In this week’s episode, I sit down with my partner in life and in business; my fiancé Danny! After a poll on Instagram, you all wanted to hear more from him. I forced him to sit down with me and chat for the podcast. We have a candid chat about what it’s like to start and run a separate business together, how we handle both working from home, our roles in our relationship, and he answers some of your questions from Instagram.
People ask what it’s like to work with your partner but our story is unique in that we’ve always had a relationship where we worked together. Danny and I met initially while both working at a restaurant. We had separate shifts for the first couple of years of working together but eventually crossed paths at our workplace. It wasn’t until one day, that our shifts overlapped and he awkwardly asked me if I wanted to share his salad (to which I said no). From then we started to talk and hang out together. As Danny says, it was love at first sight over a blackened salmon salad. Danny now works as a public account by day and runs our side business together, The Tipsy Mule too. Working with your partner is not ideal for every situation but it’s always been something we enjoy blending into our relationship.
In early 2017, we came up with the idea for a mobile bar business we could do together. Danny has a passion for cocktails, mixology, and had been in the hospitality space for almost 10 years. Danny found an old horse trailer in a field, and then we spent the next 4 months fixing it up into what it is today, The Tipsy Mule. To keep start-up costs low, we had a friend store the trailer in a warehouse almost 90 minutes away from where we lived. For those 4 months, we would work a 9-5, drive 90 minutes, work on the trailer for 3 hours and then drive home. It was mentally and physically a lot of work to get this business up and running together.
We started our business in 2018, and we were hungry for any work we could get. We both still had our 9-5 jobs at the time and would agree to all types of work for the Tipsy Mule. We did events for Jose Cuervo, Thrillist, and even drove 6 hours to Seattle for a job. While the beginning of running any business is hectic and daunting, we learned so much about running a business along the way. Maybe this is the same for many of you? When you start, they say to niche down your offerings, but sometimes you have to do the work to understand your business better. You take all the classes you want on business, but real life can be the best teacher to show you what works and doesn’t work for you.
We had one incident with a client, where the time of our arrival at their event wasn’t clearly communicated. On our drive over to the event, when our cell service was revived, we received dozens of messages from the bridal party. We still had arrived there 3 hours before their event, but it was made clear to us then that we needed a process to make sure we were always on the same page and timeline as our clients.
It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve had success along the way. Now that we know our business better, we’ve niched down to private events and only take on so many events a year to keep it manageable on top of our day jobs. For us, it works to have this side business together that is a passion of ours and we enjoy doing it.
We started our business together before I launched Quill and Co. At the time I was still working at a design firm with set 40-hour workweeks. When I finally made the leap to full-time at Quill & Co, my hours switched and I was sometimes working more than 40 hours, and at all times of the day, so my role in Tipsy Mule shifted. The headspace of two small businesses was getting too heavy for me. I needed to take a step back from the admin work and from working on so many events every season. Danny was more than supportive and now runs the business more than I. We have even hired some employees to help with events. We were able to transition our business into this next phase of life together smoothly so we could both continue moving forward with our passions.
I’m fortunate to have a partnership where we both see each other’s passions and dreams and work to make them a reality. I helped with his dream of the mobile bar business, and he backed me up when it was time to take Quill & Co full time. If you don’t have a close partner in your life, gather friends, mentors, and similar business owners, in your corner to encourage you through the tough reality of entrepreneurship. We both looked at what would be the worst-case scenario if Quill & Co. didn’t work out and we knew we could always go back to working in hospitality if necessary. If you too are looking to make a big life choice, write down what is the worse thing that could actually happen and then make a plan if that were to be the case. Taking away the fear of the unknown gives it less hold and power in your decision-making. We also made sure to have some savings backed up and I worked a part-time job when I started all as nets to help take some of the pressure off of going full-time on my own.
On Instagram, it may seem like we do it all but I want to acknowledge that we do not. Between Quill & Co, The Tipsy Mule, Danny’s full-time job, and house projects we tend to keep ourselves busy. Projects get tabled, we used to have a house cleaner, and we have our support network of close friends and family that are always willing to help. We have gotten better at asking for help when we need to and being willing to take it when someone offers. There is no true balance in life, especially as entrepreneurs, something will always get put on the back burner. Build a support system around yourself while also giving yourself some slack. No one can do it all.
Danny says that what does help keep us on track to managing all of our work, is having a clear timeline, breaking down each project into small manageable steps, and always embracing the small victories as they come.
I’m also lucky to have Danny that offers help when work gets busy. He knows that on VIP days, for example, I might need help even remembering to get something to eat. We tend to naturally split up roles in our house. We don’t have a clear-cut set of “jobs” we take on but gravitate towards certain roles with the knowledge that we will both pick up the slack for the other when need be. Communication is key for this to work. Remember that your support system cannot read your mind. Be sure to communicate clearly what you need from someone and be willing to support them too.
Here are some of the questions and answers from Danny that you all asked on Instagram:
How do we balance work and life together?
We both work from home and work hard to keep our office time and our personal time separate. We have separate offices and when the workday is done we can come together in our home without work getting in the way. We also try to break up the day too by eating lunch together, going for walks with our dog, and making time to see each other, and check-in in.
How do we keep our relationship healthy?
We try to always be available for each other. Danny says that if I’m prioritizing something, he will make an extra effort to be there for me and vice versa. Supporting each other and being there for your partner makes a huge difference in our relationship. We also try to make intentional time with each other. Work and day-to-day tasks can make life busy and it’s easy to forget to stop and be present together. We don’t have it 100% perfect all of the time but we make time to be together and also time to be alone or with our friends.
Best and worst parts of having a business together?
Danny says his favorite part is that we both bring different strengths to the table. Danny does the bar and cocktail parts, and I do the branding, statistics, and backend tasks. Danny thinks the hardest part is how the business initially took over our personal lives. It started encroaching in on our house and moved into our personal space and no separation between where you relax and where your business lives.
What are you most proud of, of Marisa?
Danny says he’s most proud of my ability to materialize my goals into a reality. How I can plan something out, sometimes even a year in advance, make a detailed list for it, and then achieve that goal.
This was a fun episode for me to do and share with you. I’m so glad I can share this space with you and share my favorite person with you too! I owe a lot of my success to having a support system that is there for me through the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.