Jared Levinson
Former Intern, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


June 14, 2019


As Americans head out of the office to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, the U.S. Chamber wanted to take some time to spotlight the dad entrepreneurs out there working hard to run their businesses and take care of their families – all while creating jobs for other dads and moms in the U.S.

We chatted with four fathers who own family companies in Maryland to learn how they balance work and family, advice they would give to fellow entrepreneurs, and to hear some of the lessons they are hoping to pass down to future generations.

Here is what the owners of Godwin’s Painting Services, Fairwinds CrossFit, Sit Means Sit Dog Training Annapolis, and Genjo Coffee had to say.

Godwin’s Painting Services

Godwin’s Painting Services, run by David Godwin in Annapolis, is a family owned contracting company offering interior and exterior painting services along with drywall, power washing, staining, sealing, and carpentry for both residential and commercial buildings.

“I take a lot of pride in the customer service that our company provides,” Godwin says. “One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to know other families and watch as they transition into new homes, get their homes ready for the addition of a new family member, or to see their eyes light up when they see a transformation in their home that signifies a fresh start. I love being a part of that with them.”

Godwin relies on his wife Erin to help with the administrative portions of the business along with marketing and advertising. However, running a business while maintaining a family is not always easy.

“There are times when something goes awry and immediately the doubt creeps in and a part of my mind starts to worry. Am I letting my wife down? Am I letting my children down? Am I doing right by them?” he says. “In the end, I know that seeing me work through hardships is instilling perseverance in my children.”

Creating your own business comes with another sense of duty: teaching business practices and a strong work ethic in those who you decide to pass the business on to.

“One of the rewards of running a family-owned business is watching the way that the growth and success of my business is viewed in the eyes of my wife and children,” Godwin says. “We recently were voted Best Painting Contractor in our area, and my daughter talked about it everywhere she went for weeks!”

Fairwinds CrossFit

Fairwinds CrossFit, also in Annapolis, is a fitness facility working to build a community of strong, healthy, likeminded people that are looking to stay active well into their golden years.

Co-owner Eric Heup runs the business alongside his business partner Jack Ryan, their wives Nicole Ryan and Meagan Heup, and their coaches and athletes.

Eric Heup, co-owner of Fairwinds CrossFit of Annapolis, MD, and his daughter.

Eric Heup, co-owner of Fairwinds CrossFit of Annapolis, MD, and his daughter.

Heup launched the business while his wife was expecting their first child. Now Heup proudly watches his daughter using sticks at the playground like barbells, doing burpees in the kitchen and preferring to run places over walking.

But Heup knows better than most that running a business is no walk in the park when it comes to managing your company and spending time with your family.

“Running a business keeps you very busy. There isn't necessarily a punch-in/punch-out time,” he says. “There are boundaries you need to set for yourself to make sure that you are focused on your business at one time and present and attentive with your family at another.”

Heup sees organization is key to balancing both the role of father and business owner. He admits while organization has never been his strong suit, he is constantly learning how to be more strategic with his planning.

“Treat time you plan for yourself and your family like you would a meeting at work,” he says. “If dinner with my wife and daughter is on for tonight, then that time is not for anyone or anything else.”

He also suggested some simple but powerful advice for other fathers considering entrepreneurship:

“Don't forget the ‘family’ in family business. Leave the work at work, and let family time be family time.”

Sit Means Sit Dog Training Annapolis

Sit Means Sit Dog Training, owned by Michael Nease in Annapolis, offers dog behavioral training with the overall goal to develop a happy obedient dog and a strengthened bond between owner and canine.

“We currently have five dogs and running this business means I get to do what I love every single day,” Nease says. “It means that I am able to show my children how hard work, following your dreams, and determination can get you where you want to be in life.”

For Nease, Sit Means Sit Dog Training truly is a family-operated business. “It means a lot that my wife works with me because she always pushes me to be better at everything, whether it's being a husband, father, dog trainer or business owner,” he says.

Michael Nease, owner of Sit Means Sit Dog Training in Annapolis, MD.

Michael Nease, owner of Sit Means Sit Dog Training in Annapolis, MD.

While working with living animals can feel like a 24/7 job, Nease says it is fulfilling.

“A major reward for me is growing our business every year, employing more people so we can help more families and their dogs,” he remarked.

When it comes to advice for other dad entrepreneurs out there thinking about starting their own businesses, Nease says chase your dreams - it is worth it.

“When I told my friends that I was quitting my very stable career to start a dog training business, they were concerned about how I would pay my bills and thought I was crazy,” he says. “I am now part of the largest dog training franchise in the U.S.”

“I think it is crazier to stay in a job that you don't have a passion for,” he says.

Genjo Coffee

Coffee on the go is a way of life for many Americans and John Patnode, a father of two boys and a small business owner, has turned it into a business. Patnode started Genjo Coffee, a mobile coffee trailer that operates on Generals Highway at The RamsHead Roadhouse in Annapolis and at 100 Community Place in Crownsville, MD.

John Patnode, owner of Genjo Coffee in Annapolis, MD.

John Patnode, owner of Genjo Coffee in Annapolis, MD.

Patnode started the business in December of last year when he noticed the Beltway area didn’t have any independent coffee stands.

“Coffee stands are a common sight where I’m from,” he says. “Seattle is famous for it because of Starbucks, but even in central Washington state there is an independently-owned coffee drive thru on practically every corner. I thought that one would do well in my neighborhood of Herald Harbor in Crownsville. ”

John got his own mobile coffee trailer and shortly afterwards he was on his way to running his own company.

As an entrepreneur, achieving balance is one of the toughest parts of running your own business while having a family. But Patnode knows that his sons see the hard work he puts into his company and the hard work he puts in at home.

“I plan on instilling the same kind of work ethic that I grew up with in my kids,’ he says. “Work hard, show up on time, be honest, work with determination, and try hardest to do your best. All you can do is do the best that you can do.”

About the authors

Jared Levinson

Jared Levinson is former intern for the Strategic Communications team at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.