Luxury fashion

The Mother-Daughter Founders Behind 16 Brands On Balancing Family And Function

As anyone who has ever had a mother or a daughter knows, these relationships can be tough. Whether it’s the ups and downs of the teenage years, when all daughters seem to want to do anything but listen to their mothers, or the never-ending questions during early adulthood about when a mom can expect some grandchildren, there’s no shortage of memorable moments in this dynamic.

But despite their trials and tribulations, mother-daughter relationships are arguably some of the most rewarding imaginable. Mothers always give the best advice—as much as their daughters might hate to admit it—and they are the ultimate role models and support systems. So, it seems only fitting that many of today’s biggest brands are powered by none other than mothers and daughters, who say working together has only strengthened their personal bond. Read on to learn how 16 mothers and daughters who work together balance business and family.

Francesca and Mimi Aiello, Frankies Bikinis

Growing up in Malibu, California, Francesca Aiello was no stranger to the beach—in fact, it was basically her second home. But one day, while walking through the sand after a long day at school, she spotted something unexpected: a rather skimpy bikini bottom and behind it, a woman beaming with confidence. In awe of this sight, she tried to find a similarly cut bikini for herself but had no such luck. So, her mom, Mimi Aiello, suggested she have her bikinis custom made. “I would design exactly what I wanted, and she would help me source seamstresses to make them come to life,” Francesca recalls. “Eventually, my friends started borrowing my swimsuits so often that I just started making more and more and giving them to my friends, so we were all wearing them.”

Struck by a then-new photo-sharing platform called Instagram, Francesca created an account under the username @frankiesbikinis, and she started posting shots of her friends in the swimwear. Before long, they caught the eye of supermodel Candice Swanepoel, who requested some of the bikinis and shared them on her own social media. Suddenly, Francesca was receiving hundreds of messages asking to buy her bikinis, and with the help of her mom, she decided it was time to turn it into a real business. “I was never hesitant about starting this brand with my mom because she is the type of person that supports and empowers growth within the people around her, and she does that for me every single day; before the start of the brand and still today,” Francesca explains. “She teaches me every day to lead with grace, kindness, and strength, and I couldn’t imagine being on this journey with anyone else by my side.”

For Mimi, too, being a part of her daughter’s brand has been an incredibly rewarding experience. “Francesca and I have always been extremely close, and working together is really a dream come true for us because we get to interact and see each other every day,” she says. “Plus, I get the opportunity to watch Francesca grow into such a strong business woman, which is something that as a mom, I am really blessed with.”

Val and Breezy Griffith, SkinnyDipped

Val Griifth and her daughter, Breezy, were driving from Seattle to Vancouver about 10 years ago when they both found themselves in the mood for a snack. “We started talking about how much we both loved almonds and chocolate and how good they were together,” Val remembers. “But at that time, the only chocolate-coated almonds on the market were the ones in the bulk bin with too little nut and too much ‘meh’ chocolate. So we decided to take this perfect food—the almond—with all its inherent sweetness and deliciousness, its incredible health benefits, and its punch of protein—and make it the star of the chocolate almond duo.” With no formal background in business, the two headed to the kitchen, taking with them a penchant for food and unbridled enthusiasm for concocting a healthy and delicious treat, and pretty soon, SkinnyDipped was born.

But despite their shared love of snacking and of each other, Val was a bit skeptical of mixing business with family. “My initial thought about starting a business with my daughter was two-fold: how incredibly cool that she wants to work with me, followed rapidly by danger, danger!” she says. “While I loved the thought of creating and building something with her, I knew it would be fraught with landmines and we’d need to go carefully.” So, the mother and daughter made a promise from the start that love would always come first, and they proceeded to navigate a lot of tricky, emotional territory as they grew the brand and into business partners. “The reality was Breezy was brilliantly suited to helm and drive the business forward while my skills were creation and innovation, so I had to be okay letting go of my ‘mom’ identity as leader of our pack,” Val explains. “There were some tears, yes, and a lot of honest, good communication, and had we not done that work up front, I don’t think we could’ve survived.”

For Breezy, it felt like a natural fit from the very start, and she credits their differences with allowing SkinnyDipped to become the success it has. “Our different mindsets and personalities create a really great balance—we often joke that I’m the accelerator pedal, and she’s the emergency brake, and we couldn’t have SkinnyDipped without both of those things,” she jokes. “We’ve fostered an incredible mutual respect for each other, and that has not only made us solid business partners but has also strengthened our personal relationship; believe it or not, we still spend most of our time away from SkinnyDipped together!”

