Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Tara, I am the shop owner of Health Hut on College in Toronto. I’m a Holistic Nutritionist-turned-Intuitive Eating counsellor. I don’t preach scare tactics or restrictions with my Intuitive Eating clients and, similarly, don’t use a fear-based approach to taking on a natural lifestyle in the shop :)
I moved to Toronto 10 years ago and now live in the neighbourhood. I have a dog and 2 cats. I love the community.
How did you start your business?
I started in 2011 in Muskoka. I had recently finished school for Nutrition and I was practicing one-on-one consulting but I felt a pull to be putting my energy into something else.
I remember learning a lot in school about products, something I didn’t really think I would learn in Nutrition school. It was the first time I had ever looked at what was in the products that I was using. Maybe it was naive but I just trusted that everything was safe, with everyone’s health in mind. I was really surprised and, from there, started getting interested in alternatives.
So that summer, 2011, my mom inherited a gas station in Muskoka. We had had an ice cream hut on the property for a number of years but we closed it, so that summer I asked her if I could try to start a business there and I thought it would be fitting to try the natural products. There’s not really anything like that in Muskoka. So it started there! And, I mean, I had no business plan or expectations. I ordered a bunch of products and people came! I was shocked.
Then I opened up on Harbord Street in 2014. Each step I made felt right at the time. If you had told me I would be doing this (at Health Hut on College) the day I opened in Muskoka, I never would have believed you. Each time I made a jump it felt good. It felt challenging, but it felt good. I felt OK I and that I could handle it. But that took a number of steps.
So there was a lot of trusting your gut throughout the whole process?
Yes, exactly. With some things I just knew that that wasn’t the time. I did things a lot slower, which I think is what allowed me to stay around. It can be frustrating seeing new people in the market who are moving more quickly than you and feeling small in comparison, but what I’ve learned is that if you can keep sticking around, you can get there. It’s not always easy, but I think that’s one thing I had in my favour was my humble beginning and my ability to grow and change and learn.
Did you face any unique challenges as a woman starting a business?
I’ve always seen my mom running her own businesses, so it never felt like a huge challenge to me as a woman. Even when I started my store, she was helping me with the bookkeeping! I think seeing that, I never had a doubt in my mind that this was an OK thing to pursue and that you didn’t need to be a man to be an entrepreneur.
Additionally, this industry is super female-friendly. There are so many amazing people in Toronto who I’ve gotten to meet and are doing great things.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance as an entrepreneur/business owner?
I didn’t always have this balance. I was working a lot out of my home and not really setting boundaries. Now, I have scheduled work hours. They may be longer than most people’s scheduled work hours but I try not to take work home. Because, when you’re working from home, it can be like you’re not working when you’re supposed to be and then, in the evening, you’re also not relaxing like you should be.
Of course, as a business owner, you’re always kind of ‘on’. As in: someone can always call you and you’re always thinking and dreaming of the next idea. But I feel that I’m able to fully engage in my relationships or walk the dog without thinking about anything business-related so, yes, I would say the best advice for that is to just have the separation.
What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?
That same idea of slow and steady. I don’t know if it was something that was ever given to me, but it’s definitely something that I keep going back to in my mind. Especially in the tendency to compare where I’m at with where other people or businesses are at. I remind myself that it’s OK to go at your own pace. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get there!
Do you have a self-care practice?
Maybe this is cliche but going to the gym every morning is a huge part of how I practice self-care. It’s never from a feeling of self-punishment or obligation, I just know that my day is dramatically different on the days that I move in the morning versus the days that I don’t.
Secondly: the practice of saying no to things. I love socializing, but if I have too many commitments in one week, I know I won’t feel rested or at my best self. I emphasize staying at home, going to bed. It’s such a simple concept but feels like such a nice luxury.
How do you deal with/manage stress?
I know myself well enough to know when I need to stop and just be alone and rest. I really like walking the dog, getting out of the city when I can, or just getting into nature here. On the weekends, going down to the Brickworks or through Trinity Bellwoods. I like that Toronto offers so much green space.
How do you deal with periods of procrastination or lack of inspiration?
Sometimes just changing it up. Like if I’m working by myself and I’m in a bit of slump, I’ll come out and talk to the girls in the front, or go out for dinner with a friend I don’t see all the time. Talking to other people, talking to people who are doing the similar things to me. Re-reminding myself why I’m doing this. But just getting out of your own bubble is huge.
What inspires you to keep going?
I really genuinely love every day that I have here, so the thought of not having that, alone, inspires me to work hard to keep it going.
Another thing is that it’s not just about me anymore. I think about all the people that are at the Muskoka store on opening day each season that are so excited to be there. I would hate to let my customers down, my staff down, my vendors down. The whole freedom thing is nice but now I have commitments to my community.
What is your favourite book/movie/music to feed your soul?
Right now, I’m really into Rhye, Feist, and Florence and the Machine. I saw Florence in October for my birthday and it was life-changing!