Partners in love and in business

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    By Yasemin Cusack

    Meet 5 couple who have all made working together work

    THE DUKE OF RICHMOND

    Engaged couple, Meryl Fernandes and Tom Oldroyd, run their pubs together in Dalston and Islington. Meryl, tell us more…

    Meryl Fernandes and Tom Oldroyd Credit: Mark Arrigo

    How did you meet?

    There was a particular restaurant in Soho that I would eat at on a weekly basis, which Tom was involved with as the chef director for the Polpo group, but we didn’t get to meet properly until at a mutual friend’s 30th birthday party, which was a total coincidence! One thing led to another and within eight months we got engaged to be married whilst on holiday in Austin, Texas.
    We are still engaged five years later!

    How did you start working together?

    Tom had left his job at Polpo, and I had finished four years on EastEnders, so we were both ready for a fresh start. We were on holiday in Spain and couldn’t stop discussing the idea of opening our own restaurant. For eight years, I had a lifestyle & design store on Hackney road, so I knew I could help with the look and design; it felt like a natural collaboration. We then started viewing potential restaurant sites until we found what is now Oldroyd on Upper Street.

    Tell us more about the business.

    So, we have a restaurant on Upper Street called Oldroyd, which is an intimate 35-seat restaurant over two floors. Then a year ago, our local pub in Dalston became available and we decided to go for it. The pub is very family-friendly and we have a mum-and-dad-lunch club twice a week. We also hosted Drag Queen Story Time, which was a brilliant success where a drag queen read fairy tales to kids.

    How do you find working together as a couple?

    Even though we discuss most elements of the businesses together, we play out very separate roles that we respect in each other. This means we can disagree but rarely argue. To be honest, there is so much to do, I don’t think we would find the time to argue about our work.

    What’s your advice to achieving success as a couple who works together?

    Trust each others opinions and be open to new ideas in order to keep the business evolving.

    Do you have any rules?

    We always go with our own personal taste and we don’t have any outside influence. That way for us there are no regrets and it is 100% us.

    Best and worst parts of working together?

    Best part is that we both love what we do — and most of the time it doesn’t feel like work. The worst part is that it’s long hours and it’s hard to switch off at the same time and although we are working in the same business, we actually don’t get to see that much of each other.

    How do you balance life and work?

    At the moment we don’t have much balance especially as we have a 2 year old. We work a lot but hopefully one day it will pay off. The hospitality industry is especially tough at the moment so to be honest, we are working more than ever. If we have time off together then we like visiting our parents — to get fed and drink lots of tea!

    Your favourite place to spend a day off in Hackney?

    We could honestly live in Morito, the food is so good. London Fields on a sunny day is pretty fun too!

    316 Queensbridge Rd, E8 3NH thedukeofrichmond.com

    RUDE ILLUSTRATION & DESIGN STUDIO

    Husband and wife team, Rupert Meats and Abi Williams, run an illustration and design studio in Stoke Newington. Abi tells us more…

    Rupert Meats and Abi Williams

    How did you meet?

    We met at a Graphic Design company in London. We were both disillusioned by the corporate world of graphics and wanted to start an agency where illustration and print making were at the fore.

    Tell us the proposal story.

    Rupert proposed to me on my birthday, nine years ago; he had painted a picture of our house (as we were due to move out of it) and written on the back ‘Will you marry me’. The answer was obviously yes.

    How did you start working together?

    Whilst working together, Rupert started a t-shirt label and I started a design company, building up a graphic client base. The graphic work funded the start up of the label. The label took off and the two sides of the business seemed to merge into one.

    The work became collaborative and we started working more with fashion clients and retailers. Our design and print collateral made us appear more professional than we actually were; it really helped having a cross over of skills.

    Tell us more about the business.

    Since the beginning we’ve had a passion for print, mark making and hand-drawn fonts and applying them to any surface possible.

    The label morphed into our brand which these days is a creative graphic art business, we work on illustration, animation and mural projects. The style and the ethos are the same but we now do a lot of live art and experiential work, including workshops and murals.

    I head up mural commissions and animation work while Rupert draws and creates original artwork.

    How do you find working together as a couple?

    We have always worked together and then a few years into running the business we got together and started a family. So, the crossover from business partners to life partners was where we noticed the change.

    It took a while to find our groove and not be able to escape at the end of the day, but we’ve always really liked being around each other so we adjusted a few things and made it work.

    What’s your advice to achieving success as a couple who works together?

    Our vision for Rude and the way we want to live our lives has always been similar; we think that’s crucial. Being creative
    is the most important thing and then making sure it works financially.

    We find it helps having a separate place to work, but that’s partially because we have a lot of equipment that needs its own space.

