Business Power Couple

5 Canadian Power Couples Share How to Be Successful in Both Business and Life

Illustration of a power couple working together

For these Canadian Power Couples, navigating life and business on a daily basis is the norm.

Nearly one year ago, COVID-19 forced much of the Canadian workforce out of office buildings and into their homes. Eliminating your daily commute and wearing sweatpants out of view from your laptop camera seemed too good to be true, but working from home also presented many new challenges. 

For some, the dining table became a desk, for others, it meant homeschooling little ones while simultaneously working, but one thing was the same across the board: there was no separation between work and home. 

For these power couples, the cohesion of life and work was something they were already well versed in. Here, these entrepreneurial dynamic duos are sharing their secrets to building a life and business together at the same time.

Lezlie Karls and Nick Saltarelli – Mid-Day Squares

Lezlie Karls and Nick Saltarelli – Mid-Day Squares

In 2015, Lezlie Karls began to really get into plant-based foods, always messing around in the kitchen. Nick Saltarelli, who was her roommate at the time, was always turning to the typical confectionery chocolate… Oh Henry! to be specific. To convince him into her way of eating, Lezlie whipped up a version of what is known today as Mid-Day Squares.

In 2017, Nick and Lezlie got married and decided to make a food brand that resonated with their people, their vibe, and their way of living. After countless hours, trials, and taste tests, the first Mid-Day Square flavour “Fudge Yah” was released in 2018.

To help explode the brand, the two brought on Lezlie’s brother, Jake. His ability to build hype, create a loyal fan base and make Mid-Day Square guests brand evangelists was just what they needed.

Two years in and the co-founders have celebrated their two millionth bar sold.

Lezlie Karls and Nick Saltarelli – Mid-Day Squares

Lezlie Karls and Nick Saltarelli – Mid-Day Squares

How did you two meet?

We met at age 14 and have been inseparable ever since, even before dating. We were best friends while doing our own thing growing up, dating other people, and following our own career paths. We were platonic friends for a long time—Nick had even invested in Lez’s clothing company before becoming a couple. We moved in as roommates to try to build Lez’s clothing company… and a couple of months later we began to date. Nick proposed after a year and we’ve now been married since 2017!

Why and when did you decide to go into business together?

At 23, Lezlie founded her first big venture, a clothing company, which Nick was an investor in. From day one, we were both big dreamers and planners and worked so well with each other even before we were a couple. After we got together, we decided that once we were both available as entrepreneurs, we’d go into business together. Our friendship and soon, our relationship, was always based on pushing each other to dream big and never minimizing goals which make for a solid foundation for any business relationship, platonic or romantic.

What things did you have to think about before making that decision?

We were definitely naive at the beginning; being such good life partners, we thought this would easily transition into business. However, when things get tough, dark, and when you’re in the thick of it, it is anything BUT.

How do you differentiate between time designated for business and time designated for “life,” especially now with having to work from home?

Lezlie: “We don’t.”
Nick: “It’s impossible for us, but we are very transparent about where we are and about needing to turn off for the night.”

For us, it’s all about respecting boundaries and respecting “brain capacity.” Therapy was a great tool to learn how to be better off avoiding some questions, conversations, arguments when the other person doesn’t have the capacity at that moment.

6. How do you keep the “spark” alive, considering you spend so much time together?

Sleeping in separate beds was a great decision that we’ve made in our relationship. We take time to make our personal time spent together before sleeping—whether it’s cuddling, talking, planning—purposeful. It gives us the chance to miss each other after spending 24/7 side by side.

What has been the best part of building a business and life together at the same time?

Nick: “Getting to experience all the highs together is 100% the best thing.”

Our self-growth happens alongside each other, at the same pace, so we never leave the other behind. We’re at the same pace which makes business and life that much simpler when the difficult aspects of it arrive.

How do you support each other’s ambition and success as colleagues?

We’re each other’s drug in a sense, we get naturally high on the excitement and success of our business together. We’re always trying to outdo each other in conversation, just seeing how crazy an idea gets, and it really supplements our relationship as well as our business plans. We’re also each other’s biggest believers and it makes us feel unstoppable.

