Success in partnerships
Carly and Clayton Christopher
photography by Brian Fitzsimmons
(page 1 of 5)
These five power couples have dominated their industry and developed strong relationships. Not all are married, share a business together, or are romantically involved—demonstrating the concept that power pairings come in a variety of forms. In the following interviews, they reveal fond memories, words of wisdom and triumphs and tribulations that brought success in their partnerships.
Carly and Clayton Christopher have it all. They’re an attractive couple who live in a large Spanish villa luxury home with a well-behaved Labrador and an adorable toddler. But beyond that, they are among the most gracious, humble and charismatic people. Clayton co-founded Sweet Leaf Tea and Deep Eddy Vodka, and has recently embarked on a new venture of growing many more natural food brands. Carly has a history with KIND Snacks, but now splits her time as an actress and a mother to their young son, James.
The Love Story
Clayton: It was a job interview, as creepy as that may sound. She walked in and she was attractive, but I was professional about it. Thirty minutes into the interview I noticed she was really intelligent, grounded, and sweet. Then it became a different kind of interview—a much more permanent position.
Carly: And I thought it was a great interview. I left feeling sure that I was a great fit and I’d get a second interview. I followed up with an email and did not hear anything at all. Then a month later he asked me to dinner, but I still thought it was something related to a job opportunity. Once he started asking me about my family I realized it wasn’t a follow-up interview.
When we started dating, there was only one product—the sweet tea—with Deep Eddy Vodka. Carly continued to work for KIND bar, but occasionally worked on projects for Deep Eddy. When the marketing team would do castings and competitions for commercials or work with agencies and producers, she’d be involved with that. The whole Deep Eddy Marketing team is men, so it was good to have a woman come in and offer her perspective. Each flavor that they’d launch would have an illustrated “Betty” on it, and Carly would help refine the look of each one.
Carly: I’m on the board of Creative Action. They use the arts to foster social, emotional and educational growth in kids. It’s a lot of theatre and community art, so they hire actors to come into schools and work with kids by doing interactive role playing performances. They talk about the holocaust, civil rights movement, sexuality, bullying, and everything in between. It really helps at-risk and incarcerated youth.
Clayton: I’ve been involved with Big Brother Big Sister for a long time. I’ve known my little brother for 12 years now. Whenever there are kids at risk we do what we can to help. We’ve been so blessed and I feel obligated to give back and help others.
I’m also on the board of Mission Capital. I think a lot of the best nonprofit leaders should have a for-profit mindset. You don’t learn to scale a big idea in the nonprofit world with a degree in social work; that’s where business skills are necessary. I am very passionate about teaching that to nonprofit leaders. Resourcefulness, scrappiness, scaling, goal setting, metrics, KPIs, the works.
The older our son gets, the harder it is to work around him. Kids don’t let you do that, so that helps us have balance. You never know how selfish you are until you have a kid. There’s another human that’s dictating what you do and it puts things into perspective. But for every challenge there is an equal amount of overwhelming joy.
Being an entrepreneur is not a 9-to-5 job, but neither is acting. So it’s great that we have these unusual schedules because we’re both understanding of each other. That being said, because both of our jobs require non-typical hours, we argue about time. Most of our frustration comes from being pulled away from each other, which isn’t really a bad thing.
Talk It Out
[Carly’s] dad is a marriage and family therapist so we’ve always thought counseling is great. We go to couples counseling once a month. We’re each in men’s and women’s groups that focus on working through challenging things like marriage, work struggles, kids. We’re open to having a support system. Whatever we need to do to make sure we aren’t repressing anything because In the long term, that never works.
We both really want a successful marriage and that doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it and you also have to work on yourself. It’s like getting a personal trainer. You find someone to help you reach your fitness goals because it’s hard to push yourself on your own. Why wouldn’t you take the same approach in your marriage?
Carly: I like to use humor. I can tell when Clayton is stressed so I’ll usually crack a joke to lighten him up. We also play a lot of tennis. Sometimes you just need to whack a racket to get some aggression out.
Clayton: When Carly is having a bad day, I try to listen. I don’t try to fix it. It’s taken me 42 years to learn that. I just build her up and support her and tell her how awesome she is.
Carly: I think half of it is: can you articulate what you need when you’re having a bad day? No matter how much we complement each other, we aren’t in each other’s heads. Sometimes I tell him that I just need to vent and be pissed off and Clayton will say, “Great, vent away!”
Secrets to a Successful Marriage
Set aside quality time together. Put the cellphones away when you’re around each other because it’s never helped a marriage.
Communication and willingness to work through things is also important. When you really care about someone, you want to talk about it. Have those tough conversations, even if you don’t want to.
Faith is a big part of our individual lives but also our relationship. We find that when we don’t give enough attention to that area of our lives, we start to go down the black hole of me, myself, and I.
Support your partner’s purpose and passion in life.