Life Lessons: Jason Reader, Once Upon a Child

When your business partner is your mother-in-law

Jason Reader, co-owner, Once Upon A Child

Jason Reader and his wife, Jennifer Branco, are full-time police officers in Maple Ridge. They’re also parents of twin three-year-old boys and, along with Branco’s parents, co-owners of a Maple Ridge store that sells second-hand children’s clothing and toys.

“I always wanted to open my own business,” Reader said. “Back before I was a police officer I was a software developer and I always dreamed about making it big and starting a business of some sort.

“Jen’s parents retired and they actually approached me and said, ‘We’re retired – and we’re bored.’”

The four family members researched various businesses before deciding on opening a Once Upon A Child franchise store in Surrey. They also made sure to set the ground rules in a frank meeting where they discussed the question of who would do what – and each other’s potential weaknesses.

“Talk about an uncomfortable meeting. But it was really good because we were able to air [concerns],” he said. “I can sometimes be a very command-oriented kind of guy. … It was really good for my in-laws to express concerns about, am I going to take over?”

Knowing that, Reader said he’s had to consciously bite his tongue on occasion to stop himself from being too bossy. Reader manages finance and marketing, while his in-laws, Linda Branco and Roy Branco, manage the store operations and Jennifer takes care of hiring and HR. The store employs five full-time workers and 10 part-timers.

“I’ve had … to remind myself that running the store and taking care of what goes on in the store is not my responsibility,” Reader said.

He and the Brancos also incorporated their family business with the help of a lawyer and have planned for what could happen in the event one of the co-owners wants out. 

The store has been open since the beginning of October and, so far, has been meeting sales targets, he said.

“The long-term goal for us is extra travel money coming in,” he said. “Jen calls it our travel money, and Jen’s parents call it their retirement bonus.”

On time management | “I have to make the most of the time that I have, so what I end up doing is I have to end up scheduling things. My phone is my life right now. Work is four on, four off, so on my days off from work I have to schedule everything. … The flip side is what might take [other people] a day or two to get done, it sometimes takes me three or four weeks to get it done.”

Has a work or life challenge taught you a key career lesson? Contact Jen St. Denis at