"Let's go over this again: you're going to spend our life savings on dried fruit?" I asked my wife, Noha, in 2004 when she first pitched me the idea of starting Peeled Snacks, a fruit and nut snack company.
Earlier in the year we'd both quit our jobs to go traveling before I started a stint as a public school teacher, but I'd assumed that she'd get back to work with a position lucrative enough to offset the modest teacher's pay I'd soon receive. Instead, she decided to become her own boss and make negative money.
Though those first days truly did gobble up our savings at a frightening rate, watching a company grow and flourish from the front row is exciting. It was a real kick when people started to actually buy these treats. As I was wrapping up two years of teaching, Noha and I started talking about how maybe I could chip in to this whole Peeled Snacks thing. Initially I was dubious—work with my wife?
"No, no," she clarified. "You'd be working for me."
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Noha and I met in college and couldn't have been more different. We're darn lucky that we were powerfully attracted to each other because our personalities clashed constantly; she was the fiesty tiger, I was the easy-going monkey. It wasn't until a couple years into our relationship that we took a back-packing trip through Mexico and found that our differences made us work really well as a team. I'd do the maps, she'd do the translation; she'd find food, I'd find shelter. Read: Are Gender Differences A Myth?
Vacation is one thing—and working together sounded like a recipe for marital strife if I'd ever heard one. Yet, there was so much at Peeled Snacks that needed to get done, and there was so much that I knew I could do. So she put me to work.
The first few months were rocky. My wife found it very odd to have me around for the "Peeled Snacks Experience," and I found it odd giving her final say on everything. If a relationship is a constant negotiation, working for a small company is more like a day in court, waiting for the judge to make her decision, and then living with it. Shortly after I began working with, er, for my wife, we had a sales meeting with a major hotel chain. The customer was nice and chatty, so I chatted with him as two chatty people will. When the meeting was over and we'd left the building, Noha exploded, "I can't believe you told him all that! You're not supposed to tell him everything!" Read: Can Powerful Women Find Love?
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Much was at stake—we'd invested our savings, my wife had dedicated two years of her life to this company, and now we were investing both of our energies. Plus there was the risk that we'd tear each other's heads off. We were literally throwing our marriage into the pot, betting more than just money—we were now betting love.
After the hotel meeting, I was eating crow for a week while making a mental note to myself to watch what I say in the future. Meanwhile, my wife realized that sometimes chatty works—we got the sale.