When Dream Home Makeover's Syd and Shea McGee were still desperately trying to make ends meet, they leaned on one another — and the promise of running their dream business together — to pull through.
"We were really, really struggling financially," Shea, 35, tells PEOPLE of the early days of Studio McGee. "I don't think that Syd and I ever looked at it like we weren't going to make it, but we were not happy. There were a lot of tears."
Seven years ago, before this week's PEOPLE cover stars had their own Netflix series or a line of furniture or collaboration with Target or a bestselling memoir, they had both quit their office jobs to start their interior design business. But after a year, they'd burned through their savings trying to get it off the ground — and the stress was placing a major burden on their marriage.
"It was hard because we were trying to be respectful of each other," says Shea. "I wanted to give Syd space and time, but we didn't have the time. And he was really hard on himself."
They ended up moving from California to Utah looking for a lower cost of living in 2014 and started to slowly build up their business.
"For that four-year period, when we first moved to Utah, all we did was work," Syd, 36, recalls. "When we came home from the little downtown office that we had, that was in a really run-down part of downtown Salt Lake, we would play with our oldest, Wren [now 7], for a little bit, put her to bed, and then we'd go back to work again until like 11:30, midnight, and do that every day."
Adds, Shea, "It was hard on our relationship in a lot of ways because everything was new, and we were learning and making mistakes. And the stakes felt really high."
The workload took its toll, but Syd has a theory for how they made it through.
"I think we just took turns believing in each other," he says. When Shea was having a hard time, he says, "I always believed," and he told her so. "I was like, 'Shea, you're really talented. We should grow this a lot. Let's scale it.' And then at times, I may be doubting [myself]or being really reluctant about things and she says like, 'We can do this. Let's go for it.' I think that's been something that's really helped us, just taking turns believing and pulling each other along."
Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Shea and Syd McGee streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.
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