Cherrylake was founded by husband and wife, Michel and Veronique Sallin, and today their son Timothee has taken the leadership of the company as President. For Timothee, the business remains a family affair, working alongside his parents, two sisters and brother-in-law. However, his wife Ellen is not involved in the Sallin family’s agri-business. Rather, she has built a successful career and brand in a completely different industry: arts and entertainment. Ellen is a former Broadway star, and a reputable Voice-over Artist doing work for large clients such as NASA, Disney and CBS.
And it appears that mixing farming and Broadway in a marriage works! Orlando Business Journal sat down with Tim and Ellen to explore the unique dynamics of spouses working in different industries. Check out the full interview below
How did you get your start in this new business?
Ellen: After a career in New York as a performer on Broadway and national tours, I transitioned into doing voice work for Disney, along with their Wide World of Sports complex & events. From there, I began to develop my own clientele and build my business as a freelance voiceover artist.
Tim: After graduating from college, I started working in the family business as an inside sales representative. I thought it would be a temporary job to keep me busy and earn some money as I planned my next move. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at that time, but I imagined it would involve going to graduate school and eventually working for a multinational in Paris, London or New York. It turns out I enjoyed selling trees in Groveland a lot more than I initially expected. I discovered that working for a smaller business was just as challenging and and exciting as anything I could find in New York and I fell in love with the trees and the positive impact our work was having on communities and the environment.
How did you get financing for this venture?
Ellen: The initial investment was not large: a good microphone, recording/editing software, soundproofing; I recorded in my walk-in closet for the first couple of years until I had more of a dedicated studio space. My work paid for the upgrades that were eventually made for better equipment.
Tim: My parents started and grew the business with seed capital from my grandparents and other close relatives. As a kid, I grew up around the farm and saw first hand how hard my parents worked to build the business from a small startup operating out of our house into one of the largest agri-businesses in Florida. By the time I started as a sales rep, the business was well established and I had the opportunity to contribute to the second generation of family business growth.
How did your spouse feel when you chose to start your own business?
Ellen: He was very encouraging and helped me to understand, as well as set up, much of the technical hardware/software that I use in my studio. He also appreciates the flexibility in my schedule to be able to work part-time while having our daughter at home with me when she was little, and now run her schedule and be available to do all the driving for school and activities.
Tim: When I met Ellen I was already working in the family business. She was living in Orlando at the time and planning to move back to New York. She told me she was having a hard time getting used to living in a small town. That’s when I asked her to move to Groveland with me. I think at the beginning it was very hard for her. She was used to NYC, performing on Broadway and travelling the world performing for audiences every night. She knew that I was committed to the family business and made a big sacrifice to allow me to pursue it.
What’s the best part about being in separate industries?
Ellen: Having conversations about his work topics that are completely unrelated to what I do all day keeps things interesting.
Tim: My parents worked together, today both my sisters and my brother-in-law work in the family business with me. It is great to come home and focus on family and not have any business to worry about. Plus, I love what Ellen does and enjoy having the opportunity to discuss theater, music and the arts with a real professional. I think it is great for our daughter as well to see two very different careers and professions and to know that she can be successful in any path she chooses.
What’s the worst part about being in separate industries?
Ellen: There is no downside for us.
Tim: I don’t see any downside.
How do you support your spouse with his/her venture?
Ellen: Staying engaged and aware of the current state of his business, as well as being available to join him at any events and show my support as his partner. Listening is key, but also knowing when not to talk about work can be just as helpful.
Tim: I help Ellen with computer audio technical issues from time to time. Sometimes she will run business questions by me. Mostly I give her the time and space to do her work and I enjoy hearing her voice on TV, internet or radio, whenever spots are aired.
What’s the biggest challenge with having a spouse in a different industry?
Ellen: Timothee has thankfully always been supportive and interested in the creative process of my work, as well as the business side of it. That being said, the biggest ongoing challenge I face is the lack of respect for what I do, from those who perceive an arts-related career to be a less substantive profession than a more “traditional” job.
Tim: I think we have managed the potential challenges well. There are choices and compromises that need to be made along the way in terms of investing resources in each career and maintaining a balance between work and family. I think that when Ellen transitioned from live performance to voice over work it made a big impact on us. This has made it more sustainable for us to balance the schedule demands from both sides.
How do you balance family when you both work in different businesses?
Ellen: We have a good family dynamic; flexibility in my schedule is a good balance to Timothee’s more predictable schedule.
Tim: We are both fortunate to have a lot of autonomy in our work. This allows us to make family a priority and not let our careers take over our lives. We are comfortable integrating work, family and life so we do not necessarily have to create hard lines or compartmentalize, but we always put family first. It’s an important choice and we are aligned in our priorities and values.
Do you feel like being in different business leads to a competition between you both?
Ellen: Not at all; we both like to see each other succeeding. Our businesses are so vastly different, it would be tough to draw any comparison.
Tim: Absolutely not! In fact I suspect it would be more likely that working together in the same industry would lead to comparisons. As it stands we are in completely different industries and we can celebrate each other’s successes.
What’s the best advice your spouse in a separate industry has ever given you?
Ellen: Know your worth, and don’t be afraid to let a job go if you’re offered less.
Tim: Watching Ellen perform and work her craft has helped me tremendously in my public speaking and presentation skills, as well as nonverbal communication and body language at work.
What is your take on working with family? What are some pros and cons?
Ellen: I think working with family can be a great thing; the Sallins/Cherrylake definitely are a testament to that. Togetherness can be wonderful, but knowing when to just have some family time, minus the work conversation seeping in, is important to keeping some separation from the work taking over.
Tim: I have been fortunate to be part of a high functioning family business. My sisters, parents and myself enjoy working together and we have remained very close as a family, thanks in part to all the time we spend together at work. I think this is possible because we have worked hard to resolve family conflicts, put in place strong corporate governance, and we agree on the importance of putting family first and not letting the business interfere with our family relationships. The downside to working with family is we end up spending so much time at work that we are less likely to do many things outside of work.
Who’s another couple that has a similar dynamic to yours that you know?
Ellen: I can’t think of any at the moment, although I’m sure they’re out there! Most of my performing friends (in New York) are married to other artists, or are in related industries.
Tim: Where are you going to find a Broadway Star married to a Tree Farmer? I think we are pretty unique within our circle of friends. That’s mostly because Ellen has such a rare and unique profession. It really is amazing to me how hard it is to succeed at what she does and how small the odds are for people to make it in her profession.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
Ellen: The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton & James Patterson
Tim: The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, by Jack E. Davis
Where would you like to travel and why?
Ellen: We’re both travel fanatics, and have been lucky enough to travel the globe together. Argentina, the northwestern United States, and Vietnam are on the top of our current wish lists.
Tim: We keep a long list and try to make several trips a year. Currently on the list: Argentina, Chile, Peru, Thailand, Morocco…
Who’s your favorite superhero?
Ellen: My mom.
See the full interview here.