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Two’s a crowd: how to share your home and office with a partner

If you’re working from home, with your partner by your side, tune into the lives of other successful partnerships to hear what keeps them motivated day to day.

For Kedan and Kath Griffin, a lot has changed since the early days of starting their home business, Bike Bag Dude. They’ve welcomed a second child into the mix and invested in a workshop space but perhaps the biggest difference was Kath’s return to part-time employment as a financial planner.

After leaving her job to start Bike Bag Dude with Kedan back in 2012, the couple worked hard to build a loyal following for Kedan’s bespoke, handmade bike bags.

Five years on and two kids later, they decided the household needed a steady wage coming in – a constant income that could support them through the peaks and troughs of small business ownership.

As Kedan points out, “The hardest thing about any small business is the costs.” Kath adds that financial stress took a major toll on their relationship in the early days. For them, knowing when to change things up was crucial, and Kath stepped into the role naturally.

“If things need to change, you have to be able to recognise that and decide if someone is more invested in the business. In our case, Bike Bag Dude is Kedan’s baby so when we needed to bring in another income, it was I who stepped out.”

The good news is that they’re not in business for the money. Kedan’s biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to start a small business is to “go into it for the right reasons – for the joy of what

This sentiment is echoed by Craig and Gilda, another husband and wife duo pursuing their respective creative ventures in the same working space you’re doing.”

Craig puts it like this: “Follow inspiration and work it out from there. Don’t think about money, just focus on creating something you’re proud of.”

Like Kath and Kedan, they’ve also moved into a bigger space recently with a workshop, shopfront and dedicated areas to work on their projects. While their businesses remain separate, Craig with Ernest Studio and Gilda with Kisah jewellery, their roles in each have always been dynamic.

Between 2014 and 2018, Craig supported Gilda’s business as it thrived. In 2018, Craig started to find his feet with Ernest Studio as Gilda’s passion for her current setup dwindled, prompting her to take some time off to reassess her business model. For them, this adaptability has been crucial to the creative process, allowing each of them to shift gears when things became stagnant.

Both couples have learnt a lot about operating as a partnership, and share their tips for anyone going into a similar setup – be that starting a business, or simply working from home together for the first time.  

Top tips for working with your partner

1. Know how you complement each other

Understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses is important for any relationship, but it’s especially important for couples who work together.

According to Kath, “You’ve got to have your own strengths. You both need to come into the business with something that the other person doesn’t offer.”

Craig echoes this, flagging the importance of “understanding each other’s working processes.”

2. Work with what you’ve got; use what you have.

According to Craig and Gilda, if they had a mantra, this would be it. For them, learning to work with the space, materials and time you have available is part of the creative process. And, as Craig points out, “You’ll always end up pushing your boundaries. I still feel like I could use a bigger space, a bigger workshop, even now.”

3. Don’t be afraid of mess!

Especially in smaller spaces, getting comfortable with each other’s work-related mess will make life a whole lot easier. Even regular households get untidy sometimes so adding a home workshop to the mix brings with it a whole lot more stuff that’s left around. Learning to live with that is important, not just for your relationship, but also for creative flow. As Craig explains, “Packing up and setting up can be a real project killer.”

4. During work hours, treat each other like colleagues

Gilda describes how she and Craig treat each other as co-workers. “We respect each other’s boundaries. If Craig needs the downstairs space I can find somewhere else so I don’t disrupt his work.”

5. Get things done

It might sound obvious but for Kath, “communicating effectively to make sure you’re both getting what you want” is vital. Kedan adds that, “Many arguments don’t happen if the things that need to get done get done”. For couples in business together, this means ensuring that one person takes responsibility for completing a task – because according to Kedan, “If it’s on both of you, it won’t happen and then there’s a problem.”

6. Practise working together

Kedan and Kath describe how smaller projects helped prepare them for starting a business. Kath says, “We did lots of building projects, which inadvertently taught us to work together. We learnt from there how the other person operates.”

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