Here’s What Happens When Your Mom Is Also Your Business Partner

Imagine for a moment that you scored your dream job. Somehow you landed a gig you’re passionate about and excel at. Now imagine your business partner is your mom. That may be a dream come true for some; others may take pause.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re highlighting three seriously talented mother-daughter duos across real estate, design, and DIY who believe working together is like hitting the career jackpot. See how these smart women have navigated that delicate parent-child relationship to create a successful (and harmonious) business together.

Location: Ontario, Canada

Occupation: Miriam trained as an elementary music teacher in Spain and Cheryl is retired. Together this mother-in-law and daughter-in-law pair run The Urban Hedgehog, an Etsy shop that sells beautiful accessories and home decor for kids.
Working together for: Nearly 2 years

Apartment Therapy: Why did you start working together?
Miriam and Cheryl: Miriam married Cheryl’s son and moved to Canada, and is presently working towards her Ontario Teaching Certificate. In the meantime, being active and creative women, we decided to do something for ourselves and opened an Etsy shop.

Why do you make a good team?
We don’t make a good team… we make an excellent team. Miriam does the designs and craftwork, and creates the mobiles and banners; Cheryl does all the sewing, sometimes having input in the designs, and making Miriam’s ideas come to fruition.

What’s your favorite project you worked on together?
Our dolls were our first project, and the one we worked on the hardest. We were complete newbies and had to create the designs and find a company to print our fabrics. We treasure them.

What’s the best part of working together?
We enjoy getting together over a cup of tea and brainstorming ideas. Three generations of us (including our daughter/granddaughter — we sometimes run ideas past her too)!

Is there a challenge to working together?
Sometimes we do have conflicting ideas, but we work together and always manage to come up with a product that we are both happy with. We also often have our daughter/granddaughter around, and it can prove challenging not to have to have a “tea party” while we are trying to work on our next project.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned from your mother-in-law/daughter-in-law at work?
Cheryl is more relaxed and sometimes needs Miriam to chivvy her along. Miriam, on the other hand, is a dynamic person — Cheryl encourages her to step back and look at things in a more focused way.

What’s something you’re proud about your mother-in-law/daughter-in-law at work?
The Urban Hedgehog store has brought us closer together. We understand each other more and have a much better relationship that we might normally have had.

Negar Souza (40) and Feri Niroomand (65), Red Oak Realty

Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Occupation: Real Estate brokers
Working together for: 15 years

Apartment Therapy: Why did you start working together?
Negar: My eldest daughter (I have 3 kids) was just turning 2, and I had been in the retail world for a decade and a half prior. Retail is not a flexible job, and since Mom had been in the business for 20 plus years at that time, she hired me as her assistant. I helped her for 3 years learning the ropes, became licensed, and the rest is history.

Why do you make a good team?
We have a relationship built on trust because we are mother and daughter. We can be brutally honest with each other. At the end of the day, we know we have each others’ backs both professionally and personally. Plus, we can laugh and have fun as a mom and daughter in the midst of this crazy real estate climate.

What’s your favorite project you worked on together?
One that stands out was a sweet bungalow in Richmond [California]. The couple could not afford staging, so we said we’d help them out. We went to Ikea and had 3-4 carts filled with stuff — things falling out, us trying to push those heavy carts down two at a time. We laughed so hard tears were coming out. We also transformed that home so incredibly — agents were asking who staged it! We were so proud and had so much fun. It still makes me smile.

What’s the best part of working together?
Knowing that I can completely trust her and vice versa. Our business is super competitive, and you do not always know who you can trust. It’s a huge attribute.

Is there a challenge to working together?
Of course, we are related after all! We are both strong women with very strong personalities, but the good outweighs the bad. The biggest challenge is not carrying work over into our personal time.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned from your mom/daughter at work?
How to completely disagree with someone, but ensure you carry yourself with grace and dignity. That sounds easy, but its not! It’s a huge lesson on how to go out in the world and deal with ordinary people.

What’s something your mom/daughter does at work that makes you proud?
She tells me all the time she is so proud of me, because I have exceeded her in this business. She loves that my mind is brilliant and analytical, but my heart pure and I am honest. I am proud of my mother’s 37 years in a mentally and financially challenging business. Not many women can say they’ve built such a long and incredible career, but she did — and she did it on her own.

Diane Schmunk (59) and Emily Barry (29), Rehabitat Interiors

Locations: West Hartford, CT and Jersey City, NJ
Occupation: Interior designers
Working together for: 5 years

Why did you start working together?
Emily: It was honestly always something I wanted to do once I chose interior design as my profession. I love my mom. She is my best friend!

Diane: I’ve always wanted a partner that could talk through decisions, be a whiz at social media, and expand my horizons. There’s only so much one person can do!

Why do you make a good team?
E: We get along well and we have different skills and personalities that complement each other nicely.

D: When I’m stressed, she’s calm. When she’s going crazy, I’m the rational one. Works out every time.

What’s your favorite project you worked on together?
E: It honestly comes down to the client as much as the space. It was pretty gratifying to see this kitchen (pictured above) come together! We worked hard on it, our clients were so kind, and it was fun to see it come together.

D: I can honestly say that there’s been something about every project we’ve done that we have enjoyed and learned from. Whether a daybed design or a kitchen plan, I love having Em bring her thoughts to the process.

What’s the best part of working together?
E: I don’t get sick of being with my mom — especially now that I have a little one myself. When we’re together, we tag-team caring for the baby and working on projects. I’ve also learned a lot from her. I was fortunate to kind of jump into a business that was already started.

D: This business can be isolating, and I love having her to encourage, suggest, and bring clarity to just about every project. And she makes me laugh, which is probably the best part of being together.

Is there a challenge to working together?
E: She’ll never say it, but I can be bossy and have strong opinions.

D: She can be bossy and have strong opinions.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned from your mom/daughter at work?
E: My mom has taught me a lot of technical things about interior design, like measuring for and ordering window treatments. It seems simple, but it’s actually quite complicated! I graduated with a BFA in interior design, but I learned most of my business and technical skills from her.

D: I love her fresh style and her ability to finish a room with accessories. That ability lifts the projects we work on from great to amazing.

What’s something your mom/daughter does at work that makes you proud?
E: She’s not afraid to learn new things, like modern software! I taught her a 3D modeling software, and now she’s better than me! Well, as good as me.

D: She’s a great designer. Period.

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