A Family and Its Small Businesses : Was It all Worth It?

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CASE STUDY. This case is of two very small businesses, one a snack bar, the other a pastry shop, owned and operated – in sequence – by a married couple struggling to get by.

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Description

Abstract

Many family business cases are about larger companies in significant businesses. However, most family firms, including those in North America, are small and are almost entirely comprised of family members just trying to make a living. The above case, with only a few elements disguised, is of two very small businesses, one a snack bar, the other a pastry shop, owned and operated – in sequence – by a married couple struggling to get by. Despite the microcosm aspects of the example, it illustrates many of the human and commercial issues that sustain and limit these enterprises.

Teaching objectives

The objectives are to provide insights into the motivations and consequences of small “mom and pop shops” of necessity entrepreneurs. The motivations reflect family goals of providing an income for lower-middle class families with few monetary or knowledge-based resources but a strong work ethic. The case also illustrates some of the social conventions and personality factors that can prevent a business from prospering and providing upward social mobility for its owners.

Main themes covered

  • Family firms
  • Small business
  • Couples in business

Concepts and theories related to the case

The case may be linked to concepts of necessity entrepreneurship and socio-emotional wealth as well as the family dynamics literature. Resource- and knowledge-based views may also be applied.

Additional information

Teaching notes are available for professors. Contact HEC Montreal Case Centre.

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