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5 Power Couples Reveal How They Mix Love With Business

Building a business while building a marriage and family takes extraordinary devotion and teamwork, say entrepreneurs.

If you had to name an Israeli power couple, some glitzy pairs may come to mind: Gal Gadot and Yaron Varsano or Quentin Tarantino  and Daniella Pick, perhaps.

You probably never heard of the couples below. Yet each one deserves the moniker “power couple.”

Not because they’re rich and famous but because they built businesses alongside building marriage and family.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, ISRAEL21c asked these entrepreneurial couples about the pros and cons of working together and whether they draw a line between their personal and professional relationships (spoiler alert: they don’t).

GILAD HERTANU (cofounder and CEO) and LIAT MORDECHAY HERTANU (cofounder and CMO), 24me

Gilad and Liat, both air force veterans, were computer science students when they met on a blind date. They later worked for separate Tel Aviv startups, got married in 2004 and moved to St. Louis in 2007 to pursue master’s degrees in business administration at Washington University.

By the time they came back to Israel in 2011, they had two children and would soon have another.

“With three little kids, we felt overwhelmed with daily life management,” says Liat. So they made another “baby” together, founding 24me in 2012.

The startup’s flagship smart personal assistant app has been downloaded by millions of people in more than 30 languages. Their GroupCal app followed in 2020 and a new version for small and medium businesses will be released this month.

ISRAEL21c spoke with the couple over Zoom while Gilad was at the 24me office in Or Yehuda and Liat was in their home office in Ganei Tikva, the central Israeli city where they are raising four children, aged 14, 12, 10 and two and a half.

“We have no boundary between our personal and professional relationship,” says Gilad. “24me is part of our life all day and all night, but in a very natural way. We’re very devoted to what we do.”

Best aspects of working together

Liat and Gilad Hertanu say they learn from each other’s different perspectives. (Courtesy of Liat and Gilad Hertanu)

Gilad and Liat said their success as business partners is based on good communication and synchronicity and learning from one another’s very different ways of seeing things.

“We bring mutual forces to the table. We can openly talk about our differences and appreciate the other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Gilad. “We can leverage our strengths and we don’t have to be defensive about our weaknesses.”

Liat says that working together toward the same goals “eliminates all the problems of ego. And as a mom, it’s easier for me to work with my husband than for somebody else. The overall experience is enjoyable because we really love each other and enjoy the time we spend together.”

Challenging aspects of working together

“Financially, when you work as a couple you are taking a big risk because you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s not an easy decision but if it works well, it works well. If not, it can cause problems in the relationship itself,” says Liat.

“Anyone considering working as a couple needs to think about that and understand if they can manage financially for some time. In a startup, the chances of succeeding are not that high. You not only need to work without a salary at first, but you also need to invest your own money into the company.”

Tips

Liat: “You must define each one’s position and responsibilities. For us it is very clear — Gilad is the CEO and I’m the CMO.

“And you must have the right network of support for your family. We had `huge support from our parents when our kids were young. If you don’t have that from your family, you need to hire help because you cannot do everything on your own.”

Gilad: “If you have a good foundation as a couple, working together can add another brick to that strong wall and make you more resilient. But if the foundations are weak, the wall might fall.

“If you have a relationship where you can communicate openly, working with your spouse can be a huge reinforcement and contribution to a business, better than any other partner you can have.”

IMAD AND REEM YOUNIS, cofounders of Alpha Omega Engineering

Reem and Imad Younis say their business is like another child. (Courtesy of the Younis family)

Reem was a freshman civil engineering student at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology when she and senior-year electrical engineering student Imad fell in love.

Six years later, in 1988, they wed. And in 1992 they cofounded a small engineering firm in Nazareth that began by developing a navigation system for deep brain stimulation.

The Christian Arab Younis family now includes three children aged 32, 26 and 18, and a grandson.

The company, Alpha Omega, has grown and prospered as well. Alpha Omega just moved to a larger headquarters near Nazareth and employs about 130 people across its Israeli, American, European and Chinese offices.

“Now we are in neurology clinics to assist in the treatment of patients with neurological disorders whether or not they’ve had surgery, and to assist patients at home with tools to monitor their progress,” says Imad.

“Alpha Omega recently got a huge company to sell our systems,” adds Reem, “so hopefully we can bring more and more solutions to help people with neurological disorders to lead better lives. We feel very privileged to work in this field.”

Best aspects of working together

“The good part is you know you always have someone who loves you. You’re not alone,” says Imad, sitting beside his wife at their Atlanta office.

“In our days, entrepreneurship is not an 8-to-5 job; it’s a lifestyle. It’s part of you. In our case, it is a mission. It’s not just to make money. So I don’t see a negative for a couple to work together if their work is entrepreneurial.”

