Some people use entrepreneurship as a way to create the life they’ve always dreamed of. For Jess Gray and Becca Stern, that meant building a business that let them be more creative, set their own hours, and work with people they love—namely, each other.
Becca and Jess are sisters who live on opposite sides of the world. But that didn’t stop them from launching Mustard Made, a company that makes colorful, vintage-inspired lockers. But the company was just as much about a lifestyle shift as it was a product idea.
It didn’t happen overnight, but Jess and Becca are examples of how co-founders can gradually build a business to support their ideal life. “We are five years into our business, and it’s only really been this year that all the hard work is starting to come together and we are really seeing the benefits of that flexibility,” Becca says. Ahead, the sisters share how they built a workplace that worked for them.
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Finding flexibility—and family
When Becca moved to Australia, she found it difficult, as a single mom, to find a job, particularly one that she could balance with childcare. Thus, the idea of running her own company was appealing. “It was really about being able to give ourselves the flexibility that we couldn’t find elsewhere,” Becca says.
She often consulted with her sister, Jess, who lives in the UK, and it wasn’t long before the two sisters decided to launch Mustard Made together. “The idea of Mustard was very much to work with my sister,” Jess says. “It was always about bringing us closer.” By doing it together, they could travel more to see each other, for both work and vacation. Plus, Jess could leave the monotony of her corporate job behind and focus more on her life outside of work.
Supporting other parents
Becca found one of the most rewarding parts of Mustard Made is employing other moms who are often trying to reset and adjust to new schedules after having a child. Mustard Made lets mothers start working fewer hours or part-time at first as they rejoin the workforce.
Becca says she loves nurturing her employees’ skills and confidence when they come back to work. “I think that's exactly what I wish someone had done for me,” she says. “And nobody did, so I felt like I had to make that for myself. Being able to offer that to other parents has been amazing.”
Growing faster in two markets
Becca and Jess have been able to adjust their own schedules, too, but there’s one challenge: Those schedules are on vastly different time zones. Since they value flexibility, Becca and Jess have turned the challenge into an asset. They became really good at asynchronous communication and dividing labor. “Having the two of us being able to lead our teams on opposite sides of the world has enabled us to grow at a speed that we wouldn't have otherwise,” Becca says.
Jess says their geographic distance helped them launch in different markets quicker. They’ve created a formula and found ways to be more efficient, like using the same warehouse company across different countries.
Hiring the people close to you
Mustard Made also grew to employ not only two sisters, but both of their partners as well. “Mark and John both say that they were in Mustard from the start, and I very much agree with that, whether they were employed or not,” Jess says.
Their partners were able to contribute their skills to build the business, and they all could all share in the flexibility it offered, as Becca says they weren’t able to take full advantage of travel until their partners could come along, too.
Plus, having everyone involved made the work environment even more supportive. “We all have each other’s interests at heart, and that’s not something that you normally get at work.” Becca says. “You don’t normally work with a group of people who would literally do anything to make your life easier or happier.”
Establishing a company culture
“We wanted to set up our own business with our values at the core, and not have to bend to fit somebody else’s ideals,” Becca says. The sisters’ goal was to make Mustard Made a place where people enjoyed working. Now, the co-founders are focusing on other ways to provide that for employees, by exploring new opportunities to celebrate the team’s wins and support employees through difficult times.
To learn more about Mustard Made, including how the sister duo solved all sorts of logistics challenges, listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.
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