The Real Female Entrepreneur

The Business Systems Holl and Lane Uses to Help Tame the Crazy

Lauren FrontieraComment

Ready for a real update? 100% real. None of that fake crap.

Sometimes it feels like the only biz updates you get anymore are the sugar-coated, everythings-alright-yeah-it's-perfect ones. They're the ones we all give when we're forcing things to look better than they really are. Because the truth is sometimes hard and embarrassing and quite frankly, it sucks to share.

But life and business are real. They're imperfect and messy. And amidst the chaos and the mess, the real parts are inspiring as hell.

So, meet Real Updates. Our new series where we pull back the curtains and get real updates on life and biz and the happenings of real women and real business owners. 



"Mainly, I just want you to remember...

 that it’s okay to be a work in progress.But start somewhere."

If you missed last month's update, welcome! This is the second in a monthly series where the creator and editor of Holl and Lane Magazine, Sarah Hartley, is taking us behind-the-scenes on her journey of building and growing a magazine while also working a full-time job, being a mama and a wife, and growing her second baby (due February 2018).

This month, Sarah is taking us behind the curtains (er, computer screen) and sharing about the craziness of building a business without systems. Oh, and how she tamed the crazy with some of her favorite business systems (girl, give me all the recs!).

But, first. Let's bumpdate ya.


At just over 6 months, I’m feeling like this pregnancy is flying by. I think all moms say that the second time around. The sickness is basically completely gone (knock on wood), but the exhaustion - oh the exhaustion. I recently had a weekend where all I could do was sleep. I had so much to get done, but I slept instead. I guess that was my body’s way of saying “hey lady, you’re doing too much, slow down”.



We launched our 14th issue at the beginning of October and it was by far the best launch we have had. I was so excited with how things went. And then things started to crawl. You know those days where there are no sales? I’ve had a few of those that have then caused me to poo-poo everything we had just accomplished. Why do we do that to ourselves instead of celebrating the good things?!


Now, let’s talk organization ... the least sexy part of a business.

But in my opinion, it’s the most critical, especially if you work with other people.

At the beginning of Holl & Lane, we had no organization because I wasn’t treating this as a business. Submissions would come into my inbox, I never had everything I needed, and our team was just running around like crazy people trying to get things in order all the time. In the magazine world, you’re constantly doing. There is no downtime. We just launched our October issue and at the same time, were reading through submissions for our April 2018 issue. Plus, there’s the blog and social media content thrown in there, too. We don’t stop.

"At the beginning of Holl & Lane, we had no organization because I wasn’t treating this as a business."

Organization and systems have been key in controlling our chaos. We’ve gone through a lot of organizational tools in the past two years, and I still don’t think we’re exactly where I’d like to be. But things are much better ... like, 1000% better than they were at the beginning. But it wasn’t easy to get here.

So, today, I thought I’d share with you some ways that we’ve cleaned up our mess and put systems in place so that we feel less crazed on a day-to-day basis.


I admit, I struggle with shiny object syndrome. So, anytime there is a new tool that comes out, I have to check it out. We’ve tried them all - Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Google Docs, Todoist, Airtable, etc. I couldn’t even begin to name them all. But I took a break from the day-to-day runnings of the magazine and really looked at what was happening to figure out where to go from there. Yes, it was hard to tear myself away from the actual business side, but I knew I needed to do something before I went crazy.

My inbox was a huge problem. So, I needed a way to keep as much from coming in there as possible. One of the first things we did was set up forms for our contributors to fill out when they sent in their articles. This allowed us to get all of the information we needed up front so that we’d only have to reach out if we needed something extra. The newest way we do this is through Airtable. This tool has been super helpful in getting a quick glance at what is submitted, what is coming up, deadlines, etc. Plus, it’s just fun to play with!

Then, there was just the back and forth with the team so that we could all stay on the same page. We used to email each other, but as I mentioned above, my inbox was out of control and then things got lost. We’ve tried a few tools, but Slack is the winner here. We use this to stay in touch throughout the day, ask quick questions, share quick things, and more. It’s been super helpful, and now, unless I need to email something super long, I very rarely pop up in my team’s inboxes.

"Take a few days, or a week, to sit down and really look at what systems you have or don’t have."

One last thing that has been a huge help has been Trello. All of the hype about it is well deserved. This has helped us in so many ways just by keeping everything in one place. The thing we use this for most is email templates. Since we send out so many emails that are similar, this has helped to keep track of all of those so that any of us on the team can pull them up and insert into an email quickly. We also used this for our editorial calendars (both magazine and blog), but have found that using Airtable is more practical for us because of the volume of content that comes in and the ability to use forms with it.

Key takeaway here: Take a few days, or a week, to sit down and really look at what systems you have or don’t have. Once you’re able to get everything organized, it’ll be so much easier to move on with your processes. Yes, it’ll still be a work in progress, but I promise taking that first step will be so worth it.



Three quarters of the Holl & Lane team have been together since the beginning (myself, Mia, and Jess). But in the past two years, we’ve had a handful of people come on board to help out with various tasks. Having things organized has been key in getting these people on-boarded and knowing our processes ASAP. I have even created screenshare videos and stored them in Trello so that when new people join, they can watch the video and see where everything is quickly. This not only helps them because they can re-watch whenever necessary, but it saves me the time of having to explain it each time.

Key takeaway here: Don’t just expect your team to understand everything when they join you. Each business is unique and no matter if they’ve worked with someone who does the same thing as you, your process will be different. Taking the time to train them and show them how things work in your business (along with where to find everything) will be huge to their (and your!) success.



As I mentioned, I’m still figuring out what works best for me and my team. And new tools are coming out all the time that claim to make things faster and easier. Chances are, I will check these new tools out and see if they are the secret sauce to what we’ve been missing. But I try to keep these trials very low-key before I switch everything over. Oftentimes, I’ll try something out myself for a week and then I’ll involve someone else from my team to see what they think. If, after a few weeks, we’re both still smitten, it’s worth talking about with the rest of the team.

"Mainly, I just want you to remember that it’s okay to be a work in progress. But start somewhere."

Mainly, I just want you to remember that it’s okay to be a work in progress. But start somewhere. Don’t keep working with non-organization. You will feel so much better if you just take the time to look at your options and figure out how to do things easier - even if you just start with one aspect of your business at a time.  

Key takeaway here: Shiny object syndrome isn’t all bad. But don’t rush to it as soon as you see it. Make sure you give yourself some time to see if it will REALLY work for you.  

Lastly, here are the top tools that we use at Holl & Lane Magazine to stay organized. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.

  • Trello
  • Airtable
  • Slack
  • Google Drive
  • Google Calendar
  • Dropbox
  • BoardBooster
  • Planoly
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Calendly

I’d love to hear what tools you use, because you know that I’m going to be checking them out! Keep kicking butt, ladies!


Sarah Hartley

Sarah Hartley is the creator, designer and publisher of Holl & Lane Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating women's everyday existence and opening the door for tough conversations.

Since 2015, Sarah and the H&L team has been dedicated to providing women with a platform to share their truths. From miscarriage and infertility to mental health and body image, Sarah believes in changing the media for good and celebrating women where they are.


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In the 14th issue of Holl & Lane, the focus is on The Heart. Within this issue, you'll find true stories of romantic love, heartbreak, self-love, familial love, and so much more.  These pages showcase a wide range of stories on this one particular topic.  All related in their common theme, but yet so very different and inspiring in their own way.