Let’s Start At The Very Beginning

Posted by Helen Graham on

This year we are trying to work on our business plan/model.  We have formed a small business planning group with friends and fellow small business owners.  

We meet every couple of weeks and try to focus and hold each other accountable to goals we have set for our businesses.  We are all creatives and would rather do anything (like clean toilets) than work on the administrative/accounting/boring/NECESSARY end of our respective businesses.  As we go forward we will document our progress as some of aspects of Toad Hollow are bound to change in this exercise.

But...before we get into that, we thought we should start at the beginning and reintroduce ourselves.  Hi 👋🏻, we are Helen & Mary Beth and we own Toad Hollow.

We are sisters and have lived together most of our adult lives.  Neither of us is married or have kids (at least not the needy human kind).  We both once worked in the “real world” in very male dominated fields.  Misery was a way of life but the paycheck came every week and we had health insurance.

Then back in 2011 Helen’s job was eliminated and we came to a cross roads.  Take the leap and start our own business or plug along and get another job.  We opted for the leap and we leapt all in.  Mary Beth quit her job, we took all our savings (yup the 401k too) and opened our gift shop.  Admittedly, not ideal but water under the bridge.

We loved our shop so much and it took us way too long to admit to ourselves that it was not a viable option any more.  When we did accept the inevitable, we had drunk the kool aid and we knew we had to try to keep Toad Hollow going in whatever way we could.  So we decided to give the hand made side of The Hollow a go.  In the five years we had our shop, our creative sides blossomed and we had ideas, lots and lots of ideas.  Corralling those ideas has always been our Achilles heel.  

We put everything (monetarily, emotionally, mentally) into our business and it has always been just us, no other supplemental income to pay those pesky bills.  Therefore, our business “model” has been to react (which bill is screaming loudest) more than plan.  That’s what this year has been all about - trying to react less and plan more...work smarter, not harder.  Are you ready for this? No, I’m not sure we are either.

2 comments


  • This post is inspiring. I’m so glad I read it. I’m stuck (it feels like) in a Male dominated industry as well… engineering/ utilities… where everything is subject to change, no loyalty and it’s a volatile industry… constantly changing jobs when the work dries up, scratching to get paid what I’m worth/ the work I do and am starting to hate doing it and dealing with it. Your business posts will be a breath of fresh air as I’m being asked to do my job outside the companies I’m with and create my own business… but that’s scary. Reading about your business lessons learned would be a great read and terribly helpful. Plus it may inspire me to start dying yarn lol, knitting and playing around with yarn (especially toad hollow yarn, so beautiful) is beyond relaxing and joyful.

    Lynee on

  • This post is inspiring. I’m so glad I read it. I’m stuck (it feels like) in a Male dominated industry as well… engineering/ utilities… where everything is subject to change, no loyalty and it’s a volatile industry… constantly changing jobs when the work dries up, scratching to get paid what I’m worth/ the work I do and am starting to hate doing it and dealing with it. Your business posts will be a breath of fresh air as I’m being asked to do my job outside the companies I’m with and create my own business… but that’s scary. Reading about your business lessons learned would be a great read and terribly helpful. Plus it may inspire me to start dying yarn lol, knitting and playing around with yarn (especially toad hollow yarn, so beautiful) is beyond relaxing and joyful.

    Lynee on

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