What It’s Like to Go Into Business With a Sibling

James and Alexa Hirschfeld Paperless Post

I’ve been a huge fan of the online stationary company Paperless Post since it launched in 2009, and will literally find any excuse to send one of their adorable e-cards. But until recently I had no idea the brand was created by a brother and sister duo. This immediately sparked my curiosity – Who came up with the idea? How do they divide business responsibilities? And what happens if there’s a disagreement in the office?

As luck would have it, Alexa and James Hirschfeld were in London recently to celebrate the official launch of Paperless Post UK, and they kindly found time to share their inspiring story with Coco’s Tea Party. So if you’ve ever thought about going into business with a sibling read this first..

What inspired the creation of Paperless Post? Did either of you have a background in stationary or e-commerce?

James: We started thinking about Paperless Post in 2007, when I was still at school. I had put a lot of effort into planning my 21st birthday party, but found that there was no way to invite people online that reflected the amount of care that was going into the event. Though many parts of the world were moving toward email, all emails looked the same and the existing products for sending invitations online lacked the beauty and customization of paper stationery. We set out to create Paperless Post as a way to bring that kind of design and personal touch to communication in this medium.

Alexa: I was working in Katie Couric’s office at the time, but once we decided to pursue the concept for real I quit my job. I was working on Paperless Post full-time from my parent’s living room for a year-and-a-half before we finally unveiled the beta version to friends and family.

Was it a natural decision for you to work together? And did you ever worry it could lead to disagreements between the two of you?

James: The level of trust that we have in each other is something that would be difficult to replicate with another co-founder. Not only are we siblings, but we’ve always been especially close and tuned into each other’s heads.

Alexa: We know what we can implicitly trust the other person about—and what we can’t. Such a deep level of awareness of each other’s strengths and weaknesses is a huge benefit of working with a family member. There is also a forgiveness and understanding that’s incredibly helpful in the difficult times that are bound to happen when you’re starting a company.

Liberty for Paperless Post

“The level of trust that we have in each other is something that would be difficult to replicate with another co-founder.” – James

Liberty Paperless Post Collection

How do you divide up the responsibilities at Paperless Post?

James: I oversee everything on the design side — from the cards themselves to the company branding. Alexa manages all tech and product needs.

Alexa: People often make the assumption that it’s the other way around.

Paperless Post has just officially launched in the UK. How are you celebrating the British launch? 

Alexa: We’ve been working really hard on our UK launch. While we’ve built up a solid base of insiders and early adopters who use our online invitations in the UK, our custom-printed paper invitations are a very important part of our offering and we’re excited to finally make them available to our British users. We’re also focusing on building a more tailored design offering for our UK users.

James: To celebrate our new UK offices and the launch of our paper product, we wanted to partner with a a design brand that felt wholly British. Liberty, with its print archives and extensive history of floral patterns, was an obvious choice. The collection includes over 100 designs for weddings, entertaining, and personal stationery; and we’re really excited to share it with fans of both brands, on either side of the pond.

Paperless Post Liberty London Collection

The Liberty for Paperless Post collection [pictured throughout] is available exclusively from paperlesspost.com. There are 100 online and paper invitations, cards and stationery designs to chose from, so make sure you check it out.

Would you ever consider going into business with a sibling? Or perhaps you already have… You can share your experiences and thoughts below in the comments section.

P.S. The career advice you need to follow in 2016 

  • I love Paperless Post and have been using their cards for years (love the Kate Spade ones). I was really excited to see the Liberty collab! No siblings for me, but my Dad is helping me on a project I’ve been working on pulling together for a while…does that count?! xxx

    • cocos_tea_party

      That totally counts. How’s it going?

  • monicawelburn

    Oh my gosh I LOVE this interview Ella! I am obsessed with Paperless Post (as you know) and I had no idea about the founders’ story. Thank you for sharing!

    The love has officially deepened!

    xx

    • cocos_tea_party

      Yay so pleased you love it because I’m so happy with the post too (because I’m also addicted to Paperless Post) xxx

  • wow, super fancy! i had no idea that these existed, what a great idea! x

  • Lucie Evans

    Just gone into business with my brother. Feel like there isn’t anything we couldn’t overcome business wise since he has one of my kidney’s! Always a better understanding with siblings and a better sense on how they work or what they like/don’t like.