First Person: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff-Elect Stich GuilloryJanuary 2024
American Heart Health MonthFebruary 2024
According to the National Federation of Independent Business, approximately 1.2 million Americans operate a business with their spouse. For many, the notion of working with a spouse sounds, at best, dangerous, and, at worst, like a direct path to marital calamity. But for a growing number of couples, running a business together offers the best of both worlds: pursuing a professional dream with someone you love and respect, while getting an opportunity to spend more time together.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring several local sweethearts who are not only partners in life and love but are business partners as well. These corporate couples share the ups and downs of working side by side with their spouse and how they strive for that tricky work/life balance. Ultimately, each couple comes to the same conclusion – they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Vic and Marwa Vicknair
Bayou Services Moving and Storage, Reliable Document Storage & Shredding
Vic and Marwa Vicknair co-own two businesses: Reliable Document Storage & Shredding and Bayou Services Moving and Storage. The couple met at a mutual friend’s destination wedding in Mexico in 2015. Marwa was living in Rhode Island at the time, and Vic was living in Houston, Tx. “We dated long distance for one year,” says Vic. “I moved back to Lake Charles to open Bayou Services Moving and Storage, and Marwa moved here in 2016. We got married in July 2017 in Mexico.”
The Vicknairs established Reliable Document Storage & Shredding in August 2020, just before Hurricane Laura. “Earlier that year, we received a phone call from a large law firm in Lake Charles asking if we could store all of their boxes of documents locally in Lake Charles,” explains Vic. “We already had stored some for another firm. Marwa and I discussed the idea, and after confirming there wasn’t anyone else locally providing that service in Lake Charles, we jumped at the opportunity, put a plan together, and set it in motion.”
Marwa says she and Vic each have unique strengths that they bring to the business table. “It is pretty amazing to see a vision turn into reality. Together we navigate challenges and celebrate victories to create a blend of professional success and personal fulfillment.”
Their challenges lie in dividing up responsibilities and making sure everything that needs to be done is completed. They strive to find a harmonious balance between professional collaboration and maintaining a healthy personal relationship. “Boundaries between work and home life can sometimes blur, and we do the best we can at separating them, but it can be very difficult,” Vic adds.
“Balancing work and personal life, navigating different working styles, and managing potential disagreements can be challenging when working with your spouse,” says Marwa. “We set clear boundaries, and this allows us to avoid a lot of conflicts. Communication is key.”
And for the Vicknairs, the benefits of business partnership surpass the struggles. “We have had an opportunity to build our dream together, shape our vision into reality, and share the triumphs as a united team,” Vic says. “And we are finding it most rewarding succeeding and helping the people of Southwest Louisiana.”
Michael and Shelly Migues
Great Harvest Bread Company
Michael and Shelly Migues met in high school at Hamilton Christian Academy. They started dating in 1991, married in 1995, and have two grown children. Shelly was born with entrepreneurship in her blood; she and Michael have owned six businesses over the years. Their first was a hair salon opened in 2001. Her father established Bare Wood Furniture in 1981, sold it to Michael and Shelly in 2003. The business is now owned by their son and called Real Wood Furniture.
The couple opened Great Harvest Bread Company, their most recent venture, in 2016. They first discovered Great Harvest while attending their son’s soccer tournaments in Lafayette and searching for healthier lunch options. The decision to open the bakery café took nearly five years of contemplation and prayer. But ultimately, they knew it was meant to be. Shelly says, “The Lord opened every door in some pretty clear ways, so we knew His blessing was on it.”
The Migues’ work relationship starts at the point of idea conception. “Generally, I have the vision and Michael has the tenacity and hard work ethic to make that vision a viable business,” Shelly says. “And neither of us is afraid of hard work.” She also describes their work relationship as balanced. “I prefer to work in the mornings and have the afternoons off, and he prefers to get his workout in early and head in for lunch through closing. I prefer the office work and he prefers to be out front with the customers. He jokes around more with employees and I’m more serious, but more maternal and sensitive.” Michael stirs in respect for each other to the mix, and adds that communication, compromise, and humor are vital in any healthy relationship. “Gotta keep it light!”
On “shop talk” at home, Micheal says refraining is impossible. But it’s a goal. Shelly adds, “We have to remind each other that work stays at work. It took us some time to stick to that rule. When we go out to dinner with friends, no work talk. Vacation, no work talk.”
Ultimately, Michael and Shelly feel fortunate to be able to work with their best friend. “I like the teamwork aspect of it,” Michael says. “It takes both of us to make Great Harvest as successful as it is. We are award-winning within the franchise. It takes both of us to foster the environment with the employees. That’s what you “feel” at Great Harvest. It starts with a healthy relationship between me and Shelly.”
Nathaniel and Alexis Allured
The Grounds Guys of Lake Charles
In 2011, Nathaniel Allured worked in the wine distribution business. As part of market outreach, he taught a McNeese Leisure Learning Wine 101 class. At that time, Alexis Black had recently graduated with a degree in pharmacy and moved back to Lake Charles. A friend invited her to attend Nathaniel’s wine class, and that’s where the couple met. “There was instant chemistry, but it wasn’t the right time, so we went our separate ways,” Nathaniel says.
A couple years later, Nathaniel was on a wine trip to Italy. He posted a photo of himself in front of a café Alexis had visited years before, and the two reconnected. “We arranged to meet for dinner at Luna Downtown the evening I returned,” he says. “The rest is history. We were married on Labor Day, 2015.”
