Honeymoon Israel had the pleasure of interviewing Steph & Jimmy MacDonald, who participated on a Honeymoon Israel Los Angeles trip in September 2016.

Why did you decide to apply and ultimately participate on Honeymoon Israel (HMI)?

When we learned about HMI, we realized that we fit the application criteria to a T. The program encompassed everything that we had been searching for in our local LA community, social life, and relationship to each other. And we knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So we didn't hesitate to apply! Going to Israel together had been something that we've talked about for years, especially since neither of us had ever been there, and we love to travel. We also had been looking for a community of couples that were like us - interfaith, in LA, and wanting to explore and engage in Jewish culture and traditions with others of a similar age range. Participating in HMI was exactly what we needed and wanted, and it turned out to be everything we could have hoped for - and much more! 

Tell us about your new company, Authenticity 50.  What made you decide to create this business together?

We co-founded Authenticity 50 (A50) just over a year ago. It's a values-driven bedding company, founded on the principles of creating amazing home goods 100% in the USA, bringing back domestic jobs and manufacturing, and delivering these products to our customers at fair prices. Our brand is 100% American-made, from our Supima® cotton, to our fabric, boxes, and tags. And we sell our products online only - via our website - to cut out traditional retail costs; you get fancy bedding without the fancy price tag! Most importantly, through our supply chain and production process, we're keeping over 500 jobs here, versus sending them overseas.

We both grew up with parents that owned small businesses, so it is partially in our DNA! We couldn't see ourselves working for others anymore, and we wanted the freedom and flexibility to answer to ourselves, and determine our own destiny. We're very passionate about Made in USA products - the quality is unmatched and it keeps jobs here, sustaining families and communities. When we realized that bedding manufacturing had all but left the U.S. in the 80's, we knew we had to do something about it. And thus, A50 was born.

What is it like managing your marriage in balance with the growth of your business together? 

We started A50 after months of discussing all the pros and cons that go with starting a business. We openly communicated all of our desires, concerns, and issues, and went into things knowing exactly what we both wanted and needed. We also know each other very well, and were married for 4 years already - on top of knowing each other for years prior - so becoming business partners and delegating tasks and responsibilities was much easier to work out.

We've found that many of the same values and qualities that we've brought to our marriage, go hand-in-hand with running and growing a successful business. You need a strong foundation, built on mutual trust, respect and honesty. On top of that, you add clear and open communication, love, humor, and kindness, as well as common goals and a vision for the future. With all of this in mind, and learning how to create boundaries between our work and personal life, we've been able to balance the two. It's not all rainbows all the time - we may disagree and argue at times, but at the end of the day, we really enjoy being together and we really value the opportunity to work as a team.

Any fun stories that you can share with us, in which both A50 and HMI are involved? 

Yes! Two come to mind. The first is that we were going through airport security for the HMI trip out of LA, when we were contacted by a major publication for an interview! Out of ALL the days to speak to us, we were in the midst of boarding an international 15-hour flight! Luckily, we managed to speak to the reporter and told her we would respond in Israel ;) The story ran in the New York Post a few weeks after we returned. 

The second is that our HMI group has been super supportive of our business, and what we're trying to do, and its been so encouraging for us. And our whole group still uses Telegram (app messaging system) to share all kinds of successes and we all cheer each other on - just like family should :) 

What are the top 3 values or qualities that you feel can be applied to both your business approach and your journey with Honeymoon Israel?

Humor, Gratitude, and Respect are the top 3 values and qualities that we live by, and they certainly apply to our business approach and our experience with HMI. We always try to enjoy life and not take anything too seriously - otherwise, where's the fun? We also remind ourselves all the time to appreciate and be grateful for all of the experiences we have - the good and the bad, as we can learn and grow from it all. And having respect for ourselves, each other, and everyone else creates open and positive relationships.

We really love to laugh and enjoy the moment, and had a blast on the trip being open and willing to appreciate everything that we experienced with HMI. We also absolutely loved getting to know all of the other amazing couples on our trip - we feel very lucky to have created such a special bond with our trip mates, on this truly unique journey.

Honeymoon Israel is about much more than just a trip, it's about building a community. What has changed in your life since returning home from Honeymoon Israel? 

We went into HMI knowing that we would return to LA with a new "HMI family" - and we couldn't have been more excited! For many of us on the trip, finding other couples going through similar life experiences was a catalyst for participating, and we've all been eager to reunite and see each other since. We hosted a Fall BBQ at our place a few weeks after we all returned, and since then, other couples have hosted parties, dinners, yoga sessions, and Jewish holiday events around LA. There are already 2 events lined up for January, and we plan to attend both.

It's been so wonderful to develop these friendships and broaden our local Jewish community and network, and we are so grateful to HMI for creating this amazing opportunity - it has without a doubt enriched our lives in so many positive ways, and we feel so fortunate to have been a part of this incredible program. HMI will always hold a special place in our hearts, and we will continue to develop our HMI community here in LA for years to come!

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