5. Taylor Swope. Founder of Little Hippie. Fashion Designer and illustrator.
Taylor is the Chief Executive Artist of Little Hippie. A fun collection of clothing for the whole entire family. She's an entrepreneur, an artist, an adventurer, and a super creative woman. She's also an illustrator whose work has been licensed by the Grateful Dead since 2004. We sit down and talk about being what it's like to run a creative business.
The timecode is off on this episode by a few minutes
Yulia: [00:00:00] Today I'm here with Taylor. She's the Chief Executive Artist of Little Hippie. A fun collection of clothing for the whole entire family. She's an entrepreneur and artist, an adventurer, and a super creative woman. She's also an illustrator whose work has been licensed by the Grateful Dead since 2004. She makes amazing art. And I'm really excited to sit down and talk with her about running a business.
Taylor: [00:00:25] Hi! Thanks for having me.
Yulia: [00:00:27] This is great. I'm excited that we finally did it.
Taylor: [00:00:29] Yeah totally. Well it took a while right. So my podcast starts out with me asking questions about dream. As a kid what was your dream?
Taylor: [00:00:40] I wanted to be a writer. My first dream I had a teacher in third grade who really turned me on to writing and reading and I always loved books before that. But she got me into journaling and I started writing in third grade and I wanted to be a writer all the way until I graduated college.
Yulia: [00:00:58] So you write a lot. I'm friends with you on facebook and you post a lot of stuff.
Taylor: [00:01:03] I like to write. I write more stuff than what you see. And I am working on a bunch of stuff, I write in circles. I work on a few different things for a while and circle back on them. And every now and then one of them gets completed and gets posted.
Yulia: [00:01:22] It takes a while.
Taylor: [00:01:23] Yeah, it's a process yeah it is something that I so love to do and always wanted to do so much of. It's really the hardest thing. I think that's harder to do.
Yulia: [00:01:33] So, what age did you start writing.
Taylor: [00:01:36] When I remember I started writing my first memory of our is from before that we moved a lot as a kid. We moved every two years and we lived in a house in Greenwich, Connecticut when I was in kindergarten and first grade. So I can remember when things happened because we moved so often, I just have to remember where it was when it happened.
Yulia: [00:01:54] Same with me. I moved around a lot and my memories are framed by my environment.
Taylor: [00:01:59] Right. It's like a handy thing. I moved schools even more than I moved houses. So if I can remember this school then I can narrow it down usually to a year.
Yulia: [00:02:07] I remember the house that we had in kindergarten/first grade and it had a big closet, like a linen closet (I guess) upstairs.
Taylor: [00:02:16] And my mom made it our closet for my sister and I have a sister or younger, and so we have this little closet and you know I don't remember all that well but I remember it was big enough for a counter on a couple of stools and all of our art supplies and we could make whatever mess we wanted in there. She could close the door and put us in the closet, and we all have really fond memories of that closet.
Taylor: [00:02:42] So I you know I'm sure it was creative before that my family is super creative.
Taylor: [00:02:47] But that's my first memory of that fun of making art had all these years in the linen closet two years two years in the closet but we also had a huge backyard of that place with a big pond behind ours and it was an old farmhouse. My parents used to fix up old houses and so I was always around building and creativity. My mom's an interior designer and she's constantly redoing. As soon as one room is done another room is being redone there's never a sense of when it's done.
Taylor: [00:03:14] So it's just an absolute constant evolution. So, yes my creativity came from being in that environment. Being outside, being inside sometimes. Just always having things being made around me. As far as like when I actually got really into drawing, as it's own thing, that didn't come till later. It wasn't something that you know I wasn't someone who just started drawing as a kid and was really good at it or anything. I had to learn how to do it. I've studied as an adult, I still continue to study or practice. because sometimes you forget.
Yulia: [00:03:53] Because sometimes you forget. I used to be really great in college at hand art, and then I moved to the computer. And you kind of lose it. It's a skill that you need to keep on.
Taylor: [00:04:00] I actually just went more the opposite direction where I learned how to draw on a computer. I did a little bit of drawing in high school and I painted, did art class and stuff but nothing particularly good. A few things I saved that are OK. You know I started doing design as a necessity. I got really into photography when I graduated college and then I needed a business card, and I need a website and I need these things. And so I took a class at Parsons one January semester in Illustrator, which was like Illustrator one and I learned the basics. I got a Wacom Stylus forever ago and I drew on a Wacom Stylus for 10 years, before I had the Cintiq that you were ogling when you got here.
Yulia: [00:04:47] She has this amazing Cintiq and I thought it was so cool.
Taylor: [00:04:48] I had the little one first. First I had just a Wacom for 10 years and before I had the small Cintiq and everything changed the day that I got that. In an instant, because I had been drawing for 10 years, looking at a screen, with my hand out to the right. Not looking at what I was drawing. And then as soon as I had a screen, I could draw an eye on my eyes and my hands were at the same place. Everything changed. I think somewhere in there I started drawing on paper just because I felt like I should learn how to do it. Sketching really does help me work ideas out, and I actually really love to draw with pencil. I think it's very satisfying. But then I got the big Cintiq. And again it was two years after I got the small one — instant change. You feel like you're on a control panel and when you're drawing on that thing. It's almost too big for me because it's such a sweep across the screen that I do get tired physically exhausted. And I stand mostly when I'm using it in a gig. If God forbid you're listening to music and you start dancing at that same time.
Yulia: [00:05:54] You're literally a magician. Manifesting things with your hands.
Taylor: [00:05:56] It can get interesting. It's pretty fun but it is physically exhausting. So drawing itself, like the traditional medium of drawing is a practice exercise for me. A lot of times I'll be like "OK I'm just in a draw for fun today." Because I draw so much work and inevitably whatever I draw for fun will end up being used for work later. I might take a while, it maybe even take a couple of years, but it'll eventually end up being used. I like to think that play is a big part of my company. It's at least one of the things that we want to see more of in the world.
Yulia: [00:06:30] We need more play right? There's too much work. And they don't realize. Ha, THEY. Corporations, people, whatever this thing that we're trapped in — they don't realize that we need time to not think. Because your greatest thoughts happen when you're not thinking.
Taylor: [00:06:44] Yeah. Yeah right. They call them the "shower moments.
