Would you be happily successful like venture capitalists the Winklevoss twins — infamous for alleging that Mark Zuckerberg plagiarized “their” idea for Facebook — or go down in flames like the Kellogg brothers, known for the invention of (arguably) the best cereal in the world that sadly culminated in a bitter lawsuit?

Running a business can be tough, but running it with the same person who used to beat you up daily when you were kids can be unimaginable for some and a dream for others.

There are exceptions, but the majority of sibling-run businesses fall into the small business category, which provides a massive 78 percent of new jobs each year and comprises 19 percent of small businesses, according to a study by SCORE.org, a small-business mentorship company.

There are uncertain boundaries that can come with mixing business and family. Could you really fire your mom if necessary? What if you found out your brother was sleeping on the job? But these siblings are showing that when done right, these small businesses can take over the world! Or at least make Mom and Dad proud, which is the same thing.

Useful Tools for Small-Business Owners

1. CoverWallet

CoverWallet uses intelligent assessment system to help you identify the insurance your business needs. After you click off what insurance type you are looking for and fill out a brief business background, CoverWallet checks insurance quotes across all the top-rated insurance companies, which helps you save money with competitive rates tailored to your business. Also, you can access free customized advice with CoverWallet before you make any decisions. Get a free quote here.

2. Kabbage

Kabbage lets you apply for loans of up to $250,000 for your business, allowing you to access the funds whenever needed. No hidden costs or interest charges — just a small monthly fee when you access your funds, which can be reviewed upfront. And you can save money when you pay back early. You can apply online for free in under 10 minutes to see if you qualify to get credit with Kabbage.

3. LendingClub Small Business Loans

LendingClub offers loans at a lower cost than traditional bank lenders that are backed by individual investors. With no prepayment fees or penalties, LendingClub allows you to borrow between $5,000 and $300,000 with fixed rates, ranging from 5.99 to 29.99 percent. The best interest rate is available to borrowers with excellent credit and financial strength; the rate is fixed once the loan is issued. LendingClub will find the right investor for you. Get your quote here. The best part: It won’t affect your credit score.

4. National Funding

National Funding is a trusted lending source for small businesses. No down payments are needed, and you can speak with an expert before making any loan commitments. Find out how much your business qualifies for here.

5. Nav

Nav helps you get the credit your business deserves. With personalized financial recommendations, free tools and insights to help build business credit, and a 24/7 credit monitoring service, Nav helps you find the right business funding fast once you’re in control of your business’s credit health. And you can access it through a free app! Check it out and improve your business’s financial health today.

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Annette Dunn, Corrine Knight | Working with siblings
Sisters Corrine Knight (left) and Annette Dunn.

Annette Dunn and Corrine Knight

These two sisters founded and run Jumbo Minds, a small, independent publishing company that focuses on science literacy for kids.

Dunn is a biologist and chemist and Knight is an educator. They create the books they wished they had for their own children.

The sisters’ ambition is to nurture a scientific foundation in young children by introducing scientific terms and concepts to them at an early age. Exposure to scientific terms during the explosive brain growth period between birth and 7 years old will lead to improved fluency, confidence, and understanding later in life.

Jumbo Minds’ books and products ($9.99 each) allow children to have fun with science and can be used in schools and homes to inspire future scientists and innovators.

What Makes Jumbo Minds Different?

“Jumbo Minds’ original Science ABC books by A.C. Lemonwood started a trend, yet remain distinct from all others,” the sisters say. “No other science books geared toward children simplify science terms and promote engagement like Jumbo Minds’ original Science ABC books.”

“Our series truly simplifies scientific concepts, approaching them from a different perspective. Just imagine what the next generation could accomplish if a 5-year-old is as comfortable with ‘atom’ and ‘biome’ as they are with ‘apple’ and ‘ball’?” They are just words and concepts, after all.

But, plot twist! Dunn and Knight are not only the publishers of these books, but also the authors.

They write under the pen name A.C. Lemonwood to give them future flexibility and to make it simpler to be shelved in libraries and stores under one author’s name, rather than listing both names. (The “A” stands for Annette and the “C” for Corrine!)

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

According to the sisters, their parents fostered trust, respect, and friendship, which are now the core of their partnership.

