Hey! This is Scott and Julie from The Studio Temporary and Tokyo Blossom Boutique! We are a two startup business family and today we are going to be sharing what it really looks like to have a home that is COMPLETELY self employed and the joys and challenges of working alongside your spouse.
01. How we got started.
We didn't necessarily set out to be a two startup business family, but in some ways it was inevitable. We graduated from college with big dreams and our entire lives mapped out in our minds, but over the first five years of marriage, we were faced with multiple job losses, unexpected financial problems, and a constant, stressful shift in financial roles.
Some days it felt like we were just trying to survive… to have just enough gas money to get to work and keep the lights on. I was so desperate for a better life that I started doing anything I could from home, outside of the music instructor position I was already in.
I made small batches of gourmet cupcakes and catered them for friends and family, took on more teaching opportunities, and started knitting and crocheting rustic style photo props for a local photographer while caring for our newborn.
I had no idea at the time how much that photo prop job would affect my choice to grow Tokyo Blossom Boutique down the road. Looking back, while it was a really difficult time in our lives, all of those late nights and early mornings working odd jobs helped to shape our future and ability to work together.
When you’re dealing with all these obstacles, the last thing (you'd think) to do would be to start a couple businesses, right? Not necessarily. We were already putting considerable time and effort into our respective fields, so we figured if we put all our focus into our work, then we’d get better results. So after a lot of planning and strategizing, we threw it all out the window and went for it.
02. The hurdles.
I think a lot of entrepreneurs face this so it may seem cliche to say ‘finances', but that is the honest truth! We didn't have a hidden stash of cash to help get us going. We literally started with nothing. Would I recommend for others to start a business that way? Absolutely not! But crazy choices make good stories, and it's made our lives anything but boring.
I do feel like we faced more than the typical financial startup growing pains, because we had to balance two businesses on such a tight budget. There have been a lot of hard calls we've had to make and choices that would benefit one of our businesses but not the other. It's moments like that, where we have to take a step back and remember that ‘a rising tide raises all ships’.
Ditto on the financial side. But the result was a willingness to abide by a budget and really appreciate the small things. Because of this, even when we had “big months”, we never went crazy and overspent on anything.
A little closer to home for me, was setting realistic expectations for my clients. Working from home is never easy, so I learned to build a decent amount of margin into my day-to-day. Now working out of my Atlanta studio, it makes it easier to compartmentalize.
03. A day in our life.
For the longest time I tried everything to create balance between our work and family life, until several years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Sheri Waynick, the CEO of Lizard Thicket (a local clothing chain), and she said something that really stuck with me. When I asked how she balanced her business and life as a mom when her kids were little, she said something to the effect of, ‘It’s not about balancing, but making them a part of everything you do.’
I think while there does have to be structure to your day, letting your kids take part in what you do gives them a sense of co-ownership. So now, while there are parts of my day that I specifically reserve for nap time, I do a lot right alongside of Sean. We get up and have our devotions together, make meals together, I design products while he plays with his toys or watches a favorite show, and sometimes he even helps me package up orders. Sean is quite the little helper, and it's nice that he accepts payment in cookies! He does tend to haggle a bit when it comes to his wages. haha.
My job in the morning is to make it easy for Julie. I’m usually in the studio every morning between 830-9AM, so she takes Sean to school. Getting him ready, laying out his clothes, etc., to make sure she isn’t running all over the place.
When I’m at the studio, it’s an all-out grind. Client work, meetings, a quick game of table tennis, you know how it goes. 1:30 is a pretty special time, as Julie always calls me after picking Sean up from school. A quick conversation between all of us does wonders for the rest of my workday. I check out around 6:30, and I’ll either head home for dinner or pick up a few things.
Next is bath and bed for Sean, then we get right back to work, usually on the sofa with whatever Netflix show we’re watching that month. It’s a continual back-and-forth process that we’re still honing, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
04. Our favorite part?
My favorite part would have to be the flexibility. Don't get me wrong, we work hard, especially Scott. Some weeks he pulls some crazy hours, but we have our phones synced with our family calendar, and if anything family or school related goes on there, I can count on him to schedule client meetings around those important events so he can be there. It makes me so happy when I get to tell Sean that Mommy AND Daddy are coming to his school party, because just a few short years ago I was working three jobs and taking him from babysitter to babysitter.
I’d agree on the flexibility aspect, but I’m also a fan of the unknown, in a weird way. I’m not asking for it, because we’ve had more hardships in our first 7+ years of marriage than I could count. That being said, it really opens the door for God to do something impossible, which I’ve seen time and time again. Also, that unknown pushes me to find new ways to work through the day-to-day grind. I love what I do, and while it can be insane at times, I never try to look at what I do as a job. The cool part? I can get away with it.
05. What we love about working together.
Well… other than having a cute coworker?? I love that we have an active role in each other's business. Scott does 99% of the graphic design work that goes with my shop (I pay him in pizzas), and many times I serve as his second opinion and therapist when he has to deal with difficult clients. LOL. As a mom I'm grateful that our son has an opportunity to see his parents problem solving together in this unique way.
There’s no tip-toeing around anything. If there’s a problem, we try to solve it right away. I’m lucky to have a wife that doesn’t pull any punches, so that makes my life easier. And honestly, there’s nothing better than working with the one you love. The pizza does help, though!
The moral of our story?
- Life rarely ever turns out the way we expect, but the ability to adapt paves the way for growth.
- Let your kids take pride in what you do! Letting them grow alongside of you can make them feel needed and appreciated.
- Show your employees and coworkers you care… buy them cookies and pizza. =)
Scott Fuller is a designer, illustrator and founder of The Studio Temporary. Built on the idea of “Good design wherever I happen to be,” Scott's work spans logo design, branding, illustration, type design, packaging and product design.
Julie Fuller is the owner and designer behind Tokyo Blossom Boutique, a colorful accessory shop that offers everything from hand
crafted, wool knitwear to sparkly planner accessories.
Scott, Julie and their son, Sean, live in Acworth, Georgia, where they can be found frequenting their local lake beach, working in the kids' ministry at their church, or chasing their cat across the yard.
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