Doubling Up: How to Run Two Businesses

UPDATED: May 24, 2023
PUBLISHED: January 30, 2014

Owning one business is plenty challenging for most people. How can you run two?

A: Marley Majcher runs a high-end Los Angeles catering and event-planning firm, The Party Goddess!, and also travels the country coaching entrepreneurs. Kelly Lester doubles as an actress and owner of EasyLunchboxes, a food container company. Ceci Johnson owns Ceci New York, a luxury event invitation firm, and Ceci ID, which creates corporate identities and brands.

Majcher branched out when the economic downturn hurt her party business. She wanted to create passive income with a high markup, and she accomplishes that through sales of her book, But Are You Making Any Money?, and related advice tools she sells as a coach and speaker. “My core party-planning business keeps me involved in day-to-day operations, so I am still ‘in the know’ of what is happening, which makes it easier to develop coaching products.”

Lester’s food container business arose from her desire to send her daughters to school with simple, healthy food and minimal packaging. “I actually juggle three full-time jobs: actress, entrepreneur and mom—acting and singing are my passion (so I have no choice), my business pays the bills (so I have no choice), and being a mom (which was a choice) mitigates the ups and downs of my other two jobs.”

Johnson says delegating is crucial to her balancing act. “You cannot and should not do everything in both businesses. Set clear expectations, but don’t try to do every little part of each business—you will drive yourself crazy. Your job is to manage and set the trajectory for the businesses and create checkpoints so you’re sure everything is in line with your vision and standards.”

One of Lester’s tools is to set “small goals every day so there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. When you work hard and smart, things tend to work out. As my own boss, I get to make the rules about how much time I will spend on either of my careers. I go with the flow and, like most moms, spend energy on the one that’s crying the loudest at any given moment.”

Majcher concedes that “sometimes it feels like there are two or more planes taking off at the same time. Each business and facet is a different plane, so you have to be an air traffic controller. You have to get very good at making quick decisions, and making decisions that you can live with and won’t crash the other plane. Usually you can devote only so much time to one plane at a time. You must focus on the big picture—and one picture—at the same time.”

For anyone considering starting a second business, the women say go slow.

“Don’t start two businesses at the same time. Make sure one is rolling along and operational before launching the next company/division,” Majcher says.

But don’t let fear get in your way, Johnson advises, because you won’t take the leap. “Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. In reality, success looks like a roller coaster, with ups and downs and wild curves.”

For Lester, it’s “research, research, research. The Internet is the greatest treasure trove of information, so if you have an idea, see if it’s already been done. Is there room for someone else in that market? I’m shocked at how many businesses don’t do that.”

Tory Johnson is CEO and founder of Spark & Hustle, a weekly contributor on ABC's Good Morning America and a contributing editor of SUCCESS magazine.