The Business Of Mother-Daughter Working Relationships

    Nicki and Charlotte Macfarlane

    There’s nothing quite like the bond between a mother and her daughter. But can it stand the test of time when the relationship also includes ‘business partner’?

    So, what’s the secret? Working alongside your mother, if done right, can turn out to be a harmonious partnership. Nicki Macfarlane and her daughter Charlotte Macfarlane are a case in point. They’re the team behind Nicki Macfarlane, best known for creating the young bridesmaid dresses for The Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding to Prince William.

    They both agree that constant communication and ‘being on the same page’ is vital when it comes to maintaining a healthy working relationship. Nevertheless, this is easier said than done when the duo live on opposite sides of the country; Charlotte is based near the company’s office and workshop in Kent, Nicki in Wiltshire.

    “We always joke that the reason our working relationship works so well is that we live 150 miles apart!” says Charlotte. “However, we do speak on the phone about eight times a day and meet at the London boutique at least once a week so we are in constant contact. Being open and honest with each other and always discussing things helps, otherwise if there was something bugging you it would end up building into something much bigger than it really is.”

    Founder Julie Deane at The Cambridge Satchel Company's launch party for their first store, in Covent Garden, London.PRESS ASSOCIATION Picture date: Wednesday February 13, 2013. Photo credit should read: John Phillips/PA
    Julie Deane and her mother Freda Thomas founded The Cambridge Satchel Company in 2008 from Julie’s kitchen table. Searching for a way to pay school fees, Julie had £600 with which to start up a business. Having loved her old school satchel,  she set about having six leather bags manufactured as part of a test run. The rest, as they say, is history; picked up by the fashion press, the company became inundated with orders and requests from across the globe. Opening their first Covent Garden store in 2013, they now have five standalone shops in the UK. Both Freda and Julie continue to play a key role in the business.

    It goes without saying that having the same vision for your business is essential, regardless of whether you’re working with you mother or your mate. But being from the same flesh and blood is often an advantage, as the chances are your taste in style and design will be similar, as well as your temperaments.

    Daniela Boleto and her mother Helen Boleto set up their furniture and interiors accessories brand Camomile London a year ago. “Working alongside each other has always been such a natural and uncomplicated process,” Daniela commented. “We have very similar tastes and our styles compliment each other. We don’t have to say what we think – we both just instinctively know when we’ve got something right!” This instinct has not only helped to create a strong brand, but has ensured their business relationship is a calm one.  “We never argue – Mum is a very calm person and always sees the positive, something I am still learning to do!”

    Daniela Boleto of Camomile London with her son, Federico

    However, it remains important to keep a firm line between business and family. “We try and leave business talk where it belongs,” Nicki says. “Obviously it can be hard sometimes, especially as my granddaughter Grace, Charlotte’s eight year old daughter, has a real flair for design and is already keen to get involved with the business as soon as she is old enough. And even though we see a lot of each other, it’s still important that we make the effort to get the whole family together when possible – a favourite is having a girls’ day out a few times a year.”

    I now have two little boys,” says Daniela. “My mother has supported and taught me how to balance work and family, strive for your dreams and never give up.” As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we couldn’t think of a better lesson to learn from your very own mum.