Balancing act

Three entrepreneurial couples offer advice on how to live and work together.
Ryan and Janet Schuette

There’s the old saying, “Two heads are better than one.” But what happens when the other head is that of your significant other? Day after day, week after week, could you open and run a business with someone who is not only a business partner but also your life partner? We chatted with three of the many business-owning couples in the area who are meeting this challenge head-on. In three separate industries, they have found a way to make the balance between their personal and their professional lives work, while sharing lessons and advice they’ve gathered along the way.

Ryan and Janet Schuette

When it comes to completing projects, Ryan and Janet Schuette know a thing or two; the pair started Bald Eagle Construction in 2005, specializing in home remodeling.

Their trick to making it work? They divide their duties distinctly. Ryan handles most of the customer interaction—the bidding and contracting process and on-site work—while Janet handles office duties such as bookkeeping, advertising and marketing.

While working for other companies in the Twin Cities, Ryan found himself wanting more control over customer service. “An important part of completing a project is knowing that the customer is fully satisfied with the work completed,” says Ryan about his first thoughts of starting their own company.

“It was always Ryan’s dream to own a home building/remodeling company; the question was just when the right time would be,” says Janet. “Ryan grew up working with his father, who owned a remodeling company in White Bear Lake. We had just welcomed our second child into the world and decided it was a good time to take the leap; we may have been crazy, but it all worked out great.”

The Schuettes believe there is a great value in learning to separate both their personal and their professional relationship.

“Working with my wife is a great opportunity to spend time together, but many times it’s hard to leave work at work; it is important to draw the line between family time and work time,” says Ryan.

“I enjoy planning our future and knowing that it is in our hands to create it. It is not always easy and there are definitely times that we don’t see eye to eye, but that goes for any relationship in the workplace whether you are husband and wife or not,” says Janet. “The biggest challenge is learning to deal with conflict in business and keeping it out of your marriage relationship as much as possible.”

Bald Eagle Construction
5131 Long Ave.
White Bear Lake


Brian and Amanda Welle

Working closely with many sharp objects around may not be ideal for some couples, but Brian and Amanda Welle are completely comfortable in their arrangement.

Brian is the new dentist owner of the well-established Mahtomedi Family Dental Clinic as of September 2013, and Amanda is the office manager, taking care of payroll, billing, front desk duties and human resources—“a little bit of everything,” as she says.

Although new to owning their own business together, they say they see the value in making important business decisions after considering each other’s input.

“We try to make major decisions together. Sometimes we have minor differences in directions to go, but we can usually work through it. It is nice to work with my wife and be able to spend time with her in the work environment,” says Brian. “Our staff seems to enjoy having a married couple in the office and find our ‘ups and downs’ amusing at times. Having Amanda focus on most of the business aspects helps me focus more on our patients and their care.”

“Work is work and family is family,” explains Amanda. “It took us a bit to figure out that we need to separate the two as much as possible, which is not easy. It works best when we understand each of our strengths and separate tasks based on these strengths. Once roles are determined, it is important to trust each other and try not to interfere; we definitely collaborate, but maintain boundaries.”

Mahtomedi Dental Clinic
814 Mahtomedi Ave.


Darren and Kristin Gast

If you’re going to run a business together, it probably doesn’t hurt to have a plentiful amount of wine available. Darren and Kristin Gast are the founders and operators of Winemakers @ the Lake.

Opened in May 2012, Winemakers @ the Lake offers everything from home winemaking kits to wine accoutrements to advice on food and wine pairings. They also offer a Winemaking 101 class.

“We came up with the idea of the shop as Kristin was transitioning out of her current employment, and at a point in her career that she needed a change,” Darren says. “The idea of a small business suited our next adventure.”

Darren and Kristin both grew up in the White Bear Lake area, and as a result they feel a sense of loyalty to the community they have been a part of their entire lives. Kristin runs the shop full-time, while Darren works evenings and weekends. The couple like the arrangement and enjoy making their business decisions as a team.

“We work very well together,” says Darren. “We complement each other’s strengths and allow each other to have opinions and ideas.”

“We are both pretty easygoing,” explains Kristin about their day-to-day relationship. “We get excited pretty easily, but we really try and look at the positive side to things before we overreact. If there is a major decision to make, we make it together. When things get a little heated, usually one of us is smart enough to just leave it alone and not make things more difficult.”

Both Darren and Kristin agree on one parting piece of advice for couples running a business together, saying, “If you are going to work with your spouse, you need to be patient and open-minded. Let each other have a voice and use each other’s strengths. The best results usually happen when there is collaboration and compromise; our best decisions have come from ideas that are both of ours.” //

Winemakers @ The Lake

4764 Banning Ave.
White Bear Lake