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summer 2022

Putting The “Us” in Business

A Mother-and-Daughter Guide to a Healthy Family/Work Partnership
Written by: Linda Cochran & Ashley Smith

When we decided to go into the boutique business together, we wanted to make a statement of intent. That’s why we chose to call ourselves Suuri Design—the name comes from a Finnish word for “big” or “grand” and we have big ideas and grand plans!

Over the past six years we have learned a lot about what it takes to turn a dream into reality. We have broadened our original offering of unique and custom jewelry to include other lifestyle gifts like handcrafted soaps, creams, oils and candles. We have survived the coronavirus pandemic, which killed so many small businesses, by going online-only for a season.

Here are seven lessons we would share with anyone who is considering a small-business venture with a family member.

Refine your vision
Having a dream is OK, but the thing about dreams is that they don’t always seem so clear in the harsh daylight. It can take some time for your vision to really develop. Be open to revising and refining as you go and grow. Test new products and new ideas.
Study your spot
There’s a reason people talk about “Location, location, location.” Looking back, our first store wasn’t the best choice. We’re glad for what we learned while we were there, but if we were to do it all over again we wouldn’t start out there. Our new space is much better situated for drawing traffic.
Clarify your clientele
We launched thinking our customer base was women aged 18 to 60, but over time we have realized the core of our business is actually women in their late 20s (and a few men) who have established themselves a bit financially and want to treat themselves. Knowing that shapes the inventory we select.
Choose your lanes
We’re fortunate that we really love each other and get along well—we’re best friends, as well as mother and daughter—but we still don’t always agree on everything, of course. We make sure that we listen to each other well, that we know what each other’s role is and that we respect their lane.
Build your team
Everything’s possible if you plan, but moms especially need to develop a good support system, to help them manage all their various commitments. Fortunately, we had some experience with this when Mom was working at Essence and Ashley was still in school. We’ve also recruited our son/brother, Cyrus Safavi, who helps out from time to time.

Enjoy your work!
Being in business for yourself is a roller coaster. In retail, some days are really high and on others the store can seem like a ghost town. You’ve got to love what you do every day (and who you do it with) if you are going to survive.

Celebrate your community
Our best customers don’t just love us for our products but for the way we try to give back, which is so important to us. Every two months we choose a different local organization in Chicago to share some of our profits with. Our customers know they are not just supporting us, they are supporting the local community.

Linda Cochran was an advertising executive with Essence magazine for 30-plus years before launching Suuri Design ( with her daughter, Ashley Smith, who is also a professional clothier, in 2016. Their retail store is located in Chicago’s Hyde Park district.