5 Co-Working Siblings Reveal the Pros and Cons

Updated 05/02/18

Siblings share an inextricable, one-of-a-kind bond. They've been through it all together—from the embarrassing moments to the triumphs and all the family reuinions—and they're the only ones who understand (and probably share) the little quirks and eccentricities that date back to childhood. But have you ever wondered what it would be like to launch a business with your sibling?

To find out what it actually takes to join forces to run a successful business, we tapped five sets of siblings behind some of the coolest brands, businesses, and companies of today. Ahead, they divulge the ways in which their sibling dynamic has lent itself to success in the workplace, how they separate their personal and professional relationship, and how they're redefining the concept of family businesses. Hear from the five siblings who work together below.

Melissa Levin and Amy Levin Klein, Founders of College Fashionista

childhood and adult portraits of Melissa Levin and Amy Levin Klein, Founders of College Fashionista
Courtesy of Melissa Levin and Amy Levin Klein

Tell us a little about how your career path began and how you landed where you are today.

AMY LEVIN KLEIN: I came up with the idea for College Fashionista during my senior year at Indiana University. I felt this need to connect like-minded college students and create a brand where they could all talk, share tips, and work toward their career aspirations. It started as a small concept at just Indiana University and within a year developed into a full-blown business at over 100 campuses worldwide. I have spent the past nine years working with incredible people to grow the brand and share the powerful mission of College Fashionista. I'm grateful for the journey and the impact we've had on so many lives.

MELISSA LEVIN: The same month Amy launched CF, I actually started law school. As a way to harness my creativity and keep up with my writing skills I had learned as a journalist, I would help out writing and editing content for the site. So during the day, I would go to school and clerk, and then after I was done studying (which often wasn't until 10 p.m.), I would switch over to doing stuff for CF. During my three years of law school, CF grew from being a fun little side project to a business with a lot of potential. So after passing the bar, while my classmates all took jobs with law firms, I decided to take a chance and go into business with my sister full-time. That was almost six years ago, and we're still working together.

When did you start working together? Was it an active choice, or was it more of a coincidence?

ML: When I first started working on College Fashionista, I viewed it more as just one sister helping another sister out. But as time progressed, we looked at each other and said, wait, maybe we should make this thing official and actually be business partners to take College Fashionista to the next level.

ALK: Melissa has always been the yin to my yang. In whatever venture we are doing, both personal and professional, we're tied together.

How has your dynamic as sisters boosted your work relationship and career?

ALK: Melissa and I are only 13 months apart and grew up essentially as twins. From childhood, we did everything together—dance classes to overnight camp. We even went to college together. This gives us the advantage of knowing each other really well. When going into business with someone, usually it takes time to get into a rhythm and feel each other out. But Melissa and I have always been in sync, which has been a big driver for our careers and the success of CF.

ML: While we're super close, we also are very different. Amy is super outgoing and big-picture. I'm more introverted and analytical. Our skillsets really complement one another. What her strengths are tend to be my weaknesses and vice versa. We recognize that in each other and never feel like we're stepping on one another's toes. This dynamic allows us to join forces to really accomplish and tackle anything that comes our way (in business or otherwise). Our relationship is founded on mutual admiration and respect, which are two key qualities to have with any work relationship.

"At the end of the day, you are siblings first and foremost." — Melissa Levin

What are the benefits of working with family, and what have been the biggest challenges?

ML: One of the benefits is that I get to see my sister and best friend pretty much every single day. It's funny because people ask if we see each other outside of work, and we most definitely do. There's rarely a weekend when we don't hit up a yoga class, go shopping, or just hang out at one of our apartments together.

ALK: The biggest challenge is not letting work bleed into family time. We have to make a conscious effort to not do too much CF talk outside of work. But at the end of the day, we are sisters before anything else, so we focus on that relationship when we're not at the office.

Do you think your younger selves would be surprised you work together now? Why or why not?

ALK: Melissa and I also grew up with parents who fostered the entrepreneurial spirit and closeness among our siblings. (We also have two brothers who we have worked with in the past as well!) Therefore, I don't think our younger selves would be surprised we work together. I think it was actually inevitable.

ML: Agreed! We've always liked doing things together and been interested in the same things. Those shared interests as kids evolved to similar passions and career paths as adults. It seemed like a natural progression that it's actually weird for me to think about not working together.

Do you have any advice for siblings who are starting to work with each other now?

ML: You have to be good at compartmentalizing. At the end of the day, you're siblings first and foremost. So whatever work-related stress or disagreements come your way, remember that all of those things come second to your relationship as siblings.

Corianna and Brianna Dotson, Founders and Designers of Coco and Breezy Eyewear

childhood and adult portraits of Corianna and Brianna Dotson, Founders and Designers of Coco and Breezy Eyewear
Leighton Pope , Courtesy of Coco and Breezy

Tell us a little about how your career path began and how you landed where you are today.