Yulia: [00:06:47] Yeah, the "shower moments" when you are exploring, when your mind is free, and there's no pressure. You can create all these dots. That you won't necessarily be able to create when you're sitting room, and it's not inspiring, and you're not walking around, and your bodies circulation is not flowing. You're just like a machine.
Taylor: [00:07:07] Connected to a machine.
Yulia: [00:07:09] Connected to the machine to machine. Everybody would be so much happier if there was more play time. Which I think is why we have seen such a rise in popularity in music festivals and things like Burning Man in these places that are spaces for adults to explore themselves, and explore their brains, and their bodies, and their connections to other humans. To play for a few days, to step away from their normal parameters and just be in a space where they can do those things.
Yulia: [00:07:44] So you talked about moving around a lot. Did you spend a lot of time by yourself as a kid or were you surrounded? When you moved around, did you make friends easily? Was that what led you to do art?
Taylor: [00:07:55] I would not say that I made friends easily. I was always the new kid. I was a little bit different than most kids and I was really hyper really self-conscious of my name at the time. And the fact that I had a name that was different. That it was a boy's name and I really wanted to change that. For some reason that was just the thing that held me back as a kid, I had bright red, reddish hair, and an un-conventional name. Of course now it's like this crazy popular name for girls. But it was not the case at the time.
Taylor: [00:08:33] I was shy to begin with and into my book. Into the stories in my head and all that. So I wasn't someone who just like showed up at the new playground and was friends with all the kids. But I learned how to make friends because I had to do it so many times.I learned how to keep in touch with people more importantly I learned how to keep in touch with people. And I've always, when someone's in my life and I like them — that's it. There's there's no question after, they're staying in my life. Until, you know, if something happens, and I decide I don't like them anymore, that's different. But I don't lose touch with people I care about.
Taylor: [00:09:13] And so I think that was one of the big takeaways, from moving a lot as a kid. Having to force myself to socialize in situations because what else was going to do? Right?
Taylor: [00:09:28] The fact that I started journaling around third grade, was probably by that time... I'd already been to my fourth school. Not counting preschool, kindergarten, first, second for me. So I think there's obviously some kind of a connection there. And then moving more after that. I started writing letters to friends and I was always into the stories in my head. I would make up these stories and these kind of fantasy worlds and implant myself in them. I might just lay there for an hour one afternoon and go into these fantasy worlds, and live that reality for that moment. I don't know that I would have done that if I had had a ... I don't want to say that I've had an unstable childhood social life. I just had a constantly changing one. And then when I started being able to really read, like actual stories. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books transported me to that alternate reality, and there were other books like that. I think that using my imagination was always a part of my coping skills.
Yulia: [00:10:39] So your coping skills basically led you to create Little Hippie in a weird way?
Taylor: [00:10:44] Yeah I mean I wasn't necessarily aware of it at the time but I can see that now.
Yulia: [00:10:49] You can trace the pattern.You can see that you started telling stories and that gave you the ability to be able to connect with people. To be able to follow up, to do marketing, to utilize my creativity, to share something with the world. It's also your way of connecting with the world too. I bet as an artist, maybe I'm making an assumption... but you love sharing things with the world.
Taylor: [00:11:13] I do. Of course, and people say especially with social media that it's never enough. If you have 75 million followers, you want 76 million. If you are creating something, you want more people to see it. I'm not super ego driven in that I don't have bad days because not enough people saw my stuff or whatever. But I really like to make people smile, and you know laugh, and kind of warm their hearts for the day or whatever. Just give them a reaction, that makes them a little bit happier in that moment. So I would love for that to reach as many people as I could with it.
Yulia: [00:11:53] Speaking of reaching people, how did Little Hippie start?
Taylor: [00:11:56] It was a interesting combination of factors. I started accidentally. It totally snowballed out of something that was not meant to be anything. I started going to music festivals as a photographer. I did a whole summer going to mu sic festivals as a photographer. I wanted to go to grad school and I was really interested in photography and I needed a portfolio. I thought that this would be an interesting story. I was not interested in what was going on on stage. I wanted to take pictures of the crowd. So I did and I went to ten festivals that summer. I got press passes to all of them and I was exposed to a world that I had never seen before. I loved it and I didn't want to leave it. And it was different than it is now. It was before the first Bonnaroo and but it really changed a lot. It was also the summer before 9/11. At the end of the summer I went to one more festival than I had planned. I had told myself I was going to do ten. I did the ten, and then I said I'm going on go to just one more in Massachusetts. No big a deal. That's really when everything changed. So I went to that festival. And then I met someone at that festival. We actually met really briefly the weekend before, but we got together at that festival, and he came back to New York with me. We were in New York on 9/11 together, He'd never been to New York before.
Taylor: [00:13:16] We ended up walking everywhere that day, walked all over the city. I just I don't know what to do. I'd been freelance for a year at that point, it was clear that the city was going to mess for a while. So I just left with him the next day and didn't come home for three months. By the time, I did I had learned how to make and sell things. I had always learned how to make things right. Growing up I was around people making things. But no one ever taught me how to sell things. So I learned how to make and sell things. I just kept doing it.
Yulia: [00:15:55] You followed your dream and you made it a reality. What advice do you have for people for making their dreams a reality. I was also reading on your website that you went to a Dead show and had one of their marketers approach you.
Taylor: [00:16:11] One of their executives. Yeah, he was out there doing kind of two things at the same time. Which was patrolling for bootleg merchandise but he was also scouting for potential licensees. I was one of the few people he met that day. This was in California, but I was one of the people he found and offered his card to.
Taylor: [00:16:37] I gloss over the story sometimes like "Oh yeah, he just walked up to me and gave me his card" but it wasn't quite as simple as that. It took about six months afterwards. I had to put together proposals, send examples, get some references. You know get my shit together basically. It's the closest thing I ever wrote to a business plan. I wrote a business plan last winter for the first time. Before that I would say that my licensing proposal was as much of a business plan as I ever had. So you know, it was about six months from the time I met him, to the time I signed. And then you know, once I signed there was a lot more work to do after that.
