Carbon credits are a balancing act. So it seems only natural that a couple balancing both their marriage and their business would sell them. Brad and Rebecca Rabiey launched The Carbon Farmer in January 2008, binding them together in a parallel union.
"Our hearts are in the business and our hearts are with each other, from a personal side of things, so it's a double marriage," says Brad.
After emigrating from Poland, Brad's grandparents established their farm in the 1940s, growing grains in the Peace Country area of Northern Alberta. With the average Canadian producing five tonnes of carbon emissions a year, Brad saw a way he could help the environment and honour his family heritage at the same time: he'd plant trees as carbon offsets. And he'd get the love of his life, Rebecca, to help him.
"This is such a huge passion for Brad, it being his family farm," she says. "To be able to see him live his dream, and really encourage that, to help in that process and provide support, it's a wonderful thing to do, especially with my husband. It's bonding, it's really strengthening."
Still, working with the same person you share a bed with has its own special set of challenges. In the early days of carbon farming, it didn't occur to either of them to define their individual roles or formally divide their duties.
"We should have had a conversation," laughs Rebecca. "In the beginning we just kind of went with the grand plan of what we wanted to do. We went with the flow and did try to play to our strengths, but the formal conversation didn't necessarily occur."
Going with the flow certainly worked for their relationship, leading to their engagement a month after The Carbon Farmers launch, followed by their summer wedding. But there wasn't much time to celebrate.
"Trying to work full time, then come home, then put the hours into the business, that wore on us after a while for sure," says Rebecca, who still works full time as a social worker.
Meanwhile, Brad says managing a relationship while growing a business takes a special type of diplomacy. "It's really difficult to have a heated discussion on business strategy or an expenditure, then talk about what's for supper."
"The personal-professional dynamic gets a little dicey sometimes," agrees Rebecca. "Wanting to be encouraging, and at the same time wanting the business to succeed, which sometimes means being critical, that's a hard line to walk sometimes."
But after five years in business together, including a pitch on Dragons' Den (which aired November 21, 2012) the Rabieys have some words of wisdom for couples considering a joint venture.
"Always make sure you carve time in your calendar for each other that is non-business time," says Brad. "It's very easy to be constantly talking about business and it's necessary to separate oneself from time to time. That's the biggest thing we've learned along the way."
"If you're honest and open about expectations, what you're capable of and what you want, I think everything else falls into place from there," says Rebecca.
By YouInc Columnist Tiffany Burns