Picture this: you're starting your own eco-product manufacturing and e-commerce company, and in a bold move, you hire your mom as your first employee, your number two. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, or at least a cheesy com-drom where the mother and daughter boss-bitches are at each other's throats until they magically come to see eye-to-eye in the tear-soaked finale, right? Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that she and I both had reservations at the start. 


In 2021, I was struggling to find a manufacturer to take on the task of fabricating our yoga storage so I decided to build out the manufacturing and fulfillment facility myself. Mom, or Bette as the rest of the world knows her, has been my life-long best friend and a critical mentor to me in business, as she has exceptional interpersonal and customer service skills, the determination and commitment of a soldier, and she is a powerfully persuasive salesperson, among many other impressive professional attributes. 


Although all of these qualities made for a brilliant match when it comes to the work ethic, talent, and passion needed to drive a startup company forward, we were nevertheless nervous about endangering the quality of our personal friendship. Oh- and did I mention, she also happens to live across the street from me! With healthy doses of togetherness already built into our lives, via the sheer physical proximity of our homes, and by deciding to work together full time, would we be moving into the territory of too much togetherness and thereby pushing the relationship out of balance?


Well, hold onto your hats because it's about to get real. We jumped right into it and, in this brutally-honest account, I'm sharing five life lessons learned from the rollercoaster ride of running a family business with my mom/b.f.f. by my side. Strap in, folks, and get ready for some retrospective wisdom served up with a side of gratitude for Mother’s Day.

 

Team Mache doing Yoga

Team Mache takes every opportunity to balance the work with self care

 

Know When to Ask for the "Bette" vs "Mom" Opinion

It's a classic dilemma: when do you need your mom's comforting words, and when do you need your employee's honest feedback? Turns out, distinguishing between the two is harder than you think. Sure, Mom has a wealth of life experience, but sometimes you need Bette, the employee, to give it to you straight without the maternal filter. Learning to navigate this dual role was like walking a tightrope blindfolded – fun and fearsome all at once.

It became much easier for me to toggle between roles, once I learned to adopt two different ways to address her throughout the day: “Bette”, when at work and in the employer/employee relationship, and “Mom” for off-work hours, such as family time. At first, it was very awkward: calling someone I’d spent my entire life referring to as Mom, now by her real name. Surely, it was cringe for all to start, but eventually, I believe that the two roles were better defined and respected as a result. 

Watch + Learn Without Expectations

Think you know your parent inside and out? Think again. Hiring Mom opened my eyes to a whole new side of her personality. Suddenly, she wasn't just Mom from my point of view; she was a stellar employee, a coworker, a customer service manager, a team support system and a Human Resource manager, a lead copywriter, a product fabricator, a quality control director, and a mentor and advisor to the CEO (me), all with her own quirks and idiosyncrasies. 

It was like discovering a hidden treasure trove of character development – who knew Mom was so multi-talented and charismatic? Learning to let go of preconceived notions of who Mom is and what I thought her strengths and weaknesses are, and embrace the delightfully unexpected was a game-changer for me. 

 

Bette on Earth Day

Bette leading craft activities at the Mache warehouse for Earth Day

 

Get Comfortable with Role-Reversals

Imagine telling your mom what to do at work. Messed up, right? Transitioning from child to boss was a journey filled with equal parts hilarity and headache for both of us. Shapeshifting from a supportive advisory role at home to a respected elder role at work required finesse and patience for Mom. And let's not even get started on the mini-power struggles – who knew Mom and I both had such strong opinions about packaging tape? Suffice it to say; role reversals are not for the faint of heart and both parties must be committed to find positive new ways to communicate in order to evolve into a healthy, multi-role dynamic and keep both the family business and the personal relationship strong. 

Tread Lightly on Common Ground

Here's the thing about family businesses: it's easy to take advantage of your parent's generosity. Mom's unconditional support and willingness to go above and beyond can be both a blessing and a curse. As children, it's all too tempting to push the boundaries and ask for more than we deserve. But here's the kicker: Mom's not just an employee; she's a person with her own needs and limits. Learning to navigate the delicate balance between boss and child is an ongoing lesson in humility and gratitude. 

Celebrate the Wins Together

Despite the inevitable ups and downs that come with small family businesses, there's nothing quite like celebrating a win with your mom/b.f.f. by your side. Whether it's landing a big project or hitting a sales milestone, sharing the joy with Mom makes the victory that much sweeter. After all, who better to celebrate success with than the woman who's been cheering you on since day one? So here's to my Mom – the ultimate MVP of the family business.

 

Bette and Brienne on the road

 

Starting a company and hiring your mom as your first employee may sound like a recipe for disaster, but as I've learned now three years in that it can be a recipe for growth, laughter, and unforgettable memories. From navigating role-reversals to celebrating wins together, running a family business has taught me valuable lessons that extend far beyond the boardroom. So here's to Mom – the original boss lady and my partner in crime. Thanks for the laughs, the lessons, and everything in between.

Cheers to us, maman! XO

 

 

May 12, 2024 — Brienne Derosier

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