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Empowering Love: Thriving in a Queer Owned Small Business

Updated: Feb 9

A child stands at the waters edge watching waves roll against the shore as a storm approaches. Image credit: Natalie Bollinger
The Storm

This has been a busy month for us. We are enjoying an extra helping of Mayhem here in York, PA. We are rolling out a new store, web host, site design, blog, adding products, and slipping in back surgery at one point. We are tired, ready for summer, and excited about our new store and products.


Starting a business sounds like an adventure, it is. You have an opportunity to share with the world a vision. Maybe that vision can change the world for the better. The possibilities are endless. They are also slightly terrifying, not to mention the insane amount of work. Stressful work on top of a hectic life as a parent of two small kids.


Do I need to even mention going into business with family, friends, or a partner is almost always a dumb idea? If you want to test your relationship, do something crazy like start a business together. I don’t know about Natalie, but this entire process has stressed me in ways I wasn’t prepared for.


I don’t think that is a reflection of the strength of our relationship. We have a dynamic connection. A connection that allows us to thrive as individuals and as a couple. Who we are together and apart is grounded in trust, respect for each other’s needs, and love. But we have very different personalities. She is loving and kind and soldiers through her feelings and thoughts. On the other hand, I cry at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy for five minutes and take days to figure out my thoughts or feelings. For us to work requires effort, commitment, communication, and checking our egos at the door.


Stress can cause tiny imperceptible cracks in communication, egos, and our expectations of each other. Cracks that we need to deal with sooner rather than later. The reality of that stress, as a married couple and co-owners, made an abrupt return home this week. We had a minor miscommunication that we dealt with, as we always do, with love and empathy for each other.


But that brief moment before we realized there was a misunderstanding, has me thinking of past relationships; romantic, personal, and professional. There is a moment in every relationship when a misunderstanding occurs. Misunderstandings are inevitable when people are involved. We aren’t privy to their thoughts, past experiences, or the emotions in the moment. There are a million variations that can change what we think we said into what they heard. One example, as a writer I can not expect Natalie to know that editing entails more than fixing punctuation and grammar. If I say to her "Babe, I'm going to go edit my story." Her interpretation of what editing means would be very different than mine based on her life experience. No one is to blame, a miscommunication happened, but how we deal with them can have a dramatic impact on our future together.


Relationships don’t suddenly fail; they die choice by choice. We choose to not fix the misunderstanding when it happens. Emotions are invested, assumptions are made, and cracks grow. Eventually what brought them together is no longer enough to keep them together. A business partnership fails, friendships die, and people stop loving each other every day. Because somewhere along the line cracks appeared in who they were together and apart. They stopped putting in the work. They chose to not sit down and speak to each other through love and kindness. There are situations this doesn’t apply to. I’m talking generally about healthy relationships. Starting any relationship is easy, it is novel and exciting. Keeping a relationship going, that’s where the work comes in. Requiring us to put aside our ego, and what we want to ask "What do they need?". Especially when you are married and co-owners of a small business.


That moment of reflection has me realizing I’m incredibly blessed to be married to, and business partner with Natalie. She is someone who chooses to fix the miscommunications. Especially the moments we do not meet each other's expectations, the moments when we just can’t shine as brightly as we did before. What makes us work so well as a couple is exactly what makes us work well as co-owners. Our core ideas of love, empathy, respect, and compassion for each other are the core of our business model. Yes, we foolishly believe a company can treat the world with love, empathy, respect, and compassion. We believe this model can build a community and change the world for the better.


I have no idea what the future holds for either of us, let alone Moxie & Mayhem. But what I do know, how we choose to respond in any given moment, defines who we are. Natalie and I will choose kindness, love, empathy, and communication every time. We chose these traits for each other, our friends, and our business. We even chose it for those who don’t have the best of intentions for us. Because this is who we are, it is what defines us. Maybe, if we are lucky, we will be successful as a couple and in business. At the very least, the world will be better because choose to love every time.


The future can be scary and at times uncertain for our queer community. Whatever it holds, we will manage it the way we always do, with love, moxie, and mayhem.


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