Hari-Mari flip-flop entrepreneurs are successfully married to the business

  • Article by: HANAH CHO , Dallas Morning News
  • Updated: July 6, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Married entrepreneurs behind Hari Mari flip-flops make a perfect pair.

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Husband-and-wife team and Hari Mari co-founders Jeremy, foreground, and Lila Stewart pose for portrait at their company headquarters in Dallas, June 18, 2014. (Brad Loper/Dallas Morning News/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1154637

Business partners often joke that they’re married to one another.

What happens when you actually are married to your business partner?

Consider husband and wife Jeremy and Lila Stewart, who launched flip-flop brand Hari Mari in Dallas two years ago.

They knew that combining home life and work life can be fraught with land mines. But just as there are horror stories, there are also successful couples who have built household brands together.

Through some missteps, the Stewarts learned to navigate the challenges of working as husband-and-wife entrepreneurs and find balance between their personal and professional lives.

“You have to work on it, and it’s a continual process,” said Jeremy, 35. “We’re at a really good stage right now.”

Along the way, they’ve nurtured Hari Mari into a premium flip-flop brand that is carried in 270 stores across 39 states. Hari Mari recently celebrated a milestone: It got picked up by national brands Jack Spade and Urban Outfitters. And sales are growing rapidly: Hari Mari sold more flip-flops in the first three months of 2014 than it had for all of last year.

“It’s been an absolute blast working with my husband. I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else,” said Lila, 33.

The transition from husband and wife to business partners wasn’t always easy, though, the couple say.

The simple part was knowing that they would work together to launch Hari Mari after the couple saw a void in the flip-flop market: a lack of color, character and comfort.

Social mission

The brand also has a social mission, giving $3 for every pair purchased to a pediatrics cancer fund at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Jeremy is the genius behind Hari Mari. I jumped on board the second I saw the flip-flops. He didn’t have a decision. I told him I would handle sales,” said Lila, who previously worked as a sales executive for AEG Live.

Lila handles sales and marketing while Jeremy oversees design and manufacturing. The couple say their complementary skills help run the company’s day-to-day operations.

In the early days, though, the couple struggled with resolving office conflicts. They first tried to handle business disagreements like they did personal ones. That meant having unfiltered, unvarnished conversations, which don’t always translate well in a professional setting, the couple acknowledged.

“We were talking in the office like we would talk to each other at home,” Jeremy said. “And it’s surprising and off-putting to everyone else, outside of us.”

Through those early disagreements, they learned not to give unsolicited advice. They also work hard to defer to the other’s expertise or focus.

Recently, the team was choosing color combinations for the brand’s 2015 line. As the creative one, Jeremy wanted wild and bright colors, such as a black and pink combination for men.

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