Family Fortunes: when siblings succeed together

The Elliot-Berry siblings

The Elliot-Berry siblings

Unsurprisingly, family ties are a hugely important for the distillers behind Sibling gin.

“Sibling rivalry has a knack of getting the best out of people,” they claim. “Competition is sometimes what it takes to drive something spectacular forward. We have always been obsessive about the quality of our gin, so between us we are constantly pushing each other to become better.”

But the Elliot-Berrys aren’t the only ones to harness the power of family to achieve success in business. According to The Economist, “more than 90% of the world’s businesses are family-managed or -controlled, including some of the biggest such as News Corp and Volkswagen...families own or control 33% of American companies and 40% of French and German ones with revenues of more than $1 billion a year. In the emerging world the preponderance of family control is greater still.”

Management Consultant, Ed Kopf of BMC Associates, suggests that siblings who work together in their professional lives can benefit from “a heightened sense of solidarity, enhanced skills in joint decision-making, and a venue for interpersonal issues to arise and be addressed.” 

And it’s not just in the world of business that blood proves thicker than water – from entertainment to sport and beyond, there are plenty of examples of siblings doing it for themselves and achieving success together. Here are just a few inspirational examples.

The Jackson 5

The story of the whole Jackson family is stuff of showbiz legend, thanks in no small part to the stratospheric success of Michael’s solo career. But before the King of Pop was born, he started out as the littlest member of one of the biggest pop groups in music history.

The nine Jackson siblings all grew up together in a cramped three-room house in Gary, Indiana with their father, Joe, a steel mill worker, and mother Katherine, a devout Jehovah’s Witness who was crippled by polio as a child.

Determined that his children wouldn’t follow in his footsteps working at the steel mill, and spotting their early interest in music, Joe bought instruments and microphones and set five of his boys to work rehearsing hard: Tito on guitar; Jermaine on bass; Marlon on percussion; Jackie singing and playing the tambourine; and Michael singing and dancing. 
Despite their young age (Michael was just six when the group started), Joe had high expectations and a quick temper, and his violent punishment of the boys’ mistakes has been well documented in the years since. 

Somehow, the Jackson brothers managed to persevere through this often unhappy home life and after a couple of years performing at talent shows, nightclubs and bars, the group was signed to Motown Records in 1968. 

When their first single, I want You Back, was released in January 1970, they became global stars. They were the first act ever to hit the number 1 spot in the US with their first four singles and they soon replaced the Supremes as Motown’s top selling group. 

While full-scale Jacksonmania was relatively short-lived, the stage was set for the Jackson 5 – and their other siblings – to embark on solo careers, with varying degrees of success. Most notable of course, was Michael, whose extraordinary life would see him become the King of Pop and arguably one of the most famous men ever to (moon-) walk the planet, before his untimely death in 2009. 

The Wachowskis 

Lana (formerly Larry) and Andy Wachowski grew up in Chicago the 1960s and 70s, playing Dungeons & Dragons and sharing a passion for fantasy fiction and comic books. Their parents were also avid film fans, taking the pair along to a wide range of movies (whatever the parental-advisory label). 

Speaking to The New Yorker in 2012, Andy recalled: “We would have ‘movie orgies’ – double features, triple features, drive-ins.” One film in particular that made an impact on both siblings was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Lana claims “is one of the reasons I’m a filmmaker.”

While still children, the pair began writing and drawing their own comics together, as well as experimenting with directing by recording their voices onto cassette tapes. Lana has said that their creative process “hasn’t essentially changed since.”

After heading off to college separately, both dropped out before graduating and set up a construction business together, while writing for Marvel Comics on the side. 

They began writing film scripts together in the mid-1990s, making their directorial debut with thriller Bound, whose positive critical reception put the siblings in a strong position to pitch for their next movie, The Matrix.

Released in 1999, the dystopian sci-fi epic grossed over $460 million worldwide, won four Academy Awards and, along with the other two films in the series, broke new ground both in terms of cinematic techniques and genre expectations. These ‘intellectual action movies’ are famed for bringing complex philosophical ideas into the mainstream, possibly sparking more late-night existential reflections than any other piece of recent popular culture.

Since The Matrix, the pair have gone on to write and direct many more blockbusting cinematic offerings, including V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas, as well as a Netflix series, Sens8.

Lana became the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender in 2012, receiving the Human Rights’ Campaign Visibility Award that same year. Speaking of the decision to go public, she has said: “I chose to change my exteriority to bring it closer into alignment with my interiority. My biggest fears were all about losing my family. Once they accepted me, everything else has been a piece of cake.” 

The Williams Sisters

Venus and Serena Williams have together been credited with redefining the nature of women’s tennis, both through the athleticism and strength that they bring to the game as well as their unusual journey into the sport.

Growing up in Compton, Los Angeles in the 1980s, the girls learned to play on the public courts in their neighbourhood – a neighbourhood which was at the time renowned for high crime rates and gang violence. 

The girls’ father, Richard Williams, reportedly moved to the area precisely so that his daughters would “see first-hand how their lives might turn out if they did not work hard and get an education.” Richard was the sisters’ first tennis coach, leading them in two-hour daily practice sessions on those public courts from the age of three.

By the early ‘90s, the sisters were already dominating the junior leagues and the family moved to Florida for them to receive professional coaching. Venus went pro in 1994 and quickly made an impact, winning her first ever match against a player seeded 50th in the world. She eventually became the World No. 1 for the first time on February 25, 2002, the first black American woman to achieve this feat during the Open Era.

Younger sister Serena was never far behind, going pro just a year after Venus and snatching the World No. 1 spot for herself by defeating her sister in the 2002 Wimbledon final.

Despite regularly meeting in many such hard-fought matches, the pair claim not to enjoy playing each other. Serena has said: "If I win I'm not super excited, and if I lose I'm really not excited.” Venus explains: "I think we just both want to win…I think we just both have so much respect for each other's game that makes it probably a little tougher because you know you’re not going to get an easy win."
Beyond their rivalry for the No.1 spot, the Williams sisters have also, of course, achieved much success together – on top of the 117 women’s single titles they can claim between them, the pair have also won 21 woman’s doubles titles working as a team.

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