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Drybar® franchisees Jackie and Matt Paynter had never run a business before they married each other a decade ago. She was a cosmetologist, had her license for 20 years and did hair on the side as she focused on being a stay-at-home mother. But the possibility of becoming a business owner intrigued her. He was a finance guy, experienced in corporate finance sales, with entrepreneurial ambition.

Jackie Paynter

Jackie Paynter knew the Drybar brand as a client and had inquired about the possibility of owning one, but the company wasn’t offering franchising at the time. But then came the call. Newly married, the couple were about to become eventual Drybar multi-unit owners in the Charlotte, N.C., region.

As they celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary this May, they have a lot to look back on together. They opened their first shop in May 2018 and a second shop in November 2019 before a prolonged pause in 2020 during the pandemic. The couple has since opened their third shop in October 2023.

Finding the Right Opportunity

Couples who go into business together, even long after they are married, often toil over how to balance their marriage and business partnership.

For the Paynters, everything was a match. But they didn’t approach their marriage or the business opportunity without knowing the realities of the hard work ahead.

“We had an immediate, very strong connection that didn’t require years of marriage and building up trust to jump into something that is obviously taking on more — not just taking on more risk … but it’s just the risk of what it might do and how it might impact your marriage,” Matt Paynter says. “We knew it was going to be hard.”

They spoke with other couples who had done the same thing. They spoke with others who decided against business together. Ultimately, they decided they had the passion for the brand, the business and each other. And they weren’t naive to the hard work ahead of them.

“Drybar was always something I was interested in,” Jackie Paynter says. “While I didn’t have a business background, I had a passion for it, and I had an understanding of the hair world.”

But what Jackie lacked in a business background, Matt had in his career in financial sales.

So, like any couple going into business together, they talked it out and came up with a checklist of what they were looking for and a plan to pursue it. And in it all, the Drybar brand fit exactly what they wanted.

“It’s not always the right thing for everybody,” says Matt Paynter on franchising. “But it just absolutely was the best fit for us.”

While Jackie is no longer doing hair on the side, she focuses on the day-to-day operations of the couple’s Drybar shops and working with her leadership team.

“It’s been really amazing to watch that journey and to see her transform into this business owner and operator,” Matt Paynter says of his wife. “I certainly play a role, but mine is much less visible.”

Matt’s role is mainly centered around the financing, shop buildouts, construction, working with the bookkeeper and accounting, he says. “It’s just some of the back office financial stuff because I still maintain my professional career.”

Separating Work and Home

When you’re married and in business together, it can be all consuming. You’re around your partners – in marriage and business – constantly. And to maintain those separate relationships, boundaries are needed.

“We’ve created some fences around what our focus points are,” Jackie Paynter says. “Because of that we’re also just finding the daily compromise of, ‘OK, here’s what needs to happen for the family today, but here’s what needs to happen for the businesses today.’ How do we best work together to make that happen? That changes every day and I think you really have to have that shared vision. Otherwise, the day-to-day sacrifices aren’t going to be made to enable you to be successful.”

Creating barriers between personal and business life was difficult at first. She was working as the shop manager and didn’t have a leadership team to rely on.

“I was in the shop at minimum, six days a week,” she says. “I was trying to keep Sundays for family and going to church and all of that. But if somebody needed something, I got pulled in. I was there from open to close. So, it was really hard to set boundaries at first.”

Eventually, she began to say no. It was difficult, but it helped establish the boundaries she needed between personal and professional life. That now means no phones allowed at the dinner table, no late-night emails and no staring at a laptop in bed at all hours of the night.

“So, it’s setting boundaries that then other people recognize and model behavior after,” Jackie Paynter says.

Constant and clear communication between the two and scheduling meetings to talk shop helps keep business and family life separate. Although, the two invariably do overlap at times. They also try to schedule date nights away from the hustle and bustle of managing the shops.

“The beautiful thing about having our own business and running it together is that there are conversations that happen during the day in family and life, and our daughters are hearing it and picking up on it,” Jackie Paynter says. “And so, our hope is that they see that it’s possible to work with your spouse. It’s possible to run a business. But it also takes a lot of hard work and takes a lot of patience.”