These dynamic duos offer advice about what makes their businesses and marriages thrive.
By Tara Behan
Jenna and Michael Beard
Married since: 2012
Owners, The Beards: A Husband and Wife Photography Team
Sussex County, Delaware • thebeardsphoto.com
When Jenna and Michael Beard first met, it was anything but love at first sight. “When I first met Michael I thought, ‘This guy is such a nerd, I could never date him,’” Jenna recalls. Michael is nonplussed by his wife’s admission. “I’m still a nerd,” he laughs.
Now that “nerd” is not only Jenna’s husband, but also her full-time partner in their wedding photography business, The Beards. The couple had shared an interest in photography as a hobby, so years ago when a friend had asked them to do her a favor and photograph her wedding, they jumped at the opportunity. After the successful end product of this first booking and several subsequent bookings, they decided to pursue their passion together as a career. “We’ve had our business for six years,” says Jenna. “We’ve been full-time together for two and a half years.”
The couple not only shares a love for each other, but also for their business. “I love the people we meet,” says Jenna. “We’ve met some of the best people. We get these really fun couples as clients. It feels really sacred and special what we are doing.” While the couple admits running a business is a lot of work, the positives outweigh the negatives. “I enjoy being an entrepreneur and the challenge of running a business is really exciting,” says Michael. “And I enjoy the freedom it gives us—we can set our own schedule. We have the freedom to do things we want to do.”
And what do they say to those who can’t fathom working with their significant other? “We have people say all the time, ‘I don’t know how you work together, we’d kill each other,’” says Michael. “It definitely works for us. Our personalities complement each other perfectly.” Like most couples, one of the biggest challenges they face is work/life balance. “We have a home office so it can be hard to step away,” says Jenna. “We try and have open communication. It takes a lot of self-awareness.” At the end of the day the couple always keeps one thing in mind. “Michael and I have said so many times—our entire business could fall apart, but our marriage just can’t fall apart,” says Jenna. “Our marriage is our priority. The most important thing will always be our marriage.”
Beke Beau and Christopher Carlson
Married since: 2003
Beke Beau, professional make-up artist, Philadelphia—area and Christopher Carlson, Director of Service and Design at J. Scott Catering.
Malvern, Pennsylvania • bekebeau.com and jscottcatering.com
Beke Beau can tell a great story about how she met her husband, Christopher Carlson. “We met underneath one of my favorite paintings at the Metropolitan Museum in New York,” says Beau. One instantly conjures up images of a romantic, serendipitous meeting, but then Beau clarifies the reality of the meeting.
“We met online and that’s where—underneath my favorite painting—our first date started.” That first date went very well as did all those after. Marriage eventually followed and now the couple works within the wedding industry although in much different roles.
Beau, a former professional rock singer, has been working as a make-up artist since 1990. Shortly after starting in her career, she found her niche in working on high-end weddings and now runs her own business doing the same with a team. “We’re working on about 100 weddings per year as a team. I also do a ton of make-up lessons, private clients, commercial work and I’m opening a school for artists,” says Beau. “For me, it’s all about the relationships that I build with my brides, and their moms.”
While Beau is beautifying the brides, Carlson is focused on making sure that couples have the wedding of their dreams as the Director of Service and Design at J. Scott Catering, in Malvern, Pennsylvania. “I often refer to Christopher as ‘the brother from another planet,’ when attempting to describe what he does to a space,” say Beau of her husband.
“His elevated, innovative and refined design is utterly different from the standard wedding decor approach. He’s also singularly focused on his client and to say that he goes above and beyond for a bride and groom is a gross understatement. He’s just the consummate event professional and his staff love working for him because he respects them but holds them to a high standard. Plus, he’s hilarious.”
Carlson is equally as impressed with the talents of his wife. “Beke is definitely the brains of our ‘operation’; she not only possesses uncanny creative skills, but also possesses Wharton Business School-like skills in running her company (even though she is a Harvard graduate),” says Carlson.
Since being in the wedding business keeps the couple extremely busy, they make the most of the time off by enjoying just being together. “We’re quite happy at home,” says Beau. “Christopher winds down by clearing the surrounding forest, and I watch birds with our two cats, Monte and Lana Turner.
That’s all I really need to relax.”
Amy and Tony Hoffer
Married since: 2007
Owners, Hoffer Photography
Downingtown, Pennsylvania • hofferphotography.com
Amy and Tony Hoffer recently returned from photographing a wedding in Mallorca, Spain for a couple from Switzerland. Although getting to jet off to exotic locales is more the exception than the rule of the couple’s wedding photography business, this husband and wife team based in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, welcome the opportunity to travel the globe together to capture a couple’s special day.
“I love the challenge of owning a business, the never-ending quest to keep improving and the travel,” says Tony. “I really love the travel. We’ve been really lucky. We get to travel and see amazing things while we work, which is insane.”