Lauren Stephens, Bonnie Dudley, and Kaki McGrath, Dudley Stephens

Sisters Lauren Stephens and Kaki McGrath spent their childhood wearing the fleece pullovers that have long been synonymous with New England, but as they came of age, they felt something was missing from the classic look. “We’d talk to our mom, Bonnie, about the idea that this comfy, versatile, durable fabric could and should be cool and stylish to wear, too,” explains Stephens. The ladies continued talking about this for years until finally, in 2015, they decided that the someone who should make such a garment should be the three of them.

“Once we saw the initial samples, we knew we were on to something, and we all wanted to get our hands on them and start wearing them immediately,” says McGrath. “This shared interest and passion really drove us forward in the beginning, far outweighing any sense of hesitation we may have had. And we continue to be driven in the same positive direction as we see our brand’s impact, on our customers, of course, but also on the environment—our recycled fleece styles have repurposed over five million plastic bottles to date—and through our DS Gives philanthropic initiatives.”

In fact, in the seven years since launching Dudley Stephens, they all feel that they’ve grown even closer. “Kaki and I both have young children with increasingly busy school and sports schedules, and we feel that if it weren’t for Dudley Stephens, we may not find the time to connect as often,” Stephens says. “We’re so thankful that the company we’ve built with our mom lets us travel together, work together, and experience all of its ups and downs as a family.”

Jill Zarin and Ally Shapiro, JILL + ALLY

When Covid-19 began its vicious spread in March 2020, former “Real Housewives of New York” star Jill Zarin knew that masks would be in high-demand, so she called on some factories overseas, whom she’d worked with during her time in retail, and sourced some white, three-ply masks. At the same time, her daughter, Ally Shapiro, had picked up a new quarantine skill and was tie-dying everything in the house, and when the masks arrived, they were no exception. “Ally posted them for sale on her Instagram page, and Jill + Ally was born,” Zarin recalls. Pretty soon, the mother and daughter had an appearance on “Good Morning America,” thousands of orders, and a new partnership with TJMAXX.

“I felt so lucky to have my mom and be able to literally turn our hobby into a business—and one that gives back!” says Shapiro. “From day one, we donated one mask for each one sold, and we’ve donated over 100,000 masks to date. Two years later, I can say even though we’ve had our ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade this adventure and learning experience for anything.”

And even as the two have returned to their respective homes and lives as the pandemic has lessened, they feel lucky to have a reason to remain so close. “The best part of working with Allyson is that every day feels like Mother’s Day, meaning I get to speak and work with my daughter every day,” Zarin explains. “I only have one child, and I cherished every milestone because I knew it would be my first and last experience as a mother. So, I feel lucky that I get to continue to mentor Ally as a professional businesswoman, which I never thought I would have the honor of doing.”

Rosalina Tan and Mary Jane Ong Tan, Pili Ani

Rosalina Tan has always felt passionate about helping her community, so when she saw a way to help the farmers in her native Philippines by purchasing their pili oils, she didn’t hesitate. But one bottle quickly led to an entire warehouse full of oils, and she didn’t know what to do with it all, so her daughter, Mary Jane Ong Tan, started looking into the properties of the oil and soon learned that it’s rich with antioxidants that protect skin from harsh pollutants. “I realized that we had an untapped, hidden gem in our backyard that could help build a new livelihood for our farmers,” she explains. And with that discovery, Pili Ani was born.

“I thought that this would be something that I could do alone, and I didn’t even ask my daughter to help me; I just did what I thought was right and what made me happy,” Tan remembers. “Little did I know that my daughter would help me fulfill this dream and how she would be able to magnify my vision into something universal.”

Five years on, Pili Ani has grown into a successful skincare, lipcare, and essential oils brand—but it hasn’t always been easy for the mother and daughter behind it. “The endless arguments certainly became more apparent when we started Pili Ani together!” Ong Tan says. “My mom is responsible for the raw materials and was always out in the fields talking with farmers. I have been working with my mom in her trading business since I was seven years old, but building our own brand and handling the procurement of our own raw materials is a whole different ball game.”

Despite the trials and tribulations, though, Tan, now 76 years old, loves that her lifelong vision is being carried out by her daughter and that they’re building a brand and legacy that will live on for many years to come. “In the end, I am still her mom and she is my daughter and no business arguments will ever change that relationship,” she says. “I just hope and pray that I get to see our third-generation (my grandchildren) help us get this business going and hopefully share the same ideals and goals to continue what we have started.”

