How We Built a Company Without Killing Each Other

The married founders of a New York-based retail tech company offer advice to couples thinking of starting a business together.

Published on Sep. 05, 2023
How We Built a Company Without Killing Each Other
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In the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, success stories often feature individuals who take the plunge alone. However, every now and then, a unique tale of collaboration comes along, defying the norm and celebrating the power of partnership. 

4 Rules for Mixing Love and Business

  1. Clearly define roles and responsibilities for each partner.
  2. Have fun and be positive, especially when challenges arise.
  3. Keep an eye on the shared goal that unites you in launching the business.
  4. Respect each other’s decisions.

We’re delighted to stand as one such example. For us — Susan Jeffers and Puneet Arora, co-founders of XY Retail — our journey is one of balancing love with ambition and innovation. 

I grew up in a lower-middle-class family in the suburbs of Bombay, India. A desire to explore and do better for myself and my family fueled my determination to carve out my own path in life, eventually leading me to Silicon Valley and New York City

Puneet hails from a family with an engineering background. As he pursued his degree in mechanical engineering at IIT Mumbai, Puneet discovered his love for the architecture of modern systems. Eventually our two paths converged, forming a formidable duo seeking to redefine the retail landscape.

We built XY Retail, an omni-channel platform empowering luxury retail brands, from scratch in the basement of what was then our Manhattan apartment. Since going to market and raising $4 million in funding in 2022, we have onboarded multiple global brands, today powering 500-plus stores in 20 different countries.

As if running a business isn’t challenging enough, doing it while married adds another layer of complexity. However, through trial and error, love and letdowns, we found a recipe for success that may power couples to build the company of their dreams.

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Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities

An essential part of our harmonious partnership was clearly defining our roles and responsibilities within the company. Knowing each other for so long, we had a deep understanding of how our individual strengths complement each other.

Driven by a passion for tech, retail and fashion, I assumed the role of CEO, steering the company’s overall direction and vision. Meanwhile, Puneet, with his technical prowess and experience, took charge as CTO, leading the development of an innovative system for modern retail.

By delineating our responsibilities, we created a well-structured framework that allowed us to use our individual strengths and expertise effectively. I love to focus on customer relationships and am passionate about product design and usability. Puneet is the backend and overall architecture wizard, always with the long-term product vision and roadmap. This mutual understanding minimized confusion and conflicts, enabling us to make unified decisions that furthered the company’s objectives.

 

Have Fun and Stay Positive 

Building a company from the ground up is a demanding endeavor that can be both stressful and overwhelming. However, we believe that maintaining a positive attitude and having fun along the way are integral to enduring the challenges that come our way.

Even amidst the uncertainties brought by the global pandemic, we refused to be disheartened and instead embraced the obstacles as opportunities for growth and learning. Instead of layoffs, the team took pay cuts. We also dedicated that time to perfecting our ecommerce platform to be the best it could be. Life is inherently uncertain, and no matter how meticulously you plan your business, there will always be aspects that happen beyond our control. Embrace them and find enjoyment in the process.

Our shared work ethic, coupled with a zest for enjoying the journey, played a vital role in navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship. Embracing uncertainty and finding joy in the process allowed us to overcome hurdles with resilience and determination.

 

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

From the outset, we were united by a shared goal — to create a seamless shopping experience that bridges the gap between online and offline retail. This common objective served as the guiding light that illuminated our path throughout the company’s development.

With a clear sense of purpose and a focus on the bigger picture, we remained steadfast in our commitment to revolutionizing the retail industry. Whenever challenges arose, for instance being in completely different time zones for months at a time for the better part of the last two years, we navigated through the storm by always keeping our shared vision in sight.

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Respect Each Other’s Decisions

In any collaborative endeavor, disagreements are bound to occur. However, what sets us apart is our unwavering respect for each other’s decisions, even in times of disagreement.

Hiring is one example where we have come to an agreement to make the decision. If either of us doesn’t like a candidate, we will not hire that person out of respect for each other’s thinking. Recognizing that we bring different perspectives to the table, we have learned to value each other’s input and make decisions collectively.

This respect and trust fostered a harmonious working relationship and laid the foundation for a resilient and innovative company culture at XY Retail. Embracing constructive dialogue and learning from each other’s viewpoints have been instrumental in our success.

We want to emphasize, above all else, the importance of love, respect and a shared goal in the relationship.

We hope our story can inspire aspiring entrepreneurs and remind them that when the right people come together with a shared vision, anything is possible. We want to emphasize, above all else, the importance of love, respect and a shared goal in the relationship. As the journey of XY Retail continues, our enduring partnership will forever remain at the heart of our success.

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