There seems to be a growing trend of BFF power couples starting and running badass companies together. From podcasts to retreat centers, magazines to design studios, the BFF power couple is so hot right now, and there is something incredibly beautiful about that. But no beauty comes without its challenges.
Spirit Guides Magazine was founded over happy hour, after long talks about modern spirituality and healing and in the midst of romantic break ups and grieving. Arizona Bell, my business partner, and I went to high school together, worked at an ice cream shop together and watched each other travel the world, encountering challenges, heartbreak, and victories along the way.
We lost touch in our teens as you naturally do in the midst of travel and major life changes. It wasn't until we found ourselves both back in our home town, licking our wounds and planning our respective escapes that we reconnected and began seriously discussing starting a business together. The years behind us laid the foundation on which we would build our futures.
Despite our bright hopes, starting a business with a friend was something I'd always heard not to do. "Don't go into business with friends or family," is something I'd heard all my life. But the truth is, there are many hurdles and challenges that come with starting a business with anyone. A wise man once told me, "Where there are people, there is conflict."
You're never going to have the perfect business relationship with anyone; as time progresses and things continue to grow, hard conversations are going to have to be had no matter who you're partnered up with. And if you started a company with someone you even relatively like, you're more than likely going to become friends through the process anyway.
Sure, there is a lot on the line if the relationship goes sour, but on the other side of the coin is working with someone you love and building something together that can bring great change to the world.
After Spirit Guides Magazine was born, it wasn't until things really got going and I was living in an RV outside of Arizona's house in Sedona when our friendship truly started to reach a deeper level. And what a beautiful time that was, with long nights, tarot magic and dance parties in what we affectionately referred to as "The Witch Wagon."
Now that we are over two years into starting and running a thriving company together, while have been consistently growing our friendship, there have been many rough waters we've had to navigate—both as friends and as business partners.
Regardless of these challenges, many incredible, profitable, helpful and positive ideas have come from our work with Spirit Guides Magazine. Our weekly radio show has been changing lives from the beginning; the messages we get from listeners in our community are a testament to the guests we invite on as well as the open and honest relationship we have with one another. We founded this platform on the idea of a modern, no frills approach to spirituality, and as times continue changing it has become increasingly obvious that this is exactly what people want. When you create something from the heart with good intentions, you will attract the people who are looking for your brand of spice.
Additionally, we've created a monthly membership community called The Cosmic Collective where we invite practitioners to host exclusive live sessions for our members. These sessions can include mediumship readings, intuition development, learning tarot, breathwork for ancestral healing, and everything in between! This worldwide community was a longtime idea that we pulled together and launched in just two month's time. When we work together on a shared dream, things fall into place in truly magical ways. It's like putting a request into the universe and having it fulfilled almost immediately. The synergy when we are working together on something is palpable.
However, the lines between friendship and coworkers can still get blurry. But if you can learn anything from our experience, it's that the precious combination of the two relationships can form a union that is completely unique to any other.
If you're looking to start a company with your BFF, take some advice from us with these three tips:
1. Form Strong Boundaries: "Boundaries" is a buzzword you hear so much these days. Either we all grew up as sponges, absorbing everyone else's shit, or we have just forgotten how to differentiate between what is ours and what is other people's. Regardless, forming strong boundaries in any relationship is incredibly beneficial. Draw a firm line between friendship when you're working, and business when you're playing. Bringing in the friendship during a serious business meeting will create unnecessary emotional baggage and make it more difficult to make decisions together. And conversely, only talking about work when it's time to play and relax can pigeonhole your relationship and easily make you forget what it was you loved about each other to begin with. Balance is key, and boundaries are how you achieve that balance.
2. Practice Clear Communication: This one can be hard when difficult conversations, that are usually zero fun, need to happen. Combining the love of a friendship with the logistics of a business relationship can help you practice clear and compassionate communication. If you can't talk about things as they come up, you'll never be able to move forward. And just like in any relationship, after you talk it out you will feel so much lighter and more connected. Put time on the calendar to talk if necessary but make it a priority.
3. Don't Take Things Personally: By far the hardest piece of advice we've had to learn is to not take things personally. Don Miguel Ruiz stated this as one of the agreements in his best-selling book, The Four Agreements, and it is super relevant in a friend/business relationship as well. When you go out together, attend family holidays and celebrate losses or milestones as friends, it can be hard to separate those moments from making business decisions and having inevitable disagreements. But when you form strong boundaries and practice clear communication, not taking things personally will feel like a logical next step in the evolution of the relationship. Ain't nobody got time to be butt-hurt by a disagreement. Let that shit go!
There is nothing more soul satisfying than spending all day together (virtually or physically) creating something that helps people all over the world with someone you love and grew up with. Starting and running a company with your BFF will force you to grow in ways you otherwise wouldn't. There will be uncomfortable moments and times of loss or failure, but there will also be shared victories and huge milestones. Just like anything else, the more honest you are with yourself and each other and the more committed you are to your shared goal, the easier it will be to successfully run a company with your BFF.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."