It’s all in the family for Mum and daughter team


Around 70 per cent of Australia’s 2.3 million businesses are family owned. Whether it’s large corporations like Linfox or Visy, or a two-person team operating from a home kitchen, the business of working with family is not always easy.

For one South Australian mother and daughter team though, their familial connection is the magic ingredient in two thriving small businesses.

Jo Quigley and Amber Grech run Send a Gourmet Basket and The Infant Boutique from a shop-front in the Adelaide suburb of Norwood.

Grech admits people who don’t know the pair well often express confusion or shock.

‘People say, ‘you work with your mum? How do you do that?’ But it’s great, it works for us. Mum and I are more friends; that’s why it works, I think.’

Working with her mother also affords Grech the flexibility to leave the shop in safe hands while attending to mum duties for her three young children.

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Playing it smart

Quigley and Grech have been able to sustain a harmonious relationship for the past six years. Both women agree starting from a place of love and respect is key, but the way you run a family business is important too.

They pay themselves an agreed weekly wage, and any surplus cash goes back into the business. The finances are led by Quigley who has been running the hamper business for 17 years. And they say being clear about the division of labour is fundamental.

‘We have a clear delineation between jobs,’ says Quigley. ‘I’m responsible for the hamper business, and I do all the accounts for both. Amber takes responsibility for The Infant Boutique and she does all the tech stuff and design, the logo work, and the website, photos etc.’

‘But we go to the trade fairs together, we chat about everything, and ultimately most decisions are joint decisions.’

Being clear about role each plays in the business has many important benefits.

‘We play to our strengths,’ says Quigley. ‘And we try not to cross-over too much, because otherwise you can end up doubling-up.’

‘We really complement each other,’ says Grech. ‘I know I’m bad at numbers, so I would never try to do the accounts for instance. And I would never want to step on (Mum’s) toes or into her domain.’

Valuing differences

Grech says another reason why the mother-daughter team work so well together is that they’re both able to listen to each other.

‘It’s really nice to have someone’s opinion that I really value. It’s important not to get offended by constructive criticism.’

Communication is another important factor in these women’s success.

‘We disagree about things, but we don’t argue,’ Quigley says. ‘And sure, you get stressed with each other sometimes, but we don’t hold onto it.’

Seeking outside help

Knowing when to seek help and who to go to is an important small business skill too, says Quigley.

‘There are business chambers and so forth, but they’re not always right for small businesses.’

Quigley is a board member of the not-for-profit Eastside Business Enterprise Centre (EBEC) in Adelaide, and she has found drawing on its resources and expertise invaluable over the years.

‘They run workshops, and business coaching, business mentoring and networking. They can partner you are up with people who can help you.’

When Quigley was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer ten years and had just three weeks to find someone to run her business, it was EBEC and her accountant who came to the rescue.

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Two women, two businesses and three kids

Quigley and Grech say one of the best things about working together is the work-life balance it affords them. For the past six years, Grech’s three small children have been raised in the business too.

‘I get the both of best worlds,’ she says. ‘I get to work in a job I love, and I get to be the mum I want to be. Of course, I still get mum guilt, but having the shop means I have less of it. I can do volunteering at the school, I can do class reading, I can pick them up and drop them off, and pop out of the shop when I need to.’

And Quigley doesn’t miss out either.

‘I’m always here so Amber gets the luxury of being able to come and go,’ she says, ‘and I get the luxury of being able to take holidays.’

Advice from Jo and Amber

1. Start with a good relationship - If you don’t like and get along with the family member, forget about it.
2. Work to your strengths and weaknesses - In an ideal world, your strengths will complement each other.
3. Be clear about roles and division of labour – don’t waste energy and time on doubling-up.
4. Listen to each other - Be open-minded to what the other person has to say. It can be really helpful to have a fresh perspective.