Jenny, Taylor, and Ally Frankel, Nudestix

In 2012, after leaving her previous beauty company, Jenny Frankel took two years to really connect with herself and with her daughters, Taylor and Ally. During this time, the three women discussed all the things that inspired them, and more often than not, beauty was a big part of the conversation. “We quickly realized that the beauty industry wasn’t resonating with our ideals, and that my sister and I had very different expectations than my mom’s generation,” Taylor recalls. “We would see our friends, many who represent the modern-day woman, who have a career, a home, a family, and they were not wearing all of this makeup that we were seeing marketed on social or in magazines, and that was when we had this Aha moment together.”

Realizing that there was a void in the beauty industry for minimalist, fast, and easy makeup, they decided to launch a brand that delivered exactly that. “We set out to create something that was so easy to use, as simple as drawing and smudging,” Jenny explains. “The girls loved the pencil concept and thought it was really portable, cool, artisanal, so what I did as a beauty engineer, a chemical engineer, was take all of these wants that Ally and Taylor had, and create it.”

In running a business with her daughters, Jenny has been delighted to see just how many mothers wish they could do the same. “I think the most surprising thing is how well received the mother-daughter story has been and how many mothers and daughters have approached us to say, ‘oh my gosh, the fact that you’re working together, that would be my ultimate dream, I would love to start a business with my daughters, or I would love to start a business with my mother,’” she says. “And it just really showed me a new generation of women that empower and support each other, as opposed to looking at it as a generational divide. We have so much to learn from each other and so many different ways to inspire, whether it’s through fresh ideas or experiences and how together we’re better.”

Melinda Kearney and Michele Oullet Benson, Lorenza Wine

Melinda Kearney had spent 18 years honing her wine skills in Napa Valley when she felt it was time to create something on her own. “We began talking about making rosé about five years before we made our first vintage in 2008,” she explains. “Michele was coming of age and interested, and we saw an opportunity to blaze a trail and make a dry, delicate California rosé.”

With a modeling career that took her daughter out of the country at an early age, Kearney was eager to find a way to stay connected while the two were apart, and even 14 years into the business, it still does exactly that. “It has definitely kept us close! We rarely go a day without speaking at least a few times,” Oullet Benson says. “As the daughter, I’ve learned so much from my mom about how to work in this industry, and she’s always been very open to my ideas too.”

Christina and Beth LaSala, ChappyWrap

In the LaSala household, there was always one blanket that the whole family fought over, no matter how many other blankets were around. “At the time, we had no idea what made it so great; we just knew everyone loved it, and it really defined home and comfort for our family,” says Christina LaSala. For years, her mother, Beth, searched to find one like it but never could. She knew there was a need in the market for a blanket like this, so in 2006, she sought out to create one and launched ChappyWrap.

When Beth’s partner was ready to retire from the brand in 2018, she knew there was still much more for ChappyWrap to do, so she enlisted her daughter to come on full-time to help. “I had watched my mom start the company, source the product and grow the business (mostly through word of mouth) for 12 years at that point,” Christina recalls. “We were both too passionate about and invested in the product, the story, and the emotional ties for our family to let the business die, and we knew we could make it bigger and better, sharing the product with more people and recreating the unique experience our family had had for others. We thought long and hard about the decision to work together—we were definitely hesitant, nervous, and very excited—but ultimately, we knew we would regret it way too much if we didn’t try, so we jumped right in!”

Four years later, ChappyWrap is doing better than ever, and working together has allowed both Christina and Beth to see a whole new side of one another. “We’re constantly surprising each other and it’s so fun to have a front row seat to watch your mom or daughter shine in a business environment,” Christina says. “It’s something not many moms or daughters get to do, so it’s not lost on us how special that is.”

Maria, Luna, Silva, and Isa Dueñas Jacobs, Super Smalls

As the mother of three young girls, Maria Dueñas Jacobs found one thing was true of them all: they always reached for her jewelry. Of course, neither Luna nor Silva nor Isa realized the value of their newfound toys at ages five, three, and three, and Maria found herself constantly having to confiscate them and explain that they weren’t to be played with. “It was actually my oldest, Luna, who challenged me and asked me to find her jewels that looked like mine,” she recalls. “At that time, there was nothing in the market that looked and felt at all like luxury at toy prices. But as an editor I’m trained not to give up on a search, and I decided to try and make the very thing I was looking for.”

