• Entrepreneur of the Month

Secrets to Success: 21 Power Couples Marry Love + Business


The cannons thundered 21 times when the Crown Princess of Sweden said ‘I do’ in June 2010, and 21 times when President Obama was sworn in.

And there’s a 21-gun salute when Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth travels abroad.

So we thought it would be appropriate to ask 21 of our favorite Power Couples from around the country to answer a few questions about what keeps the home fires burning while they are managing successful, often stressful, businesses and professional lives. How do they do it?

Scroll down to read our own 21-gun salute!

Entrepreneurs Michael Houlihan + Bonnie Harvey
Co-founders, Barefoot Wine Sonoma County, CA

What brought you together? We met at a rhythm and blues dance club, and discovered that we both wanted to move to the wine country, and had an interest in business. Sarcasm and humor are the keys to our compatibility.

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? Our business gives us an opportunity to travel together and see places and meet people we would never otherwise have seen or met. Having a “traveling companion” enriches our lives with joint memories—and more importantly, helps keep the recollections straight.

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? Knowing when to shut off work and just relax, and keeping the workspace out of our living space. We “argue” our points to be sure they are understood. We know that the other person has our best interests at heart.

Advice for other couples: Not all couples can work well together in business. If you can, do what you do best, and refrain from interfering with your partner, who is doing the same. Don’t let your business become the only topic of conversation. And abide by the cardinal rule: No business talk in the bedroom!

TV producers Ken Lorber + Deeny Kaplan
Co-owners, The Kitchen, Miami, Florida

What brought you together? Deeny says, “38 years ago, my friend called and said, “Have I got a guy for you!” Five days later, Ken and I were engaged, and have been together ever since. We have always been in the TV production business, so there was always a common understanding of long hours, and hard work. We respect each other and have the same goals—professionally and personally.

Biggest challenges? Ken says: “Our field of business is the same, but our talents are different. The biggest challenge is being able to trust the opposing point of view. Of course, when we can’t agree, we do what I say. (Shhh, don’t tell her I said that!)”

Advice for others: Ken says: “Love, respect, trust. Period.” Deeny notes: “Stay who you are. A friend of mine, way before I was married, told me to keep my name professionally, that it was who I was. I took his advice because I believe he was right. Professionally I am Deeny Kaplan. At home I’m Deeny Kaplan Lorber. I like both women very much.”

Fine artist Robert Liberace + Illustrator and fine artist Lina Liberace Washington, DC

What brought you together? We met in 1994 when Rob was teaching a figure drawing class at The Art League of Virginia in Alexandria. I had been illustrating full time for a number of years and felt that better understanding the figure would help my work. I’d seen one of Rob’s beautiful drawings of an old bearded man in the school catalog. I had assumed it was a self-portrait, so I was surprised to find a handsome young man teaching the class! I admit to having a secret crush on him early on (and I have the feeling I wasn’t the only one!). He asked me out as soon as the semester ended and we haven’t looked back! We were married in DC more than 15 years ago and settled in Virginia.

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? We’ve both been self-employed for as long as we’ve known one another, so aside from when Rob is off teaching a class or workshop, we are both at the house. The key is that we have separate studios, but we enjoy working in close proximity. We never run out of things to talk about.

Advice for others: So much of our lives and careers is built upon the pursuit of happiness, and what makes us happy is to explore, create, and experience things together—whether it be creating art, making paper clay puppets, hunting down odds and ends in some old antique shop, and even house demolition. Our life is like an improvisational art project, and we have been very fortunate that we been able to keep adding to it year after year.

Chef Jordan Lloyd + Innkeeper Alice Lloyd
Co-owners, Bartlett Pear Inn Easton, MD

What brought you together? We both wanted to make something out of our lives. Supporting each other, and loving each other is a driving force—and it’s almost as exciting as watching who the other is becoming as a professional, and as a parent.

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? It does. Working in the same business offers a sense of reality to our relationship that other couples might not have. We think it adds a depth and richness. Of course, if you asked us five years ago if we’d be working together, we’d have said, “No way!”

Advice for others: Take time for each other. Think before you speak. Listen closely. And have strong boundaries about keeping work separate from your marriage.

Musicians Camilla McGuinn + Roger McGuinn
Co-owners, April First Productions Orlando, Florida

What brought you together? Roger is one of the founders of the 1960s band The Byrds, who tired of life as a rock-‘n-roll star. We weren’t married for two years before it became clear that I’d become the roadie. We met because we began an acting workshop on the same night. The coach put us together to do a scene from the movie, “Blume in Love.” We’ve been together ever since. Really, what brought us together was the hand of God.

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? We have been on a 35-year honeymoon. We love being together all the time. For concerts, he does everything on stage and I do the rest. Producing records and writing songs together took a little adjusting to each other’s viewpoints. We now have it worked out great. He doesn’t call my lyric suggestions “stupid,” and I tell him to re-record something “ever so sweetly.”

Advice for other couples: When two people have an understanding of God’s love for them, the love they have for each other will grow stronger as the years pass.

Entrepreneurs Gina Schaefer and + Marc Friedman
Co-owners, ACE Hardware Washington, DC

Who they are: With nine stores in the DC metro area, $17 million in revenue, and 175 employees, Gina and Marc use “owners” as their titles, “but I guess technically I am the CEO and he is the CFO,” she says. It’s a balance that works. Here’s why.

What keeps you together? Marc might say we are a good balance of crazy and calm. We have many traits that are complete opposites, but our strengths complement each other very much. We also seem to do a great job of finding new interests all the time, so there is never a dull moment.

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? We currently don’t share an office and our days are very different; so at the end of each day, we get to catch each other up as if we work for separate companies. I think it’s fun to have someone to bounce ideas off of who can then help with the implementation. The really great part about running your own small business is that the sky is the limit. We are young for hardware store owners, and we are new urban storeowners. Mostly that means that we are figuring out lots of things every day. It’s great to be doing it as a team.

How do you handle it when you disagree? I win! No, seriously, I would like to say that we try to have a rational discussion and then compromise when it comes to making a decision. Sometimes we do, sometimes we just get frustrated. We’ve been married for 11 years now, and in business together for almost 10, so we have obviously found how to work it out.

Advice for other couples: Don’t get stale. Marc woke up one day and said, “I will make the bed every day.” It seems like a silly example, but it forced me to think about things I wasn’t doing but could. That was three years ago. He’s still making the bed, and it’s wonderful.

Graphic artist and make-up artist Carol Stover + TV producer George Stover, Co-owners, Adventure Productions
Creators, Aqua Kids Baltimore, MD

What brought you together? Comedy! We first saw each other at a comedy club in downtown Baltimore when the comedian brought George up on stage and made fun of him brutally. Instead of being embarrassed, George loved it. He laughed, and kept looking over at me the entire time. We were married fuve months later. We still laugh all the time. George is a “lampshade on the head” kind of guy, and I have more of a dry, Scotch-Irish humor with a Denis Leary twist. It works, and takes the tension out of a long day.

Did you envision when you were dating that your spouse would be so successful? Was that a turn-on? We both did see that in each other. And for people with our personalities, it is more than a turn-on—it’s a necessity. From day one, we both knew we had connected with someone else who also had a very strong drive for work and success.

Advice for other couples: Have outside interests that enrich your lives separately. But make time to talk with each other every day, with no distractions. And don’t forget sex! It keeps you young and helps you remember the romance that brought you together in the first place.

Ready for more? Meet the 14 Power Couples who work in separate firms, and are at the top of their fields. Click here to discover why Love Rules.

Note: We couldn’t fit all of their incredible wisdom on one page. To read a more complete compilation, click here.

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