How do you navigate business disagreements?

Investing in a business coach was a great decision we made together; that and therapy. Those both gave us the tools to have progressive disagreements, instead of ending in these useless stalemates that ended up being bad for business and our relationship. Knowing your partner and how they process things is crucial since everyone approaches things so differently.

What should other couples know before going into business together?

Don’t go into business with your partner just to go into business together! You have to be choosing to go into business with that specific person, outside of any romantic or personal relationship; ​they have to objectively be the best. ​They shouldn’t be your default just because they’re your spouse.

What is your favourite business success that you’ve gotten to share together?

Walking into the new MDS plant together and seeing our own manufacturing facility. It was such a large amount of stress and work to get through, so seeing that come to life was the pièce de résistance.

What do you admire most about your partner as a colleague?

Lez: Nick’s intelligence and ability to see patterns. His willingness to think big and dream big with me.

Nick: Lez’s ability to lead is incredible, I’ve never met a better leader. She’s always been a herder, sheep-dog type.

Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds – Willful

Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds – Willful

After going through the death of a loved one and seeing how difficult it is to wrap up someone’s life and honour their legacy when there aren’t solid plans in place, Kevin Oulds and Erin Bury started Willful, an online platform that makes it affordable, convenient, and easy for Canadians to create a legal will online. Their mission is to ensure every Canadian family has a solid estate plan in place. Since launching in October 2017, Willful has created over 50,000 estate planning documents for customers across Canada.

Before Willful, Erin was on the founding team at BetaKit, and spent six years running a consumer tech marketing agency that worked with clients including Telus, PayPal, Lyft, and Rover.com. Kevin previously worked in trades.

Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds – Willful

Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds – Willful

How did you two meet?

We met in high school, although we’re not high school sweethearts—we met in grade nine and dated briefly in grade 10. We always held a candle for each other so when we reconnected randomly in Toronto over a decade later, sparks flew.

Why and when did you decide to go into business together?

At first, we didn’t. Willful was Kevin’s idea, and he pursued it on his own with me cheering him on from the sideline as an advisor to and investor in the company. I felt like I was part of the company since when you live with an entrepreneur you are privy to all the daily ups and downs, but it wasn’t until April 2019 that I joined the company full-time. At the time I was looking for a new challenge, and the thing that attracted me to Willful was a chance to build a team and a brand from the ground up, something I had loved doing at my agency and at BetaKit. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, and it was the best decision I’ve made in my career.

What things did you have to think about before making that decision?

The biggest consideration was how it would affect our personal relationship. We had been together for about 10 years when I joined the company, and we had just gotten married about six months prior. We discussed what would happen if it started to cause issues in our personal relationship and put a plan in place that guaranteed we would always put our marriage first.

How do you differentiate between time designated for business and time designated for “life,” especially now with having to work from home?

We live in a condo, so trying to work in the same space would definitely be difficult—luckily, we have an office in Toronto, so Kevin goes there (alone) to work every day. To be honest, we’re growing a VC-backed tech company—we don’t have a line between personal and work since we’re putting all of our time and attention into making this company successful. But our Friday nights and Saturdays are sacred—that’s when we watch Netflix, drink wine, and recharge after a busy week. I’m a big believer that no matter how slammed you are as an entrepreneur, it’s essential to take time to recharge, and that’s especially true when you’re married to your co-founder. It’s important to find time to just be a couple.

How do you keep the “spark” alive, considering you spend so much time together?

If anything, working together has only brought us closer together. We love building a company together, and it’s made our bond as a couple that much stronger since we share so much of our life. I can’t imagine NOT working with Kevin in the future!

What has been the best part of building a business and life together at the same time?

Not having to explain to a spouse why you’re working all the time. Kevin gets it because he’s doing the same thing. Also, there are a lot of ups and downs in entrepreneurship, so I love that we never have a bad day on the same day. We give each other pep talks and act as a strong support system for each other, which is essential when you’re building a company.

