Josephine Firat has always had a passion for entrepreneurship. Meeting Turkish-born Ibrahaim Firat at Houston’s University of St. Thomas sealed the go-getting couple’s fate—both in life and business.
Combining their business skills and qualifications, in 2008 the internationally-oriented pair founded Firat Education. With Ibrahim serving as Chief Educational Consultant, and Josephine as CEO, they provide support globally for education consultants to learn and utilize entrepreneurial skills to grow their own consulting practices within Firat Education.
Additionally, soccer-loving Ibrahim is author of the Firat Guide, a tool for parents in deciding the best fit school for their child.
We caught up with this power couple to discuss life in business together.
How did you meet?
Josephine: In grad school at the University of St. Thomas we were in the same International Culture and Communication class. Ibrahim was the President of the Graduate Student Association and invited me to one of their events. From there we hit it off, and started the business before we got married.
Ibrahim: Funnily enough, we didn’t talk to each other the entire class until the very last project. She would always come in right as class started and would jet out to go to work right after. I ended up lending her a hand for a PowerPoint presentation she was working on. Afterwards I mentioned an event I was putting on and suggested she come by.
Why did you start your business?
Josephine: In April 2008, Ibrahim was tutoring on the side while in grad school, and I thought he could take the tutoring gig to the “next level.” We were both entrepreneurs already, so starting a new business wasn’t really a new thing for us. But, it would be the first time we’d start a business together. We were encouraged because Firat Education wasn’t a product-based business but rather a service, so we really just needed brain power.
I remember we were sitting in Office Max making our first business cards on the computer. Ibrahim had designed it and came up with a cool tagline (“Educating our future with solutions for life” — which we still use today, 12 years later), but he wasn’t sure if this venture was going to work. In that moment I said, “Enough doubt. This is is going to happen.” We still have the receipt from that day at Office Max. It serves as a reminder for how far we’ve come.
Ibrahim: Josephine was the first investor in Firat Education, and put in for the first round of business cards – a whopping $78 investment!
What have you learned about each other?
Josephine: I’ve learned from Ibrahim that family is more important than anything. Prior to meeting him I was very driven with work and didn’t make time for other things. By seeing how he prioritized family and his lifelong friends, he has taught me that there is more to life than working and making money.
He’s always reminding me to slow down and have personal touches. We also recognize our differences and replicate that from our relationship to the business which is a large part of our success and growth. Ibrahim is charming and is good at getting to know the customer, and I am more focused on the corporate side of things.
Ibrahim: Going into business with Josephine confirmed what I already knew about her which is that she is brilliant when it comes to business matters. Before even fully knowing her, I could already tell that she took her work very seriously, just from the way she carried herself in our grad school class. After getting to know her I also saw that she wasn’t afraid to take a risk. She left her full time job, which would have yielded long-term success to pursue her entrepreneurial pursuits, and she’s a total badass for that.
In terms of the crossover of marriage and business I learned we need to stay in our lanes. This is not because we don’t like to work together, but rather we recognize our own strengths and weaknesses. We come at situations from different angles and that’s why we work well together – she’s the driver and I’m the deliberator.
How are you handling the current 24/7 togetherness?
Josephine: When we were just starting out, I was the CEO and receptionist, so we saw each other all the time. Now, we usually work in two different locations. Though, due to the pandemic, we have been working more together, and it actually reminds me a lot of the beginning when it was just the two of us.
Ibrahim: We both have very different roles and have overlapping meetings, so we don’t spend a lot of time together. However, when it comes to decision making or step by step actions I respect her position and she recognizes my strength on the education side. Work and home does start to slowly blend together during the pandemic especially since we aren’t traveling for work like we used to. But I think we do a pretty good job at having a healthy work life balance.
What is one tip for making a husband/wife business a success?
Josephine: Trust is one of the important things to keep in mind. I know and trust that Ibrahim is smart and knows what he needs to do and he trusts me to run the business.
Ibrahim: Cherish the moment. Most husbands and wives don’t have the opportunity to be business partners , and it’s comforting to know at the end of the day you report to each other and have each other’s backs.
Would you go into business together again?
Josephine: Definitely, and we actually have! We’ve started another company called Firat Group, and it’s a business growth consulting company. We are always looking for new ventures to do together and he always wants to know what’s next.
Ibrahim: Now that we have our blueprint and template for how to run the business, we’re equipped to tackle anything. We already know how to work together and be successful; it’s not even a question if but rather what’s next.
Cover photo courtesy Josephine and Ibrahim Firat
Leean Vargas is an Editorial Assistant at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations.