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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7893
JPY
USD
107.68
GBP
USD
0.6238
CAD
USD
1.1214
INR
USD
61.185

Rates may not be current.