Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla on Mixing Business With Friendship
Ever toyed with idea of starting a business with a friend? You are not alone. Many of us have… and many hugely successful businesses have been started by BFFs: Microsoft (Bill Gates and Paul Allen), Ben & Jerry’s (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield), Mattel (Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler), and Harley-Davidson (William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson), to name a few.
Being close with your business partner isn’t necessarily a recipe for success, though: Research from Harvard University suggests that sharing too many personal characteristics with your workplace teammates can actually make you less successful. It’s better, it seems, to find a partner who complements your skill set.
We were curious to hear about what it’s really like to work with a close friend, so we reached out to Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla, who founded The Little Market, an online marketplace for handmade goods with a focus on empowering women, to hear how they make it work. Read on for our interview.
MyDomaine: How did you and Lauren meet?
Hannah Skvarla: We met in class at FIDM in Orange County.
MD: Do you have different roles in the company, or do you do similar things?
HS: The Little Market is my full-time job. As you know, Lauren has many other commitments, so naturally our roles are different. I work on the day-to-day stuff like product development, communicating with our artisan partners, and planning trips. Lauren is very involved in designing new products and styling beautiful photos.
MD: What qualities does your partner have that made you think she’d be a great business partner for you?
HS: Lauren has a great taste and an excellent sense of style. She knows what people like!
Lauren Conrad: Hannah is such a hard worker and a caring person. When she is passionate about something, she will do everything she can to make it happen.
MD: What inspired you to launch the Little Market together?
HS and LC: The amazing women we met while traveling inspired us to start the Little Market. We wanted to find a sustainable way to provide women around the world with income to support themselves and their families. By connecting artisans with an online marketplace, we can make it possible for them to earn the wages they deserve for their beautiful handmade products.
MD: What has been the greatest challenge of running your business?
HS and LC: The greatest challenge at the Little Market is working with artisans in rural communities. It is very hard to communicate with our partners when English is not the first language and Internet is slow.
MD: And the greatest challenge of working together?
HS and LC: One of our biggest challenges is scheduling. We both have busy lives, which means we are often meeting during off hours or shooting new merchandise over the weekend.
MD: How has, if it has at all, working together impacted your personal relationship (for better or worse)?
HS and LC: Working together means we get to spend more time together!
MD: Do you tend to see each other more or less outside of work than you did before?
HS and LC: More. We are very lucky to share a lot of our closest friends, so we get to spend a lot of time together.
MD: Do you have any workplace routines or rituals that are unique to the culture of the Little Market?
HS and LC: We love to hike. When we have new ideas to discuss, we often do it while hiking!
MD: What have you learned about your friend that you didn’t know before working together?
HS: There is no task that intimidates Lauren. She is very driven and will take on any challenge.
LC: I always knew that Hannah was a happy person, but I am always amazed at how she is able to stay positive even when she is facing a challenge.
MD: What advice would you give to friends who are considering starting a business together?
HS and LC: Set clear goals and expectations before you begin working together.
Browse a few of our favorite finds from the Little Market below.
Have you ever thought about starting a business with a friend? In what industry? Share your aspirations with us below!