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Coepreneurs – A Different Kind of Family Business
April 9, 2010
Written By: Michelle Clark, Ph.D.

The other day I ran across an article reminding readers that during difficult economic times there is typically growth in self-employed and small business sectors as unemployed Americans seize the opportunity to start their own businesses. This isn’t surprising, but it made me pause and wonder just who are the people who are leading this growth. 

One segment is likely a growing group of family-owned businesses that have been labeled “copreneurs” -- dual-career couples who also share an entrepreneurial business enterprise. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners, 10.1% of all businesses (corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships) are run by married couples.
Married couples who run a business together receive much less attention in the family business world, which focuses primarily on multi-generational family systems. Coepreneurs face unique challenges. One of those challenges is having all the family’s financial resources “in one basket,” In many entrepreneurial companies, the family stability is “subsidized” by one spouse who works in a salaried career with health insurance benefits, a steady income over the year and a moderate amount of job security. Even if that spouse is involved in the business – working weekends, providing accounting support or helping make strategic decisions – the day to day responsibilities fall to just one of the spouses.
Coepreneurs are a true partnership where a couple has decided to go into business together – all the eggs are in one basket, so to speak. Even though it can be more stressful than other partnerships, in our own work with family businesses, we have seen many business/marriage partners who survive and thrive. They accomplish this in the same manner that any successful family business does. They communicate. They set ground rules. They keep perspective. They have the tough conversations.
In the upcoming spring newsletter, we cover the topic coepreneurs in more detail, but I thought it was worth introducing the term here because they are a growing segment in the business world. In fact, if you and your spouse are coepreneurs, I invite you to comment below with tips on how you have found success working together.

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