Challenging aspects of working together

“The difficulty is not to become selfish,” says Imad. “Living together means trying to love each other today and tomorrow and all the time.”

“At the end of the day,” says Reem, “your life revolves around the company. It’s like one of your children. You have board meetings at your dinner table. Sometimes we forget ourselves and talk too much business. Sometimes we pushed too much on our children, always talking business — even during vacations.”

Yet their children so far are following in the family business model: Their 32-year-old daughter does marketing for Alpha Omega, and their 26-year-old son works part time for Alpha Omega while attending university.

Tips:

Reem: “As my mother always said, ‘love’ is a verb. It’s something you have to do. You have to practice it every day even at challenging times.”

Imad: “If Reem were not involved in the business from the beginning, I think our married life would have been worse because she would have been disconnected from all the passion and all the things that are happening. My advice for any entrepreneur is to involve, in one way or another, their spouse in what they are doing. Otherwise you will be living separate lives.”

DENA AND JEREMY WIMPFHEIMER, co-owners of Edge Partners

Jeremy and Dena Wimpfheimer of Edge Partners say it makes sense for them to work together. (Joani Davidovich)

Dena and Jeremy wed soon after college graduation, in September 2001. And soon after that, they moved from New York to Israel.

Each worked in the public relations field. About 15 years ago, they launched their own strategic communications consultancy offering media relations, event promotion and production, branding and marketing.

Their clients are in the political, entertainment, nonprofit, healthcare, business and public affairs arenas.

“With similar experience and talents to offer, it made sense to work together,” says Jeremy.

For our interview, they were sitting side by side in their house in Moshav Neve Michael, which they share with their five children, aged 19 to nine. But usually they spend the workday apart.

“We have separate work zones,” says Dena. “Jeremy is out at clients several times a week, and I’ve been working from a home office for years. We make sure not to be in each other’s face so we can each focus on our own work, although we are in touch all day.”

“Ideally,” adds Jeremy, “there should be boundaries between a personal and professional relationship. But the reality is you go to sleep with work, and you wake up with work.”

Best aspects of working together

“The biggest advantage of working with your spouse is that your success is your family’s success, and it strengthens your relationship,” says Jeremy.

“We get to tell positive stories about Jewish and Israeli organizations to the world, and that is a bond between us.”

“We have very different strengths,” says Dena. “Jeremy is more involved with overall strategy and as the writing partner, and I’m more the interface with clients and media. These strengths come together to make a good team.”

She says their children are old enough to feel engaged with the business. “They’re often involved in small elements. We have a daughter who is a video editor and she stepped up to be part of our entertainment company.”

Challenging aspects of working together

“The biggest challenge is that work stress is personal stress,” says Jeremy. “There’s no differentiation between the two.”

Over the past two years, says Dena, “it’s been extremely stressful to plan entertainment events, but when they happen, they are so much fun. I thank God every day that we were able to continue our work through Covid — a lot of our clients were instrumental in taking actions to address the challenges – but if something went wrong with our company it could have affected both of our salaries as opposed to just one.”

Tips

Jeremy: “Delineate your strengths and weaknesses and make a clear boundary between areas of responsibility. Have trust in the other person’s strengths. Make the commitment and understand there will be many challenges along the way.”

Dena: “As much as I love Jeremy, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that every couple work together. It can cause a lot of stress in ‘not work’ time because it’s very hard to separate. On the other hand, to experience really meaningful things together as part of work is great.”

URI MAY, cofounder and CEO of Hunters and SHANNY HAREL MAY, cofounder and COO of The Nopo and cofounder of ProWoman

Shanny and Uri May say communication is key. (Courtesy of Shanny and Uri May)

“When we started dating, it was my first week at a venture capital firm,” Shanny recalls. “Just before our second or third date, I told Uri I couldn’t meet him because I had to write an investor memo and didn’t know how to start. He was like, ‘Listen, I’ll make us dinner and we’ll do it together.’ That was the moment I knew I found my partner.”

In the same week as the couple’s October 2018 wedding, Hunters closed its first seed funding. “On our mini-honeymoon I was speaking with investors,” Uri recalls with a laugh.

The cybersecurity startup, which just raised a $68 million Series C round, now has 110 employees and maintains offices in Tel Aviv, Massachusetts and London.

Shanny founded ProWoman in 2012 while she was studying entrepreneurship at IDC Herzliya (now Reichman University). This nonprofit organization runs programs for ambitious female students in Israel, New York, France and Belgium.

In March 2020, as the pandemic hit Israel, Shanny and her friend Kelly Roth founded The Nopo, an online marketplace for handmade crafts. They’ve raised $1 million and feature wares from more than 150 artisans in Morocco, Mexico and Colombia.

Around the same time, Hunters raised a Series A round.

