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In 2000 Kate Somerset left her corporate gig and launched Icky Baby, a Laguna Beach, Calif.-based company that designs and manufactures chic baby gifts and accessories. The company took off quickly, its products selling in Barneys, Nordstrom, and hundreds of boutiques. When Somerset needed some help, she turned to her husband, Tim. “He was hooked, and decided to quit his job and help me build the company,” says Somerset. On paper it looked like the perfect union. She handled marketing and design. Tim, who came from the building industry, handled the operations. (MORE: Can China’s New Leader Prevent an Economic Crisis?) In reality, it was a disaster. Tim was instrumental in growing the business – at one point it had 15 employees – but Somerset didn’t always agree with his decisions. That tension spilled into the marriage. “We didn’t know how to put the boundaries in place,” she says. “We didn’t know how to turn it off.” When it works, merging marriage and work can be a beautiful thing. Business trips double as getaways, and late nights are a shared burden rather than a source of bitterness. “It’s a lot easier to be empathetic when you really understand the dynamics of each other’s work,” says Rob Israel, who cofounded the Boulder, Colo.-based franchise Doc Popcorn with his wife, Renee, in 2003. And many couples who work together say their spouse really is the best person for the job. “Business is so much about trust, and I don’t think there’s anyone I could trust more than my wife,” says Mike Harris, who runs Orlando-based Uproar PR with his wife, Catriona. Yet even the best of marriages will likely struggle under the pressures of a shared workplace. The key to making it work appears to be careful planning — and understanding the risks. Eyes wide open As you might guess, the easiest marital mergers are those where each spouse has very different but complimentary skills. But as the Somersets learned, that is no guarantee of success. Likewise, individual personalities may not be that much of a factor.

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Looking for ways to promote your new company? Let’s face it: Some stunts are better than others. You could rent a hot-air balloon and sail across the New York skyline, but that’s a bit spendy (and possibly dangerous). Some small companies might pass out fliers on street corners, but really, who has the time? Here [...]

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As a small business owner, you probably do a lot of your own negotiating (along with a lot of other things). Here are some tips that could help make you a more effective negotiator – which could mean more dollars flowing to your business. According to Stephanie Vance, author of “The Influence Game: 50 Insider [...]

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Things like pricing and finding your market and niche are extremely important to the success of a new startup – but getting those basics right is a lot harder than you think. Setting pricing for your product or service can be tricky, says business mentor David Strom. Study what your competitors charge, he advises, and [...]

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Much has been written about whether entrepreneurs are born or made, with no real consensus. My own opinion, which is anecdotal, is that entrepreneurs can be made — and that parents play a central role in making them. I had a remarkable epiphany while producing Lemonade Stories, a documentary film about extraordinary entrepreneurs and their mothers. [...]

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