Janene and James Draper, co-founders of Farro Fresh Food talk to Small Business editor Gill South about being a couple in business.

James and I met each other when I was waiting for my school cert results. He was the boy next door when our family moved house. He then went onto Waikato University and did a bachelor of management, while I did optometry. Food had however always been my passion.

James and I went to live in Wellington in the year 2000 and he owned Golf Driving stores and Driving ranges. Through this he gained a strong retail background together with his business acumen.

Our roles
Janene: After selling the golf business, I wanted to open a one stop food market offering the best NZ has to offer all under one roof. It just became a natural progression that we started working together. He had the business background. So even right from the start, when it came to fitout, I would say this is what I want, and he would look at it in a financial prospective and say: "This is what you can have". Always compromising!


James is a budget controller, always forecasting to ensure we don't overspend and stay strong as a family business. He works with the group managers on how we can save money, improve systems , margin and efficiencies whereas my role is focused on the marketing and products. So there is in fact very little overlap in what we do.

We have shared an office from day one. Initially this was due to space restrictions, but now we use it as a great way to catch up on issues that arise during the day rather than taking them home.

James: Janene was the inspiration for Farro as she loves to cook food. We work well together because we are good together. We discuss things generally together. More so in the early days as we both did not know much about food retailing. I really think it comes down to trust. Trust in each other's abilities and trust we that each will talk about things We try as much as possible not to discuss the business at home. Not always effective if we need to catch up outside the office. Having weekly lunch sessions during the day helps.

We have both learned to listen to each other ideas and thoughts over the last six years. This has helped with the success of Farro as we are always learning and staff and others have valuable input. The trust we have in each other has helped us trust staff to take on more as we have grown. If we hadn't done this we would be wrecks and the business would have suffered. Janene has taken on the marketing and promotion of the business and is better at it than I will ever be.

It is important that couples do roles they enjoy in business. To that extent if both partners have similar skills set I think it may be difficult to work with each other and require others to fill the roles and add cost in the initial stages of setup ( pay wages the business cannot afford).

Janene: When we first opened, the boys Jack, Henry and Will were aged 11, 10 and 8. We always tried not to talk about work in front of the boys. Home time was precious. As a family we always sit down at the table to eat and often chat for a couple of hours. This is the most special time of day for me, sharing food with laughter and the stories of the day. This has certainly kept us strong.

The great thing about being in business together is that you are on the same wavelength when it comes to family. One of us can arrange appointments as need be around the boys when they are sick or have sporting commitments after school activities and camps.

Initially the boys had no real concept of what we were doing, but today they are really proud of what we have achieved and love coming home with stories about what people say about the amazing food at Farro. They were however devastated that I might be the face of the TV campaign we have just started, and were worried I might end up being the next Briscoes lady! " How embarrassing!'

The challenges
Janene: With 65 per cent growth each year since opening, I, at times, have been overwhelmed with the work load, but James has supported me through this and encouraged me to do the Icehouse Owner Managers programme. This has been pivotal in my business growth, allowing me to trust the incredible team we have within our organisation. Through Icehouse, I have been able to concentrate on what I do well within the business and Farro has been able to continue to flourish.

Tips for couples:

Talk, talk talk to one another.

For those SME owners watching their salaried friends head off for a quick break in the sun over the school holidays, how do you have businesses which allow you to get away for some R & R during the year. Do you have someone who can run the business for you while you are away? Email me, GIll South, at the link below.