“Our connection is deep, and it allows us to tackle tasks with efficiency. We understand each other and know how to communicate and translate each other’s unique ‘language.’ It’s also cool to end a work call with ‘Love ya, bye!’” says Dunn.

When working with a sibling, as opposed to in a traditional co-worker situation, there are fewer eggshells to walk around, says Dunn. This results in fewer setbacks and better efficiency.

For Dunn and Knight, working with a sibling makes it all easier. “There is a forced path to conflict resolution, fostering and promoting growth. You can’t give up on your sister!”

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Ashley Biryla and Nicole Branagan | National Siblings Day | Working with siblings
Ashley Biryla (left) and Nicole Branagan (right)

Ashley Biryla and Nicole Branagan

These two lovely ladies own and operate Compass Cycle Studio, an indoor cycle and hot power yoga studio in Rochester, New York.

The sisters opened their business, the only rhythm riding studio in Rochester, in 2016 with five employees. Now they have 25. They recently added a hot power yoga studio. Both types of classes are held in dark, candlelit rooms with “beat-bumpin’ music,” according to Biryla.

What Makes Compass Cycle Different?

“We focus on a mind and body connection, taking 45 to 60 minutes to leave the chaos outside the studio walls, rather than any metrics measuring how hard you’re working or how many calories you’re burning,” Biryla says.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“The best part is that we know each other so well. We’ve been best friends since we were born, and often we know what the other needs before we know ourselves,” Biryla says.

“Nicole and I operate differently and balance each other out, but the most challenging part has been navigating this new side to our relationship — we’ve had to learn how to manage a business together while maintaining a friendship/relationship outside of the studio.”

For Biryla, it’s about finding that balance. “It’s been fun, and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. Our younger sister is also an instructor for us, so that has added another amazing dimension to the blessing (and challenge) of working with siblings!”

“Whenever we have a difference of opinion, we sit down and discuss it right off the bat,” Biryla says.

“We’ve had some tough conversations over the past four years, but at the end of the day, we’re not only sisters but also best friends, so we always find a way to work through it.

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Friedrich (left) and Guntram Göeres | Working with siblings
Friedrich (left) and Guntram Göres

Friedrich and Guntram Göres

These brothers run a multinational software development company, Vlinde, in Germany and Romania. The small business has been growing quickly each year.

“We focus on hybrid and web apps, meaning software that mostly runs on web technology,” Guntram says. “The company was founded in Germany (which is where most of our customers are), but our developer studio is in Romania. My brother, Friedrich, is there primarily.”

What Makes Vlinde Different?

“We target a niche area: companies that must provide high-quality apps for Android and iOS, or web apps (often referred to as ‘SaaS platforms’) but who don’t want to maintain a separate code base for each,” says Guntram.

“We use a technology framework that wraps one set of code into every native environment (android/iOS /windows) needed, which makes it work like a native app. Friedrich leads our development team, in Brasov, Romania, while I have a background in usability engineering, so I take care of project management and marketing in Germany.”

Using their respective talents and interests gives them an edge in the field.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“We can fully rely on each other,” Guntram says. “We know without a doubt that we have the same goals in mind, and would never betray each other. Family is family, after all.

“The most difficult part is that we know each other’s weaknesses all too well, and while we try to support each other, some weaknesses are deeply  rooted and it’s hard to overcome them.”

Casey (left) and Leigh Isaacson with dog Layla (center) | National Siblings Day | Working with siblings
Casey (left) and Leigh Isaacson with dog Layla (center)

Casey and Leigh Isaacson

Leigh and Casey Isaacson run Dig Dates, a dating app for dog lovers.

“Dig is the dog person’s dating app and is a marvel at the intersection of the booming pet tech and online dating industries,” Leigh says. “We’re growing quickly with the enthusiasm and excitement from dog-industry leaders, thousands of Dig users, and dog-filled Dig local events.”

As a small business, the sisters are currently focused on user growth over revenue. They have had more than 31,000 downloads, a number growing daily. The free app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

What Makes Dig Different?

