Katie & Kelly: Sometimes you can share DNA and yet be different in almost every way.

We always knew we were different — as a kid, Kelly used to wonder, “Why can’t Katie be more ‘normal’ like me?” and Katie thought Kelly was a dork for doing her homework right after school — but working together as organizers REALLY underlined that we have almost nothing in common beyond sharing parents, a brother and a childhood home. We approach everything differently — scheduling, routines, To Do lists, parenting, laundry, TV watching, exercising, friendships, etc. But, we discovered that we do have one thing in common: We both abhor conflict, which is likely why we are able to manage a business together without killing each other. Being ultra-respectful and thoughtful can smooth over a lot of problems when starting a business with a loved one.

Kelly and Katie McMenamin

Kelly and Katie McMenamin

Kelly: I had no idea how determined and stubborn I was until we started PixiesDidIt.

Katie claims to have always known this about me and that I’m the most indefatigable person she has ever known and constantly in awe of my drive, yadda, yadda, yadda. But for me, I’m my harshest critic so it wasn’t until stepping off into the great chasm that is starting your own business, that I discovered I could face my harshest critic after falling on my face (more than once) and still get up off the floor and think, “SO … how am I going to turn this into lemonade?”

Katie: I had no idea how hard it would be to start a business.

Wow, starting your own business is insanely difficult. Yes, this was news to me. I am insanely idealistic, almost to the point of delusion as my sister will attest. So thank God Kelly has carried us through the myriad of details and the physically demanding part of actually organizing our clients’ belongings. Starting a business with your polar opposite family member is actually not a recipe for disaster (as our mom feared) and can be fundamental to success.

Katie & Kelly: We are almost too good at compromise.

You’re perhaps thinking, “Can one be TOO good at compromise?” and the answer is “Yes.” In female culture, we’re often rewarded for “going along to get along”, which is great advice when it comes to interpersonal relations but deadly in running a business. Sometimes you’ve got to take a stand EVEN if the other person disagrees. (Especially if that person is your sister and best friend.) We’ve learned to voice our true opinions even if it risks a bit of temporary conflict. The trick is not to waste time blaming each other and sort out how to avoid similar mistakes.   

Kelly: Katie really, really likes me.

I’m always complimented to hear Katie wanted to start a business with me because she wanted to spend more time with me and feel equally badly that this didn’t factor into my decision. I just didn’t want to work at a hedge fund anymore where my portfolio manager blamed me for things that were half his fault. I still have no idea why Katie likes me so much because I’m probably HER harshest critic as well. LOL. Running your own business can often be lonely, so the upside to having a family member by your side is you’re both stuck with each other and equally invested in the outcome.

Katie: I’m not as lazy as Kelly thinks I am

I’ve always known that my internal drive is different than Kelly’s -- a lazy river compared to her rapids – but I’ve been surprised at how easily I’m motivated to get things done when I’m excited about the project, and getting the chance to write our book, Organize Your Way, was the most fun I’ve had with my sister since we were kids. That said, even though Kelly went into this wide eyed, she often put hope ahead of experience. It’s important to talk about expectations before conflict crops up.

Katie & Kelly: It’s easy to fall back into childhood roles, which isn’t always good!

Kelly looks to Katie to be the big sister whereas Katie looks to Kelly to be the more competent and detail oriented one and so we sometimes assume the other is taking care of things that no one is. This has been our hardest challenge and we suspect the hardest challenge in going into business. Constant communication has been the solution in our business and we’ve carried it into our personal lives too.

Kelly: I hate speaking first during interviews.

The week Organize Your Way was published, I discovered that while I had no problem giving interviews or talking about our business, for some reason that first question always threw me for a loop. Since Katie doesn’t mind speaking out of the gate, it seemed like a no brainer that she would naturally answer first questions. However, this is a great example of missing constant communication, it led to quite a few flubs before we made a formal agreement that Katie always speaks first.

Katie: I’m surprisingly good at figuring out tech problems.

Who knew?? I am not a detail oriented person, but for some reason I love to figure these things out. It reminds me of putting toys together on Christmas morning. Good tech help is oddly one of the hardest things to find as a small business owner. When you find a good one, hold on to them!!

Katie & Kelly: We were NOT naturals at creating engaging social media.

We are both introverts, which makes self-promotion the hardest part of our venture. It doesn’t come naturally. But, as a friend of Kelly’s from Oklahoma says, “You quickly realize “it’s either cook or get out of the kitchen!” We’re a lot better today than 5 years ago but could still improve! Practice makes perfect.