Love and Business: Couples in business share tips for success

Evolve Truffles, complex and balanced, like a relationship

Love is in the air at the shared kitchen on State Street where Shannon and Christy Fox, co-owners of Evolve Truffles, make small batches of chocolate truffles. Orders ramped up before Valentine’s Day, and Shannon and Christy were busy preparing orders of their Valentine’s truffles and shipping them as far as New York and Illinois.

The Foxes started Evolve Truffles the same year they got married, and they talk about their business like it’s an extension of their relationship. Their truffles showoff the bounty and variety of Whatcom County with ingredients from Twinbrook Creamery, Bellingham Bay Coffee Roasters and local berry farms. They even capture the taste of local breweries in beer-infused truffle six-packs.

“Truffles are very similar to relationships. There are complexities, and it’s all about balance,” Christy said. “So everything about our relationship is in every one of those truffles.”

Shannon and Christy joke about their relationship’s sappy beginning. The two met in May 2010 at a Sunday brunch potluck at Shannon’s house. Christy walked in with a salad that Shannon called “amazing and beautiful” and it was love at first sight.

“As soon as she walked in the door, I knew at that moment,” Christy said. “You hear stories about love at first sight and think people are just talking fables. But I walked in and immediately knew she was that person.”

But Shannon already had plans to move from the Central Coast of California, where they both lived, to her sister’s 40-acre property between Blaine and Lynden.

A few months later, Christy watched Shannon climb into a Penske moving truck with her son, cat and chicken, which would lay an egg 200 miles later on Interstate 80 in Oakland.

“I was broken-hearted,” Christy said. “That night I went home and booked a flight to Washington for Halloween without her knowing that I was coming. She hadn’t even invited me yet.”

Shannon and Christy got engaged on Winter Solstice that year and Christy moved to Whatcom County in February 2011.

Both Christy and Shannon had worked with food for most of their lives — Christy as a chef and Shannon in catering. They wanted to start a food business together, and they decided on truffles thinking that would allow them to spend more time together, without the non-stop schedule of running a restaurant.

“We could have very well opened a cafe together and done some really killer food, but it doesn’t vibe with the rest of our lives,” Christy said. “As a chef, you work and you work and you work, and everything else in life is secondary. I didn’t want her to be secondary.”

Since opening in early 2012, Evolve Truffles has grown about 500 percent. With all that growth, time outside of work can be scarce, which Shannon said is a challenge to their relationship.

They deal with that by blocking out time for each other every morning. They have coffee in bed together; it’s their pact, Shannon said, and they don’t talk about business until after the first cup.

Nite and Pete Harksell, owners of Pete's Auto Repair. [Oliver Lazenby Photo | The BBJ]
Nite and Pete Harksell, owners of Pete’s Auto Repair. [Oliver Lazenby Photo | The BBJ]

Easy going love at Pete’s Auto Repair

Nita and Pete Harksell, owners of Pete’s Auto Repair in Ferndale, have been together for 36 years, and have owned their shop, at 6209 Portal Way, for nearly 24 years.

Nita said part of their success at running a business together comes from their willingness to let go of grudges.

“You just have to be easy going and have the right personality,” Nita said.

Before they started the business, Pete worked in a service shop and Nita went to school and learned bookkeeping and accounting. She said their separate roles at work also help their relationship.

A friend told Nita that he thinks she and Pete can run a business together because they generally like each other.

“He said he knows a lot of couples who love each other but don’t like each other and that we do,” Nita said in an email. “I thought that was a cool observation.”

In the time they’ve been together, cars have become more computerized and hybrids engines and electric cars have appeared. Through the changes, Pete still opens the door for Nita, and they often hold hands, Nita said.

“I think people forget how important physical contact is,” she said.


Becky and Larry Rainey, owners of Print & Copy Factory [Oliver Lazenby photo | The BBJ]
Becky and Larry Raney, owners of Print & Copy Factory [Oliver Lazenby photo | The BBJ]

Opposites attract at Print and Copy Factory

Becky and Larry Raney, owners of the Print and Copy Factory, said the difference in their personalities helps them run a business together. Becky has an entrepreneurial mindset, and Larry is more laid back. Becky thrives in chaos and Larry is organized.

“I think when we butt heads we have to recognize that we fell in love with each other because of those places where we’re different,” she said. “A tip for people who are starting a business together as a husband and wife team is to really specifically honor each other.”

Becky and Larry got married in 1989 and started Print and Copy Factory in 1992.

Like the Foxes and Harksells, the Raneys also have their own roles at work. Having separate roles helps them to respect each others business decisions, they said.

The Raneys write down their job descriptions, and review and update them yearly.

“We have pretty well-defined job descriptions, and we realized what each others’ strengths are,” Larry said.

And when they argue, Becky asks her self if the decision they’re arguing over is really one that will make or break the business, she said.

“This business doesn’t define who I am,” Becky said. “I would rather keep Larry than the business if it was between the two.”




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