Juggling work and play: 4 couples who live and work together, all day, every day

Gavin Bradley and Maggie Mouat run three businesses from their house on Raumati Beach on the Kapiti Coast.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Gavin Bradley and Maggie Mouat run three businesses from their house on Raumati Beach on the Kapiti Coast.

Imagine, for a minute, what it would be like to work with your significant other. To spend 24/7 in each other's company, managing workloads with little separation between work and play.

The stuff of nightmares, or an absolute dream?  

Wellington career coach Lucy Sanderson-Gammon says working alongside one's partner is a dream come true for some people. "If you have complementary strengths and skills and understand each others' preferred working styles, then working with your spouse could definitely be an option worth exploring," says Sanderson-Gammon. "Provided, of course, you really enjoy each others' company."

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For other couples however, sharing the same work-space, let alone the same building, would likely end in tears. "Just because you are well suited as a couple, doesn't necessarily mean you'll work well together," she says. "Some people do need to keep that separation between work and home life."

MAGGIE MOUAT AND GRANT BRADLEY run three businesses between them – advertising agency Luvly, a software-as-a-service business and Dodgy Bastard, a range of men's grooming products. 

The Kapiti couple, who've been married 15 years, wouldn't have it any other way. "We're such a good fit I can't imagine not spending all day every day together," says Mouat (53). 

The couple met when Bradley, a creative director, and Mouat, a copywriter, both worked for Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency in Wellington. For two years, Bradley (59) was even Mouat's boss. When they got together, the father of two was in the middle of a divorce and Mouat had recently ended a long-term relationship. "We'd been friends and colleagues for 10 years and suddenly we were more than that," says Mouat.

A decade ago the couple left Saatchi, seeking a lifestyle change. They moved up the coast, first opening a Waikanae restaurant, then an online restaurant ordering system. Next came a wine blending and sourcing business before this entrepreneurial pair starting edging back towards their media roots with a production company that developed the TV One series Business is Booming.

Gavin Bradley and Maggie Mouat run advertising agency Luvly, a software-as-a-service business and Dodgy Bastard - a ...
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Gavin Bradley and Maggie Mouat run advertising agency Luvly, a software-as-a-service business and Dodgy Bastard - a range of men’s grooming products, together from their home.

Seven years ago, when Mouat was itching to get back to advertising, the couple set up Luvly in Raumati Beach. Now they have 13 staff. "We enjoy what we do and we enjoy each other's company, intellect and passion for life," says Bradley. 

It helps that the couple divvy up tasks according to their strengths: Mouat looks after the finances and staff while Gavin oversees the workflow. But there's no real separation of the professional and personal, and one of their rituals is for Bradley to cook dinner while Mouat perches alongside, glass of wine in hand. "It's a chance to unwind and discuss the day," says Bradley."If we've got an issue we'll talk about it after hours, or until one of us says enough shop talk."

The arrangement wouldn't work for everyone. "But we were in our 30s when we got together so we're making up for lost time," says Bradley.  

Grace and Brad Kreft own Sweet Bakery & Cakery which has two stores on Karori and Cuba Street in Wellington.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Grace and Brad Kreft own Sweet Bakery & Cakery which has two stores on Karori and Cuba Street in Wellington.

Living and working together can be sugar and spice and all things nice – just ask GRACE AND BRAD KREFT, who own Sweet Bakery & Cakery, a boutique bakery with 12 staff and stores in Karori and Cuba St in Wellington.

Not bad for a business that started when Grace realised she enjoyed baking for work morning teas more than she enjoyed being a lawyer."Law wasn't my passion," she admits. "I love being tactile and creative."

After a year-long OE in London, the couple returned to the capital where Grace started selling her caramel popcorn cupcakes and whoopie pies at the Underground Markets. Business took off and she ran it single-handledly until 2014 when Brad gave up his job as a website content editor to join her.

The couple (both 30), who are expecting their first child, say working together has strengthened their relationship. "It's great to have shared goals and to create something so successful together," says Grace. "We're good friends, as well as husband and wife," adds Brad.

They have responsibility for separate parts of the business, with Grace overseeing the finances and administrative tasks, while Brad runs the creative, delivery and logistics side. 