Taylor: [00:17:15] As far as your question about what advice would I offer. I think that one of the most important things, if you are really going to go for it. People come up to me all the time that "I have this idea, what do you think?" I'll challenge the hell out of them. Because it's really easy to have an idea, it's really hard to make an idea happen. And if a friend of mine can't stand up to me challenging them with a line of questions, then they shouldn't do it. Right? I'm going to be their easiest opponent. My biggest piece of advice is be rock solid in your convictions. Know what you believe in, know that you are doing this thing, whatever it is, your idea, know that you're doing it because you can't imagine believing in something else. You have to be unshakable in that. Going back to that theme of coping skills for a minute. Let's not pretend that I don't have days where I doubt everything. Right? But I have learned how to talk myself through those days and how to get myself back on track. And I think that that's another pretty important thing to be able to do.
Yulia: [00:18:26] I have those days too. I think all entrepreneurs have those days. We have that little tiny moment of doubt.
Taylor: [00:18:32] Anyone who doesn't is lying.
Yulia: [00:18:33] Anyone who doesn't is lying. You know that Elon Musk is sitting there going like "Oh my God, we're going to Mars. Oh my God, I'm building a rocket."
Taylor: [00:18:39] Right.
Yulia: [00:18:39] But then you''re like "We're going to Mars. "
Taylor: [00:18:41] The crazier the idea, the more you go for it
Yulia: [00:18:48] You know you're your own cheerleader at the end of the day. You have to motivate others including a staff.
Taylor: [00:18:52] Well, that's a whole other can of worms, isn't it?
Yulia: [00:18:56] At the end of the day it's about leading, and you're a general. You have to prop yourself up first and then everybody else. To transition into the next question: What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
Taylor: [00:19:12] That's actually a pretty easy one for me. It can be super socially alienating and vastly rewarding on some days. But, I spend a ton of time by myself. That's not just because I'm running a business, it's because I'm running a creative business. Art is something that has to be created at home alone. Writing is definitely something that gets done alone. I think that has definitely been the hardest in some ways I love... I mean I definitely love that I have the freedom from a job that I have to report to every day whether there's work to do or not. You know? But I think it's easy to fall victim to the myth of self-employment that you're going to have all this freedom. I can't tell you how many times I've sat out social events because I had work to do. Or I had an art deadline, I had something that had to happen, and it can be really hard to do.
Yulia: [00:20:12] I bet, all those years traveling and being isolated, gave you a lot of strength to be able to deal with it.
Taylor: [00:20:18] Oh, I'm really good at being by myself. Incredibly good at it.
Yulia: [00:20:22] I'm an only child. And then I went through moving and all that stuff. That's what makes me a really good entrepreneur, I can sit in that loneliness and uncomfortableness. I can focus and get my work done. You can look on Facebook and Instagram pictures of people partying and having a great time... Then you realize I'm working on something... and I don't want to be anywhere else besides right here. I would rather not hang out with anyone and work on my projects. That's how much I love them, and that's so much passion I have for them. But you do need to get out once in a while. I think you have to be so mentally strong.
Yulia: [00:20:57] What is the biggest lesson that running your own business has taught you?
Taylor: [00:21:02] I think. It's the same answer as one of my earlier answers about what's my advice. And that lesson is again, be rock solid in your convictions. Maybe we can flip this a little bit differently, which is "don't let anyone influence how you feel about yourself." I think that's really the lesson. I've always been someone who really didn't care that much what other people thought of me, obviously. And don't want to be like some jerk that just trumps on some people. I just never was willing to accept another person's judgment of myself. Why would I. That doesn't make sense. But I see so many people who live their lives in torture because they're worried about what other people think of them. If you do that, you'll never do anything interesting. I mean you might do something interesting, but do anything that's outrageous.
Yulia: [00:22:05] I always tell people that your happiness does not depend on another person. Your happiness is something that only you own. Nobody can make you feel sad. Nobody can make you feel happy. Yes these things happen to us and they influence us. In the end, nobody can take your happiness away.
Taylor: [00:22:21] I really love, when you first got here we were talking about "The Four Agreements." I think my favorite one is the one about not taking anything personally. It's never about about you, it's about them. And you know it's a fine line like between self-righteousness and not being worried about what other people think about you. I think it is very important to hear a critique when you need to hear it and to process information from people you respect and trust. But that's the distinction there. To take that feedback from people who you are confident have your best interest at heart. And I think a lot of people who offer whatever you want to call it criticism or you know they might even think it's constructive but it's not always... they're not really thinking that much about you they're thinking about themselves. So I think that's the thing that I have really taken away the most, is being completely independent and having the confidence to believe in myself and to believe in what I'm doing.
Yulia: [00:23:25] Can we just talk a little bit more about "The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. That book has changed my life and I introduce it to everyone in my life. It's like a little gift that I keep on giving. I give it to everyone. If you want to understand how I operate as a human being, you need to understand that. My mom gave this book. Sometimes I try to get other people to understand this book and they don't understand it — because it's so simple.
Taylor: [00:23:58] I struggle with these kinds of books when they set up their own language. We have to start the book by learning all the definitions of their terms. Before you really get into the meat of it, and it's one of those books.
Yulia: [00:24:20] And it requires you to be open. That's the hardest thing. In order to understand all the teachings, you have to be open to them. If you're not, none of that is going to sink in.
Taylor: [00:24:32] Yeah right. What's your favorite of the four?
Yulia: [00:24:35] Be impeccable with your word.
Yulia: [00:24:38] So there are four agreements. Be impeccable with your word. Do your best. Don't make assumptions. And then the fourth one is never take anything personally.
Yulia: [00:24:47] I think when you figured that out (especially never taking anything personally) Because as a creative, you're so sensitive. But as a creative, I went to art school my whole life, so I can take criticism. I know that criticism makes me better. I'm not afraid of it.
Taylor: [00:25:04] The minute you start worrying about whether everyone likes you or not, you're done. You dead in the water. Where are you going to do from there?
Yulia: [00:25:11] What about you? What's your favorite?
Taylor: [00:25:14] I think I like the "never take anything personally" one. I like them all. They all work together. How do you isolate? You can tie it in with "Don't make assumptions." Well it's easier to "not take things personally" when "I don't make assumptions." Right?
Yulia: [00:25:27] And always do your best, so you don't make assumptions.