“It’s the best way for dog lovers and dog owners to find a compatible match and plan a dog-friendly date. Dig will help you find a dog-friendly location near you to suggest a first date idea, you get daily deals from pet companies, so you can win over your date’s pup from the start with a unique treat, and you’ll get tips and tricks of the day from vets and trainers to make sure the dates go well,” Leigh adds.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“We like to say that Casey makes things look good and Leigh makes things sound good,” the sisters confide. “Leigh is the powerhouse CEO, and implements our ideas, plans our events, and uses her expertise in TV news to connect with Dig partners and users through traditional media.”

“Casey is a brand manager and creative visionary, and she shares Dig with the world through innovative social media campaigns, partnership co-promotions, and otherwise making things pretty. As sisters, we have completely different skill sets that we are able to bring together to create and promote a brand, manage a company, and bring Dig to dog lovers nationwide.”

“Because we are sisters, and we’re so close, we’re able to be extremely honest with each other. As an entrepreneur, you have to take a good look at yourself and understand your weaknesses and your strengths. Honesty is extraordinarily important, but it’s certainly not always easy,” Leigh says.

“For conflict resolution, we turn to the same things our Dig users do for solace: our dogs. We may take a break from a heated discussion to go walk our dogs. Experts have said taking a walk helps you move forward together when feeling stuck, it’ll help you relax, and it’ll stimulate new thinking.”

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | James (left) and Bryan Reilly | Working with siblings | National Siblings Day
James (left) and Bryan Reilly

James and Bryan Reilly

These identical twin brothers run a clothing and apparel brand, Living Dead Apparel.

Right now, the store is only online, but the brothers’ goal is to have their clothes in brick-and-mortar stores in the near future.

 What Makes Living Dead Apparel Different?

“Y’know, I don’t want to say that our business or clothing brand is different from the rest cause let’s face it, there are a lot of zombie and horror clothes out there,” James says.

“We just try to be unique — we’re not better than anyone, we just do our best to make an amazing product and make our customers happy. What I do know is that it means something to us and at the end of the day, that is what matters,” James continues.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“Well, if we were any younger, then we would never resolve our conflicts (LOL). Since we’re a bit older, it takes a few days of silence or a funny meme to break the ice. We can usually come to an agreement with a chat or text conversation,” James says.

“We call each other while driving because what else is there to do when you’re sitting in California’s Bay Area traffic? My father still thinks it’s a hobby of ours. Mind you, he had his own his company for more than 30 years, so he has a good mind for business, too,” he adds.

“It’s a small business and we are still new — we have a few sales under our belts, but I’m not going to go out a buy a Mercedes! It takes time, but we are growing and amassing a good following.”

 

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Cassie (left) and Jacklyn Collier
Cassie (left) and Jacklyn Collier

Cassie and Jacklyn Collier

Cassie and Jacklyn Collier founded Bundle, a personalized board game company that brings people together for life’s most celebrated moments.

“We make one-of-a-kind custom games for family, friends, spouses, co-workers — you name it! If there’s a group of people gathering, we can make a Bundle for them!” Cassie says.

There’s a Bachelorette Bundle ($35-$60), which helps women learn about one another and reminisce about their memories with the bride. And a Family Bundle ($35-$60). No matter the bundle, there are several cards in each that prompt players to share things about themselves that they may not have had the opportunity to before. In addition, there are bundles geared toward couples and birthdays.

“We are a start-up company and hope to have continued growth. We subscribe to the Sara Blakely philosophy of ‘Start small. Think big. Scale fast.’ We started our company with $4,000 that we had in savings and were profitable within three months.” 

What Makes Bundle Different?

“Our business is truly one of a kind — right now, anyway. It can be both a blessing and a curse. There are other companies who are making personalized board games (like Golden Girls Monopoly) and lots of retailers that are offering personalized gifts, but our games are completely tailored and unique to each group — the Bundle is all about them!” Cassie says.

“When people find out about us, they are thrilled. Once they understand the concept, they are psyched and ready to play. But it can be challenging explaining it, because there’s not really a frame of reference or something that has already been at the marketplace that we can point to in comparison.”

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“We have been best friends since we were babies, so we really know each other,” Cassie says. “And getting to spend so much time together is great. We shared a bed for nearly 17 years (those siblings who thought they figured out conflict resolution by sharing a room — we really upped the ante by sharing a bed, clothes, and toys!), so we have been through the worst of our fighting days.

