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Lifting the Lid

For Better or For Work -- A Survival Guide from Meg Hirshberg

March 5, 2012 | Jesse Baines

Meg Hirshberg

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg has stepped out of Stonyfield's Kitchen to pen a new book and we're excited to share the news! We love Meg's recipes and we also love hearing her perspective on being married to an entrepreneur (Gary Hirshberg - our Chairman of the Board and previous CE-Yo!) and growing both a family and a business.

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg has been the wife of Stonyfield Cofounder, Gary Hirshberg since the early days of Stonyfield. She grew up outside New York City. She received a bachelor’s in comparative literature from Brown University and a master’s from Cornell Agriculture School. After working on an organic farm in California, running a science-education garden for elementary-school children, and managing an organic vegetable farm in New Jersey, she married Gary in 1986. The couple has three children.

Meg is a freelance non-fiction writer, whose work has appeared in Yankee, New Hampshire magazine, and the Boston Globe magazine, among other publications. In 2009, she began writing a column for Inc. magazine called “Balancing Acts” that explores work-life balance and the intersection of family and business in an entrepreneurial setting.

Meg’s new book, For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families, examines the impacts—for better and for worse—of entrepreneurial businesses on families and relationships. We decided to sit down with the wife of Stonyfield’s cofounder to find out more:

What can people expect to draw from the experiences with Gary and Stonyfield you share in this book that they can apply to their own business minded lives?
For Better or For Work offers tools, suggestions, and strategies for making your family life successful while you are trying to grow a business. It’s the book I wish Gary and I had had all along. We could have avoided a lot of headache and heartache along what was often a rocky entrepreneurial road to make Stonyfield what it is today. The book contains wisdom not just from our personal experiences, but also from the stories of the roughly 250 entrepreneurs and spouses I interviewed.

You've been married to Gary's organic yogurt business for almost thirty years. What is the greatest lesson you've learned from that experience?
I’ve learned that the spouse of an entrepreneur can’t divorce the business, even if there were times she’d like to. The concept of work-life balance doesn’t really apply when you are an entrepreneur—it’s just one big life. So the spouse needs to figure out creative ways to interface with the business—like working the booth at a trade show, or joining the entrepreneur on some business travel. Likewise, the entrepreneur should make attempts to visit his spouse’s universe, too.

Another important thing I’ve learned is to take the long view. When you’re hitched to a business, there are usually a lot of scary moments and setbacks. There’s no percentage in freaking out prematurely. There’ll be plenty of time for that later, if necessary!

You've been writing a column for Inc. Magazine on the topic of entrepreneurship and being hitched to someone's dream. Could you share some of the feedback you've received from your readers?
The overwhelming response to my column was one of the reasons I decided to write For Better or For Work. I’ve been fairly inundated with letters—from both entrepreneurs and spouses—since I started writing the column in May, 2009. They tell me their own stories, but mostly they write to say how grateful they are to know they aren’t alone, and to thank me for getting it so right. These letters made me realize that it would be worth expanding on the column topics to book-length, to allow me to explore them much more fully.
Read this blog to learn more about For Better or For Work!

Looking back, would you remarry a budding entrepreneur or would you prefer to stick with a more 'traditional' partner?
There’s no question that during our difficult, disaster-plagued first decade Stonyfield, I wished we were on a more traditional path. Until the business stabilized and began to prosper, I gazed hungrily at the “normal” lives my friends were living—with luxuries like reliable paychecks and paid vacations. I often wondered how Gary and I screwed up so badly. But in the net, entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding—and not just financially. We’ve traveled extensively because of the business and met a lot of cool people. Our kids have learned a lot about business, and Stonyfield gave them their first jobs. They have had a ringside view of what it is to live a passionate and engaged life.

For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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