Out of a passion for business and a desire to beautify our community, the couple founded The Grounds Guys of Lake Charles in 2018. They support each other by dividing key business activities – Alexis handles Marketing and General Administration; Nathaniel oversees General Management, including the Sales and Operations departments. “Alexis has been with the company full-time for a little over two years now, and we’re really starting to hit stride in workflow and delegation of tasks,” he says. “She’s brought much needed stability to the Marketing and Administrative functions of the business, and it’s awesome to have your most-trusted partner, your spouse, by your side, developing and shaping the future of the business.”
Despite working hard and often long hours, Nathaniel and Alexis feel fortunate that their business gives them flexibility to be present for their son and family. They strive to separate their work and personal lives, but Nathaniel says that’s probably a stretch. “Try as we may to contain work to business hours only, it’s nearly impossible to keep work from creeping into normal conversation from time to time. That said, we’ve been working on scheduling dedicated time to focus on our personal relationship where shoptalk is not allowed.”
Nathaniel says owning a small business is not for the faint-of-heart. “However, with the right person by your side, and faith that God will provide the right opportunities at the right time, anything is possible.” He cites 2 Corinthians 9:8. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Claiborne and Cindy Self
Chicken Salad Chick, Waxing the City, CC’s Pawn Shop
The Selfs met in 1983 after Cindy taught Claiborne’s brother how to fly airplanes. She was an instructor pilot at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. at the time. He was a freshly-unemployed oil field mud engineer after the oilfield crashed in 1982-83. They were essentially business partners even before their March 1884 wedding. Cindy helped Claiborne open his first business venture, a Blockbuster Video store, while they were still dating. “We worked together to open many businesses over the years,” Claiborne says. “I come up with crazy ideas and she brings the sanity to the table!”
In addition to Blockbuster Video, the Selfs have also owned Palm Beach Tan, Aarons Rent to Own, a Ford dealership, a yogurt shop, loan stores, Next Day Access, a bookstore, and a photo processing business. Currently, they own CC’s Pawn Superstore (opened in 2015), Waxing the City (2018) and most recently, Chicken Salad Chick (2022) all located in Lake Charles.
As business partners for over 30 years, the Selfs have a comfortable, easy-going working relationship, collaborating on decisions and divvying up the tasks as each are best suited. “We each have strengths in different areas, but together we are a pretty tough team!” Claiborne says. “And now that we are empty nesters, we work more closely together than ever. Regarding keeping their work and personal lives separate, he adds, “We have been working together for so long we don’t know when one stops and the other starts.”
Claiborne and Cindy love being partners in business and in life. “I wouldn’t know how to do it differently,” says Claiborne. “I think it has made us closer over the years. It’s a true lifetime partnership.”
The Selfs are proud to say that all three of their Lake Charles businesses have been voted Best of the Best SWLA 2023!
Tim and Tammy Andreas
Global Asset Management Group
Tim and Tammy Andreas met in 2005, thanks to an introduction by a mutual friend. “Both of us worked at the Capital One Tower downtown on different floors and used different elevators, so our paths hadn’t crossed until that introduction,” Tammy says. “We were married November 18, 2006.”
The couple started Global Asset Management Group in 2013. Tim had been working for the Wall Street/Bank Owned Brokerage Business model for 12 years. “The longer I worked there the more it was focused on the firm’s stock price instead of the clients,” he says. “After a period of contemplation, marked by prayer and seeking God’s guidance, Tammy and I decided to transition into independence, allowing us to establish a business dedicated wholeheartedly to our clients’ financial well-being, with a focus on personalized and client-centric strategies.”
To make their dream become reality, Tammy and Tim focused on effective communication, clearly defined roles, and a shared commitment to their vision. “We leveraged each other’s strengths, supported one another through challenges, maintained a collaborative approach and dedicated time to seeking God’s guidance for direction and timing,” Tim says. “I started getting calls from other firms and headhunters. That’s when we knew God was opening the door. We prayed over the decision and Raymond James, our Independent Broker Dealer today, seemed to be where God was leading us.”
The Andreases recall the challenging months after Hurricane Laura, when their office space in the Capital One Tower was destroyed. Thankfully, their home was not damaged, so they moved their Work Team and business operations into their home and continued business as usual, assisting clients with no down time. Tammy recalls that period as a time of teamwork, bonding, and laughter. Tim adds, “Remarkably, in every challenge, we experienced God’s provision, surpassing previous circumstances. His strength and wisdom sustained us, fostering not only resilience but also deepening client relationships, transforming them into a cherished extended family.”
Tim says their work and personal lives are intricately woven together, driven by love, strength, and understanding. “This connection is evident in our relationships with clients and our team. It naturally intertwines with the fast-paced nature of the markets and the continual growth of our business. During moments of quiet reflection together, our shared love becomes a guiding force as we strategize for the future, envisioning the path of the firm for the future. These heartfelt discussions not only strengthen our professional bond but also deepen our personal connection, creating a balance blend in both aspects of our lives.”
“We find joy in working together and cherish the moments of shared laughter and having fun,” Tammy adds. “Our love and God-centered faith form the unshakable foundation that makes this dual commitment not just feasible but fulfilling. It might not work for everyone, but for us, it comes together seamlessly.”