Having a business can be an affair of passion — and even more so when you’re in business with your spouse. But it can certainly be daunting to work side-by-side with your better half every day and still maintain a healthy relationship.
So just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’re chatting with Kelly and Forest Ramsey, of Art Eatables, in Louisville, Ky., on how they’ve found business success while staying a strong couple.
Kelly and Forest started Art Eatables in 2011, specializing in bourbon-infused and bourbon-themed candies and chocolates. Kelly had been making candy for family and friends at home, and after many requests for bourbon balls — a sweet treat she wasn’t a huge fan of — she made a batch for a friend’s cookout with a bottle of Jim Beam. It was at that party, as her friends couldn’t get enough of the chocolates, that she realized she could tailor the chocolate to the type of bourbon and, later, other spirits as well. They outgrew working out of their home and now have a storefront with kitchen in downtown Louisville.
Art Eatables’ honors have since included supplying chocolate truffles for gift bags at the Oscars, being named a finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made awards, being runner up in the Southern Living Food Awards, and being named “Best Candy Shop in Kentucky” by Food Network Magazine — all while maintaining a five-star average on Yelp.
Forest took a break from crafting delicious treats to chat about how they marry business success with family priorities.
What inspired you to create your business?
There were a couple factors. First, Kelly had worked in mortgage and banking and really got tired of watching staff get laid off and had their wages frozen while CEOs got multi-million dollar bonuses. And when we both realized that Kelly had come up with something really unique and there were a lot of opportunities, we knew we needed to get serious about it. It wasn’t going to work to keep it as a hobby.
What are the worst and best parts about working with your spouse?
Best? You both know you’re absolutely on the same team and want to be successful. Worst? When you get home you never have the “so how was your day?” discussion. You already know.
How do you separate your business life from your personal life?
That’s so funny that you think there’s a separation! But honestly, we don’t really. We have so many opportunities that we could work 20 hours a day and still not take advantage of all of them. Last summer we did manage to take one day off a week (most weeks) so that we could just do family stuff. That’s as close as we’ve gotten so far, but we’re aiming for having that as a life goal.
What does a typical day entail for you two?
After we get our son to school, we get an errand or two done — pick up supplies, some bourbon, that sort of thing — and get down to the shop to open up. Kelly gets the crew set up for the day while I handle the opening duties. Kelly is usually focused on production but occasionally might have an interview or product meeting. I work on admin stuff or design projects and am usually our front person in the shop when I’m managing paperwork. One of us will go pick our son up from school, and the other will stay until we close the shop. We usually get dinner done around 7:30, get our son to bed a little later, and then go over any outstanding work stuff before we catch a show and go to sleep. But our typical days often get interrupted by other cool things like events, tastings, meetings with distillers or authors, and that sort of thing.
What keeps you inspired?
When people try our chocolates and get what we do. When people understand we’re not just a little chocolate shop, but we’re really changing how people look at bourbon chocolates. When we have regulars come in from all over the country or have international travelers who have specifically scheduled a stop in Louisville so they could come to our store. When someone comes in from out of state and tells us that their friends told them they absolutely had to stop at “the little chocolate shop on Fourth Street” when they came to town.
Do you have any tips on maintaining a great relationship while working side-by-side with your spouse?
Sure. Any disagreement, Kelly wins. But realistically, I don’t know if there are any secrets. Some couples work together well, and some just don’t. We initially figured out we worked well together when we were trying some home projects. We were able to communicate clearly, solve miscommunications easily, and we laughed at absurd things together. We’re lucky to have each other. Not everyone in business has someone who could stand to be around them all day, every day.
What do you hope the future holds for your business?
We already have a pretty good idea of what the future does hold because of things we know are in the works. But we want to see the company grow and get to where we’re providing a good living to a lot of people, living comfortably ourselves, and making sure everyone understands the deliciousness of skillfully pairing bourbon and chocolate.