How do you support each other’s ambition and success as colleagues?

Kevin has always supported me in my career—he knew from that first meeting in grade 9 that I’m wildly ambitious, and he knew that I would have a big career. He’s been my #1 supporter through all of my various career chapters. On my end, the biggest thing I did to support Kevin was to tell him to quit his job in trades to start Willful. What I love about him is he never wanted to settle for a 9–5 job, so I loved that I could give him the gift of time to pursue his dream of starting a company.

How do you navigate business disagreements?

When you’re building a business, you can’t just dictate commands to your team and ask them to do things without justification. Our biggest focus is using customer feedback, user research, and market research to validate our ideas. So, when one of us is very passionate about a product improvement or expansion, we always ask whether this is something one of us wants as a founder; or whether this is something that is led by solving a customer problem. But I think it’s healthy to passionately argue for what you believe the company should do—that healthy conflict can lead to some of the best ideas.

What should other couples know before going into business together?

Know your swim lane. While Kevin and I are co-founders, as CEO I focus on a very different area of the business than Kevin, who focuses more on product and market development. Having clear swim lanes means that we actually don’t work together that much.

What is your favourite business success that you’ve gotten to share together?

In the early days of COVID-19, we saw a 600% increase in sales because Canadians were rushing to get emergency planning documents in place. It was the busiest 6–8 weeks of the company’s history, and we worked pretty much 24/7 on everything from printing & shipping wills, to handling customer service, to ensuring our team was holding up okay. I think we navigated that time while staying true to our values of empathy, empowerment, and purpose, and I’m proud that we navigated it well together.

What do you admire most about your partner as a colleague?

I admire Kevin’s creativity. I’m not a “big ideas” person; rather I’m great at taking other people’s business ideas and growing them. So, I’ve always admired his ability to come up with creative ideas. I also admire his resourcefulness—he didn’t have a tech or business background, yet he was able to launch Willful with very little money or experience. It takes guts to do that, and it takes resourcefulness to figure things out.

I think Kevin would say he admires my productivity and organization. I am Type A to the max and am an organized, efficient, disciplined person. I think that has been my most helpful quality as we’ve scaled this business.

Bernard Law and Angie Tran – Kind Laundry

Bernard Law and Angie Tran – Kind Laundry

Angie Tran and Bernard Law are the co-founders of Kind Laundry. The company aims to reduce the number of single-use plastic jugs by providing a zero-waste and safer detergent alternative. Their biodegradable laundry detergent sheets are pre-measured and feature only four simple non-toxic ingredients.

They both live a sustainable lifestyle, love animals, exploring nature, and eat a plant-based diet. They’ve been business partners for the past five years, working on various ventures, and launched Kind Laundry as co-founders in August 2020. 

Bernard Law and Angie Tran – Kind Laundry

Bernard Law and Angie Tran – Kind Laundry

How did you two meet?

We met when we were working at a Marketing Agency together on the same team, 10 years ago!

Why and when did you decide to go into business together?

Bernard: The pivotal moment came one night at Angie’s house when we were having a serious conversation about our future. It was clear at that moment that we had two paths laid out in front of us. 1) Continue to climb the corporate ladder, buy a house and start a family 2) Take a leap of faith, put our life on hold, and venture into the world of entrepreneurship because if we didn’t at that time, we will look back when we’re older and regret not even trying.

What things did you have to think about before making that decision?

Angie: At the time, we were in our mid-twenties and many of our friends and colleagues around us were getting married, buying a home, or starting a family. We knew that if we made the decision to go down that path, we would have had too many commitments and not take as many risks. We never gave up on the idea of being a “couplepreneur” and kept being persistent along the way, because our belief in building something of our own far outweighed the temporary struggles.

How do you differentiate between time designated for business and time designated for “life,” especially now with having to work from home?

Angie: This is something we are still trying to work on because we’re both so passionate about what we do. We’re constantly sharing ideas and brainstorming new opportunities with each other, so we don’t have a designated time where we separate the two. We try to move from our office where we work during the day to downstairs in the evening, so it is a more relaxed environment and on weekends. We also try to have a “date” night where we binge on a Netflix series or movie or go on an adventure drive.