COCO AND BREEZY DOTSON: We're entrepreneurs who founded an eyewear company. We are also DJs/producers, and it’s been amazing to be able to merge both of our worlds. We've always known we wanted to be entrepreneurs since we were kids and understood the power of creating goals. We moved to NYC with less than $1000, an idea, passion, and drive. Tenacity got us to where we are today. We're very optimistic, and no matter how big or small or challenging something is, we always say it's just a part of the story. It has always been important for us to always remain authentic and transparent.

When did you start working together? Was it an active choice, or was it more of a coincidence?

CBD: We've always worked together. We got our first job together when we were 15 years old at the same restaurant. We founded our eyewear company, deejay, and make music together. Starting a business together was something we instilled in our minds since we were kids, so that is all we know. It was a natural choice because we've always had a great work dynamic together.

"There are times when we may have a sister spiff, and if I am mad at her at home, I never take those emotions into the office.". — Brianna Dotson

How has your dynamic as sisters boosted your work relationship and career?

CBD: Our dynamic as sisters is awesome because we're twins. Having a twin helps you develop special personality traits that are special to twins. Our work relationship has grown a lot from when we first started. We really had to figure out our own strengths and weaknesses. Breezy is the crazy, risk-taking, creative twin, and Coco is the logistical, observing twin. Putting our strengths and weaknesses together helps our work relationship and career. Our brand is called Coco and Breezy, which are our names. We're all about showing sisterhood through our full process and messaging. Running a company can be emotionally challenging at times. Our dynamic has helped us keep each other motivated throughout our careers.

What are the benefits of working with family and what have been the biggest challenges?

CBD: We want the best for each other, and we truly understand each other's workflow! One of our biggest challenges is making sure we still get our quality sister time in and not always talk about work. We love having "girl talk" over a cup of tea.

Do you think your younger selves would be surprised you work together now? Why or why not?

CBD: Absolutely not! We've shared the same passions, morals, and goals since we were in the womb together. We never imagined not working together.

Do you have any advice for siblings who are starting to work with each other now?

CBD: Never bring your personal emotions into the workplace. If you can manage to do that, you can have a very smooth working relationship. That's our number one rule!

Jean-Etienne and François Matton of Chateau Minuty Wines

Tell us a little about how your career path began and how you landed where you are today.

FRANÇOIS MATTON: My family has been in the wine industry for almost three centuries, beginning at the Domaine de Chateauneuf in Vidauban and continuing at Château Minuty from 1936, where my grandfather Gabriel Barnet replanted the entire wine estate in the St. Tropez peninsula of France. My brother Jean-Etienne and I were born and raised together at Château Minuty and stayed there until our studies.

After earning a master's degree in business from Dauphine University in Paris in 1987, Jean-Etienne came back home to work with my father. I myself am an oenologist, and prior to coming home to Minuty, I worked in Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux and for Taittinger in Champagne. When my father left in 1993, I joined my brother at Minuty and have been here ever since.

When did you start working together? Was it an active choice, or was it more of a coincidence?

FM: When I joined my brother back at the Minuty estate in 1993, it was certainly an active choice. With my father no longer working for the family company, Jean-Etienne needed help running a substantial portion of the business. We were (and still are) committed to our family heritage and feel passionate about continuing what our grandfather started.

"I believe that sibling relationships are stronger than any partnership—it's a relationship that is true and honest.". — François Matton

How has your dynamic as siblings boosted your work relationship and career?

FM: From the start, my brother and I worked very well together. Upon my return, I started as a winemaker and was put in charge of marketing, public relations and export. My brother handled all sales and finance-related matters. Over the course of the last 25 years, we've learned how to best work with one another in a number of different capacities. Together, we've streamlined the winery with modern, up-to-date, efficient equipment and have given Minuty a more international direction. Today, marketing, PR, and export are still managed by me, and Jean-Etienne has become the head winemaker in addition to overseeing sales in France.

What are the benefits of working with family, and what have been the biggest challenges?

FM: Because we're brothers, there's a strong bond also, as we share the same education and values. I believe sibling relationships are stronger than any partnership—it's a relationship that's true and honest.

Do you think your younger selves would be surprised that you work together now? Why or why not?

FM: When we were kids, somewhere in the back of our minds we were sure that we'd one day work together. When you grow up in a place like Minuty, with two generations of legacy, you feel connected to the place and heritage. I couldn't imagine working anywhere else.

Do you have any advice for siblings who are starting to work with each other now?

FM: You really have to take care of your sibling. As with any working relationship, trust is key. You also have to be a good listener, be honest, and be patient. And last but not least, don't forget to have fun together!

