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Juggling a new romance and a new business

Starting a new business and a new romantic relationship may seem unfeasible, but many entrepreneurs do pull off it off.
Gallery of Love owners Joel and Tara Green got the idea for their business as they went to get their marriage license.
Gallery of Love owners Joel and Tara Green got the idea for their business as they went to get their marriage license.John Bazemore / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Starting a new business or a new romantic relationship can be frantic. Imagine doing both at once.

Many entrepreneurs do pull off what seems like the impossible, building a personal relationship at the same time they’re founding a new company.

“Getting into a relationship and ultimately getting married was the last thing on my mind,” recalled George Krotonsky, president and CEO of Wild Noodles, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based franchise restaurant chain.

“My attention was focused on starting my own company. ... But it’s one of those things, you meet the right person, and all of a sudden, priorities change and you find ways to spread your energy over multiple things.”

Krotonsky met his wife Jennifer the day before Valentine’s Day in 2002, then later that year decided to start the company with local chef Eddie Matney. The Krotonskys were married that December, and early in 2003 Wild Noodles came to be.

Krotonsky said he was able to build the relationship and a business at the same time by “being really meticulous with the way that I spent my time.”

Having a girlfriend and later a wife who understood the challenges in starting a business also helped, he said.

Working together
Tara and Joel Green got the idea for an online business as they went to get their marriage license in Atlanta in February 2002, two days after Valentine’s Day. When the couple was handed the unsentimental bureaucratic form, Joel Green decided to try designing and selling commemorative certificates for a variety of special occasions, similar to the ketubahs that are part of Jewish marriage ceremonies.

Starting their business,, in the early months of a marriage wasn’t easy, Tara Green remembered.

“We were getting to know each other and getting to know the ins and outs of running a Web site,” she said. “It was a learning curve, learning each of our different working styles, learning how much each of us was willing to be managed.”

Things did get testy sometimes, as one spouse or the other kept asking for help or an opinion. “You’re interrupting me too many times,” Tara Green recalled telling her husband.

Making a choice
The sad truth is that as entrepreneurs juggle romance and business, one or another of the ventures often doesn’t make it.

Amy Brownstein had a boyfriend when she started her New York-based public relations firm, Brownstein & Associates Inc. a year and a half ago, and he encouraged her in her work. But she found she couldn’t do it all — her time and energy had to be devoted to the business, and the relationship, which she described as “not serious,” fell by the wayside.

“Paying my rent and taking care of myself and my employees unfortunately came first,” Brownstein said, recalling that she had to focus on details like office space, salaries and retirement plans that were all new to her.

Now that she’s more settled in her company, she’s joined an online dating service and is getting e-mails from prospective dates. Still, leisure time is at a premium.

“Because of what I do, it’s a 24/7 job,” she said.

Many entrepreneurs find themselves juggling not only a relationship and a business, but also the demands of parenthood.

Mark and Claudine Rubin had been married about two years and had a baby daughter when they decided to move back to the Washington, D.C., area and buy a franchise of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? What’s helped them juggle their relationship and family — they now have two children — and running a company is the fact that Claudine Rubin grew up in the midst of a family business, so a balancing act seemed perfectly natural to her.

“Her entire professional life she has had experience mixing business and family,” Mark Rubin said.

The couple’s personalities, which Rubin described as accommodating and understanding, also made it easier for them to adjust to the changes in their lives and work.

Moreover, he said, “we have very different roles in the business, so we don’t overlap,” which makes it easier to work together.

And, Rubin added, “I don’t second-guess her decisions and she doesn’t second-guess mine.”