An Interview with Shawn Michael and Rachel Eva

A few months ago we were interviewed by Kelly Bardon Haddad for an article in Zooey Magazine. 

She spoke with several San Diego couples who own and operate businesses together, including Native Spirits (craft spirits retail - coming soon to North Park!), Cueva Bar (delish restaurant in University Heights), Honest Films (storytelling through film and photography), Mallow Mallow (gourment s'mores!) and Standard Spoon (that's us!).   Read on for what it's like to work together as a couple of creatives.

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From how Standard Spoon was born, to the challenges of working with your spouse, to how Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars inspired us to keep going, there's bound to be something you don't know about us in here:

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS?

We began making craft barware as Standard Spoon in 2013, but have been a creative team since 2007 making art and well-crafted goods as Work of My Hands.


CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF STANDARD SPOON?

One of our primary motives when we work creatively is to make things well. We’re inspired by mid-century products that last, and old tools that are passed down from generation to generation, because they can be. We love craft cocktail making for the same reasons. These bartenders make the best drinks you’ll ever have, and are totally devoted to their craft. They need tools that match the quality of their work, and in today’s throw-away-culture, there aren't a lot of companies making bar tools designed to last. So we are.

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES AND BIGGEST REWARDS OF WORKING WITH YOUR SPOUSE?

Shawn: The biggest challenge is that even in great relationships, less can be more. We spend almost all of our time together, which can make it hard for us to turn work “off” when it’s time to relax or celebrate. Sometimes going to dinner with one another can turn into a business meeting. At other times, sharing a meal and dreaming together is what we want to do.  We learned we benefit from having separate agendas and tasks during the week, so when we see one another it’s still like coming home from work. On the other side of that coin, I get to spend tons of time with my biggest fan and teammate. Rachel is my greatest supporter and is such an encouragement. More access to one another is one of the best thing I’ve ever experienced. Especially once Rachel quit her job, it was wonderful to have all her mental space devoted to our dreams. I no longer have to help her disconnect from her work and switch to the things we are building together.

Rachel: One of our biggest challenges is to exit the “dreaming” phase, where we get all caught up in generating creative ideas and visions of what we’re going to do next, and get down to the “task” phase, where we execute. We love dreaming up things together, and sometimes we’ll have 4 or 5 really exciting creative ideas before we finish the one we're supposed to be working on. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves. We have a coffee meeting at the beginning of each day to set goals and re-focus on what is most important to accomplish that week.  One of the major rewards is having a spouse that supports your vision 100%, because it’s their vision too. They understand what’s going on, and can empathize with your challenges and celebrate your successes, because they are the same. Working isn’t a lonely business, and I don’t have to try and make it on my own. I have a teammate who is also a soulmate, and we are moving toward the dream together.

HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO BALANCE WORK LIFE AND PERSONAL LIFE?

Still haven’t mastered that one yet. It’s a challenge to turn off the computer, or not pick up a business call, because we get excited about the things we’re doing, and want to keep them moving forward all the time. This is especially true for anyone who’s still in the start-up phase, because let’s be honest, it takes a lot of work and effort and intention to start a business. But even if you work 120 hours per week, there is still going to be more work to do at the end of the day.

There’s always more work to do. You’ll never get it all done. When we realized this, we became more disciplined about our work boundaries, and set up a few rules:

1. When we start working at the beginning of the day, we set a deadline for when we are going to stop that day, regardless
of how much we’ve gotten done.
2. We decide what the 2-4 most important things are that need to be done that day and do those things first.  That way
if we run out of time, we at least got the most important tasks done.
3. Take 1-2 full days off per week from ANY work activities. We give ourselves a weekend.
4. Schedule free time off for personal projects, rest, friends,  and family. This is specifically when there is no obligation to spend time with each other. We do this to intentionally support our individual interests (writing for Rachel, photography for Shawn) as well as our joint vision.

WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS THEN?

Set deadlines. Finish things, and see how people respond to them, otherwise your dreams will just be dreams, and will
have nothing to stand on. The more work you do, the better your future work will be; it’s progressive. You can’t be the
best you’re going to be by nature, you need a body of work and experience in that field. Embrace the discipline of hard work 
and finishing things.

ARE THERE ANY SMALL BUSINESSES THAT WERE AN INSPIRATION TO YOU IN YOUR FIRST YEARS?

Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars) was a huge encouragement to us when we first decided to move beyond just being artists
and take our business seriously. His “rags to riches” story is inspiring, because it’s real, relatable, and happened in our
city.  

He said to us once, "when you first start a business, you're going to suck at it for a while, until you figure it out" (paraphrased)
which is encouraging when you're just starting.  We knew we had a lot to learn, and knew we weren’t the best, and that can
be intimidating. It was comforting to hear that Bob Taylor ate Top Ramen for years until the company figured out how
to sell guitars.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR STANDARD SPOON?

We’ll make more tools! For the most part, there’s been little innovation in the last century with bar ware. It’s exciting for
us to design new products. That being said, we don’t want to have 20 bar spoons. We’re interested in making the best versions
of the tools cocktail lovers use, and keeping it simple.

All these wonderful photos were taken by Jazmine Fitzwilliam from Let's Frolic Together.