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Starting a Business with your Sister: Lessons Learned

why start business with women
Sisters: what would we do without them? A constant source of support, belly laughs, arguments and, on occasion, stolen clothes.... In the case of Joeyband, sisters Hayley and Ashley went a step beyond all this, and launched a business together. 
Here's how Joeyband came to exist, and the lessons sister duo Hayley and Ashley have learnt along the way.   
How did the idea for the Joeyband™ first come about? 

Hayley:  I dropped my daughter. It was terrifying - every parent's nightmare. When my daughter was born, she was immediately placed skin-to-skin; through this, I immediately knew she was happiest on my chest. Two weeks to the day she was born, she was asleep on me in the early morning. I took my hands off of her for a split second, she startled, and hit the floor.
My husband and I took her to the hospital thinking, “We’ve damaged her, we’ve ruined her life, they’re going to take her away from us”, and the doctor simply told us: “This happens all the time.” Not wanting it to happen again, however, we tried every product on the market – wraps, slings, buckle carriers, and shirts… nothing did what I wanted it to do - which was to simply and easily belt my baby to me while she was sleeping.

Hayley, what made you choose Ashley as a business partner? 

Hayley: At the time, it was a no-brainer.  Never mind that she was my best friend; we’d worked well together in the past, and she and her husband have great minds for business. 
Ash works a lot with Wade & Co, which is their family office, so there are resources and connections most new businesses can only dream of.  She believed in the idea, the product, and as a mom of four, deeply understood the need for Joeyband™ in the market. 

What would you say the biggest benefits of working alongside your sister have been? 
Ashley: We definitely understand what helps the other reach their potential, while understanding what makes the other person “tick”! For example, I learned at a young age to let Hayley have her eight hours of sleep!
Jokes aside, several years ago, my husband and I made one of our biggest decisions, which was to leave Ontario and move with my family to California. Timing was everything, because this was when we luckily (gratefully!) met our other Co-Founder, Sarah Cox, who is highly experienced in business building.
Because I was leaving so soon, I had to cement a relationship quickly with Sarah, before I moved away. Now, we’ve all gotten to know each other and joke that Sarah is basically one of us - but she really is! The biggest benefit is spending time with the people you love most - we’re there for each other and all the moments. Big or small. 

Family dynamics can be tricky to navigate at the best of times! What sort of challenges have you encountered along the way, and how have you overcome them? 

: Because we’re family, some things are assumed rather than spelled out, which can be tricky. I’m also Ash’s younger sister, and I don’t know many older sisters who like to (sometimes) take business orders from their little sister - so we had to learn to create a bit of a new dynamic between the two of us.

We’re also dealing with physical distance (Toronto to Laguna Beach), which can lead to feeling "out of the loop” more so than if we were in the same city. Thankfully we have the same taste in restaurants and food, because in the early days this was where we would get to work through a lot of our hiccups - over good food, in a relaxed environment with real conversations and some laughs.

How would you say your family values are reflected in how you run Joeyband™? 

: We run the business with honesty, humour and compassion – for our customers, team, and partners. We’ve all seen each other cry and laugh until our stomachs ached and we’ve been together through the worst days and some of our best days.

Sisterhood, for Ash and I, is accepting who we are no matter how we’re feeling that day. We believe this type of unconditional support is reflected at Joeyband, and all three partners encourage people to be uniquely themselves, and bring the values they hold dear. 

What kind of structures do you have in place to deal with any potential conflict? 
Hayley: Trust is key. As we mentioned, we also have another Co-Founder in the business - Sarah - who joined three years ago. The three of us intuitively know where each other’s skillsets lie, and if it’s an important topic, we present our sides, all the data, and go to a vote.
We’re running a company, so we need to move through challenges quickly, effectively and never really bring any sister disagreements into our working environment. That said, it’s kind of special when the three of us hop on call. We’ll go from talking about sales and new partnerships to my sister saying “Hayl, should I mail my nieces their Christmas gifts, or wait until I see them in January?”
We’re grateful to have Sarah - she’s a rockstar with a brilliant mind, and at the same time she patiently and lovingly blends in with our family dynamic. We always have a spot for her at our family dinner table!

How would you say your different skills complement each other, and how have they worked together to benefit your business? 

Ashley: We all just fell into our roles very intuitively. I’m the hype woman with big visions, and I love to celebrate the wins. Hayl is more introverted and the information Queen. Seriously, if you want to find something out, go to Hayley.
Because of this, Hayley oversees the backend (product and manufacturing relationships and management), while Sarah does mostly front-end (business development, sales and management). Together, the three of us work on finances, marketing and high level strategy.
Hayley and Sarah are the builders who are heads down, in the weeds, so I like to make sure they’re taking time to breathe and relax. We’ve done spa days in the past, and quite often like to go to dinner when we’re together.  I’m pretty proud of all the hustle my sister and Sarah have.

Hayley: Yeah, Sarah and I always joke and say Ash is our beacon of light that comes down when we need it most. Her energy and positivity is contagious.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from going into business with your sister? 

: That we can’t read each other's minds, and we may have very different ideas of how things will run. Communication is key when it comes to business, as it is with family, and it's important to make sure our expectations are aligned.

Ashley: That business is going to bleed into our family events. When we’re together, quite often we’re talking business. It takes a deep conscious effort to make sure we carve out sister time, like going to the beach, being there for each other’s kids or heading for a shop - making sure we have a “sister day”!
Do you have any hilarious/ridiculous short stories from working together?

:  None that we want to share publicly! We used to have a lot of fun during trade shows and travelling.
What would your advice be to others considering launching a family-run business? 
Hayley: Define expectations; with each other, your team, and financial partners. Take time to set the business up properly with agreements, too. It may seem awkward but it saves a lot of headache down the road.
Ashley: Our families, including my husband, have always done business together, so it became a way of life for us - but it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s no escaping your colleagues, so make sure you really can work well with them and trust each other.