Some siblings are best friends. Others detest one another. And still more simply drift apart with time and age, reduced to awkward hellos over too much wine at Thanksgiving.
Occasionally, though, siblings like each other so much that they actually work together. Such is the case for Needham’s Sammy and Dan Cohen, 26 and 29 respectively, who run men’s “athleisure” sock company Neon Bandits. (Just try not to smile at their website.)
Their stylish socks are suitable for sports and dressy occasions, and they never slip. The Cohens still maintain day jobs for now, since the company is so new, but that makes their gig even more challenging. At the end of a busy day, do you really want to talk socks with your sibling?
In this case, yes. Sammy Cohen says her Jewish parents stressed a strong sense of family; they ate dinner together nightly (“I know it sounds cheesy, but we really did!”) and still gather on Sundays for device-free meals and catch-up sessions. Their Neon Bandits brand was even born while both siblings were living at home.
“We emerged from our bedrooms at the same time and both said the same business idea to each other: ‘Socks!'” she laughs.
All well and good: But would you want to work with your sibling? What if one of you wants more money, or has more ambition, or prefers Netflix to business plans?
“We’ve always been close. We were the three amigos growing up [older brother Matt works in the family insurance business]. We had dinner together every night, we wanted the best for each other and our parents drove home the concept of families and how Judaism boils down to family relationships,” Cohen says. “We’re each other’s advocates.”
Sammy and Dan Cohen sporting their Neon Bandits socks (Courtesy Samantha Cohen)
Take, for example, when the siblings went off to summer camp on the Cape and Sammy was lonely. “I was terribly homesick my first summer. Dan scheduled his daily activities to line up with my activities to help ease the transition. This even meant sitting with me in arts and crafts, something Dan had zero interest in himself,” she says.
This charitable outlook plays into their business model too. “We were always involved in tikkun olam
,” Cohen says. The brand’s hashtag is #grabapair
(of socks, that is); this fall, their new motto is “grab a pair to save a pair,” and proceeds will go to breast and prostate cancer charities in October and November.
And in the meantime, the duo text multiple times a day and talk once or twice per day. They now live in close proximity (she’s in the Fenway, he’s in Cleveland Circle), so meeting up is easy. He’s more introverted and analytical; she’s more extroverted, and they balance each other out.
“We’re in constant communication; we hold one another accountable,” Cohen says.
That said, even the chummiest of siblings need space.
“We set boundaries, goals and expectations. It’s really important, even though you’re family, to turn off the phone. Turn off the laptop. Be present as a family and as a sibling, and not a business partner. Know when to shut off and say, ‘I’ll talk to you later. I can’t have this conversation.'”
It’s not all “Brady Bunch” chatter, either. Sometimes there’s sniping. Cohen holds herself accountable by asking, “Would I say this to my business partner if he wasn’t my brother?”
But luckily, he is.
“We really want the best for one another,” she says.