Many people would say that relationships are hard enough without also working with your significant other. But for some, it seems to be the magic ingredient in their relationship, and their business.
Three couples in three very different industries and at different stages of their relationship tell Irish Country Living how they make it work.
Nick and Cass McCarthy, Lúnasa Farm, Co Clare
Nick and Cass McCarthy are first generation farmers who are passionate about regenerative agriculture, ethically-raised livestock and food provenance. They have two children: Finn (4) and 15-month-old Isla.
“We met whilst waiting to order a drink at a pub in Byron Bay,” says Nick. “We’d both been at a premiere of a surf movie beforehand. When Cass told me she was a farmer, I asked if it was too soon to propose. We went on our first date the following night and the rest is history.”
Nick and Cass bonded over a love of food, farming and nature and knew that they wanted to shape their lives around their shared values. “Nick told me on our first date that he was planning on moving home,” says Cass.
“At the time, I had been working full-time as a first-time farmer in Australia. He always thought it would be impossible to do that in Ireland but after he visited me on the farm, it opened his eyes to the possibilities.
“After a year, we visited Ireland and Nick proposed. His dad had some land in Quin to keep horses and he was very generous and said if we came back and could coexist with the horses, then we could farm there, or set up a business on the farm.
“It took a while to make the move with COVID-19, and Finn was born in Australia too, but we used the time to think about what we were going to do with the land.”
What makes it work for the couple is communication and a holistic approach. “We’ve written a holistic context together that encompasses our shared values, goals and vision for how we want to live,” says Cass. “We check in with each other daily, and maintain regular, honest and open communication. We also try to have our morning coffee date together before the kids wake up, but that’s been hard lately with a teething baby.
“Carving out some time with each other is important, as is making sure that we both have time to do things for ourselves, whether that’s a surf or meditation. It makes a big difference.”
Nick and Cass’ tips: “A lot of it comes down to good communication. You have to truly appreciate and respect the roles that each person has within both the business and family life. This avoids resentment, which almost always results in conflict. Being great mates as well as life and business partners also helps, as does having a sense of humour and the ability to put things into perspective when times get tough.” •lunasafarm.ie
Conor Taggart and Victoria McClements, aka Bello Duo, Co Antrim
Conor Taggart and Victoria McClements met while singing together at weddings as singing waiters, falling over with a tray of cutlery and bursting into song to surprise guests.
“We started off as friends and, a while later, it progressed into a relationship,” says Victoria. “We weren’t together that long before COVID-19 happened. I have an underlying health condition so we decided to go and isolate with my grandparents.”
It wasn’t long before the neighbours asked them to sing on a Thursday night while they were clapping for frontline workers, as they knew Victoria had a good voice. The couple got a great response online, singing live on social media.
“It all happened quite naturally and we found ourselves in the position where we were constantly being asked to do things as Bello Duo and this idea of us singing together just happened,” says Conor.
Soon after lockdown Conor and Victoria competed on the television show The Big Deal, where they reached the final stages.
This gave the couple the opportunity to travel around the world on cruise ships and perform in theatres. Just before Christmas, they played a candlelit concert in 12 churches across Northern Ireland.
“I think performing together, doing our own music, is the dream,” says Conor. “It’s very rare you can make dreams reality and we feel so lucky to be able to do it.”
Working together and being in a relationship plays in their favour due to the nature of the entertainment industry.
The working hours can be antisocial and they wouldn’t see each other a lot if they weren’t both doing the same gig. And they are there to support each other on the journey.
“There are times where you need to lean on the other person,” says Conor. “The good thing about Bello Duo is there are nights we have gone out and I have had laryngitis or Victoria has tonsillitis. The other person leads the songs and keeps the show going.”
They both find it challenging to turn off work mode. It is important to the young couple to remind themselves to sing for fun as well.
“If we have had an extremely busy run of things, we then try to get away, enjoy ourselves and relax,” says Victoria.
Just before Christmas, Conor staged a fake singing waiter gig with an ulterior motive. “I was singing and Victoria was on sound. When I fell over with the tray of cutlery, the music didn’t work. I had turned it off, unknowingly to Victoria.
“She started to panic and ran to help me. At that point, I was on one knee. The guests were actually a choir, who then stood up and sang. Of course, she said yes,” says Conor, laughing.
“That just shows how much work impacts our lives as it was the only way I could catch her off guard.”
Harry O’Neill and Kamila Bystrzonowska, Momo Restaurant and Luca Records, Waterford
Kamila Bystrzonowska and Harry O’Neill met in 2005 while working together in a bar in Waterford. In 2014, they opened Momo Restaurant together, which focuses on fresh and healthy cuisine and celebrating local food producers. In 2022, Luca Records & Decks opened an independent music and skateboard clothing shop, which is run by Harry. They named Lucas Rest Ltd (their business name) after their son Lucas (15) and the restaurant after their daughter, Moya (14), whose nickname is Momo.
“When I say I fell in love straight away, it’s not an understatement,” says Harry. “It took me over two years to convince Kamila to go on a date with me. Two months later, I was booked to travel for a year around Southeast Asia and India. Kamila met me in Bangkok. We spent two weeks in Thailand and four months in India. If you want to know if you’re made for someone, travel India together.”
For the first two years after opening Momo, Harry continued to work full-time in his job in a printing factory, before joining the restaurant.
“The first two years were horrendous,” he says. “We couldn’t pay ourselves a wage, barely getting by, but we remained thrifty where we could and saw out that recession. We had two young kids, so life was all go. I suppose our love for food and our genuine way of treating our staff and customers with care is what drew people to Momo.”
Working in hospitality is tough and working with your partner in that environment can add extra stress, but for Kamila and Harry, it is having the same dreams and values that carried them through. They work to give themselves and their family a better life.
“Honestly, working with your partner can be very difficult,” says Kamila. “I can always trust Harry, but I don’t always agree with his ideas.
“We worked opposite shifts so one of us was always there on-hand for at least five years. And we missed each other. We didn’t have enough quality time together.”
By opening Luca Records, Harry and Kamila now work in separate parts of the company and this has helped them to have a better work/life balance.
“This turned out to be one of the best decisions,” says Harry. “Coming home, talking shop, working together, talking shop, it was too much. Now we trust each other to do the best in our own parts of the business and our conversations are a lot more fun.”
Harry and Kamila’s tips “Do not let your work totally consume you both. Communicate and learn to switch off. At the end of the day, your relationship is so much more important than business. Make time to be a couple. Trust each other and allow the other person to make decisions without your permission. You are a team. Celebrate your wins together.” • momorestaurant.ie / lucarecords.ie