Aislinn Taylor is a partner at Calgary/Toronto based brand studio Trout + Taylor.
The first real job I ever had was when I was 15 at Okotoks Pizza and Pasta. I started working there answering the phones and then I eventually started making and delivering pizzas.
I helped [the owner] build out his menu and renovate the store. He gave me $100 and I renovated the bathroom for him and added some tables up front. That was my first experience with building a business, even though I had a very small part in it, it was the first instance of me taking some responsibility and trying to build something.
I went to university at the Haskayne School of Business. I was briefly serving, and after that I started working at Lush Cosmetics in Market Mall as a sales person. I started failing out of all my classes at Haskayne. I thought I loved business, I didn’t understand what happened. For five years, I managed a store and learned about budgets, inventory, how to balance those things, ordering and managing and HR everything else.
It wasn’t a long-term goal of mine to stay working as a manager at Lush. I met my now husband and we were both not sure about what we were going do in the future, and so we both quit our jobs and went to Australia for a year. We eventually needed jobs, and I knew I could just get a job at Lush but I knew I should branch out. We each printed off 50 resumes and we said, “We’re going to get a job by the end of the day, let’s just hand out as many resumes as possible.” I nodded my head, but secretly I wasn’t going to do that.
I’m not working at 7-11. I walked into a store called Perfect Potion in downtown Brisbane in Australia, and told the manager there she needed to hire me. They took a chance on me, and a month in she asked me to manage a store. Until then, I really felt like I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities. I took this store over that was doing poorly and made it the most profitable store in all their franchises.
My turning point was working at that store. It was my big break, it didn’t really result in much at the time but when I look back, that was such a confidence builder for me. I realized I’m actually very good at business, I just wasn’t good at the Haskayne form of business. I was there for six months, and then came back home and went to Mount Royal University as soon as I got back.
I started my first business, Aisy Natural Bath Bombs, after starting at MRU. I took an entrepreneurship class and I realized I loved business but not working for other people. I just kind of happened upon making my own bath bombs, and people kept asking to buy them. I basically spent 600 dollars to get a booth at a market and decided if it did well that summer I would continue doing it. I put a lot of work into reiterating the product, it had a lot of problems. It was the biggest learning experience I could ever imagine.
The biggest lesson I learned was to stop worrying about my grades. The most valuable skill I learned was to spend time building your network. I ended up being hired by a company called EZ Robot as their marketing and communications person while still in school because they spoke in one of my classes and I decided to talk to them afterwards. I fell in love with branding and almost started another business until I met my current business partner, Cait Wharton, who hired me on as a junior graphic designer. Shortly after, she offered me partner.
I felt like I was lost is what I always tell people. Now, I have that feeling of belonging, I’m meant to do this. When you get an opportunity like I did at Trout + Taylor, you give it your all. I think a lot of people now don’t really understand how rare opportunities are, and I think if you get an opportunity you just put everything you can into it.
As told to Amber McLinden. This interview has been edited and condensed.
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