“We are both so passionate about Bundle, if we have different ideas of how things should be done, we know that we both want what’s best for the business and each other — there is 100 percent trust.”

“But the worst part about running a business with my sister,” Cassie reveals, “is seeing her disappointment when promising opportunities didn’t work out quite the way we had thought they would. But we are both resilient, and can usually put a positive spin on things quickly and figure out an alternate plan or a better way forward. But at that moment it really sucks.”

 

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Marcos (left) and Claudia Franco
Marcos (left) and Claudia Franco

Marcos and Claudia Franco

The brother and sister duo Marcos and Claudia Franco run Mighty Clean Home, a home-cleaning business offering professional carpet, tile and grout, and maid services. 

The company also offers special services for move-in and move-out cleaning, eco-friendly cleaning, and more.

How Is Mighty Clean Home Different?

“Our company is unique — it handles all three aspects of the cleaning industry under one roof. Our clients love the convenience of only having to call one company and schedule everything in conjunction with the other. That, and we are the top-rated cleaning service in Atlanta, Georgia,” says Marcos.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“We started this business when we were still in college as a means to make extra money. Today, our revenue is around $2.7 million! But it hasn’t always been easy. When we first started to grow, we often had opposing views on what direction we should take in many aspects of our business.

“We were both stubborn, and often would have big arguments over whose idea should prevail. At times it would get so bad we would stop talking, and our parents would get involved and have to sit us down together to work things out. But we always found a way to do it in the end.

“There is no one else I would ever want to be in business with other than my sister,” says Marcos. “We are 18 months apart and have been best friends since I was born. I would trust her with anything.”

“There are few people outside of your siblings can you go into business and feel that safe. We know that we can count on each other and can tackle any obstacle if we are a united front.”

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Barbara Kent (left) and her sister, Joanna Jozwik Serra
Barbara Kent (left) and her sister, Joanna Jozwik Serra

Barbara Kent and Joanna Jozwik Serra

Sisters Barbara Kent and Joanna Jozwik Serra started and operate an e-commerce business called Birdy Boutique. It’s an online platform for kids that features first birthday outfits, car seat ponchos, birthday crowns, and more based on their patterns. All items are unique in design, and cannot be found anywhere else.

What Makes Birdy Boutique Different?

“In addition to parents seeking affordable and quick options on platforms like Amazon, Birdy Boutique also offers items that are different from anything else,” the sisters say. “The car seat ponchos solve the problem of safety in a car seat, and are a much better option than wearing bulky coats under a harness.” 

Safety is always a concern for the “sister moms,” as they call themselves. All their products are CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) and CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) tested and compliant.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

Kent, a service-disabled veteran, often moves due to her husband’s work in the Army. So the sisters often work remotely and meet daily via video call conferencing. 

“Working together is amazing because we both get to collaborate to see what we can accomplish and meet the goals we set. We immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1988, and things were difficult for our family — but we persevered and worked tirelessly until we achieved success,” the sisters say. 

“The most difficult part for us is finding a schedule that works. People say that owning a business is great because you create your own hours. But the downside to that is the fact that you must find a hard cutoff time.

“Organizing your time during the day in blocks of working chunks is tough. We could easily end up working 24/7, so figuring out when to take a break is difficult. We have a pretty strict daily schedule with defined tasks and goals — that is what keeps us disciplined and on track.

“Our mom brought us here in 1988 by herself, and taught us to handle conflict ourselves with the outlook that no one will solve our problems for us.”

“We discuss it, lay out the pros and cons, and the most logical reason wins!”

 

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Michael (left) and Aaron Bellings | Working with siblings
Michael (left) and Aaron Bellings

Aaron and Michael Bellings

The two brothers run a residential retail firm, Bellings Brothers Real Estatein San Francisco.

“We work with Compass, recently voted by RealTrends as the No. 1 independent brokerage in the U.S. Our team sold $64 million in real estate in 2018, putting us in the top 1 percent of producers in San Francisco,” Aaron says.

What Makes Bellings Brothers Different?

