When I was a kid, maybe eight years old or so, I loved to visit my mom at her office. It was an adventure and a treat. She had just started her own one-woman marketing consultancy, and the accounting firm where she had previously been working was kind enough to let her borrow some space while she was getting the business off the ground. (She named her business Custom Taylor’d Communications; her name is Judy Taylor; we really like plays on words in our family; it’s both a blessing and a curse; and I really like semicolons; also a blessing and a curse.)
Mom had a small, window-less office as I recall, and it wasn’t much to write home about, but I sure thought it was great fun to go there. I would sit at her meeting table, armed with an old ink pen and some scrap paper, and crank out works of art that were nothing short of spectacular. (That’s a lie; I’m a terrible drawer.) Sometimes, on days when I was acting particularly well-mannered and responsible, mom would send me on little inter-office errands, like dropping something off at the mail room or running a stack of paper over to the shredder bin. I was kind of a big deal. Now that I’m reflecting on this, I can’t believe I’ve never listed “Very Important Elementary-School-Aged Intern at Custom Taylor’d Communications” on my résumé.
As mom grew the business, she kept fine-tuning the brand and eventually decided to drop the “Custom” from the name because it was redundant. Soon, she moved into her very own office space in a mid-sized office building in downtown St. Louis. I liked visiting her at her new office even more than the original office. She shared the third floor with a few other businesses that I’m now convinced must have been money laundering operations, because no one was ever there working. It was always chilly and the lights were usually off everywhere except in the Taylor’d Communications suite. Fine by me, though, because it meant I could run around like a crazy person and not disturb anyone…except my mom, I guess. (Sorry, mom!) Eventually I started working on actual projects for her and I became less of a runner-arounder and more of a helper-outer. By the time I was in high school, I had developed ninja-like filing skills and temp-agency-worthy alphabetizing acumen. I’m sure I was a delightful little co-worker and a treat to be around…although I was a teenager so my own sense of awesomeness and others’ sense of my awesomeness may not have always perfectly aligned. Whatevs.
After a few years, Taylor’d Communications moved to yet another new office, this time in a cool historic building with a beautifully restored, ornate interior. Mom created a funky office space in her section of the second floor and she seemed to really love being in an eclectic, offbeat work environment. (My parents are old-building junkies; in the Victorian neighborhood where they live, they have owned and renovated three different houses on the same block.) Taylor’d Communications, which was still a one-woman operation—supported clerically by my sister Andrea and me and supported accountancy-wise by my CPA dad—was humming along nicely. My mom liked her work and I’m sure she enjoyed the flexibility that came along with self-employment. She—um, I mean we…did I mention how useful my helper-outer skills are?—had several clients, including a large professional association that she managed and other organizations she worked with on public relations and marketing projects.
I kept helping out here and there with projects, and when I moved to Kansas City to go to college, I think the whole Taylor’d Communications family staff was sad to see me go. Like, really broken up. “Don’t cry,” I said. “I’ll be back during breaks and over the summer to organize name tags,” I said. “And so I can do my laundry for free.” Between moving loads of brights and darks from the washer to the dryer, I did help out some when I was in St. Louis for breaks but things tapered off around graduation when I got a big-kid job and my residency in Kansas City became permanent.
Somehow Taylor’d Communications managed to survive and thrive without me. (“But how?” you ask. Your guess is as good as mine.) Mom landed some big, fun clients and she really enjoyed the challenge of the work.
Fast forward a decade or so. After almost 25 years of Taylor’d Communications, mom was starting to think about slowing down. Her client base had shifted some: she was working with some new clients in new-to-her industries but she slowly began to take on fewer projects. My dad—after working 33 years for the U.S. Army, including a year and half of active duty and three plus decades of service as an auditor (Thanks for your service, dad!)—retired a few years back. And mom was tossing around the idea of doing the same. She moved her office into their home and scaled back her client work.
Meanwhile, on the other end of Missouri, I had been doing my college PR job for several years and was feeling eager for something new. I had fleeting thoughts of venturing out on my own and maybe joining (or usurping!) Taylor’d Communications, but I didn’t ever give much credence to the idea because entrepreneurism scares me. On one hand, I smiled at the thought of following in my mom’s footsteps by creating a neat career path for myself and having the flexibility to spend quality time with my sweet husband and our precious infant son. On the other hand, I was all like “Oh, crap, no, I would have to figure out how to drum up business and determine quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS and keep track of invoicing and lose my cushy insurance benefits? Uh, no thanks; I’ll pass.”
