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Pros & cons of a family business

By Roger Pierce

While some entrepreneurs prefer to separate business from personal life, Jennifer and Fiona Lees are happily mixing it together.
Twin sisters, Jen (right) and Fiona Lees started up a cosmetics company called Balmshell by Jenny & Fi.

It's definitely a close business relationship. Twin sisters born just nine minutes apart, the pair grew up learning how to share and work together. "We make an excellent team because we know each other's strengths and weaknesses so well," says Fiona Lees.

Called Balmshell by Jenny & Fi, their start-up cosmetics company offers 10 "smooch- able" lip-gloss colours in a unique packaging design.

Balmshell ( is a perfect play on words for the company, given its lip-covering products and blond directors.

"We came up with the idea because we're self-confessed lip gloss junkies, and saw market opportunity for a fun, high-quality product," Fiona says.

When it comes to working with family, Fiona says benefits include a very reliable business partner. "We enjoy a very close relationship and have developed a deep bond since we were born. As a business partner, I know Jen will be there during the good and bad times."

However, entrepreneurs should go into business with family for the right reasons. "Don't start a business together just because you're family," cautions Fiona. "Do it because you work well together on a professional level."

Jen recommends family business partners take care of the downside early.

"Work out all the tough issues before you start your business," she recommends. "Clearly define each person's roles, duties and investment, then hire a lawyer to draw up a partnership agreement."

To help separate business from pleasure, Jen suggests family business partners set some boundaries. "For instance, you may decide not to talk shop at the family dinner table," she says.

Passionate about starting their business, the sisters realized the importance of securing family support in case plans -- or partners -- don't work out.

"As our best critics and greatest fans, our family keeps us both motivated yet realistic," Fiona says. "Overall, they think it's terrific we're in this business together."

-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people on how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.

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