I regret to be the bearer of unwelcome news, but the dream of cloning yourself within your lifetime is a scientific impossibility. It’s a major letdown, isn’t it? Those moments when you quietly wish, “If only there were two of me, I could accomplish this twice as fast!” will remain wishful thinking, regardless of your yearning. This includes the challenging endeavor of launching a business. Having a co-founder helps. My apologies for the harsh reality.
With that stark truth in mind, let’s explore an alternative solution. Since being physically present in two places at once is a feat reserved for science fiction, what’s the next best course of action? As I mulled over this quandary while contemplating whether to leave my secure, well-paying corporate job to embark on my entrepreneurial journey, I considered the prospect of partnering with a like-minded collaborator.
How I Discovered (and Presented) My Co-founder
Co-founder stories are a dime a dozen. For every cautionary tale about the perils of a business partnership gone awry, there exists an equally abundant collection of laudatory accounts of seemingly heaven-sent collaborations that united to conquer the world. Still skeptical? Conduct a brief online search, and you’ll encounter countless thought leaders passionately advocating for both sides of the co-founder debate. As with most things in life, the reality often resides somewhere in between.
In my case, the decision to commence ‘ZinePak with a co-founder was grounded in the simple belief that it would be a more enjoyable experience with a partner. I anticipated that our venture—specializing in custom publications for celebrities, brands, and VIP-style event ticketing—would initially operate as a home-based business with freelancers on board. I wasn’t enamored with the idea of working in isolation.
My soon-to-be co-founder, Kim Kaupe, and I were colleagues at an advertising agency. While we didn’t possess an extensive history together, I relished our collaborative efforts, recognizing that our complementary skill sets (my background in entertainment, hers in magazine publishing) could significantly benefit the business. I approached her with a soft pitch about ‘ZinePak, portraying it as follows:
“I’m contemplating something new,” I shared. “I believe it will be far more enjoyable than my current work. It aligns with your strengths, and I think you’d excel in this venture. What are your thoughts?”
Formalizing the Business Partnership
A few days later, she responded, “Regarding that endeavor of yours, it sounds rather intriguing. I’m in.” That evening, after our regular work hours, we convened at Starbucks and embarked on a brainstorming session to outline the company’s potential. What level of capital would we require? How would we secure customers? How would we establish vendor relationships? Did we need to hire employees right away?
For each of these inquiries, we provided our best estimates, acknowledging that the finer details would emerge in due course. We mutually agreed on an equity distribution, conducted a Google search to determine the most appropriate corporate structure, and initiated the setup of email addresses under our newly acquired domain name. And thus, our business partnership was officially formed.
Could Kim and I have invested several months in drafting a comprehensive, 60-page partnership agreement and striving to chart every conceivable scenario for the next two decades? Certainly. Yet, we channeled that energy into building an exceptional company instead. To this day, we haven’t fully executed a partnership agreement. Perhaps we’ll get around to it in the future, but for now, we possess a profound level of mutual trust and confidence in each other’s integrity.
The Advantages of Co-founder Alliances
Although I don’t have personal experience as a parent, I can envision that commencing a business solo might resemble the challenges of being a single parent. During the nascent phases of a startup, it demands near-constant dedication. In the first 18 months of ‘ZinePak, I scarcely enjoyed seven consecutive hours of sleep. The sleep I did manage was filled with dreams—occasionally nightmares—of the upcoming work awaiting me in the morning.
Just as parents distribute the responsibilities of raising a child and celebrate their child’s milestones together, co-founders share the workload and bask in the achievements of their burgeoning enterprise. (We occasionally jest that ‘ZinePak has transitioned from the toddler stage to the pre-school stage, and naturally, it’s excelling!) This approach offers numerous advantages:
Take Genuine Breaks:
Having a co-founder serves as a pass to occasionally operate below 100 percent on those challenging days. It makes the seemingly impossible tasks for a solo entrepreneur, such as calling in sick or enjoying a vacation, considerably more achievable. On brighter days, it amplifies the celebrations, as there’s someone to share in every victory.
It’s not obligatory for co-founders to see eye to eye on every matter. In fact, it’s often more advantageous when they don’t. A certain degree of divergence in viewpoints allows for a healthy debate where the merits of each perspective are scrutinized, and ultimately, the optimal direction for the company’s future is determined.
Leverage Individual Strengths:
Initially, when Kim and I launched ‘ZinePak nearly three years ago, our approach to dividing the workload was simple: “I’ll handle whatever you’re not working on!” While this arrangement wasn’t ideal, it provided us both with an opportunity to become well-versed in every facet of our business. Over time, we honed our focus based on our respective strengths—fortunately, our strengths harmonize in nearly every aspect, enabling us to manage the day-to-day tasks we cherish while continually evolving our enterprise. This ingredient is instrumental in fostering a successful partnership and business.
Double the Odds:
Although having a business partner may not be as fascinating as having an identical copy of yourself, it’s significantly less eerie. It also doubles your chances of being in the right place at the right time. Whether it’s a pivotal event demanding interactions with numerous individuals or concurrent meetings on opposite ends of the globe, having a trusted co-founder who can represent your business with equal integrity and passion is an immense advantage.
I wholeheartedly encourage prospective founders to seek a partner to accompany them on the exhilarating entrepreneurial journey. No one except your co-founder—neither your spouse, roommate, investors, nor employees—will comprehend the experiences you undergo and their profound influence on your personal and professional life. Just as an amusement park ride becomes more enjoyable when shared with a friend, embarking on a business venture with a partner amplifies the excitement, creativity, enjoyment, and rewards.