Dinner with the Bonaccis: National Mom and Pop Business Day
March 29th is National Mom and Pop Business Day, a day to celebrate small, family-run businesses around the world. The "Mom and Pop" behind Bomber Eyewear are Tommy and Jamerien Bonacci, a husband and wife team who work hard each day to balance a thriving business with family life.
In honor of this fun holiday, we spoke with Tommy and Jamerien to hear more about how this "Mom and Pop" make their business work!
What is your favorite part about working together?
JAMERIEN: We get to support each other in more aspects of life than other couples who don't get to work together.
TOMMY: Yeah, exactly. It's like having your favorite person's back at all times--inside and out of the home.
When it comes to running the business, what do you each think the other is best at?
JAMERIEN: Tommy is best at the creative part. He designs all the styles and is great at finding international resources. Did you know he fluently speaks Chinese?!
TOMMY: Jamerien is best at all the legal stuff. She puts everything into place to run smoothly and knows when to say "No." She's a lot more conservative about taking on new projects, and that's where a lot of the battles are.
How did you two meet?
JAMERIEN BONACCI: At the time, I was actually on a date with someone else! I'd been asked to go to the river, and I had never been to the river before, so I was all about it! As soon as we got there, though, my "date" put his jet ski in the water and pretty much just ditched me on the beach. After a while, Tommy pulled up in his boat and said, "Hey, you're on my beach!"
TOMMY BONACCI: When she explained she'd been ditched -- the guy was jet skiing down the river and nowhere to be found -- I decided to give her an amazing introduction to the true river experience. We cruised down the river on the boat, went wake boarding, and jet skiing.
JAMERIEN: All the while, my "date" was forgotten. Tommy and I just had instant chemistry! After that day on the river, I concentrated on law school and we actually didn't meet again for another year. It wasn't until I went jet skiing with friends and lost my shades in the ocean that I instantly thought of Tommy.
TOMMY: She called me, we went on our first date right after that first phone call, and we've been together ever since. We dated for two years, and have now been married with two kids for eight!
JAMERIEN: I always tell people to go on that date with that guy, even if you're not so sure. You never know--if he's not the love of your life, he may very well introduce you to someone who is!
What is the best "date" you ever went on together?
JAMERIEN: One of our first dates! Tommy loaded up some sandwiches, drinks, and his guitar into two bikes and we biked to the beach.
TOMMY: We had a bonfire, watched the sunset, and I played the guitar.
JAMERIEN: Best date ever, hands down!
TOMMY: We still have beach dates like that whenever we can.
How do you find the right balance between home and business life?
JAMERIEN: Tommy surfs whenever the surf is good, and I do Bikram yoga at 6:00 a.m., every day, if I can! The reality is, either I do yoga and I'm stoked on life and happy, or I skip it and I'm depressed.
TOMMY: It's the same for me with surfing.
What was one unexpected hurdle you faced in building the business, and how did you overcome it?
TOMMY: When the housing market crashed in the late 2000s, we saw many of our industrial customers shut down. And they were the backbone of our business.
JAMERIEN: At the time, pretty much all of our business was word of mouth. We never marketed! But with the popularity of selfies, GoPro cameras, and the emergence of Standup Paddle as a sport, we found a niche in the lifestyle and "floating sunglasses" feature of our business. It opened up a whole new channel for our business, and that's how we got where we are toady.
What are your goals for the future?
JAMERIEN: We both want to leave a legacy that we can be proud of.
Do you have any advice for other couples starting or running a business together?
TOMMY: Learn how to take off the "wife hat" and the "husband hat" while at work.
JAMERIEN: Sometimes our talks go like this... "I'm taking off the wife hat now, you need to do XYZ." It can be so hard to turn off the husband and wife talk, but sometimes you have to to get things done.
TOMMY: One minute we're like, "Hey, did you change that poopy diaper? Take out the trash? Put the clothes in the dryer?" And the next we're discussing profit margins and marketing budgets...
JAMERIEN: It's definitely a challenge separating marriage and work. But marriage always comes first.