Taylor: [00:25:30] A couple weekends ago I had a really good friend visiting, and we wanted to do a little bit more than we were physically capable of. We were out all night Friday. Then we wanted to go to this really awesome party Saturday night that was at this mansion in Yonkers. It was an ordeal just to get ourselves off the couch and up to Yonkers and into costume. But we were like "we gotta go to this party." We bought the tickets, they extra performances for the early entry, and had a glass of champagne waiting for us! We had to leave by a ridiculously early departure time, and we were still here well past it. We were like "we're just we're doing our best. We're going to get there when we get there." We got there like. All right at the end of the early window. It all ended up being perfectly timed. But we started joking about it. "We're just going to do our best because what else can we do. What else can we do?"
Yulia: [00:26:35] You know your best varies. Sometimes you're sick, sometimes you're exhausted. I just worked a seventy-three hour week. How is my best going to be after working a seventy-three hour week.
Taylor: [00:26:53] To go back to your question about life lessons learned. This ties in to another really important lesson that I learned through this whole adventure of owning this business. It is to be forgiving with yourself. You're your own worst enemy most the time. Sometimes you have to be nice to yourself and just accept when you can't do all the things. It's OK to say no.
Yulia: [00:27:19] Yeah. I love saying no. It's great right? People ask me to hang out and I'm like "no." You just prioritize your focus, otherwise you won't get anything done if you say yes all the time.
Taylor: [00:27:35] I think I found a pretty good balance. I go out, but I stay in and make sure that I get to keep it pretty balanced.
Yulia: [00:27:43] So for my next question. How do you juggle creating, with marketing, and account management.
Taylor: [00:27:59] So, I split my days. My routine is varies if I'm home or on the road. So we should preface with that. But a lot of the socializing I do is business, if not directly business related it's at least with people that are in my business sphere. So I'm able to do some overlapping there. As far as the actual left brain, right brain tasks involved in running a creative business... I just split my day. I don't try to do both at the same time. I have different workspaces for both. I usually do the stuff that is less creative during the day. The emails, phone calls, accounting, or whatever. Then I take a break in the afternoon, if I'm in the city I usually head to Equinox. If I'm not in the city, I'll go for a run go or a swim. I spend a lot of time in Connecticut, that's where I swim in the water. I really try to take that break, where I go and I do something for my body, and I make a good dinner. I don't go out to eat a lot. I try to cook pretty healthy at home and take that time to think about things. So, I take a pretty solid break. And then when I go back to work, afterwards then I do the creative stuff. I tend to stay up really working on creative stuff. I don't start my day super early, sometimes I find when if I do start my day really early, I end up doing too much business and not enough creative. You know it's really easy to say "the early bird gets the worm" but actually like four to six hours of that stuff is enough. I need one shift. We can do a whole lot more in one sitting. You know if we push ourselves to do it, but it's not ideal.
Taylor: [00:29:48] I try to break it over like four to six hours on one side of the brain. Then take a break and do another four to six hours on the other side of the brain.
Yulia: [00:29:54] We have two shifts. When you're working as a startup founder, you just do everything. You need to figure out how to have stamina.
Taylor: [00:30:04] The creative is just hard to do with interruptions, it's more of a natural fit for nighttime.
Yulia: [00:30:11] Do you have any productivity hacks when you're traveling on the road?
Taylor: [00:30:14] I can recommend a few things. I'm hyper organized and I would not make it through a single day without that. And that carries over when I'm traveling. I use base camp religiously and I have them on my phone no matter where I am. My biggest piece of advice for traveling is "you're going to have to make time for work whenever, wherever you can." You can't expect that you're going to get these long uninterrupted windows of time for work. So you have to start learning how to fit that in. And one thing that I learned pretty early was "I'm not a morning person, so I should not be taking 6am flights." I don't care if they're cheaper. I shouldn't not be taking 6am flights, they're going to wreck me for the rest of the day. I'm going to sleep on comfortably in an airplane chair and I'm not going to use that time productively. So I tend to take 4pm flights and work on the plane and be awake and be functional. Not look at flights as the time to have an uncomfortable nap. Just work it around my functional schedule. I work in a font seat of my car a lot. When I'm traveling on the road with someone, usually I have them drive and I have my laptop I use my phone as a hotspot. I find that I get tons of work done on the road, in the front seat in my car. I'm very fortunate that I do not get carsick.
Yulia: [00:31:38] Same thing on trains. Going to Connecticut, can you believe that Metro-North still doesn't have Wifi?
Taylor: [00:31:46] It's really hard to use the hotspot on the train track. . There's like no signal on your phone. Metro North, come on.
Yulia: [00:31:52] Give us a wifi car and we'll pay the $5 to use it. They really need to monetize that idea.
Taylor: [00:32:00] I tend to drive to Connecticut rather than take the train. I live out here, so far from Grand Central. I mostly just drive. I use drive time to make phone calls if I can. If there's a conference call or something like that schedule... I talk to people that work with me a lot when I'm driving. And if not, I usually listen to podcasts and inform myself or sometimes just think. Lots of ideas come when you're just driving. You know? I work in hotel bars a lot. Just grabbing that half hour, or an hour, or whatever it is a lot of things don't really need that much more time.
Taylor: [00:32:42] We you're on the road, there's usually a reason why you're on the road. So the main thing isn't in front of the computer. You might just be a half hour to catch up on some e-mails or make sure that your account is not overdrawn or whatever it is. We were so in the habit of spending all day looking at our computer that I think sometimes we look at it longer than we need to.
Yulia: [00:33:06] Yeah. You're like hypnotized by this thing. Speaking of enjoying fun which is what we talked about earlier. What's your favorite Dead song?
Taylor: [00:33:14] It's a really hard thing to choose... but I did recently went on record somewhere and said "Sugaree" was my favorite song. So I should stick with that. but there is a lot that I like. I like "Fire on the Mountain". I like "Loose Lucy." A little corny, but I love "The Women are Smarter." I like a lot of the sad ones, the ballads. You know "He's gone."
Yulia: [00:33:43] I love "Touch of Grey." I know it's a popular song.
Taylor: [00:33:47] Yeah, it's catchy. There's a reason why it was a hit. It's a great anthem.
Yulia: [00:33:51] It's a great anthem to integrate them because it turns out really sad day into a happy day.
Taylor: [00:33:59] The handful of songs that are actually about women, I pretty much love them all.
Yulia: [00:34:10] They're beautiful. I love that the music brings so many people together in one place, to share this really beautiful experience.
