When they were just 22 years old, Chelsea Moore, Jenni Olivero, and Sabena Suri decided to take their friendship to the next level. But they didn’t mean backpacking through Europe or attending a group meditation retreat. They meant starting a business. The three women founded BOXFOX, a site offering curated, customizable gift boxes, in 2014. Their efforts landed all three co-founders on the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 List and has given them a unique perspective on business partners… because they’re (still!) close friends too.

BoxFox Founders

While going into business with pals has paid off for Moore, Olivero, and Suri, they wouldn’t necessarily advise it for everyone. “Just because you believe in working with friends doesn’t mean you should work with any and all of your friends,” they tell us. Rather, they said, look for the right person: “When you have a great idea that you just can’t get out of your head, who is the person that first comes to mind?”

If the first person that comes to mind does happen to be a friend — great! Just prepare to learn to compartmentalize the different aspects of your relationship and to be very open about your goals and expectations. The BOXFOX trio offers these five tips to anyone who dreams of starting a business (or side hustle) with a close pal:

1. Do your homework. Before you really start the process, you need to ask yourself some tough questions. Do you truly trust this person — because we’re about to get money and time involved. Are you confident that they have your best interests at heart and that they’ll be able to prioritize your business in the future? Is there mutual respect in your relationship? Respect is key, because it will allow you to navigate the inevitable ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

2. Set standards and expectations upfront. Assuming you’re still ready to go forward after you’ve asked yourself those hard questions, it’s time to have some upfront conversations. You and your business BFF need to set some important groundwork. Discuss plans for finances: Will you raise money or bootstrap to start? How will your current or future families affect your business plans? How do you envision your day-to-day routine? Setting expectations at the start — and making sure that you’re on the same page as much as possible — will help you avoid additional conflict in the future.

3. Have the best tools. Spend time on research and take advantage of all available resources to make sure that you’re ready to enter the world of entrepreneurship and a business relationship with your friend. The BOXFOX team read Kim Scott’s Radical Candor to help them brush up on a few emotional and intellectual tools of their own.

4. Communicate, communicate… and over-communicate. Are you *so* over hearing that communication is the key to, like, everything? Sorry. It’s that important. Before you and your besties get too far into your business journey, you’ll want to talk about your personal communication styles and figure out how you can best use those styles at work. Informal texts may continue to suffice in your personal relationship, but that’s not going to be ideal on the job, so figure out what will be.

5. Put your pride to the side. The time to take on a team mindset is now. Stop thinking about your business or side hustle in terms of individual successes or shortcomings and practice taking responsibility for the highs — and lows — of entrepreneurship as a collective. It’s crucial to be in sync.

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(Photo via BOXFOX)