“We help people’s dreams of owning homes or aid in the delicate process of selling their most valuable asset,” says Aaron.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“Trusting your partner implicitly and being able to work with your best friend and brother every day is amazing. Succeeding together is what makes it all worth it,” Aaron says.

“But we’re in constant competition, which can be a good thing, but when Michael’s winning he likes making sure I know about it!

“We don’t fight much, just normal brother bickering! When we lived and worked together, we’d fight mostly about roommate things. Michael has always been the messy one.”

 

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Carlos (left) and Marco Castelán
Carlos (left) and Marco Castelán

Carlos and Marco Castelán

The Castelán brothers run the Navio Group in Minneapolis, a consulting firm that works with its clients to anticipate and then adapt to the constant changes in their business, helping them succeed in today’s competitive business environment.

“We started a consulting firm that works with retail leaders who want to transform their businesses,” Carlos says. “When the inevitable change in consumer demand occurs, most companies scramble to launch initiatives to ‘reinvent’ themselves without the proper frameworks, mindsets, or structure. 

“These business transformations fail so much of the time, and fall flat from within the company for a variety, but highly predictable, set of reasons. We help retailers and consumer goods firms succeed in adopting change in their business.

“We have a boutique business given our focus, and continue to grow every year with estimated revenues of over $500,000 for 2019.”

What Makes The Navio Group Different?

“Today, retail is undergoing a period of great change, and companies need to transform while maintaining their core business. It’s akin to fixing the plane mid-air. We work with retail leaders so their teams can focus on doing what they do best — managing the day-to-day business — and we roll up our sleeves to collaborate with teams to drive organizational change and initiatives that require a small, dedicated team of experts,” Carlos says.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“The best part of working with my brother is that we know our strengths and weaknesses well, and can be honest with each other,” Carlos says. “It may not work for everyone, but we both push each other in a good way.

“Perhaps the most difficult part is shutting off the work portion at times and just being brothers/friends. That said, I think we’ve learned over time how to improve that and balance the work and friendship aspect.”

“We don’t have much large scale conflict because we’re able to open and direct with each other and both seek to make improvements every day. And we would certainly not want our parents to be involved at any point!”

Divya (left) and Shiv Chhabra
Divya (left) and Shiv Chhabra

Divya and Shiv Chhabra

The siblings Shiv and Divya Chhabra run Dosis, a digital health company with a personalized dosing platform that uses artificial intelligence and control algorithms to improve patient outcomes and reduce the cost of care for patients on chronic drug regimens.

“Our first product, Strategic Anemia Advisor (SAA),” Divya says, “is focused on drugs that manage chronic anemia, which is highly prevalent amongst patients with kidney disease.

“Dosis is a small, young business that we hope will grow quickly. We recently surpassed 5,000 patients on our platform, at over 50 clinics nationwide. We want to see those numbers skyrocket this year.”

What Makes Dosis Different?

“Chronic drug dosing is fundamentally difficult for humans to do well. All patients are uniquely responsive to a drug, and this responsiveness is determined by any number of factors that can change over time,” Divya continues.

“Meanwhile, therapeutic target ranges tend to be narrow and difficult to hit. Ultimately, this means that it is difficult to find the optimal dose of a drug to give patients. When the stakes are low, this may not be an issue, but when patients are on specific drugs for months and years, this can lead to poor outcomes for the patients, greater likelihood of complications, and unnecessarily high costs. We help solve this.”

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

One of the best parts about working with a sibling, Divya says, is the “unconditional trust in one another’s intentions. Trust is one of the most important things to have when starting a company, and it’s really nice that we don’t have to worry about each other’s honesty or integrity.

“We can be as frank with one another as we like — we don’t have to worry about the niceties. This allows our business to move much faster, as decisions are made quicker, with all opinions on the table and little left unsaid.”

 “Lastly, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well and we can divide up the work to cater to those,” she adds. 

“Of course, there are drawbacks. The worst thing is that sometimes we disagree about business and it’s hard not to let that affect our personal relationship.

“We are frank and honest with each other. We both know that we have each other’s best interests at heart and that we’re ultimately on the same side — we want success for the business and for each other. Our parents have never had to step in to arbiter any business-related disagreement, thankfully.”

