Running any business is hard work, but how would you feel answering to your boss who is actually your mum? Would working from home with your sisters drive you mad? Family businesses are on the rise, and Bethany Fisher finds out why.
It’s hard enough on a wet Monday morning to get up early to commute to work to find your boss forever moaning. But just imagine if that was your mum. When I think of working with my family, I think of arguments and stress – not a foundation you want to run a business from. However I was pleasantly surprised when I talked to two different family-led businesses about why they worked so well.
Matilda Kirkwood, who is part of a team of three sisters, has driven their fashion couture business to success – fight-free! Forget the Kardashians, this new trendy trio behind the latest fashion enterprise K’outure, are a business team that ooze sisterly sophistication. With their quirky collections inspired by musical theatre and their Scottish heritage, this innovative design squad are organised and have their minds set for success. It is quite astonishing to see a business in such harmony, considering they come from a family of seven sisters!
Matilda, 26,Jemima, 24 and Harriet,27 are the three Kirkwood sisters behind K’outure, which they set up just over a year ago after studying costume design at Edinburgh College of Art. With a price tag ranging from £300-£900 for a piece from their collections, it’s obvious that they must be doing something right!
As there are three sisters contributing to the design work, you would assume it would be difficult to all agree on ideas. Matilda shrugs off the assumption by saying “As designers we follow a similar process, but our inspiration and work that each of us produces are very different.” Matilda said that they love this about their company, as the diversity and scope of work is increased with three different designers working under one label.
I know that if I worked with my family, we would all try and palm off the worst jobs on everyone else but Matilda said “If there is a job I dislike, it is without doubt adored by either Harriet or Jemima”, which makes them at their best when they are working as a team.
When running a business, it is sometimes difficult to get on with all your colleagues, and if they’re your sisters, being too familiar with each other could increase the stress. Matilda said, “As we are the eldest of seven siblings, we know that getting on is much easier than not, and when you work with people you care about – the urge to succeed is increased twofold.”
On days that they are incredibly busy or stressed, Matilda said “We rely heavily on lots of cups of tea” and added that tea and hard work are the backbone of K’outure.
When working with colleagues you generally need to be more tactful when opposing ideas or criticising work you dislike. Matilda said, “As sisters, we are our own harshest critics.” Matilda added, “Where in other working relationships criticism can be sugar coated, we have no qualms about being direct, to the point of brutal sometimes, with issues that we disagree on.”
This can cause problems and sometimes they can find themselves getting too personal in arguments. Matilda said, “When family is involved it can’t fail to be personal, which can occasionally lead to some rather heated debates.” Although this can make disagreements more difficult to deal with, Matilda argues that as usual in any family argument, it is forgotten within minutes!
Like any business partners, they all have bad habits they all have to deal with. Matilda said “I am very messy and forever putting things down and forgetting where they are!” Matilda added that Harriet is always disrupting the workflow to make at least fifteen cups of tea a day. Matilda said, “Our youngest sister, Jemima, gets very upset when working in a messy studio.”
The sisters also have very good qualities about them that make them bond so well as business partners. Matilda said she’s best with dealing with proposals and anything that requires writing, and Harriet is a brilliant leader, pacifier and mediator – all necessary qualities in an older sister! Matilda also said “Jemima is good at being very organised and generally keeping us two in line.”
It seems that working with your family can result in a very strong team, especially if you know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. I spoke toAyşegül Çetinkaya, who set up her business, Irregular Expressions, with her mum, which creates knitted and crocheted accessories. Ayşegül tells me why having a clear understanding of their roles, is key to running their business successfully.
The business is innovative on its own, despite the fact that a mum and her daughter run it together! Ayşegül said that her mother, Sebahat Çetinkaya, is a sixty-four year old retired teacher, and works ten to twelve hours every day crocheting and knitting and creating new pieces. The long lengths of time they spend together working on the pieces could cause arguments in the business, but Ayşegül knows how important it is to her mum, so she helps her as much as she can. Ayşegül added, “As I am fluent in English, I handle our online store and customer e-mails.”
The mother-daughter duo has learnt that because they care so much about each other, they tend to put all their efforts into their business. Ayşegül said “I think that anyone who is about to start a business with family members are better to start with a clear understanding of their responsibilities, as it can avoid tension because it is very easy to argue with a family member.”
From what I have heard, even though it can be difficult to get on with your family if you are working with them every day, it is obvious it also has a lot of benefits – and no one else quite knows how to make your cup of tea the way your family do.