"We're conscious of not taking work home because it can be all-consuming," says Grace. "We try to ensure we have a balance so that work doesn't take over completely. Over the years, we've learned to manage this a bit better, but the lines between work and home do sometimes get blurred."  

There are downsides to their arrangement, including the difficulty of taking holidays at the same time and the financial insecurity of having both their fortunes tied to one business.

"As a family we have all our employment eggs in the same basket... whereas most couples would spread that risk over at least two different employers," says Grace.

It can also be a challenge to moderate conversations in the workplace, adds Brad. "The way you speak to your partner in a conflict is quite different to how you'd talk to a staff member, so you have to remember to put your work hat on and act accordingly."

But the positives outweigh the negatives. "Being self-employed suits us both and we can appreciate the benefits and opportunities of the lifestyle enough to put up with the hard bits," says Grace. 

Rebecca and Malcolm Struthers work together as musicians in the NZ Symphony Orchestra and go on tour together.
Cameron Burnell

Rebecca and Malcolm Struthers work together as musicians in the NZ Symphony Orchestra and go on tour together.

The life of a professional musician isn't an easy one – the long hours, the relentless touring. Maybe that's why musicians often end up marrying other musicians. Just ask REBECCA AND MALCOLM STRUTHERS, one of nine couples in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO). The Wellingtonians 

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got married 19 years ago, one year after meeting – post-performance – in Auckland.

"There are few opportunities to earn a living as a professional orchestral musician in New Zealand, so it's a pretty small community," says Rebecca (53), a violin player who's been with the NZSO for 26 years.

Malcolm (50) plays the double bass. He joined the national orchestra two years after Rebecca and says living and working together is all they know.

"It works for us because we have exactly the same schedules, we go to work at the same time, we sit in traffic together and we do the same job in the same place with the same people," says Malcolm. That said, they don't sit next to each other at work. Rebecca is based at the front left of the orchestra, while Malcolm is located in the back right. 

"And when we're at work, we're very much individuals, not a couple," Rebecca points out. "There are 90 people in the orchestra... we're not joined at the hip."

But both understand the unique environment of the NZSO – the stresses and joys, ebbs and flows. The couple also spend around 10 days a month on tour, which involves sitting on a bus together and socialising together. "We usually have adjoining hotel rooms, because you need a bit of space after the intensity of all that togetherness," laughs Rebecca.

At their Miramar home, the couple have separate areas where they can practice and they're diligent about having their own interests. For Rebecca, it's art and tramping and for Malcolm, it's instrument-making. 

Alex, left, and Kris Herbert live above their Kingswood Skis factory in Lyttelton.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

Alex, left, and Kris Herbert live above their Kingswood Skis factory in Lyttelton.

It would be hard to find a more laid-back pair than ALEX AND KRIS HERBERT. The owners of Kingswood Skis live above their Lyttelton factory where Alex (45) hand-crafts skis with a bamboo core, a technique he pioneered 12 years ago. "Eventually friends started buying them."

Realising they had a business, his wife Kris (42) developed a website in 2005 and started helping with sales. Today Alex makes 80 skis a year, which are distributed as far afield as Russia, Afghanistan and Australia, while Kris takes care of the marketing and admin, along with some freelance copywriting. 

They met in 1994 when Alex, who was working in an Austrian ski-field, befriended Kris, an American journalist/copywriter. The pair eventually settled in Lyttelton, where their son Obi was born in 2008.

"We've deliberately kept the business small because it's sustainable for us and our lifestyle," says Alex. Flexibility is the key to their success. "If we feel like it, we'll go skiing mid-week and work during the weekend to make up for it. That's the beauty of owning your own business," says Kris.

Even though they're based in different parts of the building, the couple spends much of the day together. "We have lunch together most days and at times like now when I'm working 14-hour days, it's great to be able to pop upstairs to see Kris' smiling face."

It also works because both partners look after different parts of the business and neither is the boss.  

Asked about the negatives, they think for a minute. 

Work issues can sometimes become personal. "If, for example, you don't handle the work stuff it can roll into the marriage, so you have to be sure to communicate," says Kris. "We're in this business and marriage for life – there's no out – so we just have to figure it out."

 - Your Weekend

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