Why starting a business with family and friends is the smartest move you can make

Today on our search for the best insight into the highs and lows of running a family business with sit down with Emmanuel and Frank Eribo, co-founders of Fast Track 100 listed company Butterfly Twists

Brothers Emmanuel, 33, and Frank Eribo, 31, together with two friends, came up with the idea of making comfortable, foldable shoes in 2007, when one of them had to wear a pair of six-inch stilettos to a party, after losing a bet. They began by making foldable ballerina pumps, but have since expanded to sell non-folding pumps, wellies and sandals to customers in more than 50 countries

Virgin: Who came up with the idea for the business and was it always clear you and Frank would work together?

Emmanuel Eribo: The founding team extends beyond Frank and I, we also have Mark Quaradeghini and Philippe Homsy. We always knew that we wanted to start a business together, we didn’t fully know what that meant, but we just knew that working together to achieve something sounded a lot more fun than our day jobs.

The business idea arose from a night out in fancy dress. One of us, (who I will not name), lost a bet and had to attend it dressed in drag. As the night progressed they were less and less mobile due to the footwear. The idea was born out of the fact that there were no real affordable, stylish, comfortable shoes on the market. Frank and I are lucky to be able to work together and I’d like to think that we always would have ended up working side by side.

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How have you found the experience of running a business with your brother, easier or tougher than expected? 

It has been a lot of fun. Our personalities balance and compliment each other well. We also have complete trust in one another, so it makes it easier. The thing that we always have to remember is that in business it’s really easy to come across as too direct in a negative way especially when communicating via emails, you can always end up reading emails the wrong way. So we have a rule always "assume positive intentions".

Working with your brother makes the highs even higher and the lows a little more bearable. I wouldn't say that the benefits are exclusive to working with family. Working with really good friends has a very similar effect. Its very hard to sometimes maintain the momentum and overcome every obstacle (and there are many alone), so having friends or family sharing that burden really helps. Some days you may not be as effective and rely on them to help carry you over the line and vice versa. A team makes it all much easier.

Read: Using your family to bankroll the business

Have you learnt anything new about Frank, that you didn't know before, as a result of working together?

Business is about many things: the product, the timing, the experience but one really important thing is that people buy into people and personality and Frank is a real 'people' person. Everyone loves him which is great. Yes, I knew he had a lot of friends at school and was popular but I didn't think about how that natural trait would translate into the business world. Also I would say that I would have never got to see how truly resourceful he was if we hadn't have worked together, I'd probably have never known that even now.

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Does working at Butterfly Twists feel like being part of a family for the other members of staff, do you think?

We really hope so, we really try and make it feel like that. We aren't a big corporate machine, but more like a group of people with a shared vision trying to achieve something together. We don’t focus so much on the technical side of staffing like when people come and go, or their holiday times, but more on how effective they are. We also try and look at the best ways to bring the group together - its really important to do things together as a team.

We arrange group yoga and mediation sessions where we shut down the office go to the park and look after ourselves. We do group events and things that bring us all together as a unit. Its all about educating, stimulating and empowering - its all about experiences. That is what makes a group of people stick together.

Would you recommend others starting up a family business?

I would recommend people to start a business full stop. Even better if you have a sibling to do it with. Its an amazing journey and one that can take you anywhere in life. It’s exciting and could really help shape you as a person and inspire others to do the same.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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