News / Economy

By Hiring Mom and Dad, Young Entrepreneurs Shake Up 'Family Business'

Alexandra Ferguson's mother is helping her daughter grow her pillow business. (VOA/A. Milne-Tyte)
Alexandra Ferguson's mother is helping her daughter grow her pillow business. (VOA/A. Milne-Tyte)
Ashley Milne-Tyte
NEW YORK — Most businesses in the United States are small, family-owned enterprises. Typically, a son or daughter joins a parent’s company but, increasingly, young entrepreneurs are hiring their parents.

That's the case with Alexandra Ferguson's home decorating business.

The 30 year old started her company in the New York City suburb of  New Rochelle in 2009, designing pillows with phrases on them like "Think Big" and "Be nice or leave" emblazoned on them. The room is full of bolts of blue, pink and red felt, and trays of individually-cut letters waiting to be sewn onto pillows.

Ferguson's mother, Charlotte, works for the business 15-to-20 hours a week. For now she’s unpaid, but Ferguson says when they eventually divide up equity in the company, her mom will receive a large chunk. There’s no one the daughter trusts more than her mother.
Charlotte Ferguson (left) is working for her daughter Alexandra's home decorating business. (VOA/A. Milne-Tyte)Charlotte Ferguson (left) is working for her daughter Alexandra's home decorating business. (VOA/A. Milne-Tyte)
x
Charlotte Ferguson (left) is working for her daughter Alexandra's home decorating business. (VOA/A. Milne-Tyte)
Charlotte Ferguson (left) is working for her daughter Alexandra's home decorating business. (VOA/A. Milne-Tyte)

“I know she’s always got my best interests at heart," Ferguson says, "and if my best interests is the company’s best interests then I know that she’s going to root for that. There’s no ulterior motive for her except what’s going to be be good for me.”

Charlotte, who finds it's "very strange" to have her daughter as her boss, says she’s the practical one when it comes to getting things done behind the scenes. She also offers moral support and, in typical mom fashion, even tells her boss when her skirt’s too short.

Charlotte says she’s glad to let her daughter shine. “She should do. She’s the front face of the company. But I’m happy to be behind and help her. Sometimes I feel like ‘Hmm I don’t really want to do that.’”

But she usually obliges.

But not every child/parent business partnership is as functional as Alexandra and Charlotte's.

Wayne Rivers, president of the Family Business Institute, a consultancy, says his company once advised a business owner who had hired her father.

“Unfortunately dad had a wandering eye and of course his daughter didn’t know this, until one day when she caught him sort of in the act with the office manager,” Rivers says.

As she would any other employee in the same compromising position, the daughter told her father he was fired. But dad refused to go, citing his parental authority, among other reasons.

Parents often think the usual rules don’t apply to them, Rivers says, and both parties tend to think the business relationship will work because they love each other.

“We don’t need a job description and we don’t need accountability policies and we don’t need this and we don’t need that because love will be enough," he says. "It’s not.”

Rivers suggests pre-hire planning is key, which is what Katie Weiford and her mother, Sheila, have tried to do.
Katie Weiford and her mother, Sheila, are opening Kookiedoodle Krafts in Kansas City together. (Courtesy Katie Weiford)Katie Weiford and her mother, Sheila, are opening Kookiedoodle Krafts in Kansas City together. (Courtesy Katie Weiford)

They’re opening Kookiedoodle Krafts in Kansas City in September. Even though it was Katie’s brainchild, they’re splitting the business equally.

Katie, 35, admits to some frustration that she’s doing more work than her mother but acknowledges that there is a good reason.

“Starting a business in this day and age, a lot of what you have to do involves technology,” she says.

“I do detect some frustration in her voice at times when I seem to be a little not accepting exactly what I should be learning with, uh, in the technology,” Sheila Weiford says.

But Sheila feels she has other strengths and her daughter agrees.  While Katie can multi-task and usually does, her mother has a different approach to business.

“She takes one thing at a time and really puts all of her energy into getting one thing done correctly," Katie says, "and I think, especially with our vendors, they appreciate that.”

Their relationship is going through some changes, most of which are good, according to Sheila. “She’s learning new things about me and I’m certainly learning new things about her every day.”

Still, sometimes things get emotional and when Katie feels exasperated she has to remind Sheila she’s irritated with her business partner, and not her mother.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7768
JPY
USD
108.84
GBP
USD
0.6124
CAD
USD
1.0999
INR
USD
61.042

Rates may not be current.