Episode 5 Should You Go Into Business with Your Spouse?

What does it take to build a business with your spouse? Juan & Stephanie (La Pupusa Eatery) and Raymond & Jeanne (Cozy, Stylish, Chic) chat through the highs and lows of going into business with their spouse, from balancing the personal and professional to dividing roles and responsibilities and diversifying their business.
Apr 18, 2024 — 7 min read

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You Two Should Meet

You Two Should Meet

You Two Should Meet brings together entrepreneurs from diverse industries for an intimate conversation on what it takes to start, run and grow a business.

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Stephanie Figueroa: I tell you I want this. Now you make it happen.

Jeanne Chung: Exactly.

Juan Saravia: My name is Juan.

Stephanie Figueroa: I'm Stephanie.

Juan Saravia: And we're co-owners of La Pupusa Urban Eatery. We're located in the Pico-Union area in Downtown Los Angeles.

Raymond Chung: I'm Ray.

Jeanne Chung: And I'm Jeannie, and we own Cozy Stylist Chic.

Raymond Chung: It's an interior design firm, event rental space, coworking space, and a retail showroom. So how are guys doing? 

Juan Saravia: Pretty good.

Raymond Chung: How did you guys get started deciding to open a restaurant and all of that?

Stephanie Figueroa: Our family, they were part of the first group of Salvadoreños that came from the motherland in the late seventies, early eighties. That's what we did in El Salvador, my family, they sold food and they made food in the streets. So then they came here, they found a very popular place in LA for Central Americans, and they just set up there and out of a cart, started selling pupusas, tamales, our cultural food, and I grew up seeing my grandma do that. It has been in my life.

Juan Saravia: Our grandma was really intricate parts of our life in our families. They're always around. I was always next to her in the kitchen, just seeing what she was doing. When I graduated high school, I was like, I want to go to the Culinary Arts Academy. A year later, before I knew it, my dad bought a restaurant and there goes my experience right there.

Stephanie Figueroa: And he was a kid and he learned everything.

Jeanne Chung: So you grew up in the restaurant. 

Juan Saravia: I grew up in the restaurant, yeah.

Juan Saravia: My parents retired and we saw an opportunity. I still loved doing what I was doing, which was being in the kitchen.

Stephanie Figueroa: We didn't know anything else, so we're like, this is what we got to do. This is our passion. How about you guys? How did you start off?

Jeanne Chung: Ray was a commodities trader.

Raymond Chung: It's definitely my second career. I was in finance, never thought I would do something else. I was a numbers guy. I definitely wasn't a creative.

Stephanie Figueroa: So who's the creative one?

Jeanne Chung: I’m the creative one. I went to school for fashion design, so I was a fashion designer for 20 years. We moved back to California and joined my family business, which was clothing design, and then we decided to take a retail space.

Raymond Chung: We kind of looked at each other and go, we're working towards a common goal. It doesn't make sense for her to have a business. Me taking another separate job, we might as well just work together and just get to the same point working together. So that's basically what we did and we haven't looked back.

Stephanie Figueroa: How did you guys meet?

Raymond Chung: Well, we met in college. We met in college, way, way, way back in St. Louis. 

Stephanie Figueroa: How cool.

Jeanne Chung: I married his fraternity brother first and that didn't work out, so I would always complain to him about, so he knew exactly like, hey, I know how to be the perfect husband.

Stephanie Figueroa: We've been best friends since we were kids, so we didn't grow up together and date each other. We had our friends, we dated other people actually, yeah, it was after college, after we lived our lives it our first life, we say we re-met again or whatever, and then that's when it started.

Juan Saravia: You think you were nine? I was 12 when we met.

Stephanie Figueroa: First met. Yeah.

Jeanne Chung: Yeah. Well, I think if you have a really solid foundation and relationship, whether things are good or bad, you can always weather that storm.

Stephanie Figueroa: What do you guys find the most challenging about working together and what do you love the most about working together?

Raymond Chung: The one thing I love is that I get to spend a lot of time with her. That part is really good because she is my soulmate, and I mean very corny, but it is true. The challenging part for me is talking finances with her. It's always talking finances with her. She has a lot of bright ideas, great ideas, but she wants it implemented yesterday, and it cannot happen yesterday. Build it steadily, have a good foundation, build a business, and then we can start implementing one thing at a time. Not five things at the same time.

Stephanie Figueroa: Same for us. I'm the creative one.

Juan Saravia: I feel like we're both creative, but, no, I'm creative in the restaurant. She's creative with the social media and yes, I'm the numbers guy, and when we started having conversations about this, she's like, well, you can talk about that later.

Stephanie Figueroa: You figure that out. You figure that out. I tell you, I want this. You make it happen. 

Jeanne Chung: Exactly. 

Stephanie Figueroa: Are you guys always together, work literally together? 

Jeanne Chung: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. 

Stephanie Figueroa: Oh wow. See, we don't work side by side really. We do everything together and we run everything by each other, but I'm not in the kitchen with him. That's not happening.

Juan Saravia: I'm not next to her watching her post. 