Taylor: [00:34:36] Also when you meet someone, and you find out that they're into it, you automatically understand something about them. I actually just this morning I was at a brunch with about 20 women that are all part of this bigger networking group of Deadheads. The women who were there were Deadheads to varying degrees. I talked to a couple of them who weren't and one girl is connected to the group through her fiancee. She was like "yeah, he was gone all summer. I don't even know and she was like mad that he was out late and stuff." She said that she envied that he had something that he loved so much. That when he met other Deadheads, he had an instant connection with them. And I said "Yup, aha." That's a big part of it.
Yulia: [00:35:22] Well you know this goes back to feeling like we need to be part of a something. Because as a kid you weren't a part of anything. And this community brings you in and you've got a tribe. I would love to figure out a way to bring that sense of feeling on a bigger scale, through art, through music. That's the only way we can unite the whole world and create love and peace and stop fighting.
Taylor: [00:35:51] Yeah but going back to what you said about the Four Agreements, you would have to be open to it. I think there's a lot of people who it wouldn't even occur to them to be open to it.
Yulia: [00:35:58] But how can you not be open to love and fun? .
Taylor: [00:36:02] When I was in high school, there was an initiative in the town to cut funding for all the arts, music, and sports. Just to do away with it entirely?
Yulia: [00:36:10] Just teach math? [Imitates a robot] 010000010000011 computer.
Taylor: [00:36:17] American History?
Taylor: [00:36:18] They didn't succeed with it, but it had something to do with who was voting and who was paying taxes and whatever.
Taylor: [00:36:25] But I decided to leave school early and go to college. I'm from a relatively progressive place. Imagine places that don't even have the option to have fun like there's nothing to cut because it wasn't there in the first place was there.
Taylor: [00:36:47] There's a lot of reasons why it would be fun to have my business to be bigger. There are some things about that, that scare me. But one of the things that always interested me about that is that I would love to be big enough to open up the opportunity to other creators and to be able to facilitate other, especially young artists. To be able to give people a place where they're able to create art and have it turned into products.
Yulia: [00:37:24] We need to create those linen closet. Where people can create. Maybe we are the "moms" to encourage that. We are like the "moms" of society. We are the ones who build those closets.
Taylor: [00:37:41] Well I think something really interesting is about to happen. We're about to have a huge generation of women in their 40s who didn't have kids. And this isn't something that's been talked about a whole lot yet. Birth rates started dropping in 2008 which is normal in times of recession. But they didn't come back and this is happening around the world. A couple of things happened. One, you had a generation that came of age during a very challenging time. And then you also had people who got to a point in their life who are kind of " I like my life the way it is." Right? There was a book that came out this year it's on my shelf and I'm really looking forward to reading it. It's called "All The Single Ladies," it's about how when there are large groups of independent women, social change happens. I didn't read it yet, so I can't give you any more details but the theory is that if you have a lot of independent, women social change happens. I love that.
Taylor: [00:38:59] I read an extended article about it, or maybe it was even just a passage from the book in one of the magazines that I read last year. You should also look up the Economist, they did an amazing job talking about the declining birth rates in an article called "The strange case of the missing baby." That was really, really interesting, and just explains why this happened. We're about to have a ton of women in their 40s who didn't have kids, who are the most educated women who have ever been. Who are the most professionally successful that women have ever been.
Yulia: [00:39:55] That's also you and I.
Taylor: [00:39:57] Yeah exactly. And who are the most connected that anyone's ever been. Something is going to come of that. Something huge is going to come of that.
Yulia: [00:40:06] So this book is called "All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation." It is by Simon and Schuster and the author is Rebecca Traister.
Taylor: [00:40:17] Yes that's the book. It's next on my list.
Yulia: [00:40:22] Oh my gosh this is incredible. You know the Dalai Lama has a cool you said that the Western women are going to save the world.
Taylor: [00:40:27] Yeah. I've heard that one.
Yulia: [00:40:30] We are the ones that are emancipated enough. To stand up for other women around the world. A lot of them have access to their husband's funds. And a lot of them have their own money as well. And if they decided to come together, through funding — which is why we built funddreamer.com. It's a place to unite women and diversity, to be able to invest in each other to do projects. Right now there are only grants that are $15,000 put aside through various corporations for women-led projects. Not enough to actually be an investment. We had this conversation when I first walked in the door.
Yulia: [00:41:05] But you can't live on $15,000, especially if you live in New York. or if you have a family, or if you're actually starting a business.
Taylor: [00:41:12] $15,000 doesn't do anything for anyone over the age of 23.
Yulia: [00:41:15] Unless you're really 15 years old, and you're starting something at your house... it's going to be worthless. In order to hire a PR firm it's going to cost you about $20,000 a month. To buy supplies to enter a trade show.
Taylor: [00:41:35] Trade shows themselves are close to $15,000. By the time you pay for the booth. By the time you pay for all this stuff, go stay in the place. You know if it's in Vegas, or wherever, it is insane how much it costs to do trade shows.
Yulia: [00:41:48] You can't even code an app on $15,000. You can barely get wire frames and UX on that, and a designer. You're not going to launch a strong product on that $15,000. I am not really sure what $15,000 will cover or. If I'm a company and I'm investing in people, I'm not going to get an investment on that $15,000. It is just going to be an write-off for my company.
Taylor: [00:42:10] Yeah I think there's like an element of PR to it though. Look at these people who we've supporting. We get to promote them on our social media and pick up a few followers from them. They pick up a few followers from us. I mean, that's all anyone is trying to do really. Is trying to pick up other people's followers.
Yulia: [00:42:29] But in the end, the system's broken.
Taylor: [00:42:33] If you really want to talk about the funding system being broken, I am incredibly frustrated... or not frustrated... it doesn't really affect me directly... but disheartened by the fact... no wait... it does affect me directly. So, we've created through all of the influx of VC that we've seen since the stock market crash, and all these bros moved over to Fintech and whatnot. We've seen this influx of investment go into different e-commerce businesses, and we've really pumped up a small handful of them.