I wasn’t ready to make the entrepreneurial leap, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my current arrangement and I wasn’t having any luck finding a different position. So it was quite a quandary. A conundrum, if you will.
And then I got just the shake-up I needed: My husband Matt was presented with an opportunity to move to a beautiful mountain town in northern Arizona for a two-year work stint. Yes! He barely uttered the words “So, they asked me today if I would consider…” and I was already sprinting upstairs to start packing all of my shoes. (I have a decent number of shoes; it seemed like a good place to start if we were going to be moving out of our house.) I love Kansas City…a lot…but I was itching to break free of my rut. Together, Matt and I decided “Let’s do it!” We were ready for an adventure, and our baby was at an age that made him perfectly portable. So, Matt accepted the job, I put in my notice, we packed up our house and our baby, and we got on a plane to Prescott, Arizona.
My parents and Matt’s parents were sad to see us move. (Once again, I’d brought the Taylor’d Communications team to tears with my departure.) They didn’t so much mourn Matt’s and my departure as they mourned the departure of our cute kid. (Thanks for that, parents.) But, I think they were also excited for us to have this experience. Matt and I were both life-long Missourians so this was our chance to try out life in a different part of the country. I think my mom was excited, too, when I called her soon after we got settled and told her I was thinking of trying my hand at freelance writing and PR consulting.
“And since you are transitioning to retirement at this very moment,” I said, “what would you think about me taking over Taylor’d Communications?”
Mom had lots of follow-up questions, but I could sense the smile in her voice. Maybe she was truly honored and proud that her legacy as a small-business owner would be handed down to the next generation, or maybe she and my dad were just excited that something with their name on it would live on, despite the disappointment of not having any sons. (Note to my sister Andrea: be sure to add this to the list of things you and I need to talk to a therapist about.)
Mom said she would be happy to hand over the business name. (She had retired all of her clients by then so I would need to start fresh on the client-fetching front.) To make it a proper transaction, I offered her a choice of two forms of payment: (a) I could write her a check for the millions of dollars the clever, decades-old business name and brand identity were worth or (b) I could facilitate a lifetime supply of snuggles from my toddler and the baby-on-the-way. She opted for baby snuggles (phew!), we shook on it and the deal was done.
That was in early 2014 and since then I have done a ton with the business. (Or…it’s already late 2015 and I’m just getting around to launching a web site…same diff.) I tweaked the Taylor’d Communications moniker by removing the “s”—because I’m a little bit of a word nerd and I have always understood the singular form of “communication” to be more pure. I’m in the midst of reimagining the identity of the business a little bit, too, because my skill set and experience is a little different from my mom’s: she had a journalism and marketing background and I have a writing, fundraising and public relations background. So, I’m evolving the flavor of the business.
Somehow, through pure magic and a little bit of dumb luck, I’ve not done too shabby on the client-fetching front. For a few months after we moved to Arizona, I worked remotely for my former employer until they could fill my old position. Then, I met the development director of a local nonprofit at a Christmas cookie-decorating event and she asked me to start writing grants for her organization. I’ve done some feature writing for a regional parenting magazine, some promotional writing for a local wellness center and some marketing writing for a local property management company. I’ve done web writing for one client’s new site and advertorial writing for another client’s homebuilding promotions. I served on a committee to help a friend organize and implement a gala to support her nonprofit’s upcoming project. And I’ve truly enjoyed it all.
I’m still on the front end of this small-business ownership journey but I am super-duper glad I took the leap of faith. I have had the opportunity to help out with a wide variety of projects and to work with some really neat people. With the help of a tech-savvy friend, I’m working on building a website and starting a blog. I make my own schedule so I get to spend a lot of time with Matt and our two precious little boys. (We’ve added to the brood since moving to Arizona. We found out we were expecting a baby exactly one week after arriving in our new home.)
And, of course, one of my favorite things about being out on my own is that since I work from home, I can run around the office (house) like a crazy person anytime I please without bothering anyone…except my husband and sons, I guess. (Sorry, husband and sons!) Photos of my current ink-pen-and-scrap-paper artistic masterpieces will be forthcoming.