The Hoffers officially started their business in 2007, a month before they were married. Both graduates of Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, the couple started dating while attending the small liberal arts school. “I was an admissions counselor for a few years after college,” says Amy. “That’s when we were getting started with the business so I was working and doing some traveling, then coming home and helping Tony on the weekends. Connecting with prospective students definitely was a great way to prepare for this business, especially when we’re working for new clients every week.”
A few years after the launch of the business, Amy joined Tony full-time and they haven’t looked back. The duo shoots every wedding together as a team. Behind the scenes, while Amy is handling all the albums and follow-ups with clients, Tony is editing, working on client relations and other tasks for the company, which has grown to have three additional full-time employees. Constantly being around weddings and couples aids the Hoffers in keeping their own relationship in perspective.
“The best advice we ever got was to remove the word ‘divorce’ from your vocabulary—even as a joke,” says Tony. “So many people view marriage as a commitment that can end if you need it to, but in our experience, viewing it as a lifelong commitment has helped us learn how to grow together.”
Amy agrees. “I’d say that everybody changes as their lives go on, so having that mentality toward commitment helps assure that you’re changing with each other and willing to do it together,” she says. “Our lives look way different now than they did when we got married, but we’re both really grateful that we’ve always done it together.”
As for working together 24/7 there is no secret. “Nearly everybody we meet tells us that they could never work with their spouse because they’d kill each other. That kind of breaks my heart to hear,” says Tony. “To be honest, there’s no special gene to be able to work together, but I really believe that attitude has a lot to do with it, just like with marriage. If you view working together as a privilege rather than as a sentence, it’s a joy. Plus, the longer you do it, the better you get at figuring out how to do it. Now working together is easy.”
Nicole and Chris Scott
Married since: 2001
Owners, 1202 Floral
Hockessin, Delaware • 1202floral.com
By day, Nicole Scott is an adult nurse practitioner who recently opened up her own practice in Wilmington. On nights and weekends, Nicole and her husband, Chris, run 1202 Floral based from their home in Hockessin, Delaware. Designing floral arrangements for weddings and special events.
“I’m more left-brained and he’s definitely more right-brained,” says Nicole of her husband. “I definitely need to utilize my creativity. I feel like sometimes with doing medicine all day, every day if I’m not creative, I kinda get down. Creativity is my way to express myself and use my right brain.”
Chris, a professional gardener formally trained at Longwood Gardens, also maintains a full-time job outside of 1202 Floral as a gardener on a private estate in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and also teaches floral design courses at Longwood. “We’ve always done flowers together,” says Nicole. “We’ve always had that common interest.”
Their mutual creative side is one of the things that they initially found attractive about each other. “He’s definitely the creator and I’m definitely more business minded if you will,” says Nicole. “Being with him though has made me more creative.”
The couple agrees that not only do they have a good working business partnership together; they also have a great marriage. “We’re a great team,” says Nicole. Being a strong team is what helps them in managing their full-time careers, their business and their three children. “The kids love the business,” says Nicole. “We bring them along to jobs and have them help out by doing things like unloading the car. They enjoy being a part of it.”
As partners in business, Nicole believes that communication is the key to making it all work. Another tip? “The best advice is don’t be so serious,” says Nicole. “Balance each other out. Appreciate each other. Be grateful. And, really, how can we not be happy when we’re working with beautiful things like flowers. This is the beautiful side of life.”
Sheryl and Dave Williams
Married since: 1993
Owners, CinemaCake Filmmakers
West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania • cinemacake.com
When Dave and Sheryl Williams were first married, they were happily working in established careers. Dave had a successful job in pharmaceutical sales and Sheryl worked in risk management for Enterprise Rental Car. Nine years into their marriage, the couple decided to take a big leap of faith. Dave had started a side job on the weekends as a wedding videographer and his talent for storytelling kept bringing him more referrals.
“It was a passion for me,” says Dave. “We were separating ourselves from the average videographer out there and I knew it could be profitable.” Dave walked away from his full-time job and launched CinemaCake Filmmakers.
Not long after, Sheryl joined him in the business. “I learned very quickly that he was going to work all week long and then be shooting weddings all weekend,” says Sheryl. “So if I wanted to see my husband, and be a part of his life, I better jump in, otherwise I was never going to see him.”
Sheryl handles the business-side of the company, while Dave is the lead filmmaker. “Dave is completely self-taught,” says Sheryl. “He is so talented and creative. That’s what I admire the most. And people just really like Dave and that’s something to be admired, too.”
In their partnership, Dave refers to his wife as the glue of the business. “Sheryl keeps it all together,” he says. “We would go off the rails if it wasn’t for her. She books all the clients and has such a great way with people.” A complete trust in each other is also what makes their business relationship thrive.
“We hear all the time from other couples, ‘We could never do what you guys do,’” says Sheryl. “We really enjoy working together. You really have to like one another, too. If people don’t like one another it’s not going to go well.”