ideas. This is something for me to work on too!”
As such she is still learning to see things from Ser Fei’s perspective and to accept that sometimes her partner’s ideas are brilliant ones too! Kim said, “Not everyone has the same preferences as taste as mine, so I need to learn to accept ideas and ways that seems so different from what I have in mind.”
Surprisingly, Kim is the only one who would choose to work with someone else, should she be given a choice. “There are many possible conflicts when human beings work together, whether they are dating or not. That’s why sometimes we get upset with our colleagues, right? I think if it’s possible, I would want to avoid working with the person I’m dating, as I don’t want to bring the work pressure back home,” she said.
The choice to mix business with pleasure could be either a recipe for success or failure. If you know any other inspirational couples who have mixed business with pleasure, share and tag them so others can too learn how they balance their love for each other and their work. And of course, Happy Valentine’s Day!