What started as a personal challenge and fun mother-daughter project soon became something much more. “As it took shape, it started to feel really unique and super special,” Maria explains. “My three daughters were the inspiration behind everything we created, and to this day, they push the brand to dream and create.”

Though her daughters are still quite young, they continue to have an active role in Super Smalls. “Luna calls herself my co-founder (her official title is Kid-in-Chief!), while my twins, Isa and Silvi, are the Directors of Rainbow,” Maria notes. “It’s been amazing to take them on the entrepreneurial journey with me—teaching them all about collaboration, building a team, designing, and even the nitty gritty things like supply chain and margins! There are so many important life lessons within it all.”

And more than anything, Maria hopes that Super Smalls will remind her daughters that they can do absolutely anything. “It’s important to me to set an example for them. I want them to find their passion and realize that they can turn it into their job!” she says. “Showing them that they can have an idea and literally create it from nothing is such a special thing to be able to share with them as a mom.”

Anastasia and Claudia Soare, Anastasia Beverly Hills

Anastasia Soare founded Anastasia Beverly Hills in 1997 after spotting a serious gap in the eyebrow market. “There were no products for eyebrows, and I was booked from 9am to 8pm with brow appointments,” she remembers. “I had to figure out how to improve my service for my clients after they left the salon.”

The brand became a huge success, and years later, her daughter, Claudia, decided she wanted to be a part of it too. “When I started working with my mother, my attitude wasn’t that I was leading anything because I was a novice; I was here to learn from the best,” Claudia explains. “But running a business together has given us the opportunity to be closer than we ever could be. Had we not worked together, knowing that we are both workaholics, we would have hardly seen each other, so being able to interact daily over the years has taught us to trust each other’s process and to know each other as people, outside the mother-daughter dynamic.”

And for Anastasia, working alongside her daughter offered an opportunity to spend some time together after working so much during her childhood. “We have mastered our professional relationship over the years and approach our work dynamic as CEO and President,” she adds. “It’s the only way to have a healthy balance with your family in a business, but it’s also what is fair for the business.”

Tina and Gigi Caruso, GIGI C

Whenever they would go on a family vacation, Tina Caruso noticed that her daughter, Gigi, struggled to find a bathing suit that she absolutely loved and that made her feel confident. “Gigi was in her room one day cutting up her bathing suits and putting them back together in new shapes and styles with safety pins and glue,” she remembers. “That was the moment it hit me, and I knew she had this creative side to her. I realized this would be something that I wanted to do with Gigi to not only help her but also help others to find the bathing suits to be fashionable, functional, and feel confident in, so I approached her with the idea, and of course, she was so excited!”

Gigi loved the idea and didn’t hesitate for a second about working with her mom. Years later, her gut instincts have proved spot on. “We have always been so close, but this has only made our relationship even stronger. She is the best business partner and mom!” she says. “I get to spend everyday with her, which I absolutely love.”

Brianna and Mary Kay Bitton, O Positiv

When siblings Brianna and Bobby Bitton founded gummy vitamin brand O Positiv in 2018, it was clear that it would be a family affair from the very start. “O Positiv was formed through conversations around the family dinner table while talking about the physical struggles women deal with on a daily basis and how we could help make an impact,” Brianna explains. “My mom is a huge believer in natural remedies and was there from day one in the trenches helping us with research, countless taste tests, and more.”

As a close-knit family whose ideas are always intertwined, the Bittons feel like starting a business together was a natural progression for them. “It was exciting to embark on a new journey together, and maintaining our relationships is our number one priority,” Brianna says. “But I think the most surprising thing has been seeing my mom and brother in a professional light. Running a business with my mother has provided me with a really special and different insight to our relationship, specifically with O Positiv because we’re a female-focused wellness company.”

In fact, it was Mary Kay who served as the inspiration behind the brand’s latest launch. “After trying hormone therapy to reduce the severity of her menopause symptoms, which forced her to get a hysterectomy, my mom was thrown into immediate menopause,” Brianna recalls. “When looking for natural, hormone-free relief from the night sweats, anxiety and array of other debilitating symptoms, there was nothing to be found on the market. This led us to develop our latest supplement, MENO.” And it’s this sort of experience that the cofounder believes makes working together so wonderful: “We’ve been able to understand each other that much more and learn about how our personal experiences can help destigmatize the taboo surrounding women’s health related topics,” she adds.