Taylor: [00:43:08] We've seen a handful of companies really get pumped up because they had a massive influx of capital. So they were able to build operation centers where they could offer instant shipping, and they could offer discounts, and they could offer free shipping on orders over whatever, on any order — you know. They would offer all these incentives. We've trained an entire generation between this and fast fashion (which I think is like the scourge of the earth). We've trained an entire generation of consumers to value cheapness over everything else. And it's a false economy. Something like Postmates or what these deliveries are... they're not making money they're being supported by VC. Those cheap pr ices (that at some point are going to have to go up in order for the company to survive) have convinced people that that's the price things should be. And so what happens, is that you've got all these people who are enthusiastic about whatever handful of companies (not going to name any names), they get all the customers, attention, press — they get everything. And then how many hundreds, thousands, who even knows how many smaller companies suffer. I don't know what the answer to that is, but it's incredibly disheartening.
Yulia: [00:44:36] It is. And you know what's funny? I took the car here, because I was running late, I hopped into an Uber. I was just thinking "wow, what a [big] difference from the time that they launched" when they were providing a really good service. [In the beginning] I was able to get into a nice car and feel nice. But now the cars are complete crap. I call a car and I'm getting into... I don't know what.
Taylor: [00:45:00] You might as well hail a cab or call a local cab service.
Yulia: [00:45:02] The whole experience of me being able to call a car, and have a nice car come, so that it alleviates my stress of oh I'm already running late somewhere I want to show up in comfort and have consistency. Back to consistency and the Equinox brand. I want a quality brand if I'm paying for it. But here I am paying the same price for a broken down cab to come pick me up.
Yulia: [00:45:24] This is what Uber is? This company is falling apart because it's not providing the same quality of service, which makes me want to go use live. I'm going to get a crappy car, I just want to pay for a crappier car because their rates are going to be better. [ And they treat their employees better.]
Taylor: [00:45:48] And I think what I can say I mean we've already seen one of the companies (I'm not going to name) hit some major obstacles this week and I think we're about to see that happen for a lot of these companies.
Yulia: [00:46:01] A lot of them are just cheap and crappy.
Taylor: [00:46:03] Especially the e-retailers. The women's stuff that's aimed at Millennials (the customers don't realize this, I do since I work in apparel) most of that stuff is just coming from the wholesale market in L.A. It's being resold and it's not special. No one's a designer. Who made this stuff? It's just really boring to me.
Taylor: [00:46:25] I actually see the pendulum starting to swing back. I see that happen with H&M. When you buy some dress you think is cute, but then you go to a party and someone else is wearing it! And then it falls apart. So neither of you are wearing it again later. I see this really in the festival world too; there's such a rise of art in apparel with all the all over printing that's going to happen. I just started designing all of her printing dresses and leggings. I'm really excited about it. So cute. I was up to like 3:00 in the morning last night designing one.
Taylor: [00:46:59] So I'm seeing now that people are swinging back the other way. They want things that are unique, that not everyone has. And that's encouraging.
Yulia: [00:47:11] I can talk about this all day long, but I'm going to bring it back to a lighter subject.
Taylor: [00:47:15] If you start me on you can be a fast fashion, it's going it's going to get dark.
Yulia: [00:47:20] So we're both into music. What was the first CD you bought with your own money? You worked for your dad growing up. So you're used to working.
Taylor: [00:47:36] Yeah. I love working.
Yulia: [00:47:38] I do to. It's fun to see results. So the first CD that you bought with your own money?
Taylor: [00:47:44] I actually don't remember that, I remember my first tape. I still have all of my tapes by the way. I have literally, every single tape I've ever owned. Not so much looking at the CDs, because I never got into CDs. I do remember the first handful of tapes that I got. They were mostly soundtracks, you saw on my blog. Bob Marley was my first tape I asked for, for my 10th birthday after I'd heard it. Then I had a whole bunch of soundtracks like The Big Chill. Which I certainly didn't watch the movie at that age and I wouldn't even have understood it if I had. Top Gun, Dirty dancing, so I was exposed you know, the big toe has a bunch of Creedence Clearwater which is like one of my all time favorite. I don't remember what the first tape I bought myself was. I do remember what the very first thing I bought for myself was. It was the first thing of significance. The first Nintendo.
Taylor: [00:48:41] Technology!
Taylor: [00:48:41] The very first Nintendo, the gun, Duck Hunt, Super Mario Brothers. The whole thing. I had this little loft above my bedroom. It was the attic that my parents had cut a hole in the ceiling above my bed. I could climb up from my bed up to the attic — when it wasn't either piping hot or freezing cold. I had the Nintendo up there — they had carpeted it for me. It was like a little sleep over place. And we would hang out up there and play Nintendo. So that was my first big, independent purchase.
Yulia: [00:49:13] When I was at sleep away camp. We went away for the day to a little town. I bought "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns and Roses.
Taylor: [00:49:42] I had that too.
Yulia: [00:49:43] That just blew my mind because that was like [makes rock n' roll sound affect] Waaaaaaaaaa Like rebellion. With my first paycheck I bought myself a pair of Doc Martens. Because I really wanted to be punk rock. So I bought a pair of docs were a little big but I still wore them. That money allowed me to buy items of independence to announce myself to the world.
Yulia: [00:50:36] Let's talk about how sexy John Mayer is.
Taylor: [00:50:39] Oh it just goes straight to that? We could talk about it all day. He's amazing, what he's done with the Grateful Dead music in the last year.
Yulia: [00:50:47] Who would have thought!
Taylor: [00:50:48] No one saw that coming. Certainly he had doubters. I don't know how many doubters he has left, I think he'd converted a lot. Honestly I haven't heard of so many man crushes ever in my life. I've had so many people say it to me. "Well I don't know what it is but I just have a man crush on this guy." People are freaking out over him playing this music.
Yulia: [00:51:09] I rolled my eyes when I first heard it. Literally rolled my eyes. And then I was like... "wait this makes sense, he's really really talented."
Taylor: [00:51:16] He's so talented. Also he has an intellectual curiosity about it, that serving him well. That's probably one of the sexiest things. He's just another good looking guy. There are plenty of playing good looking guys out there. But the fact that he's taken a really scholarly approach to something that has so many levels of meaning, for so many people. He's not just playing it because he knows it's good music. He knows there's more to it than that. I suspect he doesn't know all of it yet but, he's at least got a glimpse. I'm really curious to see what he continues to do.
