This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money series, which details how people around the world earn, spend and save their money.
For Jen and Steve Chou, the best part of running their own businesses isn’t the combined $1 million annual income — it’s the ability to spend as much time as they want with their 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.
Fourteen years ago, Jen, now 45, and Steve, now 46, began the process of leaving their 9-to-5 jobs.
Jen started Bumblebee Linens in 2007, which produces custom-designed handkerchiefs, aprons and towels. She co-founded it with Steve, who also found success documenting Jen’s business journey on his blog, My Wife Quit Her Job. Since 2009, the blog has grown to feature ebooks, a podcast and in-person conferences.
The flexibility of being their own bosses gives both parents time to be more involved in their kids’ lives, including volunteering at their schools and driving them to various extracurriculars.
“Our kids are probably sick of us,” Jen tells CNBC Make It. “Whether or not they enjoy us being so involved in their lives, I try to tell them how lucky they are and how fortunate they are that we are there for them.”
Both Jen and Steve say that they grew up with hardworking parents who weren’t able to spend as much time with them as they might have liked. And for Jen, the freedom of being her own boss has additional meaning.
“My mom passed away when I was pretty young,” she says. “Now, I just want to take that time back and make sure I’m present for [my kids].”
Running their own businesses
Jen started Bumblebee Linens while she was pregnant with her first child, quitting the financial analyst job that kept her in meetings from the early morning with her company’s European team until late at night with the team in Asia.
She and Steve had been successful selling off excess handkerchiefs that they purchased as favors for their wedding, so they figured that a similar e-commerce business would be a good way to create a new income stream. The initial investment was about $600 to order a few hundred handkerchiefs as well as a digital camera to photograph them.
“My goal for the business was initially $5,000 a month,” Jen says. “At the time, I was like, ‘If I can just help pay the bills, that would be awesome.'”
But Bumblebee Linens grew quickly, and within five years had expanded out of the couple’s garage into a warehouse space with two employees. Bumblebee Linens now has about $1 million in annual sales, with Jen taking home half that …….