Anne and Agathe Jousse, B Signature Hotels

For the mother and daughter behind France’s B Signature Hotels, the story really began 30 years ago when their father-slash-grandfather purchased the Domaine of La Bretesche out of his passion for Golf. 10 years later, he bought a second hotel in the heart of St Germain des Près in Paris, then a third after that, and it was then that the subject of starting a hospitality brand arose. “At that point, I decided to fully dedicate myself in the hospitality business, and Agathe entered the best possible school to learn about hotels, Four Seasons George V,” Anne Jousse explains. “And B Signature was created in 2009 with the conviction that we could turn it into a family luxury boutique hotel group.”

More than a decade later, the group has continued to grow, and Anne and Agathe’s relationship has grown with it. “We have always been very close, and working together only made us closer and had given us the opportunity to discover a new face of each other through the prism of business,” Agathe says. “However, for the wellbeing of our families and especially our husbands, business is banished, or almost, during family holidays—and yes, we do still travel on leisure together too.”

Adhvika and Pragya Agarwal, ORCO

When Adhvika Agarwal and her mother, Pragya, noticed a gap in the market for hand-ground spices, known for their health benefits and for purer taste, they decided they would be the ones to fill it, and ORCO was born. After meeting a woman from a pandit family who was being domestically abused and was longing for financial independence, Pragya got the idea to open a facility and hire her to to run a chakki and create cleaner, fresher spices.

“My mother planted the seed, and after finishing my masters, I stepped into the project, seeing a lot of potential in it,” Adhvika says. “I eventually started handling everything in the venture and creating awareness about the purity of organic hand made spices. My mother would then look into it the innovation and production, while I was focused on marketing and selling.”

Running ORCO together has taught both Adhvika and Pragya a lot, including things neither of them expected. “It tightens the bond between us two and sometimes it’s just surprising to see my mother do so much both at work and in personal life,” Adhvika explains. “There are clashes and arguments at times, but in the end, the process has taught both of us a lot, and we’ve grown as individuals and as a company, with fresh ideas and experience on board.”

Kerri Rosenthal and Ali HeitZ, Kerri Rosenthal

After leaving her job at Dutch lifestyle brand Olilily and having two more children, Kerri Rosenthal was getting the itch to go back to work, so she started painting and soon had clients regularly visiting her home to discuss commissioned. “They loved my home, and I was asked to help design their homes, but I was not an interior designer,” she recalls. She joined forces with an interior designer friend, and the two collaborated on over 30 homes, but in 2016, Rosenthal decided to go out on her own to open a shop that combined fashion, art, and home, and she did so with her oldest daughter, Ali, by her side.

“We really never gave it a second thought,” Rosenthal says. “Ali and I, in a way, grew up together. I had her at 28 and quickly became single after that, so it was always Ali and I learning how navigate as a little team.” After the store’s initial success, the mother and daughter decided to launch an apparel line, and as the brand has expanded, so too has their relationship.

“It took some time to get used to doing this together—figuring out the balance between business and then having a real mother-daughter relationship and allowing them to merge into one that respects both boundaries” Rosenthal notes. “I’d say after six years together, we have found our groove, but it is ever evolving, and if you allow for things to change, that flexibility allows your relationship to flourish.”

Addie Murdoch and Amanda Clayton, Reboot & Co

For Addie Murdoch and Amanda Clayton, Reboot & Co has always been a family business. “I returned to Florida post-college, and this is when the idea of Reboot was born,” Clayton explains. “We were all in various stages of ‘rebooting’ our lives, and we have also always been inspired by a life spent on or near the water.” So, in 2019, she and her mother launched a line of basics and athleisure that could be worn when practicing the reboot philosophy, and more recently, they opened a first-of-its-kind wellness retreat. “With reboot, we really want to build a community of like-minded individuals that prioritize self-care, wellness and all of the other things that we take inspiration from like art, culture, philanthropy and hospitality,” she adds.

“I was both excited and hesitant, as working with your family can be both rewarding and challenging,” Clayton says. “But I haven’t looked back since, and working alongside my mother has strengthened our relationship and brought us closer together.”

For Murdoch too, working with her daughter has been a dream come true. “Being able to see her flourish and share her knowledge from her travels and apply her multiple college degrees is truly fulfilling,” she says. “As a team, we have been able to build a business that we are both very proud of, and we hope to inspire other mother-daughters that share the same entrepreneurial vision.”

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