Gretchen Hollingsworth at her business Ink & Alloy in Decatur. Hollingsworth originally founded Paddywax Candles at her Grant Park home in 1996. EMILY HANEY /
Photo: Photos by Emily Haney/
Photo: Photos by Emily Haney/

Women’s History Month:  Gretchen Hollingsworth


Throughout March, we’ll spotlight notable women with Georgia connections in the daily Living section on Mondays and Tuesdays. Go to to see videos on the women featured here each week.

Atlanta in 1996 seemed like a good place to settle down for a recent college graduate. Gretchen Hollingsworth had briefly used her degree in environmental science at the Environmental Protection Agency, but she quickly realized that wasn’t going to work. So she came to Atlanta with nothing to lose, bought a home in Grant Park and pondered what to do with the hundreds of terracotta pots occupying the greenhouse in the backyard.

“I didn’t have any money, so I started pouring wax into the pots and giving the candles as Christmas gifts,” Hollingsworth said. “The idea just evolved from there, and I knew I wanted to do a business.”


Back in the Paddywax days, she met another vendor who bought samples from her at the wholesale market. He even came to visit her factory then located in the Old Fourth Ward. At the next market, Hollingsworth was dismayed to learn the vendor had nabbed her designs. She called her parents, who broke with their staunch Midwestern values to give her advice that would in some ways become her mantra, both in business and in life.

“They told me to move on,” Hollingsworth said. “That is hard for people. They don’t want to take criticism if things don’t work and they don’t want to move on.”

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