Hello Boss Babes! We hope you’re having a fantastic week & are ready for a Boss Babe Feature with the amazing Tona Bell. Tona is the woman with the vision behind The Paper Seahorse, an oasis of paper, journals, letter writing, & crafting in South Tampa. She’s supportive, brilliant, & gives the best hugs. Tona opened The Paper Seahorse in October of 2015, a big departure from her previous role as Co-owner of Tricycle Studios, a marketing agency she launched with her husband over 20 years ago. Tricycle grew from a small team of a few people to 30 staff members. This took a toll on Tona’s health, and after working every Sunday for 15 years and working from illness to illness, she landed in the hospital with a bad infection. This was the catalyst for a big change she would make, where she would not only prioritize herself and her health, but she’d also take a big leap & reinvent her life.
Tona’s biggest advice for small business owners is to be true to your vision, and in order to be true to your business’ vision, you have to be true to yourself: listen to your self and your body and do what’s best for you. Make big decisions. Don’t let fear hold you back. And surround yourself with friends & family who love and support you no matter what. Without further ado, enjoy Tona’s words!
Tell us about yourself and what you do!
My name is Tona Bell. I am the proprietress of The Paper Seahorse, a paperie and a makerie in sunny Tampa, Florida. It is a studio for creativity and mindfulness. We provide analog tools and experiences for folks to slow down and reconnect with themselves and others. These range from writing and typing; to making and creating.
How did your business begin?
I suffered burnout while running a fast growing marketing company that specialized in high tech solutions for global companies. I got really sick, couldn’t work for a while and had to decide if I was going to make a life change or not. I followed my heart, took the plunge and never looked back.
"When you know what you want and you're really clear about it, the universe does conspire to help you."
What’s one challenge you have faced and one success you’ve had since you created your business?
One challenge is too many ideas, not enough time and resources. So I would say prioritizing and focusing. One success is tapping into the need to slow down, be more mindful and using your hands for writing and making. The validation of that concept and being able to fulfill that need for folks is huge.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and has it come in handy for you?
A business teacher once told our class: Never be afraid to ask for what you are worth! Everyday it reminds me to value myself, my efforts and my vision.
When are you at your happiest?
I am happiest when in flow state. That could be practicing origami, preparing for a workshop, keeping in touch with a friend through a letter or simply gardening.
What do you tell yourself when things get difficult?
When things are difficult, I tell myself that tomorrow is another day to do my best and things always work out in the end how they should. Stress is created in our minds and only exists there, it isn’t really real. If we could all release that, we would be much happier.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for my support system, especially my husband. My family and friends believe in me 110% even when I doubt myself.
What is one personal goal and one business goal you plan to accomplish this year?
One personal goal is to meditate more. One business goal is to do more corporate wellness and increase our online presence. I guess that’s two.
Where can you be found on a Tuesday afternoon?
On a Tuesday afternoon I am probably plotting and planning a creative retreat and then it’s time for my-never-miss yoga class for balance.
How about a Friday evening?
On a Friday evening, I am having a drink and dinner with my hubby celebrating our success of the week. Then its watching Netflix with the cats.
A Sunday morning?
On a Sunday morning I am reading the New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times by the pool with cats while Randy is making me brunch. I live for Sundays. It’s rest and rejuvenate time. I spend the entire day outside reading, journaling and gardening.
Finish these sentences:
I love: My husband first and then paper and making.
I’m always looking for: unique stationery items and new creative mediums to explore.
My inspiration is: everywhere! All around me: nature, art, my friends and Florida. I geek out on my home state.
I’ll never: say never. I am open to anything. I am a Sagittarius, so very adventurous and will probably try most anything once.