Taylor: [00:51:55] No one really talks enough about Oteil Burbridge. I feel like we should do that for a minute too because as awesome as John Mayer has been for Dead & Company, for igniting fans again... Oteil Burbridge is a bad ass. And he is so good. Having him up on stage — he's so good. And the two of them together, it's been really awesome to see them playing together. I'm really curious to see what that leads to.
Yulia: [00:52:28] You need partnerships. Yeah like a buddy movie.
Taylor: [00:52:30] Yeah. I mean I have no idea what it's like when the two of them are in the room together offstage. Hopefully they're buddies. It's really sad that they weren't, but it looks like they are. But Oteil is really really good. And John Mayer would not be as good on that stage as he is without him. It's really easy to put the spotlight on John because he's been an independent pop star for so long. He's never been in a band before. This is his first band, other than the John Mayer Trio which was him leading. I can't really speak for him, but he said himself in an interview last year at some point, he said "I'm in a band, for the first time. It was my first band."
Yulia: [00:53:08] True right. People don't really realize that. Yeah totally true. And it's a partnership at the end because at the end your work makes another person look better. That's what a true partnership is.
Taylor: [00:53:21] Yeah. And I think you know a lot of people really like to pick on John because he's made it so easy for himself to be picked on. But he's certainly found a level of redemption in the work that he's done recently.
Yulia: [00:53:32] With hindsight being 2020 what would you do differently if you were launching your business today.
[00:53:37] This is an easy one for me. I would have been a lot smarter about debt. Credit cards specifically. I didn't know anything about it. Keep in mind I started my business pre-2008. The regulations that are in place now weren't at the time. At one point I had a bunch of credit cards that all had 29 percent interest on them. That was probably one of the worst things that ever happened to me since I started my business. The even worse part of that, is I wasn't getting miles for any of those purchases. I didn't get a credit card that had mileage. That's the biggest thing. You buy so much stuff when you're on a business, and I have friends who have been around the world on their miles from their business credit cards. And I have not. That is without question the one thing that I would do differently.
Yulia: [00:54:36] This year I paid off all my credit cards, and it was such a relief. I did not sign up for them to get miles because was such a long time ago. Throughout the years starting my businesses I just accrued [debt] My interest rates are really high. I don't think it's anything that anybody really ever talks about. It's actually really great that we're talking about this, because nobody really talks about credit card debt.
Taylor: [00:55:03] No. It's kind of a like a shameful thing.
Taylor: [00:55:08] Let's say if at that age someone had been willing to give me a $15,000 grant my world would have been different.
Yulia: [00:55:15] At that age that's where it matters.
Taylor: [00:55:19] Yeah exactly. It's not going to do anything for me now. But yeah, at that age it would have mattered right.
Taylor: [00:55:26] I mean I lived on nothing for ever. I had a rent control apartment uptown and it was tiny. I really lived on nothing for a long time. Everything I did was to start a business. But I didn't understand at all what I had gotten myself into with credit cards.
Yulia: [00:55:44] I just bought a really great book on debt just to wrap my brain around it. I went to the bookstore last night (I went to see Dr. Strange of the bunch of friends.) Then I locked myself in a rare bookstore. So I'm reading a lot of different economics books which is really interesting because I need a for Fund Dreamer.
Yulia: [00:56:19] So my next question is what advice for building a brand, and a community do you have? Having been through all of it?
Taylor: [00:56:29] Yeah. What advice. That's the hardest question so far. Save that one for last. Building an authentic community, and a real brand is one of the hardest things you can possibly attempt to do. And I think that first of all, you have to infuse it with personality. You have to be genuine. You can't flip flop on what you're promoting just because it's trendy. I've never been a trend chaser and I really believe in classic. I think that that's that's really important and reliability. And I think that that gets reflected. I started this long before Facebook, and Facebook certainly changed things for me. You know actually one of my big answers for this and when I've answered before is your community starts within your company. Right. And so the people that work with me, that's our initial community right. I kind of hate it when people say "oh we're like a family" because family is a different thing. And if you start expecting that from your employees ( I hate that word employees also, I really prefer to say people I work with), if you start expecting that from the people you work with it's a little bit too much pressure. Community is different than family, right? Communities are like it's chosen family. And it doesn't come with as much baggage. You don't always have to be friends with someone just because they're your family, which happens in family. We have a strong little mini community, we have a really strong community just amongst ourselves.
Taylor: [00:58:41] I don't do most of our social media, I create images for. The rest of it is done by two girls and I work with right now. They do it together. One of the reasons for that is because I think it's too exhausting for one person to try to do it every day. And I think that if you're trying to have a conversation with a larger audience, you need to start the conversation internally. So their conversation becomes our bigger conversation. And I do calls with them usually every Monday and so that conversation will inform what we're doing next.
Taylor: [00:59:15] That's the answer to your question about how you build community. You start with an internally. If it's authentic, people are going to pick up. We have an incredibly strong Facebook community, our Facebook page reaches sometimes half a million people a week. We have less than 100,000 followers.
Taylor: [00:59:33] I track about 40 other companies. You can do that through the insights panel on Facebook, to see what they have for engagement and know how their followers are growing. I have never seen another company that has so few followers with such high engagement that we do. There are some companies that have great engagement, but they have so many more followers and way bigger communities.
Taylor: [01:00:12] So the question you asked "how you build a community and a brand" so we've built a community. Just because people are talking to each other on our Facebook page, sometimes we post things get tons of responses, and people are talking to each other and I love it... but it doesn't mean they're buying from us.
Taylor: [01:00:30] Right! So how do you convert that to sales, which is is the hardest thing to do.
Taylor: [01:00:34] If only I knew!
Yulia: [01:00:34] And part of you is like "social media is worthless" [but then there's another part of you saying] "no it's not."
Taylor: [01:00:37] It can't be worthless. I can see that it's not worthless. Most of our sales do come from Facebook, I'm not saying that they don't. But the proportion, when you see our reach and our engagement — there's a disconnect.
Yulia: [01:00:53] Everybody's having the same problem. A lot of sales come from e-mails. Facebook shops, posts, tweets are really hard to drive direct purchases from media.
Taylor: [01:01:14] It is, especially when you have this generation of consumers that thinks everything should be cheap. They go to your site and are like "wait they're going to charging for shipping?"
Taylor: [01:01:24] Yeah. Because I got to pay for it, and I got to pay someone to pack the order. Most consumers don't think about that stuff at all.