Stephanie Figueroa: He has no idea what social media is. He's like, how did we get to that many followers? 

Jeanne Chung: Same. 

Stephanie Figueroa: Don't worry about it, don't worry. We're here. We are here. 

Raymond Chung: Mean for the two of us. We're in the same office, go to work together. We literally spend 24/7 together. The professional and the personal just blends in because in the middle of the day I was say, oh, what do you want have for dinner? It's like, we'll have that conversation because we have to figure it out. We still have to feed the kids.

Jeanne Chung: He has really helped growing the business. We wouldn't be where we are without him. I'm creative, but the numbers and the finances, that's not my forte. So it's best to leave that to somebody who does that and who understands it, and that gives me more time to be more.

Juan Saravia: I feel the same way. Honestly. When we first opened the restaurant, I thought we would've been happy with having a couple customers here and there just doing enough. When she started promoting on social media, that actually opened my eyes to like, wow, I did not think we could be what we are and I'm scared. it's the power of the imagery, the wording and how you pull people in. I would take the shots, but she does the editing on the picture. She does the post, her content, her mind, and that brings people in. So I'm like, if it wasn't for that, honestly, I wouldn't be here.

Stephanie Figueroa: And I'm not the greatest cook. He's the better cook. 

Jeanne Chung: That's the divide and conquer. 

Stephanie Figueroa: He knows what he's good at, like you said, and I know what I'm good at, and together it just works.

Raymond Chung: No one person can know every single facet of the business and there's so many moving parts. There's so many different things you need to do. If you don't have a partner that will divide and conquer, it'll never happen.

Juan Saravia: In the beginning, it was hard for us to learn how to separate ourselves from the business end. I was so much involved in everything that had to do with the restaurant, so I had learned how to give myself more time in the personal life with my family, especially growing up, my parents always being busy. I said to myself, main goal is I want to spend more time with my kids, more time with the family, more time with my wife. Business is business, but always life still goes on.

Stephanie Figueroa: We only have one day that we close, so we only close on Tuesdays, so that day you got to get everything in. You got to do the groceries, you got to spend time with the family. We got to get in a date night at night, but even when we're out, we're talking about what am I have to post tomorrow? Did you call back the client? Did you send the invoice? Where can we get more time? Where is there more time to split between working on the business, being at the business, and then being with our families?

Jeanne Chung: I mean, you can always do better and the only thing in our way is either time or money.

Stephanie Figueroa: Exactly. So time and money. So that’s where I feel like Square has definitely helped us with the loans and all of that. I mean, we use it on the daily. We charge we're restaurants.

Juan Saravia: We charge for our caterings, just about everything. We use that for them.

Raymond Chung: We use the POS system for retail sales people that walk in and we have clients that are all over the country. That's so awesome. So we use the invoice system. You mentioned the loan part. We have a loan out right now. It's like a percentage of the sales comes off and you, it's like don't have to send, you don't have worry about it. You don't have to send a check in.

Juan Saravia: I also feel like that way it helps you out pay the loan off faster. If you're doing the monthly, you're stuck there. This way you feel like you get liberated much more easier and it helps you be more flexible with everything else going on around.

Jeanne Chung: Right, exactly. What really helped us is diversifying. When we first started out, it was just interior design services and then the retail store, and then it was to the trade sales to other designers, and then we have the coworking space for interior designers and then they purchase through us, so there's a margin for us and it's helping them as well. Then in our showroom, it's event rental as well, so it is diversifying and that has really helped out. We wanted to keep ourselves recession proof.

Juan Saravia: You know what, and that's almost similar to us, besides her doing the marketing, we also do merchandise, so she does stickers, shirts.

Stephanie Figueroa: Again, in our culture, we didn't have any representation, so it helped us stand out. There was, now there's a lot of people that do stickers and shirts, but when we started, there was nobody.

Juan Saravia: Also our caterings. That helped us out a lot. That's another revenue stream that we built in the same. 
Stephanie Figueroa: So it's not just the restaurant, it's caterings, it's apparel. Us two, we had to find other ways to make sure that we were okay.

Raymond Chung: I think for us, we lived through 2008 and when the recession hit, all my eggs were in one basket and then we learned and we learned from that and we're never want to be in that situation ever again.

Jeanne Chung: I was very impressed at how knowledgeable Stephanie is about social media and how she's using it. It's something that I might take a stab at.

Raymond Chung: What really inspired me is seeing how passionate they are about their heritage. 

Stephanie Figueroa: What's most inspiring to me is how they're able to still have time for each other and that they love being with each other.

Juan Saravia: And sometimes you feel like when you're doing this by yourself, you're the only one that's experiencing it, but at least this way we know we're not alone.

Products mentioned

Square Retail POS

Square Retail POS

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Square Invoices

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Square Loans

Square Loans

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A true mom-and-pop shop, La Pupusa Urban Eatery’s roots were planted by co-founder Juan Saravia’s parents who came to America as immigrants. Hear how they built their savings and reinvested in their business while growing their community.

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