When Jeremy Taylor was laid off in late 2015 from his job as a loan adjuster for Wells Fargo, he saw it as an opportunity to pursue a long-held dream.
While studying finance in college at UW-Milwaukee, he’d been intrigued by the entrepreneurship courses he’d taken and the experience of writing a business plan. From that time on, “it was in my blood,” he said.
During his time in the corporate world, he built up savings with the idea of starting a business one day. When the layoff notice came, he knew the moment had arrived.
Taylor loved to cook the soul food favorites of his relatives from New Orleans—gumbo, po’ boys, hush puppies. He settled on opening a food truck since it requires less capital for startup than a brick-and-mortar restaurant with a storefront. As the 30-year-old Milwaukee resident did research on the local food truck scene, he observed that there didn’t seem to be a Cajun-style food truck yet. With that, he’d found his niche.
With the help of a workshop offered through the Milwaukee Urban League, Taylor crafted a business plan for the Bourbon on Wheels food truck. With the business plan and advice from a mentor, also provided by the Urban League, Taylor was able to quality for a loan from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) to cover his startup costs over and above his contribution from savings.
Taylor has purchased a truck and is currently working on getting it painted and properly equipped so that it can go through the state’s licensing inspection. He completed the food safety courses required by state law, and plans to open for business in the spring, focusing on food truck hotspots in Milwaukee’s downtown and East Side. Taylor intends to hire two employees to help with food prep and customer service. Meanwhile, he has begun testing his recipes and offering samples (for example, at a recent WWBIC event), and based on that, has started to accept catering orders.
In a panel at this week’s MARKETPLACE conference on minority business development, Taylor spoke about his experience starting a business. He said aspiring entrepreneurs should prepare themselves for a journey that may have bumps in the road, and surely won’t be dull: “The whole process is going to take longer than what you expect. …Every time you put out one fire, something else pops up.”
Taylor expressed gratitude for the existence of WWBIC and its loan program—“If I didn’t get a loan from them, I wouldn’t have a company”—and also noted the contribution of his wife, whose income has covered living expenses during the year spent getting the business off the ground.
Taylor’s session was offered as part of the half-day Small Business Academy workshop. Fellow panelist Anne Hlavacka, director of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UW-La Crosse, detailed the many resources—advisory, financial, and more—that are available to small businesses in Wisconsin. MARKETPLACE continues on Wednesday with workshops on business topics, an expo hall, and meetings to connect buyers with suppliers.
Despite the challenges involved, Taylor encouraged conference attendees to take the plunge and start a business—for the exhilaration of implementing one’s own vision, for the opportunity to follow a passion, for the growth that comes with taking a risk.
In response to a question about how he got past mental hurdles such as a fear of failure, Taylor advised: “I guess you’ve just got to be bold. If you want to do it, you’ve got to do it.”