    Earning a living from an arts-based business is all about juggling different aspects. Some days we’re animating a well-paid ad for
    a tv commercial, but the next we could be painting a free mural for charity. It keeps the work varied and with non- paid work you can push the boundaries, which often leads to commercial commissions. Both are as important as each other. So stability, creativity and constant communication is the success to our work/life relationship.

    Do you have any rules?

    No social media at the weekends.

    Best and worst parts of working together?

    I suppose that the worst part is that if you do argue you have no where to go, and the best bit is that you’re always together.

    How do you juggle life and work?

    We created a local triangle of home, work and school which helps us with the fluidity of family life. It means that we don’t commute and can get to the school gates or work within 10 minutes. We’ve always tried to be there for the kids when they get home from school, although now the oldest one is 15, it does make life easier, we’re getting more work done.

    What do you do on your days off?

    We love yoga and also the great open spaces such Hackney Marshes, the Wetlands and all the parks mean that we run a lot too.

    We love the live music venues such as Earth and the Shacklewell Arms, as well as The Arcola Theatre and indie cinemas like the Rio and the Castle. Oh and we recently went to the Turkish hammam for a spa; that was quite an experience.
    The Chocolate Factory, Farleigh Place N16 7SX | thisisrude.com

    DELAMINA EAST RESTAURANT

    Husband and wife team, Amir and Limor Chen own Delamina East Restaurant in Shoreditch.

    Amir and Limor Chen

    How did you meet?

    We met at school at the age of 15. For me, it was love at first sight. We lost touch for a few years after that. But I couldn’t get Limor out of my mind. When I was 18 i mustered enough courage to locate her and make contact again. Luckily, she succumbed to my charm. We’ve have been married for 28 years.

    How did you start working together?

    Our kids were leaving home so we felt we had time to embark on a new joint project. I had just sold the business that I developed—The Apostrophe Group of Cafes – and Limor, a practising artist, just finished her Masters in Fine Arts and a major exhibition in Singapore. We had never worked together before; we shared love for food and design. We decided to wet out toes via a short food residency on the fifth floor at Shoreditch House and quickly realised that together we’re stronger, so decided to have a go at making it a permanent fixture. That’s how Delamina East was born.

    Tell us more about the business.

    Our passion is to develop restaurants and venues inspired by Limor’s fusion, Middle-Eastern home cooking and upbringing in Tel Aviv. Cooking for family and friends, Limor’s self-taught and intuitive approach, alongside her Middle-Eastern heritage, results in recipes that are nutritious and with a unique flavour combination. We design the spaces to be informal and welcoming, reflecting our love of organic materials and the warm hospitality of our country of origin.

    How do you find working together as a couple?

    Initially there was some tension as each of us has a very different style and approach to tackling issues. We’ve learnt to recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses in the business.

    We’ve learnt not to duplicate work, Limor is the executive chef and her focus is menu development, working with the chefs, and restaurant design. I’m responsible for finance, front of house and purchasing. Limor has more emotionally- intuitive approach, while I tend to be more direct.

    What’s your advice to achieving success as a couple who works together?

    I think the points raised above are important to achieving success.

    Do you have any rules?

    Not really, just trying to be aware that each person is different and has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

    Best and worst parts of working together?

    Best part of working together is that our objectives are completely aligned, and we can share the highs and lows of the business. Worst part is the impact that disagreements at work have on our personal life.

    How do you balance life and work?

    Tough question as the two are always together. We’re lucky that we have an amazing team, many of whom have been with us since day one. And who have become an extended family for us. We enjoy the time we spend with them, as well as rely on them fully. This is how we keep our stress levels down.

    What do you do on your days off?

    There’s never really a day off. Even if we’re not at the restaurant, we’re at the other end of the phone and there is always something that requires our attention or input. We do try to go on short city breaks. We find that it’s the best for us to disconnect or just chill out at home.

    Your favourite place to spend a day off in Hackney?

    Our son lives in Hackney so we love spending time with him in the local cafes and restaurants.

    151-153 Commercial St., Shoreditch, E1 6BJ | delaminaeast.co.uk

    EARLYBIRD DESIGNS

    Husband and wife, Heidi and Dominic Early, run Earlybird Designs on Stoke Newington Church Street. Heidi and Dominic tell us their story…

    Dominic and Heidi Early

    How did you meet?

    Heidi: So we met in halls of residence in 1995. Dom was studying illustration at Central St Martins and I was studying journalism at the London College of Printing. I wasn’t that fussed when I first met him. I thought he was funny but a bit of a show off, with really long scruffy hair! Then he got it cut and the rest is history!

    Tell us the proposal story…

    We were together for 10 years before Dom finally proposed.
    It was just after Christmas and I thought he was acting really strange. I was even starting to worry. Anyway, we had gone for a walk in our local woods and he made me sit on a damp log. I was really protesting and then turned around and he was down on one knee! I was completely taken aback and thought he was joking at first.

