Tara Miller of Health Hut in Toronto
Tara Miller’s business started out of an old ice cream hut at her mother’s gas station in Muskoka – so the in-person experience was always central to her success. She had to adapt when the pandemic hit, discovering new ways to create meaningful connections with customers while staying true to her roots.
“We just went into "make it work" mode. The priority for me, after safety, was keeping our customers happy. At the end of the day, we're more than an online shop and I have been trying my best to keep it that way.” - Tara Miller, owner of Health Hut.
Heath Hut began as one of those hidden gems just north of the city. It begged cottage-goers to pull over and explore their unique offering of natural skin care and health products. Ten years later, they’ve expanded with a much larger shop in Toronto, and an online store featuring an expanded lineup of products that speak to a broader definition of health.
“We curate and stock items for the purpose of making you feel good,” owner Tara Miller explains. “But also cozy things like blankets and candles and fresh flowers. We always encourage an inclusive and intuitive approach to wellness.”
Like so many entrepreneurs, Tara feared the worse for her business when the pandemic forced Canadians into a state of lockdown.
“When this first happened I had no idea how it would go. I was terrified of losing the business I had put everything I had into for almost 10 years,” Tara says. “But then, people kept shopping. They kept emailing and calling and texting and DMing, and they wanted to support us.”
Her small team began delivering their own packages whenever possible to get products out quickly. They’ve also been calling, texting and emailing with customers a lot more often, offering recommendations and chatting about how everyone is doing. “It’s been strange and lovely at the same time, Tara says. “I admit it’s not always the most sustainable [model] – especially with limited staff – but we would not be in business without our community.”
At the same time, Tara has been able to create powerful new networking connections as small businesses band together to help each other through this challenging time.
“I’ve gotten to know all sorts of wonderful small business owners I hadn’t talked to before. It's not competitive, it's kind. People have been so generous; they’ve dropped off masks, shared their contacts, checked in, and offered great advice.”
Not exactly business as usual, but inspiring all the same.
“It’s beautiful,” she says. “I don't think the small business community has ever been stronger.”
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