Mother-daughter business teams: Allies first

Mothers and daughters have a special bond. And while that bond can be tumultuous, difficult and frustrating, it can also be immutable, affirming and fulfilling.

It’s a family dynamic where anything’s possible – which is why more and more mother-daughter teams are populating the business world. And really, who better to help you succeed in business than the woman who once set your curfews, wiped your nose and cheered for your sports teams?

Although no one has tracked the numbers, the common wisdom is that the rise of women in the workforce has paved the way for mother-daughter business teams. According to Ladies Home Journal, between 1997 and 2006, the number of woman-owned companies grew at nearly twice the U.S. average – rising from 5.4 million to 7.7 million.

Nell Merlino, president of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, a New York-based nonprofit group that supports the growth of female-owned businesses, says mother-daughter businesses are becoming more and more common.

“We come across mother-daughter businesses regularly now,” says Merlino, whose organization, according to, holds national competitions to locate and bolster the business prospects for promising female-owned businesses.

In Maine, where small businesses flourish, mothers and daughters around the state are leading their companies. Take the Moshers, for example. In 1980, Doug and Pricilla Mosher began to sell flowers from their own barn in Jay. Now, 41 years into the marriage and more than 30 years into the business, they are still strong.

“We opened [on] Mother’s Day with plants only. [It was] opened in an attached barn in the house on Vine Street. It’s been my love of flowers and plants that fueled our growth and success,” says Priscilla Mosher.

The Flower Barn, as it’s been known in Jay for 32 years, has undergone many changes: a new location, a website to place orders, and, oh yes, the employees.

“I started working in the eighth grade,” says Katie Mosher, the oldest Mosher daughter and manager of The Flower Barn. “During high school, I worked more and more. After high school, I tried college, but really missed the opportunity and creativity of working at the Flower Barn. I’ve been there ever since and love going to work every day.”

She has a great deal of experience learning about the business, the product and the customer.

“I was always waiting to help and learn. It was always fun to spend time with mom in the work room and watch her make amazing floral arrangements,” she says.

She isn’t alone. Working alongside Katie Mosher are her sisters, Jocelyn Mosher-Collins and Sarah Gile. Together, mother and daughters have learned how to succeed in business as a family.

“Our family is unique for sure. How many women can work together eight to nine hours a day and still want to hang out on their off time?” says Jocelyn Mosher-Collins.

With Mosher-Collins’ two daughters and Gile’s daughter, the extended family is planning for the future.

“[We want] to leave a legacy for our next generation – to beat the odds and provide personal service to our community as our mother has,” says Gile.

In many cases, mothers and daughters begin their business together. Welcome Home Realty was started in 2006 by Linda Coron and daughter Heather Gottlieb. With eight female associates, Welcome Home Realty offers a combined 150 years of experience to the Brunswick area.

Mother and daughter were optimistic from the start about the success of their company.

“Opening for business in the midst of a changing real estate market required us to have lots of faith and determination,” says Gottleib. “There was no room for self-doubt, but plenty of room for a positive attitude and a great sense of humor.”

Now, says Gottleib, “I feel so fortunate to know my business partner is also my best friend and biggest ally. Both my parents raised me to work hard – the No. 1 requirement for any small business owner.”

Despite all of the challenges, this mother-daughter team focuses on the positives.

“The benefits of working with my daughter always outweigh any challenges we face and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Coron.

In southern Maine, Jennifer and Allan Viernes have run the Greater Portland School of Jukado Family Martial Arts and Fitness Center since 1996. The center, located in Westbrook, became the headquarters after Terry Suyom Mayer, who founded the discipline (which combines kung fu, karate, aikido and judo) in 1972, retired in 1996, leaving the training to be lead by her son, Allan Viernes and daughter-in-law Jennifer.

Since 1992, Jennifer Viernes has been the second highest- ranking woman in Jukado history. Now, she is an expert in training daughters, Evelyn, 17, and Emmy, 14.

“This year marks [my] 20th year training in Jukado,” she said. “Evelyn has been training since age 4. She is a first degree black belt and instructs her own class at the dojo. Emmy is a black belt and an assistant instructor at the dojo.”

The family has a plan for the future.

“When the time is right, either Evelyn or Emmy will take over the reins of Jukado. I want them to continue their education beyond high school and to pursue their dreams,” she said.

The Flower Barn women include, from left, back, Jocelyn Mosher-Collins and Katie Mosher; and in front, Priscilla Mosher and Sarah Gile.     
Welcome Home Realty was started in 2006 by Linda Coron, right, and daughter Heather Gottlieb. 

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