“We were working in our small Tel Aviv apartment,” Uri recalls. “I was on the phone 14 hours a day and Shanny was on the phone 14 hours a day. I was talking in the living room, she was talking in the bedroom, then we’d switch.”

Shanny was also in the early stages of pregnancy then. “We would joke that the baby would come out raising money and pitching The Nopo and Hunters,” she says. “It was intense and at the same time it was one of the most fun periods of our life.”

Until six months ago, Shanny had a room in Hunters’ offices. Now, each works in a separate office and sometimes at home.

Thoughts on running startups in parallel

For two ambitious people, heading their own ventures is the only way to go, says Uri. “The alternative is that one of us would give up their career and wouldn’t feel fulfilled.”

They each work up to 12 hours a day. “We communicate about work a lot and it sometimes doesn’t leave much room for other things, but not talking about work would mean not talking about 70 percent of life,” says Uri.

“It takes constant work to balance that with investing in the relationship and finding things to do that aren’t about work but it’s much better than the alternative of not feeling fulfilled or creating a disconnect or distance because some things aren’t talked about,” he adds.

Uri and Shanny with daughter Emmanuelle. (Courtesy of the May family)

“We are in a constant journey of balancing our lives and supporting the growth of our family along with the growth of our companies,” says Shanny.

“Nopo is in a very early stage compared to Hunters, so Uri can relate to what we’re doing and offer advice from his deep understanding of our needs,” she says.

“Finding your startup’s place in the world is emotionally challenging for a founder,” says Uri. “Because my company is farther along, I can give advice and emotional support because I was just there and I know what it feels like.”

Tips

Uri: “We have a one-year-old daughter. Having help, whether hired help or family, is the most important thing. We could not do what we do without full-time childcare supporting us every day.”

Shanny: “The most important thing is to make sure to create fun moments and memories and remember that we are all making our own choices and we should be grateful for that.”

EMILY SCHRADER AND YOSEPH HADDAD, Headlines with the Haddads

Emily Schrader and Yoseph Haddad began a nonprofit venture during their engagement. (Courtesy of Emily Schrader)

Emily, an immigrant from Los Angeles, and Yoseph, who grew up in Nazareth, met through their involvement in pro-Israel activism.

They got engaged during the Gaza-Israel conflict in May 2021, live on camera at the Gaza border, as Yoseph was on assignment as a correspondent for i24 News in Arabic.

Their social-media post about the proposal was shared more than 25,000 times and got more than 120,000 likes and 30,000 comments.

Planning to wed in September, Emily and Yoseph split their time between Nazareth and Jaffa. Emily, formerly digital director for StandWithUs, founded political marketing consultancy Social Lite Creative. She also helps Yoseph with his organization Together Vouch for Each Other, which works to bridge gaps between Arabs and Jews in Israeli society.

In early February the two 30-somethings launched their own show, “Headlines with the Haddads,” on YouTube and Instagram.

“The idea is to explain to Western audiences what’s going on with pro-Israel and antisemitism issues and also what’s going on in Israeli society,” says Emily.

“We want to educate and refute lies and put a light on what is really going on,” adds Yoseph, a veteran of the IDF. “It’s something we are doing from the heart.”

Best aspects of working together

“It’s advantageous to work together because we think the same way and we complement each other professionally,” Emily says.

“We’re interested in the same things and passionate about the same things, but Yoseph brings ideas and perspectives as a minority in Israel, and I bring ideas and perspectives as an American immigrant. We are really good professionally together in all the content we create, in Together Vouch for Each Other and even in my business because he’s a great sounding board.”

Challenging aspects of working together

“The work is always on. Social media is 24/7 and it’s hard to turn it off,” says Emily. “We were on vacation in May but we cut it short when the rockets started coming. We both had a ton of stuff to do and we were completely on our phones.”

“We’re not good at disconnecting from work,” adds Yoseph. “If this relationship weren’t so strong, we would just collapse. Even though we enjoy each other in a professional way, we are aware that sometimes we have to put work aside and enjoy ourselves as a couple.”

Tips

Emily: “It’s really important to be able to talk about professional differences calmly and with a different mindset than when talking about personal differences. You have to be patient in figuring out what works and what doesn’t in terms of communication about professional issues.”

Emily has also learned that giving or accepting criticism can be harder with a loved one. “When you work together with a significant other, you need to know that criticism will come at some point, and you’ve got to know how to navigate that.”

Yoseph: “If someone decides to go from being a romantic couple to also being a professional couple, they need to understand a time comes when you must stop and enjoy yourselves as a couple. If you don’t know how to do that, don’t even think of going into a joint venture. You will definitely fail, and it might even cost your relationship. If you can do that, then go for it.”

Produced in association with ISRAEL21c.

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