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Marguerite McGinty (left) and Andrea Dorcelle
Marguerite deCourcelle (left) and Andrea McGinty

Andrea McGinty and Marguerite deCourcelle

The sisters Andrea McGinty and Marguerite deCourcelle run Blockade Games, a revolutionary video game studio.

“We specialize in integrating blockchain and alternate reality components into puzzles and games to create experiences that transcend the digital world,” McGinty says. “We utilize a free-to-play game model, which allows mainstream audiences a frictionless introduction to the benefits of blockchain.

“Our first full-featured game, Neon District, is a strategy RPG (role-player game) set in a tech-noir landscape. We aim to create a seamless gaming experience without compromising any of the benefits of creating blockchain assets.

“We are expecting to release the private alpha version in May 2019, with a team of 14 employees no less!”

What Makes Blockade Games Different?

“Current video game economics is broken. Our games and technical stack allow for us to make a lifetime of royalties on game asset sales. Our games also allow players to make a real investment of time and money in their assets, which they truly own and are able to transfer between games, sell to other players, or keep as sentimental items,” says McGinty.

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“The best part of running a business as sisters is the high level of trust, confidence, and innate understanding we have in each other,” McGinty notes. “On the other end, we currently live together as well as work together, so every so often my favorite pants or lipstick will mysteriously end up in her closet, just as it did in high school! 

“In all seriousness, the worst for both of us is watching the other struggle with something in business (or life) that we can’t offer any help or solution to.

Luckily, we haven’t had too much internal conflict. If we ever do, we rapid-fire our points about the issue, digest information, apologize, agree to disagree, or find common ground. Parents are definitely not involved!”

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Kershan (left) and Arzan Bulsara (center)
Kershan (left) and Arzan Bulsara (center)

Arzan and Kershan Bulsara

Kershan and Arzan Bulsara run Roofmaster, a roofing contracting company that has been servicing the greater Ottawa area in Ontario for 38 years.

“We specialize in all types of roofing, such as shingle roofing, metal roofing, and flat roofing for both commercial and residential jobs,” Kershan, the company’s manager, says. “Although roofing is our primary service, we also offer other small exterior home renovations such as siding, soffit, fascia, gutters, and other repairs.

“Roofmaster is a medium-to-large-sized business where standard roofing contractors are concerned, and we do about $5 million in sales per year.”

What Makes Roofmaster Different? 

“We’re different from the competition because we’re a family-run business that is known for having extensive experience and giving high-quality service. Our parents started the business in 1981, and there have been nearly 17,000 jobs completed since,” Kershan continues.

“Over the years, we have been recognized for our excellent service through several awards, including the Consumers Choice Award seven times. We also offer many special promotions to our clients, including air miles rewards for roofing services.

“Something our clients praise us for is the fact that unlike a lot of roofing companies, we operate out of a physical office location and warehouse with full-time staff and a landline. This may seem trivial, but a landline — as opposed to a cell phone — gives us a more direct and personal communication method to return more calls and provide our customers with the service they deserve.

“Think about it — you wouldn’t want to give your roof project to a contractor that doesn’t return the call for an estimate. We also operate with family values. Every single person that works for us, as well as their families, are treated as an extension of our family, and we often participate in social outings and activities together.”

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“I love being able to bounce ideas off of someone I trust,” Kershan says.

“We often discuss the direction of the business, and we even play ‘good cop, bad cop’ with the employees.”

“Because we understand all aspects of the business, we can easily fill a role when someone is off or sick,” he adds. “The worst part is that we disagree on business or financial directions sometimes.”

“We can usually come to some agreement without outside help, but sometimes our dad does get involved and vetoes a decision. If we don’t agree on a specific solution, we typically agree to keep the status quo.”

Working Together: Siblings Talk Business on National Siblings Day | Merrily (left), Kerry (center), and Wendy Mellin | Working with siblings
Merrily (left), Kerry (center), and Wendy Mellin

Kerry, Merrily, and Wendy Mellin

These three lovely ladies run EazyHold, an e-commerce store specializing in one-piece, 100 percent silicone cuffs designed for kids and adults who have grip disabilities.

The prices of EazyHold’s products range from $15 to $50.

