Labor of Love—These “copreneurial” couples are married to the job—and each other

February 2012 View more

Research suggests that family businesses produce up to half of the country’s gross domestic product and about three-quarters of America’s new jobs. Locally, generations of kindred partners have run family businesses, which seem to be especially prolific in Naperville. Our community television station, NCTV17, has made a documentary to feature families who run Anderson’s Bookshops, Oswald’s Pharmacy, Kreger’s Central Foods, Beidelman Furniture, and Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Home. Add to that the collection of various Wehrli and Belgio enterprises here and you can conclude that this town is very supportive of family-based enterprises.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one-third of all family businesses are run by “copreneurs,” a popular term used to describe dynamic husband-and-wife teams who run businesses together. These local pioneers bring a new model of marital and business equality to family-owned businesses, and give fresh meaning to “workplace romance.” These spouses, engaged in both business and pleasure together, reap the rewards of sharing a common interest and vocation, while taking on the challenges specific to this unique relationship dynamic.

In this bleak, wintery month—warmed only by thoughts of Valentine’s Day and warm-destination vacations— Naperville Magazine touched base with a few local copreneurs who shared with us their thoughts on their unique work-life arrangement. This February, when hearts and minds are focused on all things romantic, these couples—who have chosen to be both life and corporate partners—serve as relational role models in their dedication to each other and their businesses.


NMAG0212_Feature_Small_1Andy & AdreAnne Tesene

Business: Two Bostons Pet Boutique

Years in business together: 7 years

Favorite thing about/benefit to working together: We learned early on that you have to love what you do on a daily basis, so we made that happen for ourselves. We have the shared goal of having fun and we are certainly doing that. Not too many couples can say they both love what they do for a living. We are having so much fun on a daily basis and I think that shows at home and at Two Bostons.

Relationship advice: Hire a landscaper and a housekeeper—this is sure to help any relationship! These are two tasks that neither one of us cares to do, and it leaves us more time to enjoy each other and our family when we are home.


NMAG0212_Feature_Small_2Bill & Karen Garlough

Business:  My Chef Catering

Years in business together: 23 years

Favorite thing about/benefit to working together: There is the satisfaction of creating and accomplishing something together. We work with people we enjoy and our staff has become like an extended family. We strengthened our connections with Naperville by using My Chef’s event planning expertise to help coordinate local fundraisers, giving back to the community. In the process, we have met many wonderful people.

Relationship advice: Being married and in business together is not for everybody! You need to clearly define and establish distinctly separate responsibilities within the business. Although as individuals our approaches may vary, our goals and core values are the same, which has allowed us to agree on the important company decisions. Be tolerant, do not “sweat the small stuff” and carefully pick your battles!


NMAG0212_Feature_Small_3Tom & Karen Kiecker

Business: Kicks Shoes

Years in business together: When have we not been in business together! We opened “Kicks” just a little over a year ago, but have been in the shoe business together for 20 years!

Favorite thing about/benefit to working together: Working with someone you love and that has a vested interest in the success of the business is a HUGE bonus!

Relationship advice: Continual communication is key. Even though we divide responsibilities and tasks, it’s still imperative that we try and download the full scope of the business to one another.


NMAG0212_Feature_Small_4Jeff & Tiffany Groenenboom

Business: Studio Luxe Hair Salon

Years in business together:  4 years

Favorite thing about/benefit to working together:  The best thing about working together is that we get to experience the victories of our business together as they happen. It’s a cool feeling to share that excitement in the moment and know that it is the result of our team’s hard work. We don’t have to wait until we get home to share the news or call each other on the phone to explain what just happened; we get to experience everything together.

Relationship advice: The best relationship advice we can offer is that it’s always good to break up the weekly routine by going out to eat or catching a movie. Time is a precious commodity in our lives—especially with two young boys at home—but we do our best to keep things fresh and not get caught in the trap of a routine. There are times when we go out and purposely do not discuss the business in order to balance the fact that we are a husband and wife first before we are business partners.


NMAG0212_Feature_Small_5Anthony LaVacca, DMD & Manal Ibrahim, DDS

Business: Naperville Dental Specialists and General Oral Health Care, PC and Innovative Orthodontic Centers, PC

Years in business together: 4 years

Favorite thing about/benefit to working together: Spending quality time together is our favorite thing to do, whether it’s personally or professionally. Working together allows us to also share the field of dentistry, which is our passion and hobby!

Relationship advice: Always place your loved one AHEAD of yourself—don’t be selfish. Have respect for each other and appreciate one another. Let the love you share lead your life.


Photos by Robyn Sheldon