How do you keep the “spark” alive, considering you spend so much time together?

Angie: It’s not easy spending literally 24/7 with someone you also do business with. The only time we get a break from each other is when we go to the washroom and even then, we are talking to each other through the door! This is something we’re actively still trying to work on and we’ve been so inspired by a lot of Tony Robbin’s teachings, especially his relationship program with his life and business partner Sage. What we learned was that we need to check in with each other regularly to see how we’re doing. The “spark” can be something as simple as being in the present moment like walking through a forest, playing with our cat, watching a movie together, and just being grateful for the time together.

What has been the best part of building a business and life together at the same time?

Bernard: At the end of the day, everyone has their own agenda. They have their family they need to take care of and their own personal schedule to manage. The best thing about being a couple and working together on the same business is that we have the exact same common vision. There are no individual benefits because we share the same life.

How do you support each other’s ambition and success as colleagues?

Angie: We share the same values, purpose, and goals in life so everything we do individually and together is for that same shared “big why”: contribution, connection, and supporting our loved ones. Anytime either one of us has an idea, we don’t have to question it because we trust each other’s instincts and intentions. If it doesn’t feel right, then we talk it out—we’re very honest with each other. When we have “wins” in our journey, we make sure to celebrate it (at our favorite vegan restaurant) and when we’ve had “failures,” we support each other by reminding ourselves it was a great lesson to get better next time.

How do you navigate business disagreements?

Bernard: This is probably one of the trickiest subjects for business partners, especially for a couple. Business disagreements can easily turn into personal disagreements and they can escalate quickly. We find that speaking to each other over online chat, even in the same house, works very well for us. Typing out your thoughts forces you to only say what is necessary. Whereas when you speak to each other, it is very easy to say too much. When the other person is typing, it gives you a chance to assess the situation at hand and keep you level-headed. Lastly, it eliminates any tone and strips a disagreement down to its core.

What should other couples know before going into business together?

Angie: What helped us a lot is knowing that we have the same shared values and goals in life. We talked about this on our first date and this carried through into our business relationship. If you know your “big why” before getting into business together, it will make hard times more manageable because no matter what problems pop up, it keeps you focused on the reason why you got into business together in the first place. To us, it was to build the best life we possibly could for ourselves and our families and contribute to the world in a positive way.

What is your favourite business success that you’ve gotten to share together?

Bernard: We were running a fast-food restaurant while trying to start our own e-commerce business on the side. We only slept for a couple of hours a day, exhausted from the hours we put into both our new business ventures. We were at the point of giving up when we woke up and saw we made over $20,000K in sales in one day. This is something we didn’t think was possible and we knew that there was so much more to learn and opportunities we hadn’t tapped into yet. We sold our franchise restaurant business and focused on all things e-commerce and digital marketing.

What do you admire most about your partner as a colleague?

Angie: I admire Bernard’s patience, calm demeanor, and ability to go with the flow to figure out ways to make things work, as I can be very intense and structured. Bernard has the ability to make people feel comfortable and understood—which is very important to building key relationships in business. He is the creative mind in our partnership; always coming up with the vision of how he sees the brand and different ways to tell the Kind Laundry story, doing things to disrupt our category and making our customers feel “wow”. His head is always spinning with ideas to take our brand to the next level. He doesn’t react or give up easily and takes his time to solve problems. His humble attitude is what keeps him curious and constantly growing.

Bernard: I admire Angie’s ‘go-getter’ attitude. If there is something that needs to be done or if there is someone you need to get a hold of, I can always count on her. She never gives up no matter how hard or impossible something may seem and this is what has made her so successful so far. I admire her focus on business: If there are days where we’re so busy and we miss date nights, she has no complaints. If we’re on vacation and we decide to do something business-related, she’s ready to go. She is the one that brings structure to our company including building the team and people enjoy working with her because she genuinely cares about people. I’m truly the luckiest man alive.

