ABC Consulting was officially launched in January 2017, but the idea for this company started two years ago — when its cofounders first started dating. Alexa Sykes and CJ Broderick have always been entrepreneurial-minded, but they hit their stride when they found each other. This is a love and business story that will inspire couples and solo entrepreneurs alike.

When, how and why did you start ABC Strategy & Consulting?
We officially launched and incorporated ABC Strategy & Consulting in January of 2017, but it’s arguably been in the works since we started dating a little over two years ago. From the very start of our relationship, we’ve been passionate about bringing our skills and interests together to create meaningful change in our community. Since CJ already owned a successful marketing & event planning business, we had been primarily leveraging that as the vehicle for working together and creating opportunities to bring our ideas to life through events. As time went on, we knew that we wanted to start something that was both of ours, and that truly represented who we are as a couple and as entrepreneurs. ABC Strategy & Consulting grew out of our desire to help other businesses and entrepreneurs address and solve some of the complex problems that keep them from achieving their goals.

How do you manage running a business with your fiancé while also maintaining a healthy relationship?
Whew. This is a great question, and quite honestly, something that we’re figuring out one day at a time! Running a business with your significant other requires a great deal of intentionality in how you plan and spend your time. It’s important to create boundaries and protect the time you need to just enjoy one another, to ensure that all of your time together isn’t spent working. While we truly enjoy the work that we do, we know that our company can’t and shouldn’t define our relationship – we have to define that for ourselves. Between growing our business and planning our wedding, “free” time is definitely hard to come by, but we’ve purposefully instituted weekly date nights and set norms around spending uninterrupted quality time together.

What are the biggest challenges with starting and growing a business?
It takes a lot of time, resilience, and flexibility to start and grow a business. Let’s start with time: you actually need to put in a ton of hours to build your brand and get clear on who you want your business to be. I remember in those early months, we were trying to build our website, start our social media pages, and pitch clients all at the same time. If we could do it all over again, we’d probably be much more strategic about prioritizing what matters most, and focusing our efforts there. When you’re starting your business, though, you’re so excited about everything it has the potential to be – so, it’s easy to get caught up in trying a little bit everything, and quickly spreading yourself too thin.

That brings us to resilience and flexibility: as you’re growing your business, there’s a 99% chance that things will not go the way that you planned! I remember thinking that it would be so easy for us to find our first client – I mean, after all, we’re us! We have a proven track record of results, and we’re providing a service that we know businesses and organizations need, why wouldn’t people be banging down our door to hire us, right? Nonetheless, it’s taken a lot of time, reframing, revamping, and reevaluating to determine the most effective way to articulate who ABC is and why you should work with us, and we’re learning that that process is never truly over. Just when you think you’ve ‘arrived’ and figured out the answer, you discover that you’ve got more learning to do. If you’re not willing or interested in being in a constant cycle of learning, discovery, and change, then you’re probably not ready to start a business.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in starting or growing a business?
First of all, do your research. Yes, learning the hard way can definitely be a catalyst for growth, but there’s a lot that you can learn proactively. Depending on what your business idea is, do some digging around what’s already happening in that space, and build an understanding of successful best practices as well as things to avoid.

Also, share your business idea with a few people who you trust and are close to you, and call them your accountability team. Starting a business – especially while you’re still working your 9-to-5 – takes an acute amount of self-discipline and consistency. It helps to have people in your inner circle who know what you’re trying to do and where you’re trying to go, that can lovingly check-in on you to see if you’re meeting the goals and benchmarks that you’ve set for yourself and for your business along the way.

What is it like balancing ABC Strategy & Consulting with your day job?
I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy. While 5:00 for others means closing down shop and heading to happy hour, when you’re side hustling, 5:00 is just the beginning of your second wind. Similarly to what we said about running a business with your significant other, building a business while working your full-time job means being incredibly purposeful about how you manage your time. Since starting ABC, I wake up much earlier, use my planner more copiously, and am working on perfecting the art of a productive weekend. Weekends are goldmines of opportunity for sidehustlers because you have the opportunity to dedicate uninterrupted blocks of time to working on projects and building your brand. Again, it’s important to set boundaries so you don’t become completely immersed in building your business and neglect other areas of your life, but it’s important to understanding that sidehustling does require a willingness to make sacrifices – particularly around how you decide to spend your time.

Anything else you want to share?
Starting your own business is not easy, but it is the most transformative learning experience you can probably undertake as a young professional. We all have ideas, passions, interests and skills that we can package and share with our networks and communities, if we’re willing to spend the time developing our ideas and honing our crafts. To get even more specific, starting a business as a couple has revealed new dimensions to our relationship and has helped us better understand the way we both think, operate, problem solve, and make decisions. As grueling as building a business is, the personal growth you experience makes it all worth it and more.

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