EO Atlanta member Kelvin Slater and his wife, Mandy, have launched several restaurants during their marriage.
It’s true that you should treat your business partnership like a marriage. After all, it’s important whom you select and no matter who that person is you’ll have to work hard at it. It’s also good advice to treat your marriage like a business partnership, in that both require commitment, communication and a shared view of values and goals. But what about when your business partner and your marriage partner are the same person? That requires a new rulebook entirely!
That’s the situation for EO Atlanta member Kelvin Slater (pictured at left) and his wife, Mandy. The couple, married for 14 years, opened their first restaurant together just two weeks after their wedding. The duo’s love for the hospitality industry began long before they ever met when they worked for restaurants in various capacities. Eventually, their paths crossed.
“She was the best hire I ever made,” Kelvin says of the moment he met and hired Mandy onto the Chili’s restaurant team he managed. With an understanding of both the service and cuisine side of the industry, the couple has since parlayed their strengths into several successful businesses.
In Their Industry
They started their first joint venture, Blue Moon Pizza, in 2003. While the Slaters dreamed up unique concoctions, they stayed true to what they deemed core values: making the customer feel at home, attending to every detail and providing consistency in the quality of service and food. Blue Moon Pizza grew from 10 employees to five locations across Atlanta and into Florida. In 2015, the Slaters sold the legacy to explore other endeavors.
For their next undertaking, the Slaters wanted an opportunity to create a holistic dining experience on a level that Atlanta had never seen. Ponce City Market presented that opportunity. In the highly anticipated rooftop space, the couple developed two concepts: Skyline Park, a nostalgic carnival-themed amusement park, and Nine Mile Station, a modern beer garden with an unparalleled, panoramic view of the Atlanta skyline.
In Their Community
Heavily involved in their community, the Slaters partner closely with charities and community organizations to give back to the city that has supported them. They are avid supporters of Junior Achievement, a nonprofit that prepares children for the real world through simulated scenarios. Kelvin serves on the Georgia Restaurant Association’s board of directors. Most importantly, the Slaters love to spend time together as a family with their two children and two dogs.
In Their Words
EO asked the couple a few questions about their unique experience. Here’s what they shared.
Was there one moment when you realized you would make great partners in both business and life?
Mandy: I’m not sure we thought too much into it. Since we met in the restaurant industry, we knew we shared similar passions and that our individual skills would complement each other. So, when Kelvin said he and his then-business-partner wanted to open a restaurant, I said “Great! Let’s do it!” I didn’t quite grasp the scope of what we were getting into. It grew significantly over time—but happily, we had the right combination to make it work.
How do you maximize business and personal productivity despite your differences?
Mandy: You definitely have to own your strengths and weaknesses to make a partnership work. We are complete opposites. Kelvin is the creative, free-spirit and I am the type-A, uptight, detail-oriented person. But, we went into it knowing each other’s obvious strengths and playing off of them. He focused on the kitchen, recipes and menu while I concentrated on service, bar and training. Over time, our responsibilities have changed quite a bit but remain very different. We’ve learned how to let each other stay in our own lane, but are not afraid to call each other out and hold each other accountable.
How does this all-in partnership impact your business and family life?
Mandy: One challenge is that you can never really turn it off. It is what you talk about all day, every day, and even on date nights. We consciously set aside time each week to talk about our marriage, kids and family life, to make sure we put the necessary focus on them. On a positive note, we’ve been amazed just how much we are capable of accomplishing together and how much we truly need each other to make it work―as different as we both are.
How has your EO experience impacted your entrepreneurial journey and leadership style?
Kelvin: The EO experience has connected us with others who are living the entrepreneurial life. They’re invaluable as a sounding board for support and advice. It has helped us think outside the box while remaining true to our core values and goals. I feel like we’ve both become much more confident in our leadership styles.
Any thoughts for others contemplating “couples entrepreneurship”?
Kelvin: It’s of huge value to have conversations on the front end about who will do what and how you will also balance family and children if that may someday be a factor. You have to understand that you are in this business together―for better or for worse―just like in your marriage. It’s a big commitment, but the benefits of working every day and building a successful venture with the person you love make it well worth the time and effort.
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Categories: Best Practices Interview Partnerships