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Doing business with friends

Entrepreneurs talk about the perks and perils of mixing small business and friendship.

Trying to work in step with each other

small business working with friends bucketfeet
Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein
  • Name: Raaja Nemani, 30
  • Business: BucketFeet, Chicago

In 2011, Aaron Firestein and I launched BucketFeet, which sells and manufactures artist-designed footwear. We met in 2008, when we were backpacking around the world and doing volunteer work helping kids in Argentina.

We were living and working out of the same house when we started our business. It was a fun year, but it added to the stress. It's important to have a life outside of work.

We also lacked focus. We were meeting artists and seeing amazing art, and I wanted to be involved.We had separate roles, with my background in business, and Aaron's in art and creative work. But having a global brand with only two employees means wearing many hats, so there was a lot of overlap.

Now we silo our responsibilities and play to our strengths, trusting that all six co-workers are doing the same. Everyone still must wear many hats, but our roles are much more delineated. So we're in step, we make sure Aaron and I both have input on important decisions.

The business is better because, as friends, Aaron and I feel extra accountable to each other. We don't want to let each other down. Today we sell online and in nine countries at more than 60 retail locations. We've worked with 40 artists in more than 10 countries, and expect to sell more than 35,000 pairs of shoes this year.

  @CNNMoney - Last updated April 24 2013 09:25 AM ET

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