The Knoxville, Tenn., couple launched their own business, McAlpin Creative, that sells DIY tray and sign kits, in December. The company was born after Ashley, 28, gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Isla, last year.
“We decided when I was pregnant with Isla that we wanted to find some kind of investment that would be us investing in our future together,” she said. “We wanted to build something that Isla will be part of.”
Kevin, also 28, works full-time in human resources, while Ashley still works full time in marketing. Outside of work, the couple said they are constantly tackling DIY projects, with Kevin handling the construction and Ashley handling the design.
With spaces now popping up everywhere for groups to go do DIY projects together, Ashley said she realized there was a niche missing for people who wanted to do pre-assembled DIY projects at home.
“I was thinking about my group of friends,” she said. “We’re trying to find our community. We like to go out, but with everyone having young kids, it’s easier to stay at home and not have to put on makeup or get a babysitter.”
With the McAlpins’ DIY tray and sign kits, crafters simply have to go on the company’s website to order the kit they want, select the stain color and select a design to stencil or request a custom design, such as their family name.
The kits, which cost around $35 each, come with all supplies included and are kid-friendly so they can be done by families, groups of friends or as solo projects.
Forming their own business as a couple was both rewarding and eye-opening experience for the McAlpins, who are still doing it as a side hustle on top of their full-time jobs. They also still put each DIY kit together by hand, usually at night after Isla goes to bed.
“We call them 'business date nights,'” Ashley said. “Starting a business together is totally foreign for us. It’s taught us a lot about each other.”
Kevin described his side hustle with his wife as a “bonding experience.”
“We’re still married,” he said. “It’s been fun. It helps to both be passionate about what we’re doing and having fun with it.”
Here are Kevin and Ashley’s three tips for couples starting a business together.
1. Keep an open mind. Not everything is going to go the way you envisioned, and that's okay. For us, navigating the early stages of our business was rocky at times. Opportunities that we thought would be great ended up letting us down.
We learned pretty early on that we had to stay open to different endings.
2. Let it grow organically. Working full time and starting a business can be exhausting. For us, it was manageable because we spent the time and leg work up front developing repeatable and scalable processes that carry our business for us as we grow.
We've taken steps to schedule our time in a way that makes sense for us, even if it's not traditional. We often have business "date nights" where we spend four to five hours after Isla's bedtime working on building kits and fine-tuning our business plans. We try not to stress about certain growth goals, but instead focus on having fun, enjoying each other and building something we love.
3. Always be ready to pivot. When we started this adventure we thought we were headed in a completely different direction. But, the deeper we got into our plan, the more its shortcomings were exposed. We had to decide rather quickly whether to keep pressing in or pivot in a new direction. We chose a new direction and we would never go back!