Carly Burnett and Jessee Burnett – TKEES

Carly Burnett and Jessee Burnett – TKEES

When Carly Burnett couldn’t find a wearable flip flop on the market that wasn’t a shower shoe or poolside slide, she and Jesse Burnett decided to create their own. Their goal was to create a product that you could slide on and go anywhere, from day to night from casual to elevated. TKEES is a footwear turned lifestyle brand that is all about elevated, everyday essentials created with carefully selected materials, paired back silhouettes, and understated details. Carly runs the creative side of the business, while Jesse handles the operational and marketing aspects of the company.

Carly Burnett and Jessee Burnett – TKEES

Carly Burnett and Jessee Burnett – TKEES

How did you two meet?

Carly: We were introduced by a mutual friend 17 years ago. My friend and I were meeting up with a group of friends and he had insisted that Jesse pick me up on the way. Funnily enough, Jesse had caught my eye at a bar the previous night. It was totally bizarre but also meant to be. We’ve been inseparable since.

Why and when did you decide to go into business together?

The idea to launch TKEES occurred to me while on vacation with Jesse when I couldn’t find anything close to a wearable flip flop to incorporate into my outfits. I wanted a shoe that I didn’t have to think too much about. It was really a “wear it and go” situation.

We both joke that Carly pulled me into the business but in reality, we’ve always enjoyed collaborating together and have different skill sets that complement each other really well. Ever since Carly expressed interest in starting TKEES to fill an obvious gap she saw in the market, it was full steam ahead.

What things did you have to think about before making that decision?

Carly: When you start a business you never know exactly how the business is going to evolve. There will always be obstacles and unexpected scenarios. You can plan but we’ve found that it’s by doing and learning that we’ve carved our unique path.

We knew that the skills and different points of view that we brought to the table when we launched TKEES over a decade ago would contribute to the company’s success because they were different from one another. Carly is a creative in every sense of the word and I’m marketing and operations. It wouldn’t make sense to start a business if we had the exact same skill set and ideas.

How do you differentiate between time designated for business and time designated for “life,” especially now with having to work from home?

Carly: TKEES is an extension of who we are and as founders, we are deeply involved in the day-to-day of the business. That being said after working on TKEES together for more than 10 years, we know when to turn it “off.”

Jesse: Agreed. We can spend hours brainstorming, collaborating, and dreaming about new ways to grow the business but we try to keep our work life and home life separate when possible.

How do you keep the “spark” alive, considering you spend so much time together?

Carly: We get asked this question all the time. The more time we spend together, the strong the spark gets. We respect each other deeply as business partners and as parents. After working together and living together for this long, we’ve definitely found our groove.

Jesse: We also share a lot of the same interests outside of work. We love to travel and are big fitness fanatics.

What has been the best part of building a business and life together at the same time?

Carly: One of the most rewarding aspects of launching TKEES has been watching our business and family grow simultaneously. Our team is an extension of our family and our team members have grown up alongside the business.

Jesse: We also incorporate our kids into the TKEES family. It’s important as parents that we show our kids what hard work and dedication can turn into. We recently launched kid’s clothing and footwear. Our kids love to come to the office or participate in shoots whenever they can.

How do you support each other’s ambition and success as colleagues?

Jesse: Carly and I are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. You have to be when you’re co-founders. It’s all about supporting, believing, and trusting each other in our various endeavours. Celebrating each other’s wins is instrumental.

How do you navigate business disagreements?

Carly: We both possess different qualities and that’s been an important element of why our partnership works. I always say I couldn’t see myself doing this alone. Of course, sometimes we disagree—it’s only natural—but it’s important that we try to meet in the middle.

Jesse: It’s equal parts challenging each other and trusting each other. Sometimes there’s a crossover of opinions but we strive to meet in the middle. This has been a fundamental goal as business partners since TKEES’ inception.

What should other couples know before going into business together?

If you have a common goal, have trust in one another, and build a strong and supportive team around you, you’re setting yourself up for success.

What is your favourite business success that you’ve gotten to share together?

