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Building a Business with the Person You Love: How Austin & Marie of Shea Brand Make it Work

February 15, 2018 | Faye Lessler

With Valentine’s Day upon us we are in the spirit of honoring love and everything that comes along with it. Love comes in all shapes and sizes – whether it’s the unbreakable bond between two best friends, the obsessive love you have for your local coffee shop, or the head over heels feeling that is falling into romantic love. Each loving relationship comes with it’s own benefits and challenges, and we want to celebrate both sides of the equation. We love love of all kinds and want to share a little bit of our own with you.

How long have you been together, Austin and Marie?

Three and a half years.

What was your first date like?

M:Austin asked to meet me in the city. He had just attended a protest at Union Square so we decided to meet there. We walked for an hour and we talked about everything: internships, first jobs, the struggles of working 80hour weeks for start-ups, family, and of course, our love for Les Miserables. Austin then asked me if I wanted to grab food and I said yes. He took me to an Ethiopian restaurant where we ate with our hands and I was super impressed because I thought he was very worldly.

What did you think of each other after the first date?

M: I was thinking that he was super cute…I loved that he really liked his family and I was impressed with his restaurant choice. I also thought he was smart.

A: Well, I was pretty taken aback. I went home to my roommates and said this girl is way out of my league. But she wasn’t looking for anything serious and I was excited to see where it went. Clearly it turned into something serious.

Did you think that you would be good business partners?

A: Yes, definitely. I thought Marie would be killer and I thought we worked well together.

Do you feel like you do work well together?

M: I think we complement each other on many different levels – Austin’s skillset is very different from mine and they complement each other. Austin is really personable, an incredible salesperson, and he has good business sense – which is something that I didn’t really have. He’s taught me a lot. What I brought, and obviously what Krystal brought too, was the creative energy. And I’m specifically very organized in terms of operations, that’s something I really love doing.

A: Yes, Marie helps me organize my thoughts. I’m a really abstract thinker and she helps me organize and execute on my ideas. She’s a very actionable person.

OK, you mentioned Krystal. I know this interview is about the two of you but we obviously have to recognize Krystal – did the three of you always want to start Shea Brand together as a group?

M: Personally, ever since I’ve known Krystal I thought damn, this girl is going to be so successful in whatever she does. So if I can latch onto this and partner up with her in some way – it’s going to be successful and it’s going to be great. Later I got to develop this incredible friendship with her, I got to work with her at Macy’s and we worked on different projects living together, too. I didn’t think I’d want to start a business without her, and that was before I met Austin.

A: I did always think that Krystal would be there, she was always going to be a part of it. Krystal was already a coveted designer in the fashion world – between Marie and Krystal’s fashion careers they have both been through high fashion and excelled in corporate environments as well. Krystal’s work output is just insane and her quality is off the charts.

M: This should just be a love letter from us to Krystal!

What about you two, what is your favorite thing about working together?

M: My favorite thing about working with Austin is that he totally grounds me. When we’re walking down the street and my mind is consumed with work he’ll have me take a step back and look up. Then I see beautiful buildings with the light shining on them, or a really nice sunset, or how the clouds are moving and it reminds me that life is beautiful and you can see beauty everywhere. I’ve learned a lot from that and I think I’ve become a better person from it so I try to carry it everywhere I go.

A: I love being able to spend time with Marie. That’s the big problem with being a couple and being a young person that wants to work hard. There’s this older concept that you can’t have your health, your relationship, and your job – that you have to pick two. I just feel like in this day and age people get to strike a balance instead. I love the amazing feeling that I don’t regret how I spend my days because I know I’m spending them with the right people.

That’s really sweet. OK, that’s the good stuff. What’s the hardest thing about working together as a couple?

M: Separating work and play when it comes down to it. Sometimes a week will pass by and I’ve seen Austin every day and hung out with him every day, and because of that I forget that I actually need to go on a date with him. Because that whole time it turns out we’re spending time together just working, not taking care of each other or learning about one another, just getting lost in the work.

A: I think there’s added pressure when you’re in a relationship with someone you work with. It becomes your responsibility to remind yourself to enjoy life, to be there for each other deliberately.

M: Yes, there is definitely added pressure. We live together, we co-own a business together, and we’re also in a relationship together. Look, we went into this confident about each other and we’re going to make it work, but it’s not easy. We have to keep working at it.

A: Every day is a struggle but that’s an important part of who we are as a brand. It’s about struggle and harmony. I think it’s like the city and the natural world – the product of harmony and destruction. We’re all just out here trying to live our lives, be good people, and have good skin.

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I want to ask you both what your idea of the perfect date would be. Is it a past date you’ve been on, one you’re planning to go on some day, or a totally imaginary “if we could do anything” type of date?

M: We actually usually go out for Valentine’s Day a week before but not on the day because things are too crazy and we like taking our time. For me, though, the perfect date is what we actually did recently for Austin’s birthday. We took our puppy to a cabin in Woodstock and it was three days of getting fresh air, going on hikes, eating good food, cuddling the puppy, and just being with each other. Talking, having no worries in the world, no outside distractions, and taking in how beautiful nature is reminds me of how lucky we are. I guess it’s like a three day date…but that was the perfect date for me.

A: If we’re talking a date in the city, the perfect thing for me, honestly, is to go to this restaurant here in our neighborhood that’s just really really good. I like to keep it pretty simple, nothing too extravagant. We like to go to a restaurant, drink wine, and talk for three and half hours. We order whatever we want – they have amazing food, drinks, and desserts – and in the low light, casual setting we just want to sit and talk forever.

Austin – what are three things you love about about Marie?

Hmmm…she challenges everyone around her and leads by example. She’s kind to everyone and everything. And she works really hard.

Marie – what are three things you love about Austin?

I love his passion, his sensitivity, and his goofiness.

Last but not least, we have to talk about the newest love in your lives! What are three things that you love about your adorable, 14-week old Terrier/Poodle rescue, Milou?

Milou loves everyone. When we walk him down the street he gets SO excited to see strangers.He’s a little squeaker. He doesn’t really bark yet but he’s very vocal with his squeaks.He’s a rescue! It was very important to us that we adopt a dog from a shelter. We are huge advocates of adopt don’t shop.

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