An entrepreneurial love story: Lisa and Jason Hake

The husband-and-wife team always knew they'd start a business together, but they didn't know it would improve their marriage.

By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- Husband-and-wife team Jason and Lisa Hake said they knew that they would eventually leave the corporate world behind to start a business together, but that didn't make it any easier to take the leap of faith.

"We had to jump off a cliff and hope the parachute would open," Jason said of opening their own gourmet store, Sociale Make & Take Gourmet, in 2003. But, "this was always something that we wanted to do," he said.

Husband-and-wife team Jason and Lisa Hake founded Minneapolis-based Sociale Make & Take Gourmet in 2003.
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The couple, who met in college and have been married for 11 years, had to tap into their personal savings, 401(k)s and home equity. And as they tried to get their business off the ground, Jason left his job as an equity analyst with Piper Jaffray while, for the first year and a half, Lisa continued to work as a marketing manager in 3M's (Charts) dental division.

The Hakes, both 35, also had to support their young children, Cameron, 6; Claire, 3; and Chase, now 3 months.

In fact, it was the struggle to find more time to spend as a family that pushed them to follow their entrepreneurial dream.

Now they also help other families get more time quality at home, by offering customers the ability to come in and prepare freezer-ready meals or pick-up pre-prepared dinners.

"We love the idea of bringing people back to the dinner table," Lisa said.

In 2004, the Hakes opened two more Sociale stores and by 2006 they had turned their Minneapolis-based business idea into a franchise. Now there are 11 locations open or under development.

Ideally, the couple says, they would like to turn Sociale into a national chain.

"It has been draining at times, but all of our efforts will be well worth it in the long run," Lisa said.

Recipe for success

Even though the couple still log long hours at work, they say they have achieved a better balance between their careers and time with their children.

"We never spent this much time together before," Jason said.

And Lisa appreciates the ability to work Tuesday through Thursday and spend Friday through Monday at home, but admits she misses her husband when he's at the office and she's not.

"We are together a lot and it's really natural for us," she said.

Lisa credits their strong professional partnership with defining, early on, what their individual roles would be in the business. "I know he's better at the finance part than I am, and I'm better at the marketing," Lisa said.

And the fact that they each have their own office helps too, she added.

But at the end of the day, "we absolutely love raising a family and growing a business together," Lisa said.

"Our kids are excited about the success too," she adds, especially considering that she and her husband promised to take the family on a Walt Disney (Charts) cruise as soon as they open their 20th Sociale store, which should be by the end of this year.

"Anytime Cameron sees a Disney commercial he always asks how many stores we've opened," Lisa said.

Are you thinking of starting a business? Got a question about financing, technology, taxes, team management, or any other topic related to launching or owning your own firm? Ask the editors of Fortune Small Business, and they'll help you get answers from the appropriate experts.

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