I met Torrance Hart under a unique set of circumstances. My husband, Josh, and I were on a beach vacation in early April and had booked a room through Air BnB. Hart was to be our hostess.
It was raining when we arrived at the house. Josh and I let ourselves in with the spare key Hart had left for us; she would be home soon to give us the grand tour. In the meantime, we were greeted by her two cats, Monkey and Elsie, the latter of which I nick-named Princess Lumps in honor of her mound-like appearance on the floor.
The house looked like a picture straight from a magazine, complete with modern furniture, mason jar light fixtures and airy, gray walls. The only thing that seemed out of place was the pile of shipping boxes slowly taking over the dining room table.
I carried our bag to the room and started to unpack while Josh explored the house. A few moments later, he returned. “You might just get a story out of this if you play your cards right,” he said, tossing me his phone. I looked confused. “She owns a business,” he explained.
I studied the website he had already pulled up on the tiny screen. On it were photos of some of the loveliest gift boxes I had ever seen. The top of the page read, “Teak & Twine.”
It was then that I decided to do my own exploring. Sure enough, signs of an entrepreneur were littered all over the house. “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries rested on the coffee table. The bookshelf was sprinkled with works by Seth Godin, Jonah Berger and Ben Horowitz. And then there was the workroom, which housed shelves upon shelves of artisanal goods. Suddenly, the packages on the dining room table began to make sense.
That evening, we were introduced to Hart—a good-humored young woman with a beaming personality—who graciously agreed to answer a few questions about Teak & Twine and her journey into the realm of entrepreneurship.
Hart spent the last eight years in the US Air Force and had only completed her time in the military two weeks prior to our visit. She and her newlywed husband—also in the Air Force and currently serving overseas—were stationed together near Destin, Florida.
The idea for Teak & Twine came in April 2015 when Hart began building custom gift boxes for weddings, birthdays and corporate events. Her goal was to create a product that relieved the stress of gift-giving without sacrificing quality. “We use great products and beautiful packaging to tell a great story,” Hart says. “The aesthetic is what sets us apart. We’re able to change things around to create different moods, to incorporate the feel of the business or event.”
Once people saw Hart’s product, orders started pouring in through word-of-mouth referrals, then through Instagram. “We made 1,500 gifts before the website even launched in February of this year,” she says.
And Teak & Twine has already begun to grow. Hart says the business now employs one other full-time employee and two or three part-time employees. Orders have also become more frequent. “We would definitely be in a warehouse by now,” she says, “but most warehouses want you to sign a two-year lease.” With Hart’s husband still in active duty, she says it’s tough to make that kind of commitment.
Nevertheless, Hart continues to utilize the resources available to her to keep the business going. During vacation season, she rents her spare bedroom through Air BnB to help with funding. She also practices continuous learning by reading books and listening to podcasts related to the field of entrepreneurship. Some of her recommendations include Seth Godin’s podcast, “Startup School,” as well as Ben Harowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” which she says really gets to “the suck” of running a small business.
“And there are a lot of resources out there for veterans,” she says. The SBA offers legal and financial consulting to veterans at no cost, and they even offer special loan opportunities to veteran entrepreneurs. They also host a program called Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup, a two-day crash course in the field of entrepreneurship.
Hart says the best part of owning her own business has been the experience of collaborating with clients and sharing in the excitement of giving a gift. The meaning of Teak & Twine’s tagline, “Gratitude Changes Everything,” is twofold. One the one side, Hart is grateful for her clients. And on the other, Hart’s clients are able to use Teak & Twine to show gratitude toward others.