There’s a saying to never mix business with pleasure, and yet couple Julie Chen and Chris Forbes have shown that if starting a company, like their tissue brand The Cheeky Panda, with someone you love is the route you both want to take, then follow through with your passions and the successes will speak for themselves, as I’ve found out from interviewing one of the company’s partners Julie:
> What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business with the person they are in a relationship with?
My advice would be understanding each other’s strengths so you have clear roles in responsibility. The things you aren’t good at are better outsourced to someone else.
> How would you describe the work dynamic between you both?
Chris is very passionate and has a very outgoing personality, so I let him take care of sales and operations. I’m good at creativity so I take care of branding and marketing. We have different opinions sometimes but we can always reach an agreement as we know we are working towards a common goal.
>How have you found the process in creating this brand?
Turning a concept into an actual business is hard work. Chris is good at corporate strategy and I tend to follow his lead, though not all his ideas pan out exactly how we thought they would. There has been a bit of trial and error, particularly on the marketing side of things, and the best way we have overcome them is to laugh at the failures and learn from the mistakes – also concentrating on the things that work well. Thankfully we have had a lot more successes than failures and I think if it was the other way round, it would have been a lot more stressful.
We wanted to create something that is different and likeable. We came out with a brand name – The Cheeky Panda. It’s fun, playful and easy to remember. Chris came up with the idea of wearing panda hats to all the events and presentations we go to. We work very hard but we enjoy every minute of it.
> How do you resolve disagreements within the business?
I think a clear idea of your goals is essential and knowing that any disagreements are to be resolved by aiming at finding the right solution to achieve the goals set out, so you don’t get too personal or emotional when they occur. If both of you are argumentative without understanding the reason, it might not work so well. When we have disagreements, we will find a reasonable way to talk to each other on why an idea would work. Sometimes we will ask a third opinion which is always helpful. We are both very passionate about this project and making this world a better place, so we know that any minor disagreement is not going to affect the bigger picture and our relationship.
> What do you think is the greatest achievement you’ve both had from the day you’ve started the Cheeky Panda brand?
We have had many achievements including overachieving crowdfunding target, securing domestic and international deals. Our greatest achievement is being shortlisted for multiple awards including national entrepreneur award. We have recently won the Essex Big Business Boost Award.
I’m not surprised the brand has won so many awards and with approximatey 27,000 trees flushed away as toilet tissue every day (yes 27,000!), using a tissue that has a carbon footprint 31% lower than recycled toilet paper can only be a good thing 👍.
From what I’ve learnt from these two, it takes a lot of understanding for each other to sustain a romantic relationship whilst also working as business partners and I salute them for doing this. They’ve said if they went through more failures than successes, the process of creating the business may have been more stressful – though with the fact they have laughed and learnt together through the tough times, I think any hurdle thrown at them, they’ll both overcome and I foresee a lot more successes to come.
What do you think about start-ups with your partner? If you have any stories or comments, leave them below 🙂
The Cheeky Panda have a range of cool products that you can check out here