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Making It Work: I Started A Multimillion-Dollar Empire With My Husband

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Robin and Shawn Davis of CBS Foods

An idea was born when Robin Davis and her husband, Shawn, who you may recognize as popular kitchen king, Chef Big Shake, came home one day to find their 10-year-old daughter declaring she no longer ate meat — just seafood. Daddy dearest headed to the kitchen and created the now famous Original Shrimp Burger (you've seen it in your local grocery stores!), hoping to create something high in protein that she’d love. His little burger was such a big hit with their two children that Robin and Shawn instantly knew they had a brilliant business idea on their hands.

“My husband and I have been trying to make some form of a business work for over 17 years,” admits Davis, who decided to quit her vice president job at a large company to join her husband in pursuing their dreams of creating a multimillion-dollar family business. “On our first date we talked about starting a carpet cleaning business, and eventually we did.” The carpet business never panned out, but their burgers went a long way. Together, they created CBS foods in 2010, a multimillion-dollar company expected to turn record profits this year.

Davis has stood beside her man every step of the way as they worked together to create wealth for their family and see their dream through. We checked in with the busy mom, whose son and daughter are now teenagers, and CEO to find out how she balances career, parenting and marriage.

ESSENCE.com: How did you decide to go into business with your husband?
ROBIN DAVIS: When Shawn had the idea to make the shrimp burger I was the VP of an electronics company. He asked if I would leave and help him with the business and help to grow our wealth. So I quit. It was a huge risk — I had a six-figure salary. It was very scary. At the time we were reading the book The Secret. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re never going to reach your goal or achieve your dreams. So, we just took a chance. We knew if it didn’t work, we always had our skills to fall back on.

ESSENCE.com: How does it feel to succeed in business side-by-side with your spouse?
DAVIS: To be fair, there were a couple years in between when we started and where we are now. Financially, we weren’t able to pursue the shrimp burger and CBS Foods solo, so we had to fall back on other things to make money. It’s really become a full-time effort in the last year. It’s a challenge all the time. We work literally from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed. We have to make time to stop working and be together. But we make the effort. We stop and we say, “Okay, let’s put down the laptops, leave the work and go do something else.” We like to go and do things with the kids. With the company, there’s always something to do. The emails never stop coming. The tasks are always there. It’s really difficult to work together all the time because when we “get off work,” we’re still together. We’re together all the time. But, it’s worth it because just to be on this journey with your best friend, and to have these little successes, is amazing. Each time they come, it feels like a win, and it makes it all worth it. To experience that feels amazing and I wish that for every couple.

ESSENCE.com: So the rewards have been worth the ride?
DAVIS: Oh, yeah! The rewards are great. I mean, it’s still a work in progress. We’re still growing the company and trying to make sure that CBS Foods will be here 20 years from now. The truth is, it’s been a really great journey. The first time we saw our burgers on the shelves in the freezer at the store, we were just speechless. We looked at each other and we were like, “Look, we did it! This is crazy; we did it!”

ESSENCE.com: So how does your daughter feel about all of this? Seeing as though it was her big decision that sparked it all.
DAVIS: She’s on this journey too. She feels excited about it. We’re a family that’s on this journey together. She never takes credit for the shrimp burger, although she did inspire it. She helps us out when she can. She and my son will inherit the business.

ESSENCE.com: What’s your five-year plan?
DAVIS: I think we definitely want to sell the company one day, and at some point, Shawn and I want to go retire to the beach. We want to be able to send our kids to college and relax. It really is a journey, and we’re learning so many important lessons along the way.

ESSENCE.com: You seem so positive…
DAVIS: When we get stressed out, and we start complaining, we remember that things could be worse. These are all good problems to have.

ESSENCE.com: What advice do you have for couples looking to go into business together?
DAVIS: We never were without some sort of steady income. Without a big nest egg, you can’t just quit your job and say you’re going to “make it work.” Always keep your side business going and try to snowball it. Build it up, little by little, into something that can replace your main shared income. Never give up!

Filed Under: Making It Work
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