“My two sisters and I all live in the same town of Simi Valley, California, so we are close to one another for emergency meetings or to help pack and ship product,” Kerry says. “We have a Silicone liaison in Lake Forest who facilitates our ordering from China. We have 15 distributors and also sell on Amazon.”

Their company, Mellin Works, which does business as EazyHold, is an equal partnership between the three sisters.

“By the way,” Kerry adds, “we all kept our last name, ‘Mellin,’ when we married because we all loved our dad so much, and with no brothers, we wanted to carry on the family name!

“Of the three years we have been selling, we have tripled our earnings each year and expect to do the same next year. We are now in approximately 4,000 hospitals, schools, and therapy centers across the globe.”

What Makes EazyHold Different?

“For disabilities such as arthritis, stroke, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, ALS, Parkinson’s, and so many other conditions, there have been no advances in low-tech, adaptable grip assists in 50 years,” Kerry goes on.

“Only high-tech robotic hands and arms which are expensive, cumbersome, and scream, ‘I have a disability!’ Our EazyHolds are inclusive and discreet. And for the children, the EZs come in pretty colors that are fun to use and visually appealing.

“Our product has solved a huge issue in hospitals, therapy centers, and special education classes. Number one is that the old-style grip assist called a ‘universal cuff’ could not be distributed in care facilities or schools because it was made of materials that are not hygienic and couldn’t be properly sanitized to prevent the spread of germs.

“The old cuffs could hardly hold more than a fork or a pencil, are not comfortable, and the design didn’t allow the tool to touch the skin. Our innovation puts the tool in hand, allowing for much greater sensory perception and control, adapts to an unlimited amount of daily living objects, and can be used and reused by multiple people. 

“Our tool does not harbor bacteria, can be completely sanitized, and is dishwasher and hospital wipe safe, made of 100 percent food grade silicone. Its extreme adaptability to tools and utensils of all shapes and sizes makes it an invaluable tool for special education teachers, therapists, sports enthusiasts, and for home use.”

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh” of Working With Siblings

“We three have the same work ethic, the same energy levels, we know when we need time off, and we plan our business around that. We also trust one another and know that we all have the same goals in mind,” Kerry says.

“Of course, all siblings have little triggers stemming from childhood, and coming from a family of five girls you can bet we had some conflict! But we are aware of these and try to not bring them into the workplace.

“We still have disagreements on family issues that may never get resolved — but all business issues must be worked through, and feelings put aside to run a successful company.”

“If one of us is passionate about an issue, we set up a meeting, plead our case to each other, and for the most part, we get our way!” Kerry continues.

“If you want it that bad, we trust you. It seems to have worked for us so far.

“Our parents, Max and Lorraine Mellin, have been a great motivation for us to maintain good relationships with each other. They have been such hard-working, supportive, giving, and loving parents, that we, in turn, strive to create a successful family business to honor the Mellin name and carry on their legacy.”

Conflict Resolution Tips for People Working With Siblings

Annette Dunn and Corrine Knight of Jumbo Minds give us the inside scoop on how to handle conflict when working with siblings:

It’s necessary to be aware of personal roles, and how they should not permeate the workplace. It’s not productive to slide into an older or younger sibling role, and many don’t know they’re doing it. You can’t shout or stomp away like you did when you were kids, even though that reaction may be ingrained in the way you relate to your sibling.

Learning the adult traits of your sibling and how to best communicate and react in a work environment can be challenging. It’s important to create a family/professional separation between work and home. “Leave it at the office” takes on a new meaning.

We recommend resolving conflict by:

  • Acknowledging the conflict
  • Reflecting on the issue
  • Addressing it head on and communicating about it
  • Resolving it
  • If resolving doesn’t seem too likely, getting a neutral expert’s opinion can help
  • Moving on

Ultimately, we recommend starting a business with your sibling — it has been a spectacular experience!

Final Thoughts

I find it fascinating that so many similar themes run through operating a business with a sibling. Trust, faith in one another, and familiarity seem to be the driving backbone of all the successful businesses that were kind enough to share their worlds with us.

Contrary to what I thought before starting research for this article, it’s amazingly possible to work (and even sometimes live) alongside your brother or sister, and not kill each other. In fact, being so close seems to be the reason these businesses work so well. Maybe I should hit up my brother. . . .