It's hard to start a business in the Bay Area. And even harder to make it successful. We're inspired by the couples who have done it together and have decided to highlight them every week in our new "Bay Area Power Couples" blog series. This week, meet the man and wife team behind SOMA nightclubs WISH and Mighty, Isabel and Sean Manchester.
Seasoned veterans of nightlife, Isabel and Sean Manchester have managed and operated clubs and restaurants in cities like Miami, New York, Chicago, LA and even in Europe. So, you can see why their duo of hot spots, WISH and Mighty, have become go-to venues for fun in our own little city. Both clubs are immediately welcoming and unpretentious, yet rife with underground edge and a New York feel. But overall they are vastly different from each other. Mighty is a 7000 square foot dance club with twenty foot ceilings and massive speaker stacks while WISH is an intimate lounge.
How'd you guys meet?
We met in New York while opening a restaurant for some Italian playboys and a bunch of supermodels. Sounds awful...but it's true!
How & when did you get your start on the nightclubs? Which came first out of Mighty and WISH?
Independently we had both been working for a long time prior to meeting in New York, opening various restaurants, bars and clubs for owners and clients. I was more front of house and service and Sean was more development and operations. We moved to San Francisco in 2000, right after we were married. We fell in love with the city, but wanted a place that reminded us of home...and from that, WISH was born. We wanted to shy away from anything trendy, and just do something relaxed and timeless - a place that people could count on day in and day out. The opportunity for Mighty came around in 2006 and we jumped on it.
You guys have really great chemistry together. How do you maintain that in your business lives?
We are completely different, and because of that, we are truly each others complement. It is a perfect marriage...so to speak. Sean is definitely the back of the house, technical, music, and marketing guy...and I am front of house, service oriented. We need each other. We lean on each other, both at home and in business.
What's the worst fight you've had over your business?
I don't know that we can pick just one...or the worst. We have disagreements all the time, and they can be exhausting because we are both strong willed. But they are usually about a vision, and if we start at opposite ends of a challenge, the combined compromise has always been far better than our individual vision.
What do you guys do to get away from your businesses?
We like to get away a lot, even if just for a weekend. Exploring new places and new things is what drives us - even if it is just checking into a new hotel overnight. We call it our R&R, but it is really our R&D! We also have a 5 year old and a 1 year old who love to travel as much as we do, so down time is usually with them...or with each other.
Any advice for couples who want to run businesses together, or are thinking about it?
Do what you love and treat each other with the respect of life partners, and not business partners. And make sure you are always communicating - about everything. I can't tell you how often people say 'I can't believe you can work with your husband'. For us, there is no other way.