Friday, May 1, 2015

Meet Three Families Who Live, Love and Work Together

Natalie and Alfredo Cerpa, Lisa and Luis Toro, and Allison and Jeff Rodgers.
Published May 2015 in Memphis Parent

Maintaining a strong marriage, raising children, running a business — each is tough in its own right. So imagine doing all three with your spouse. Dr. Lee Horton, a psychologist specializing in marriage counseling, says couples who are successful at both working and living together are able to differentiate between work time and marital time.

“When couples aren’t getting along at work, it is usually a marital issue. At work you ask for respect, at home you ask for caring.” It’s especially important to maintain a loving, caring relationship when you also work together.

We asked three couples how they find a balance between business and family.

Natalie & Alfredo Cerpa | Greenfield Arena

Natalie and Alfredo opened their business before they got married or had kids. A love of soccer brought them together and in March 2011 they opened Greenfield Arena in Midtown. (They married in 2012.) It’s an indoor facility with a turf soccer field, a viewing area, TVs, and a concession stand. They’ve been very successful in building their business, with leagues ranging from U8 (Under 8) to O40 (Over 40) — boys, girls, women, men, and coed, there’s something here for everyone.

Alfredo handles operations while Natalie tackles the admin side of the business. “We do the visioning together,” explains Natalie. “Where we are going next — that takes both of us.”

Both hold full-time jobs in addition to managing Greenfield. In November of 2014, they opened a second location in Bartlett just days before their first child was born, prematurely. Since then, Natalie has had to learn how to simplify her life. “I just can’t get it all done in the same amount of time anymore. So prioritizing and identifying some smaller objectives which will lead to reaching the larger goals eventually has been helpful,” she explains.

Natalie says it can be hard to balance between business and family because it all gets intermixed. “If you want to find balance, you have to find things to do or talk about that have nothing to do with work.”

She does think their shared passion for soccer, which brought them together and spawned Greenfield, helps their relationship. “It’s still something we enjoy doing together and it’s good to have something in common.”

When asked how she makes time for her newborn son, she laughs and says, “How do I find time for work? I have no choice. At this point, he wins.” Her son’s early arrival didn’t allow her to get all of her ducks in a row at work as she had planned, but she has found some qualified people who she can hand over some of her duties to.

“I’ve always been so career driven, but my end goal has always been to have time for children. Finding the right combination of opportunity, markets, value, and profit means I can work less and live more,” she says.

Lisa & Luis Toro | City & State

Lisa and Luis Toro just opened City & State on Broad Avenue in March. It’s a very sleek, modern coffee shop with a unique retail area attached. City & State celebrates products that are quality, heritage, and fair trade.

They scour the country, and sometimes beyond, to find the best goods. “Coffee is the perfect pairing,” explains Lisa. “People can come in without any expectation to buy.”

They met while working together at Hilton Hotels and Resorts and knew right away they wanted to be together. “We met in January and got married in August of 2010.” Lisa has a 9-year-old daughter and Luis a 13-year-old son, both children are from previous marriages.

Lisa loves meeting people and making connections. “Working in digital, designing and developing websites started to feel extremely impersonal. Everything was online,” she says. Traveling in other cities and seeing the possibilities got her and Luis really excited about starting a new business together — one that would get them back in the community and allow them to spend their days together.

Lisa says that when they are doing different things, the relationship struggles. “At Hilton we rode to work together, ate lunch together, and discussed everything. We pushed each other in a really good way.”

For now, Luis remains at Hilton, but he gets up early to make the kids’ lunches before opening the coffee shop at 7:30. “He sends me texts all day long,” says Lisa. “We are really missing each other.”

The Toros have been married for almost five years and Lisa says they have a very high-level partnership. They support each other and have complementary skills. “If I didn’t have Luis helping, forget it. If we weren’t together, City & State wouldn’t be happening,” she says.

Since the shop has just opened, they are working on a new normal. Lisa takes the kids to school and picks them up from aftercare once the shop closes at 4 p.m. “I always feel guilty no matter what,” says Lisa. “I feel guilty for not being with my daughter, but then I feel guilty for not letting her be independent too.”

Lisa makes sure to focus on the family until everyone is in bed. Then she sends emails, orders inventory, and reconciles the books. “There’s always something to be done. Sometimes I let it wait,” she says.

The Toros only have their children every other weekend and since the shop closes at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m.on Sundays, they can still fit in some quality family time. “It has been a bit of a struggle since opening, but we take turns and we’ve had friends and family help out.”

Allison & Jeff Rodgers | Allison Rodgers Photography & Kitbash Design

Jeff and Allison Rodgers met at Good Advertising and then had their own freelance business for 10 years. Now, Allison remains busy with her boutique photography studio while Jeff heads his newly launched graphic design firm, Kitbash Brand Design. The two work in the same building, an airy studio space they refurbished on Collierville Square. They have two daughters, Fable (13), and Ever (8 ).

Jeff says the key to balancing work and family is setting boundaries.

“The first year, my office was over the garage. My work was at home so when the kids were in bed, I’d think of that stack of work and go upstairs and work until midnight. Then the whole night was gone.” Later, when he had more space and his office wasn’t at home, he decided to leave work at the office.

“I created personal boundaries. Something is wrong if I can’t get my work done between 9 and 5.”

The same goes for Allison. Her photography business is 90 percent family portraits. “But she stopped working weekends a long time ago,” says Jeff. “Allison decided to accept the loss of customers who wouldn’t come in during the week. Her business is high end, not high volume.”

Jeff says they’ve never gotten to a point where they can’t talk about work but he says they try not to talk about it all of the time. Their shared passion does help their marital relationship. “We’re both artists and we respect each other. We can look at each other’s work and help. I trust her opinion.”

As far as honoring family time, Jeff says he has to be deliberate. “I schedule it or it won’t happen.” They unplug at dinner — no phones or TV. Afterwards, Jeff goes outdoors with his Ever most nights for a walk or a bike ride. And on Sundays, you’ll find the Rodgers attending church together, followed with dinner out.

The designer acknowledges, too, that family vacations are just as important as client meetings. “I put them on the calendar and I stick to them.”

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