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Two adults, a cat and a kitchen table

A couple of weeks ago, one of our regular reviewers / book bloggers asked me if there was any chance 'one of our team' could send her the physical copies of a couple of our backlist books for her to review. 'Only if you have them knocking around the office,' she added. I had to inform her that, sadly, we didn't have any spare but that I could send the ebooks instead. During our correspondence, I picked up on her 'one of your team' comment and mused that perhaps she didn't realise how small Hobeck was. I dropped in a comment in my reply that Hobeck doesn't have a team and that we are just two adults, a cat and a kitchen table. She was genuinely shocked. She had assumed we were a shiny office, with staff, a coffee machine and shelves of books. I don't think she expected us, based perhaps on our social media activities, our website and our email correspondence, for us to be just 'two adults, a cat and a kitchen table'.

When I was growing up, soap operas about family businesses were all the rage: Dallas, Dynasty, Howard's Way to name just a few. I also remember at about the time of the height of such dramas, falling in love with the TV adaptation of Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Woman of Substance. Emma Harte became my idol. She created that business from the ground up. She was a woman to be admired, by my twelve-year-old self. She had to fight off the men folk. What a woman she was! I wanted to be her.

I was inspired by the glamour of the women in Howard's Way and Dallas too. I decided during that time that I wanted to be my own boss when I grew up. I wanted to saunter into meetings with my shoulder pads and my glistening lips and big hair and have the men folk quivering at my feet. I built up this idea that running a business would be not only fun, but mostly composed of lunches, big decisions, big shoulders and fast cars. So, in a way, starting Hobeck was inevitable. Here I am, co-running a family business, my twelve-year-old dream. We could be the stars in a soap opera. Indeed, there are days that remind me of episodes of Howard's Way (albeit the ones where they are getting stressed and hiding from phone calls from the bank rather than the ones with big lunches and big decisions).

The reality of running a business is not glamorous. I am often working in my pyjamas rather than big white jackets and glistening lips. We sometimes have petty disagreements about the minutiae of book publishing, or what to eat for dinner. There are times when it all makes me cry, hard. I hardly ever wear hoop earrings to work and as for the three-course lunches, more often than not it is home made soup with the cat weaving around our ankles, waiting for her opportunity to pounce on any scraps.

Would I want it to be more Howard's Way or more Dallas? No, I don't think so. But I'd like to travel back in time and tell my twelve-year-old self who is sat at her grandparents' house watching A Woman of Substance that perhaps one day she will have a taste of that, albeit surrounded by cups, ketchup and cats.

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Kerry Swan
Kerry Swan
Mar 11, 2022

I love this blog. I was an avid reader of A Woman of Substance too and that was probably the root of my business ambitions. I’ve now run my own highly successful child care agency for 17 years

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