Details make the difference for Amy Bradley-Hole's small business
By KD Reep
Imagine a whirling dervish with blue eyes, blonde hair and a Louisiana accent, and you have Amy Bradley-Hole.
The proprietor of Bonta Toscana pasta sauce, mom to Jack and Finn, wife to Nick and caregiver of Beignet, the family’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Amy started her own specialty food line after she made her garlic tomato sauce for friends.
“I had lots of requests for it so I started selling jars here and there,” she says. “Then before I knew what was really happening, I had so many orders for it that I had to move into a commercial kitchen. It was an accidental business in a way, but I'm glad it found me.”
Amy became familiar with the recipe for her garlic tomato pasta sauce during trips to her family’s home in Italy. Just as she was taught in Tuscany, she makes her products by hand and in small batches, using only simple, quality ingredients. She didn’t think about making Bonta Toscana a formal business until a few factors fell into place, either by accident, providence or both.
“My kids were at a point where they needed me to be around more and more, and my boss at that time was inflexible and usually unwilling to let me perform work duties around parenting duties,” she says. “Also, I was working hard to create someone else's success, boost someone else's brand and make someone else lots of money. I began to think, ‘Why can't I work this hard to make those things happen for myself?’"
At this same time, she began getting more and more requests for the Bonta Toscana sauce. She began selling at a farmers market and a specialty foods store in Little Rock, and today, she shares commercial kitchen space with Arkansas Fresh Cafe in Bryant and sells online as well as in several outlets throughout central Arkansas. While being a one-woman business is hectic and harrowing at times, Amy says she likely won’t be working for anyone else again.
“Being my own boss, while incredibly difficult at times, has made being a mom a million times easier,” she says. “I set my schedule, I decide how much or little I need to work, I decide which activities I will prioritize. But as a boss of others, I will always be more aware of how others need flexibility when it comes to handling personal needs. Being a mom will hopefully make me a better business owner.”
When asked how she balances her family, home and work lives, Amy is quick to say she doesn’t. But, she notes that if she does have any balance in her life, it’s because she has no qualms in telling someone “no.”
“Saying no keeps me from getting sucked into commitments that I don't really have time to do, or from doing things that I'll dread or regret,” Amy says. “I typically work seven days a week, and the nature of my work does not allow for grabbing a coffee or going for lunch during business hours,” she says. “Once I'm off work and pick up my kids from school, they are my focus. Then when my husband gets home, it is family time. I'm always tired and craving my bed, and this leaves almost no time for friends and social activities, which I really regret. My house is a wreck, and I'm months behind on my to-do list.”
Her to-do list notwithstanding, Amy is adept at maximizing her resources. Her husband and sons help her in the business whenever they can.
“Nick, Finn and Jack help with work tasks. They are excellent garlic peelers!” she says. “My kids also help out at the farmers market some weekends. They chat with customers, tell them all about the sauce, and they're even great at making change. My husband has also helped with making deliveries to stores for me, and he's a great salesperson, talking up my sauce to anyone who will listen. Best of all, he knows I'm busy so he's always willing to help with cleaning the house or shuttling the kids to sports practices or any other things that keep our household running. He's a true partner for me, and I love him for that.”
Of all her occupations—wife, mom and business owner among them—Amy says the fundamental aspect to being successful is paying attention to the small things.
“I see people share inspirational quotes all the time about following your dreams or dreaming big, that kind of thing,” she says. “Chasing dreams is great in theory, but in reality, it isn't usually beautiful or inspirational or share-worthy. What it does involve is a daily grind of doing millions of small tasks and executing things that are challenging or uncomfortable. That means physically and mentally difficult, nose-to-the-grindstone stuff. But if you have the personality for it—if you can stick it out through the hard work and tough times—then the rewards can be immeasurable.”