Every success TKEES’ has experienced has been shared together. It’s not one moment that has defined the business but a whole series of events since inception. It’s when our team members or our friends and family point out how much we’ve grown since day one that we take a step back and see how far the business has come and how much we’ve grown as founders.

What do you admire most about your partner as a colleague?

Carly: Jesse is a go-getter. He’s not only a dreamer but a doer. For Jesse, the sky is the limit and that’s something that inspires me daily.

Jesse: Carly is the most creative person I know. She IS the TKEES woman and embodies everything our brand stands for. Effortless, elevated, every day.

Tammy Eckenswiller and Nicholas Reichenbach – Flow

Tammy Eckenswiller and Nicholas Reichenbach – Flow

Flow is a wellness water brand that includes naturally alkaline spring water, organic flavoured alkaline spring water, collagen-infused spring water and vitamin-infused spring water. Together, Nicholas Reichenbach and Tammy Eckenswiller are on a mission to provide the highest quality, sustainably sourced, alkaline spring water that delivers leading-edge functional benefits, in a planet-friendly package.

Nicholas, CEO and Founder of Flow, is a serial entrepreneur originally from the tech space, and Tammy, VP of Brand Creative at Flow, previously worked in the fashion industry for Gilt, Everlane, and Rebecca Minkoff.

Tammy Eckenswiller and Nicholas Reichenbach – Flow

Tammy Eckenswiller and Nicholas Reichenbach – Flow

How did you two meet?

We met on the school bus in high school.

Why and when did you decide to go into business together?

Nicholas: Once I determined that the water coming from my family’s artesian spring was of the highest quality, we decided to join forces to create a premium brand and product line. Given Tammy’s extensive experience in building brands in fashion CPG and my entrepreneurial drive in building companies to scale, it was a match made in heaven.

What things did you have to think about before making that decision?

Tammy: I had to think about giving up fashion and our weekends and holidays.

Nicholas: I had to think about how this would affect our work-life balance and our personal relationship. It’s definitely been challenging but therapy really helps!

How do you differentiate between time designated for business and time designated for “life,” especially now with having to work from home?

Tammy: We have made the conscious decision not to discuss work after hours except for tonight… our 4-year-old daughter doesn’t really allow us to discuss work at home so that helps.

How do you keep the “spark” alive, considering you spend so much time together?

Tammy: We work hard on Flow but we also work hard on our personal development, including our relationship with each other and daughter.

Nicholas: Like passion, relationships are deeply rooted in respect and love. Passion drives everything.

What has been the best part of building a business and life together at the same time?

Tammy: I think that we really understand each other and what’s happening in each other lives in real-time. I know when he’s got a lot going on and I need to take on a bit more at home and he knows when I’m under a lot of pressure so he can help me out. We respect each other more and we empathize with each other more. I had no idea what it took to really build a company and a brand from nothing to something until I did this with him. Nick’s a real force of nature and he inspires me.

Nicholas: Being 24/7 with the one I love.

How do you support each other’s ambition and success as colleagues?

Nicholas: We do very different things but it’s very complementary so it’s easy to support each other to be the best we can in our area of expertise.

Tammy: I think listening and withholding opinions or judgement is helpful.

How do you navigate business disagreements?

Nicholas: We try not to bring them home, although that’s challenging. We deal with them in a professional environment supported by our leadership team.

Tammy: Clear roles and responsibilities are essential.

What should other couples know before going into business together?

Nicholas: Go into it holding the value of your relationship higher than the business itself. Your love and your family is more important than anything else.

What is your favourite business success that you’ve gotten to share together?

Nicholas: Our customers. They love Flow as much we do and we are humbled by that.

Tammy: Also, finding the right people and building the right team to successfully reach and speak to our customers in a way that really resonates with them. The magic that happens when you have an amazing team of talented people who love working together is truly inspiring.

What do you admire most about your partner as a colleague?

Nicholas: I admire Tammy’s intellect most.

Tammy: I admire Nick’s tenacity and relentless positivity. He always manages to turn obstacles into opportunities.

For more Canadian business excellence, sign up for our newsletter!