4 golden rules of building a business with your best friend

In an exclusive extract from Stylist’s new book, Life Lessons On Friendship, co-authors Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke explain their golden rules for working together as best friends following the release of their multi-award-winning guide Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible.

A strong friendship is like magic. You can’t see it, but it can do incredible things. For us, it’s been like a superpower, amping up our courage and strength ever since we first met as freshers at the University of Warwick.

Over the years, our friendship has empowered us to show everyone else who we are, and what we can do, too. And now our friendship has conjured up something more incredible than we could ever imagine – a business. A brand. A movement. But that’s not to say it’s easy, or that friendship is a secret weapon for professional success. In many ways, the stakes of working with a friend are far higher. Because if you’re anything like us, in work as in life your friendship will be your foundation. So we wanted to share our tips with you for building a business without breaking a friendship.

Do you love her professionally as well as personally? 

Yomi: The only reason our book, Slay In Your Lane, exists is because Elizabeth rates me. She likes me, sure. After being best friends since our university days, I’d even go as far as to say she loves me. But when she rang asking me to write a book that would help her navigate the workplace as a Black woman, these weren’t the reasons she came to me. It was because she rates and respects my work as a writer. In turn, I asked her to co-write it with me because I rate and respect her marketing acumen. 

Often, when friends aren’t supportive of our side hustles or new ventures, it’s tempting to assume they are being vindictive or petty, but it’s a line of thinking I have recently tried to challenge. Though I’ll support friends regardless, I never want the entire basis of my friends’ support to be out of obligation or guilt. I want them to engage with my work because they actually value what I’m doing and think I’m doing it well. Elizabeth involved me not because she had to but because she wanted to and thought I could do justice to something she wanted to see created. I thought the same about her. Even if we weren’t friends, I would have wanted to learn from her professionally. Can you say the same about your friend?

Are you stress compatible? 

Elizabeth: It’s really important to understand how a friend handles pressure and stress before working together because – you guessed it – there will inevitably be lots of stress and lots of pressure! Yomi and I went to university together, so we had an insight into each other’s working styles. 

Frankly, we’ve seen each other at our worst! But if you’ve only hung out socially, think about how they manage money, deal with an unexpected incident like a delayed flight, or their attitudes to tricky neighbours. As friends, how have you handled fallouts with each other in the past? If you have a friend who doesn’t deal with stress in a way you can cope with or support, then it’s probably a bad idea to embark on a business with them.

Don’t always see eye to eye? Good!

Yomi: Elizabeth and I are wildly different, but also very similar – we’re likely to go into a shop, pick out the same item of clothing, and then style it so differently and distinctly you wouldn’t even realize we’re wearing the same thing. It’s the same at work –we both have the same vision for Slay In Your Lane, we just sometimes see different routes to our end destination. 

In fact, being friends means we can capitalize on different viewpoints in a way regular business partners might not. We’re not afraid to challenge each other. And because of our pre-existing trust and respect, we can agree to disagree or concede a point, even when it’s a topic we might, technically, know more about, without any loss of pride.

Make your friendship an asset not an obstacle

Elizabeth: There can sometimes be a stigma about mixing business with pleasure, especially when it comes to pitching your business to outsiders. Yet when Yomi and I do panels, go on to podcasts and meet new people, the comment is always what a great rapport we have. Our friendship is actually a huge asset. Don’t play it down or feel it makes your business any less credible, or that you have to create formal structures –unless you want to. 

I remember when we were being interviewed for live TV and, having never done that before, I was feeling really nervous. I will never forget how calm Yomi made me feel before we had to go on, because she knew instinctively how to put me at ease. Equally, I knew that, whatever happened, even if I froze, she would have my back. So never see your friendship as an obstacle. In so many ways, our friendship has given us both the confidence to do things we never thought possible.

Discover more of Elizabeth and Yomi’s tips for navigating a business together, along with 12 other funny and moving essays on the power of friendship, in Stylist’s new book. 

Life Lessons On Friendship: 13 Honest Tales Of The Most Important Relationships Of Our Lives from Stylist magazine is published by Penguin Random House, and comes out on 4 February 2021. Find out more and pre-order your copy here.

Images: Getty, Instagram, Penguin Random House

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