Massah David and Miatta David Johnson, Founders of MVD Inc

adult and childhood pictures of Massah David and Miatta David Johnson, Founders of MVD Inc
Courtesy of Massah David and Miatta David Johnson

Tell us a little about how your career path began and how you landed where you are today.

MASSAH DAVID: I worked in A&R and marketing, and while I was in marketing, I was also working with Miatta on the side, working on events for artists. So I would always come up with concepts for Kanye while still doing marketing at the label. At work, I kept coming up with concepts that they couldn't afford or didn't value or thought was too out of the box. So I left and decided I wanted to be my own boss. Miatta thought it'd be a perfect marriage to be co-founders and partners.

MIATTA DAVID JOHNSON: I was a financial reporter and was excited about it at first but after a couple of years, I just knew that it wasn't my calling, so I started to moonlight as a publicist and helping my friends who were artists. Because I was a reporter, I was hearing pitches all day long from publicists so I sort of learned the field that way. I cashed in my 401(k), and we started the business. Coming from an entrepreneurial background—our father was a business owner—so it was kind of natural to transition into that.

How has your dynamic as sisters boosted your work relationship and career?

MDJ: Our dynamic as sisters has strengthened our relationship. We have always been very close, but the journey of building something from the ground up has created an unbreakable bond. Coming from the same family, our work ethic and philosophy are in sync, which has contributed to the growth of the business.

MD: Our dynamic as sisters has not only helped our work relationship but our careers in general because there is a certain trust level that we have with one another. So we are able to be each other's cheerleaders but also receive advice and criticism with an open mind, knowing that we both want the best for each other career-wise and for MVD Inc. overall.

"Create boundaries, respect one another, and overcommunicate." — Miatta David Johnson

Do you think your younger selves would be surprised you work together now?

MDJ: Why or why not? Yes! I think our younger selves would be surprised. Growing up, I always envisioned a more academic career path and saw Massah in entertainment. It's insane how your trajectory leads you to exactly where you are supposed to be.

MD: Yes, because I think with Miatta's focus on journalism and mine on entertainment, we appeared to be going down completely different paths.

Do you have any advice for siblings who are starting to work with each other now?

MDJ: Create boundaries, respect one another, and overcommunicate. Running a business can be extremely demanding and stressful, but you have to talk through your differences.

MD: Respect. It really starts there. Respect what each of you brings to the table, and value whatever that happens to be. Once you begin with that approach, it makes the journey that much better.

The Eshaghian Sisters, Owners of Alex Mika Jewelry

childhood and adult pictures of The Eshaghian Sisters, Owners of Alex Mika Jewelry
Courtesy of the Eshaghians

Tell us a little about how your career path began and how you landed where you are today.

THE ESHAGHIANS: All four of us are entrepreneurial; we always wanted to start a business of our own. Michela comes from a career background in fashion/PR, Alexa comes from a fashion styling background, and Natalie and Nicole started their careers in speech therapy. Our father is in the jewelry business, so you can kind of say it's in our blood. Ever since we were old enough to walk, our father took us to his office and taught us about the different gemstones he works with.

When did you start working together? Was it an active choice, or was it more of a coincidence?

Michela and Alexa (where the name comes from—Alex Mika) started our company six years ago out of our mother's apartment. They began the company by making and selling beaded bracelets. Soon after, Natalie and Nicole joined the team. With all sisters on board, we soon expanded the business to include necklaces, rings, hand chains, body chains, earrings, ear cuffs, and more. All four sisters began designing as a team, each influencing the pieces with their own unique touch and style. Each sister brought forth their own talent to grow the business, whether it be Michela's PR/communication skills, Alexa's eye for the It trend and Natalie and Nicole's passion for design and sales. Our father put us in touch with a factory, and that's when we started to grow.

"Each sister brought forth their own talent to grow the business.". — the Eshaghian sisters

What're the benefits of working with family, and what have been the biggest challenges?

We're extremely close and are always supporting each other's endeavors. There is always someone pushing the other to work harder. As this is a family business, there are no days off, and every one of us is sure to remind the others. Of course, there are moments where we may disagree with each other over the production of a design or a business decision and the natural sister instinct to argue comes out, but we are reminded that we only have the best interest for each other and our company. We separate our business and sisterly relationships.

Do you think your younger selves would be surprised you work together now? Why or why not?

Our younger selves would not be surprised, as we have always been a tight unit. It just seemed natural for us to work together and continue growing as sisters and as a team.

Do you have any advice for siblings who are starting to work with each other now?

If you're starting to work with your siblings, the best advice would be to always remember if you have a disagreement to separate your work relationship with your personal relationship. Also, communication is key—listen to your siblings and give them a chance to share their thoughts and opinions.

For more inspiring career stories, hear the work advice that successful women swear by.

Related Stories