Already a professional in her own right, bringing organic farming experience to help run their young yogurt company, Hirshberg often had to set aside her needs for Stonyfield. She patiently waited nine long years for the farm-based New Hampshire company to become profitable.
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How long could you keep a calm front while the bills weren’t getting paid? What if the bills were finally being paid but you rarely saw your spouse? In these times when so many of us are just getting by, it’s hard to imagine that entrepreneurial risk-takers are literally betting the house on their next new business venture.
Wife, mother-of-three and cancer survivor Meg Cadoux Hirshberg candidly shares about life with her passionately driven husband as he created the Stonyfield Organic company along with Samuel Kaymen, in her new book For Better or for Work.
This quiet co-founder of both a family and a family-owned venture doesn’t shy away from discussing the awkward behind-the-scenes realities: starting your own business is hard work, the finances are uncertain, and your family life will often be strained. Hirshberg writes about her pride in the business and devotion to her husband, Gary. But she also shares these doubts that understandably come to a wife’s mind, “And at some point, she must ask herself a question. Am I in? In for as long as it takes this business to succeed? In for what is potentially a lifetime of financial risk?”
Several other entrepreneurs have shared their stories with Hirshberg over the years, in both her columns at Inc. Magazine and now in the book For Better or for Work. The experiences of these and the Hirshberg family are enough to either encourage others or let them know why it’s not the life for everyone. The fact that cancer and other heartache is buried in Chapter 12 tells as much about a wife’s devotion as anything. The mindset is that there’s simply not time to get sick when there’s a family and a business to nurture. Practical suggestions for family discussions about touchy issues like these are a strength of this book.
For Better or for Work covers a lot of ground and could easily lend itself to a bookclub or classroom setting with its sets of action items. Much is the sort of life-work balance stuff we all need, even with 9 to 5 jobs. Hirshberg writes, “Only half of small businesses survive past five years. Entrepreneurs’ marriages are almost as vulnerable.”
Now that Stonyfield has become a multi-million-dollar company, and the Hirshbergs have celebrated more than 25 years of marriage, their story of beating the odds is a fitting survival guide for the rest of us.
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