Photo by Ingrid Pape-Sheldon

by Wenda Reed

(Shared from Seattle Woman Magazine.)

“You work with your mom? You’re so lucky,” many people tell Corey Colwell-Lipson who runs the Green Halloween website and Green Year LLC with her mother, Lynn Colwell.

“You work with your mom? Don’t people spend their whole lives trying to get away from home?” a smaller number of people ask.

Mother-daughter partnerships like theirs are growing in tandem with the increase in the number of women-owned businesses. There are no concrete figures on how many mother-daughter partnerships there are in the region or the country, but the number of women-owned business has increased by more than 42 percent from 1997 to 2006 and stood at 7.8 million in 2007, the latest Census Bureau figure.

In talking with mothers and daughters in partnership in four local companies, three words came up over and over:  Family. Trust. Love.

All four mother and daughter pairs talked about the benefits of having their children and grandchildren around as they work and being able to put their families’ priorities first without having to compromise with an employer. “I can’t imagine doing what I’m doing outside the family business,” says Jenn Donogh, who runs the web hosting company Ovaleye with her mother, Kathy Nelson. “We pass the baby (8-month-old Kelly) back and forth,” Kathy says. One of the boy’s grandmothers also spends a lot of time in the office. “He’s raised in an environment with extended family all around,” Kathy adds. “This is my dream come true.”

Most of the women repeatedly spoke of faith and trust in each other as cornerstones of their business relationships. “You have a powerful amount of trust; you’re bonded to each other,” says Sharon Nichols, who ran Nichols & Zwiebel graphic design company with her daughter, Jennifer Zwiebel, for more than six years. “I could talk about troublesome issues with her more than I could with anyone else.”

These are loving mothers and daughters who have always been friends, from high school and young adult years until now. They vacation together, they spend lots of time at each other’s houses, and they enjoy each other’s company. The mothers in the partnerships are effusive in celebrating their daughters’ talents and growth, and the daughters admire their mothers’ strengths. “It is so fulfilling emotionally to be in business with my mother,” Corey Colwell-Lipson says. “I love her so deeply and admire her; she’s my role model and hero and one of my best friends. Doing things we’re so passionate about together is a gift.”

A word that doesn’t come up is money. These women are all committed to their businesses for the long haul, but family and personal satisfaction clearly rank above monetary success. This may be true nationwide as women own 28.7 percent of all U.S. businesses, but account for only 3.9 percent of all business receipts, according to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business.

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