Building Businesses and Raising Families: How 3 Entrepreneurs Deal

Owning a business comes with its own particular set of challenges. Add a young family to the mix and things can get dicey.

However, with some effort, determination and communication, it’s possible to grow your company as your children grow and be a present parent, according to local entrepreneurs.

Collin Castore, co-owner of Bodega and The Barrel and Bottle, and Caleb Ely, general manager, owner and photographer at Ely Bros. Photography, both start their weekdays around 6 or 6:30 a.m. Castore usually heads to the gym for an early morning workout while Ely gets his two oldest children −Lulu, 3, and Otto, 2− dressed.

Then Ely heads downstairs to make breakfast and coffee while his wife Hannah feeds their two-month-old daughter, Rita.

“We eat breakfast together until roughly 8:30 or 9 a.m., when I head to our studio in the Short North to work until 5 p.m.,” he says.

After the gym, Castore makes his way to Bodega for a cup o’ joe and to “check that everything at least appears to be intact,” he says. Then it’s back to the homestead to get his son Judah, 4, ready for the day while his wife, Jennifer, drives their 13-year-old daughter, Paige, to school.

“My workday starts around 9 a.m. at The North Market with setting up the shop and launching into messaging and computer/phone work,” he says.

Amy Clark begins her weekdays a bit differently than Castore and Ely. Most mornings, the Amy Clark Studios owner can be found in bed cuddling with her five-year-old son, Kyan.

“My youngest just started kindergarten this year and being that they only have half-day kindergarten, I have rearranged my schedule so that I can stay home with him in the mornings,” she says. (Her eldest son, Chasen, is 8.)

“With email, Gchat, Dropbox, etc., my amazing assistant  Jackie [Schull] and I are able to still get a lot of work done with me at home and her at the studio,” she adds.

The ability to set their own schedule is something all three business owners mention when asked what the advantages are to being your own boss.

“My wife works full time, so when there are daytime events, doctors, school meetings, etc., I am able to attend,” Castore says. “Also, for the first one-and-a-half years of Judah’s life, I was able to be a stay-at-home dad while working at the restaurant and on plans for the brewery on nights and weekends. I feel very lucky I got to spend that time with him.”

Both of Clark’s parents own businesses and she says they taught her to put family first.

“My mom and dad were always at all of my activities and performances growing up, and I knew that’s what I wanted for my kids as well,” she adds.

If Ely works on a Saturday or Sunday, he makes sure to take a weekday off to ensure he’s spending enough time with his brood.

Achieving a balance between time spent at work and time spent with family is very challenging but critical, the business owners say.

When you’re passionate about your business, it can be difficult to shut that passion off when you’re at home, Ely says, but it’s the only way to create a healthy, growing, loving family life.

“By my nature, I enjoy working: fixing things, covering shifts, and interacting with customers,” Castore says. “I also love spending time with my kids. However, the time that I make for them does not always have the urgency or immediacy of a broken refrigerator or a sick server, so it’s sometimes too easy to make the choice of work over family time and miss times with the kids that are important.”

Castore’s family has had to adjust to the fact that he’s never completely off work, he says, adding that if an issue or problem arises, he has to be available at any time, any day of the week to address it.

To stay organized and productive, Clark relies heavily on her smartphone.

“I have emails, calendar, Facebook messages, etc. come to my phone so, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I am able to stay connected to my clients and my assistant,” she says. “I love that even when I am in the pickup line at school waiting for my kids, I can be returning emails and scheduling sessions.”

Though Castore stores appointments and deadlines in his phone, he mainly depends on two small Moleskin notebooks that he keeps in his pants pockets.

“I keep a scratch list during the course of each day that gets transferred to these notebooks at the end of the day,” he says. “I have yet to commit to going fully digital, having been burned by crashes and spills a few times in the past.”

To avoid getting sucked into what he calls the “huge black hole” that is social media, Ely dedicates a specific block of time each day to it.

“If you don’t do that, then Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. will destroy your time, motivation and productivity,” he says.

Both Castore and Clark say communication, especially with one’s spouse or partner, is a necessity.

“It is not easy and it is something that we continually try to improve,” Castore says.

It’s also important to know your limits and priorities.

Clark knows she may miss out on a client or two by not being available to shoot at certain times of the day, but her family must come first for, she says.

“Remember that supporting your family is the number one reason for working, period,” Ely says. “So never sacrifice your family for your business.”