    How did you start working together?

    When we graduated Dom was working night shifts in UPS in Kings Cross so he could illustrate in the day and run a stall at Old Spitalfields Market selling some card designs he made. I worked on various magazines and then the crash hit. I was made redundant just before Christmas but then a small shop unit became available in the market. When the site owners redeveloped Spitalfields, we looked at moving shops and someone who we used to supply with Dom’s card designs was moving out of their shop unit in Stoke Newington. We knew the area well because Dom’s brother and wife had set up the Blue Legume cafe on Church Street. So we went for it.

    Tell us about Earlybird Designs.

    For years we built up the retail side of the business, selling our own card designs but also other cards and gifts that we bought in. We’ve always sold our designs to other shops but it’s only since we started to have sales agents sell our cards around the country, and since we’ve started to exhibit at trade shows, that the trade side of the business has really started to grow. So apart from our shop on Church Street, customers can also find our designs in Oliver Bonas, Paperchase, Postmark, Scribbler, as well as lots of other independent shops around the country.

    How do you find working together as a couple?

    Heidi: I love it! How cringey is that? When it’s your own business I think it’s completely different than if you just worked in the same company. I always figured that I’d chosen to be with Dom, I love being with him, it just made sense to work with him too. It was just never a question that it wouldn’t work.

    Dominic: It works well because we both know each others strengths and also respect that.

    Also, we have defined roles. Occasionally they cross over but we are totally aware of what we are both good at.

    It is effortless actually and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Apart from when she questions my artwork!!

    What’s your advice to achieving success as a couple who works together?

    Heidi: Respect and hard work! It works having separate roles and strengths. But nothing is set in stone, our roles are fluid and we both discuss each aspect of the business constantly.

    But without a doubt, learning to respect each other in a working situation, respect the other person’s decisions and trusting those decisions even if you don’t always agree has been key.

    Do you have any rules?

    Heidi: What I love abut working for ourselves is that there are no rules. But I guess my one thing is to not talk about work before going to sleep, otherwise I really can’t switch off.

    Best and worst parts of working together?

    The best part for me is the trust. I wholeheartedly trust Dom. And whether I’m having a good day or a bad day, it’s all OK. And it’s amazing to have created something together, and we can change and develop it how we want. We always have things to talk about.The worst part is probably switching off. Time away from the business is really important to give everything a fresh perspective, but we probably don’t do that enough because it costs a lot.

    How do you juggle life and work?

    Heidi: It’s hard. But you have to learn to let things give. Not everything can have 100 percent of you all the time and that’s OK.

    I love having the flexibility to be at the children’s school events, but it does mean work has to take a back seat sometimes. My mum lives a couple of hours away, but she comes up about every six weeks, and also looks after the children when we’re away on business.

    What do you do on your days off?

    Spend time together as a family, cook, see friends, go for longer dog walks.

    Your favourite place to spend a day off in Hackney?

    Clissold park and in one of the many amazing cafes on Church Street.

    3 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0NX earlybirddesigns.co.uk

    ARANCINI BROTHERS

    Husband and wife, Bruna Oliveira and Dave Arkin, have been together for 11 years. The couple own Arancini Brothers restaurants. Bruna tells us their story…

    Bruna Oliveira and Dave Arkin

    How did you meet?

    We worked together at a cafe in central London, 11 years ago.

    How did you start working together?

    We’ve always had an interest in food and found that together we formed a great team and ventured into a partnership beyond our personal life.

    Tell us more about the business

    Our main business is Arancini Brothers, a plant- based takeaway eatery, based in several locations around London.

    We have both turned vegan a couple of years ago, and through the business we try to spread a message of health and balance.

    I’m a life coach, studied Nutrition Therapy and teach how to live a healthy plant- based lifestyle through private and group classes, which I teach regularly throughout the UK, while Dave spends his time now growing the Arancini Brothers brand through events, franchising and wholesale.

    How do you find working together as a couple?

    As a family with young children, living in a city like London, takes a lot of planning, organisation and patience, which we both have plenty of. But sometimes it all catches up and shows us the importance of taking some time off and valuing the simple things.

    What’s your advice to achieving success as a couple who works together?

    Patience, the ability to give and take, and finding time for personal space.

    Do you have any rules?

    Once we are home with the children, we try to leave work outside the house.

    Best and worst parts of working together?

    The worst part is that a lot of time conversations lead back to work. And the best part is being together.

    How do you balance life and work?

    We spend as much time together as a family as possible, take holidays and weekends away.

    What do you do on your days off?

    Meet friends and enjoy a good cup of coffee.

    Your favourite place to spend a day off in Hackney?

    We love to take walks along the Marshes and visit the many coffee shops popping up all over Hackney.
    592 Kingsland Road, E8 4AH |  arancinibrothers.com

     

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