Sisterhood in Business
Why did you choose to run Chia Sisters together?
Florence: We both wanted to do work we were passionate about and the timing clicked. Chloe is the entrepreneurial spirit of Chia Sisters. She had the foresight to start hydrating chia seeds in 2012 - well before they were known in the Western World. Around three years later, I was realising that the corporate law life was not for me. I ditched the heels for a hairnet and jumped into the juicery.
Chloe: Because I grew up with my sister, I know how motivated she is. If she wants to achieve something, whether it is being the first woman over the Southern Alps in the Coast to Coast, working for the UN, or making a difference in the world by tackling climate change through business-led initiatives, she will make it happen. It is insane how motivated she is - who wouldn’t want that level of passion on their team?
What was your relationship like growing up?
Florence: Our family is very close. Growing up we spent weekends hiking and planting trees in the river next to our house. Our first business was selling bird callers at the Nelson market one summer around ‘94. I was five years old, Chloe was 10, so she was on finances. My first year of primary school was her last year and I remember her walking to school with me. A generous offer for a 10-year old that needed to hold my hand crossing the road.
How has it changed in more recent years?
Florence: We have come to understand what makes each other's brain tick (and just as importantly what doesn’t!) We both enjoy the outdoors and use outdoor activities as a way to build our relationship outside of work. I am also lucky to spend a lot of time with my three year old nephew, Chloe’s son, Eli. Our favourite activities are swimming at Riverside Pool, train rides at Founders Park, jumping in puddles on a wet day (and enjoying boysenberry ice cream at Roma Gelato - but his Mum doesn’t know that!)
Chloe: I think Chia Sisters has made our relationship stronger. Running a business means weathering some huge storms, as well as celebrating the wins, and we’ve been through all those experiences together. Often in business we don’t show vulnerability, but being in business with your sister means you can, which I think makes us more resilient.
How is the rest of the family involved in the business? What roles do they play?
Florence: Everyone in our family is hugely involved in our company. From Dad helping us out on the bottling line in the early days, advising us on getting our e-Commerce up and running, to Mum’s knack for spreading the good word (and baking a great muesli of course!) Our little brother chips in with weekly advice too: he created the original Chia Sisters logo and is always a sounding board for legal and economic queries.
How do you work together?
Florence: Over the years we have worked hard to reflect on our personality types: what motivates us? How do we respond to positive business achievements and setbacks? At what times do we praise others and when do we feel defensive? Spending time reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of our personalities is important. And just as important is understanding the personalities of others. We are all experiencing and reacting to the world differently, yet all too often, we assume that every person in the room is having the same inner thoughts as ourselves. It is a privilege working together so closely that we can start to understand how the other is experiencing the environment around us, even when it might be quite different from our own interpretation.
Chloe: We are different personalities and that is part of our businesses success. Our skill sets complement each other - I’m creative and have ideas, and Florence knows how to be detailed in actioning them.
What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about working with your sister?
Florence: I love that we can be honest and vulnerable with each other; we know when to push and when to give each other a break.
Chloe: Many times Florence has encouraged me to do something that I might have not pursued myself, and I am forever grateful for that. She also allowed me to completely step out of the business for six months when I had my son Eli, which was a pivotal point in my life. My least favourite thing is it feels hard to measure up sometimes, because she is so brilliant.
How do you share leadership? In which situations does each of you take the lead?
Florence: We aim to split our leadership roles: Chloe on innovation, production and formulation and me on sales and marketing. In reality, we all do a bit of everything and like any small businesses, we battle our fair share of fires where every leader, colleague, friends and family steps in.
Chloe: We aim to have a flat hierarchy at the Chia Sisters Juicery. This means we encourage all of our team to take leadership roles and provide input on key business decisions. Let’s just say there is no shortage of chiefs.
How do you manage when you’ve seen too much of each other (does this happen?!)
Florence: Usually this doesn’t happen unless we have spent too much time on the business together! The best remedy is always to be outdoors, to clear the mind from work and remember that it is people and the planet, not our little business, that is the most important.
Chloe: Going for a mountain bike ride (even if it is together!)
How do you support each other when things get tough?
Chloe: We understand each other's tipping points very well. When one of us gets close we encourage them to stop and do what is needed. This might be telling them to go for a run, get some sleep, go home to family, take some time out, give each other a hug. If one person has put a lot of work into something then it’s important to acknowledge it. When things get hard, we usually come together and become stronger.
What have the biggest challenges been as sisters in business?
Florence: I struggle seeing my sister balance the roles of Mum and business owner. She does everything she can to give each role 100% her all. And that is a constant challenge.
Chloe: The biggest challenge for me is that I see how much Florence has to offer the world, and her potential to make great things happen, I never want the business to hold her back.
What would your advice to other siblings looking to go into business together be?
Chloe: The important thing for us has been wanting what is best for each other, inside and outside of the business. This means looking after each other, working to understand each other, and challenging each other. But I don’t think this works just for siblings. What if all colleagues wanted what was best for each other inside and outside of work?