Yulia: [01:01:31] Most people don't even know where anything is coming from. They don't think about the box that's being built. You have to pay for that. UPS has to come to your desk, pick up the box to mail it. Someone makes the clothing, someone else makes the buttons, someone makes everything.
Taylor: [01:01:47] The average person I find doesn't think about any of that stuff. I'm still answering this question. This is an ongoing thing I'm trying to figure out every day. I feel like running a business feels like trying to answer a perpetual riddle. You're just trying to chase this answer and figure out what is it. And it changes all the time. One year the answer may be one thing then Facebook may turn around and change their algorithm, and everything changes.
Yulia: [01:02:17] Look at Vine, they just went under. There are all these people who were huge influencers on Vine. They're like "Ummm. I just put all of my eggs in one basket. What now?" Yeah, advertisers are really freaking out too.
Taylor: [01:02:32] Yeah I never put any eggs in the Vine basket. But I sympathize. We've made a point to diversify on social channels. Facebook is definitely our strongest, but I think another thing about building community too is like — don't take shortcuts. Don't think like "I'm going to post this picture on Instagram, and I'll use the built in feature to push it to Twitter and Facebook and I'm done." If you push that picture to Twitter it doesn't come up. The picture comes up as a link — it's garbage. If you push it to Facebook and full of hash tags — it's garbage again. Each channel has its own language and it takes a little bit more time to put that post on the different channels in the right language. But and not everything is appropriate for all channels either. And that's that's really important when you're building a social community anyway online.
Yulia: [01:03:22] It is. It takes a lot of time. Yeah. Which when you're a small brand you don't have that.
Taylor: [01:03:27] Yeah, I devote a lot of resources to it for sure.
Yulia: [01:03:31] So the next question is "what is your dream now that you're an adult?"
Taylor: [01:03:36] So... I still want to write and I have a couple of things in particular I want to write... and I'm working on that. Slowly but surely, and hopefully not as slow. My bigger broader dream goes back to what I was saying earlier. About how with my art, I want to spread some joy in the world. It can get dark out there, and it gives me hope when I see other people's art that is like that. And I just want to be a part of that. I guess my dream is to really just keep doing what I've been doing. But to be able to do bigger and better, and reach more people with it. To offer more opportunities to other people looking for something like this. To provide a bit of a beacon, especially for young people who much like our experience... found themselves to be a little bit different than their peers. And you know, we're we're from Connecticut and New York and it's easy to find people that are like us here. Imagine being a like us in the Midwest, or in a rural town in Texas, or Arkansas wherever you know. There's so many people that are at serious risk of isolation, just for being a little bit different. And so that's something that you know without being overreaching... We try to be one of those beacons that can connect people to other people, or at least let them know they're not the only person that feels that way.
Yulia: [01:05:15] I am branding my weirdo torch. High. Literally super high. I just hope the other weirdos see this torch and we all band together. I don't think it's weirdos, maybe more like outliers. People who don't really fit in anywhere, and people who have a different vision of things, and want to help other people, and want to give that torch to other people.
Taylor: [01:05:40] Yeah, I mean I think it's weird to say that that makes people different... because I suspect that there is actually more of those people than we give credit. And that the more people start looking for those people, the more they're going to find each other. I mean it's kind of an obvious statement but it's like... yeah. The more connections works, that's how it picks up momentum.
Yulia: [01:06:10] I think we all start out that way. I think we all start out as creatives and weirdos as kids we all make art. Then somehow along the growth path, we get cut off from that.
Taylor: [01:06:21] You either stop it up...
Yulia: [01:06:23] So the trick is to keep doing that, because then you can keep on believing that you can do things that are outside of society. If Musk, my super sexy crush. If he was told that he had to become an accountant, life would be a very different place. If Zuckerberg was told he had to be a lawyer, if he wasn't allowed to explore his creativity... the world view different place. The world needs us. We are the ones that create, we can't just have a society of passive consumers. You need money in order to create, you need people to invest in you.
Taylor: [01:07:06] Yeah. I think that's going to be my biggest decision going forward. Is... how much of that money do I need/want. For every bit of it you take, you give up some control. It's tempting to look at some of these people who have been heavily funded in the last handful of years and think "oh the things I could do with 50 million dollars." But everything would change. Even 10 million whatever amount of money, could be you know half a million dollars — everything's going to change.
Taylor: [01:07:42] I say think about that from both sides. I think "well how great would it be to have that kind of funding." To be able to put the people in place that really know how to do something with this, and get it to that larger audience. And then I think also about how awesome it is being totally independent and having my creative freedom. This is a decision that I will have to make at some point. It's probably going to be the biggest one I ever make. I am by no means rushing into it, nor doing it haphazardly. I have looked at it from both sides for a while now, and I think there's a compromise in there somewhere. It's exciting, but I keep trying to do as much as I can with as little as I can — because that's how you retain control.
Yulia: [01:08:34] Right. You also open up your channels to be able to work with more people. That's how you grow your business. You probably have a ton of partnerships that you're working on. You have a lot of things happening. It's about aligning yourself with people who want to work with you, and see your vision, and put more money into creating really great things. Yeah it maybe not investing, but maybe it's partnering with brands that love your vision and want to see their brands grow.
Taylor: [01:08:59] We haven't done a lot of brand partnerships specifically, but we are right now working on some new licensing opportunities. I did have a really encouraging meeting with someone who manages a portfolio of licenses that will probably be pursuing here. The other day, the morning after the election (which is all we can say about that), he really surprised me, impressed me. He said he had enough people who were pitching him to get him into Target, or Walmart, or Sears or wherever. That he appreciated that I was a boutique business, that I was woman owned. He appreciated that I was unique, and that doesn't not come along as often as you want. You do your thing and the right people will follow. So that's part of your answer. How do you build a community, right?
Yulia: [01:10:12] Right! Be yourself, and be authentic. I love you.
Taylor: [01:10:13] Love you too.
Yulia: [01:10:15] So great! This has been such a fun podcast. Thank you so much for inviting me into your space and talking to me. My pleasure. I love your work. You're badass.
Taylor: [01:10:25] Thanks. Well hopefully you just keep doing more of it to come.
Yulia: [01:10:29] I think so. Have a great day.