We had the good fortune of connecting with Lynn Taylor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lynn, what role has risk played in your life or career?
How I think about risk. I have always believed that comfort zones are highly overrated. When I was 16, we had a high school project to interview people and ask them about their goals; an open-ended question by design. I asked people of all ages and walks of life about it in a local mall. What struck me was that initially, every answer was about getting the next promotion or job. Then I re-asked the question; what they really wanted out of life. Each person paused and smiled, as if they had to reset … and then I got a much broader, long-term answer. That experience taught me a lot and has stayed with me since. I think all of us can think bigger and expect greatness. I call myself an Empowerment Zealot in my various business pursuits because I think we’re all on this planet to make a contribution … and do what we love. To achieve this, you must take chances. To me, risk has a few components: 1) You must adopt the attitude that the worst thing that can happen is you fail and learn something. That is exponentially better than wondering for the rest of your life what might have been; 2) There’s a reason your gut instincts are telling you to take that exciting, but often daunting leap. “Following your gut” is not chasing a whim; it’s based on hundreds of facts your subconscious has already synthesized. Listen. 3) If you keep seeing the vision over time, it’s likely an opportunity that makes sense and will come to fruition. 4) Make sure the action you’re considering is with resources you can afford, financially, time-wise and emotionally. Measure risks with rewards; ignore naysayers who will project their need for stability onto you — and take “smart risks” after you’ve thoroughly researched your new pursuit. The role risk has played in my life/career. Risk has been a thread thoughout my life and career. I graduated a year early from high school for college because I had good grades and heard about a tiny loophole where you could. It was just me and my girlfriend who did this. I also left a great job in Manhattan after a few years to try out Florida, with no job, just faith in my strong PR background. A few years later, I relocated again without a job, but with a lot of conviction, to the Bay area. I ended up working as the VP of Strategic Marketing for a Fortune 500 company for 12 years. I tried retiring young after that, but as a risk taker, that was not going to happen! This is where I became a three-time risk-taker. 1) Book Published – I had never published my own book, but I wanted to help people struggling in their job to “work smart.” I had no idea if this would happen, but was passionate about how we’re all children inside, and parental training techniques are universal with people, bosses, coworkers, “TOTs” and tyrants. I had exposure to publishing as the VP of Marketing and was on a mission. After six months, I landed a book deal with publisher John Wiley. The book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT), How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior & Thrive in Your Job, is about emotional intelligence and empowerment — and has been an Amazon bestseller for 12 years. 2) New Belt Brand and Patent – In 2015, another idea kept bubbling up; one of those gut instincts. I realized that 90 percent of jeans and pants are wasted and non-renewable over a period of time because they no longer fit at the waist — due to minor weight fluctuations. After many trials and tribulations over a few years, and people saying it can’t be done, I invented, engineered and patented the first belt in jeans and belt history that actually expands the waist of your jeans by one-two inches, thanks to a hidden extender. It’s the only belt that does this. The extender is removable in most cases, and is located “behind the buckle,” also the name of the brand. Behind the Buckle received a patent in late 2019 and the collections have been selling very well online and in several boutiques. We’re extremely excited about future growth. The pandemic has actually increased sales, as people clearly want more room and comfort at their jeans’ waist. Women and men love fitting instantly into their long-lost jeans that are too tight at the waist, too, without enduring crash diets. This is a sustainable, socially responsible solution for jeans, denims and pants that are finally wearable again. You’re saving your jeans, but also the planet. I was honored to learn that in the last decade, all-female invented patents constituted only about 4% of issued patents. So, at this point, I feel I’ve made a dent in the “work smart” objective, and now, we’re making major inroads to help people “dress and live smart.” It continues to be an incredible journey. The risk has been so worth it, especially when I see the expression of people who can’t believe there’s a belt that really does this. We’re also beginning to launch uniquely designed traditional belts, too, which will fall under the “Lynn Taylor” collections brand. 3) Personal Interest – Jazz CD – I believe risk taking should expand beyond careers to personal life passions. In order to remain centered and content, I’ve continued to push my personal limits by pursuing my love of music; jazz in particular. I’ve played piano since age 12 and took vocal lessons in Santa Barbara for a couple years in 2006 … starting to sing in a few places there for fun. In the Newport area since 2010, I’ve gotten in front of sometimes 200 strangers at Open Mic, singing and improvising jazz standard tunes with musicians I’ve never worked with before. That’s just how jazz works. It can be exhilarating — especially working with some of the finest jazz musicians in Southern California, like jazz pianist virtuoso, Ron Kobayashi. Finally, in 2019, I achieved a long-time goal of making my first Jazz CD, called Captivated, featuring Ron and other great Orange County jazz musicians. That was a blast. I look forward to post-pandemic Open Mics and some occasional live gigs. I feel that if I can take risks like I have all my life, anyone can. You don’t always know what lies ahead. You just need faith that you have the resources to tackle whatever comes your way — or know how to find them.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
What sets Behind the Buckle brand apart is that it’s the first and only belt ever that closes the gap of jeans or pants that are one-two inches too tight at the waist. I’m proud of the fact that this belt was patented in late 2019, and that in the 140-year history of jeans, no such belt has existed. The same goes for belts; belts have only cinched pants, not expanded the width. So this concept was completed counterintuitive. The market reaction has been fantastic. I saw the need for this invention because of the age-old problem women and men have had in fitting comfortably in their jeans, with normal weight fluctuations. It didn’t make sense that 90% of a pair of pants should fit, but at the last mile (the waist), if they’re too tight —they simply can’t be worn. That’s when the concept of a removable extender, hidden “behind the buckle” was conceived. I also realized that many women (and men) wear their tops and pullovers over their jeans. So early on, I designed a Snap Belt, which looks like a studded belt with five adjustments. It can be worn over or under a top, as it’s flat and buckle-less. The hidden extender is sewn inside. Behind the Buckle belts also have a unique application to women in their first trimester and postpartum. That’s because the belt allows you to gradually make your way back to your goal weight and regular clothes via the extender. Early Days. In the early days, it was not easy. People did not understand how a belt could expand, not contract your jeans. Some people, including manufacturers laughed. Others looked and stared, realizing they had missed an opportunity. I remember asking a supplier if an aspect of the design could be made a certain way to work with my belts, as I was literally down to one millimeter to make everything work after months and hundreds of prototypes. (I was like a mad, determined scientist on steroids for quite some time.) I asked, “Has the XYZ hole ever been cut this way?” He said, “Never.” I paused, and then I knew this was good. Phrases like, “We never do it this way,” and “It’s never been done like this,” had already become music to my ears. One lesson I have learned is to be flexible. There’s a contingent of customers who love our belts for their sheer beauty, so we’re beginning to offer traditional, but uniquely-designed belts, in addition to our patented extender belts. Generally, you can never have enough customer feedback and research, especially early on. Of course, when you’re starting out, you don’t have a Fortune 100 focus group budget, but there are clever ways to get at your customer to reduce the learning curve. Also, have a group of mentors and colleagues to support you. Make sure you’re around positive people who want to see you succeed. Finally, you’ll get many suggestions from friends and family, and many differing opinions. Some ideas will be pretty “out there.” Being able to synthesize the feedback is key. Keep the faith and when the chips seem like they’re down. Remember why you started. What was your core passion? Never lose sight of your heartfelt mission.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
With the pandemic still part of our lives, the hot spots are less active. But there are still places to go. Being part of the Newport Beach community, I enjoy a lot of the benefits of living here. Some of my favorite restaurants in the area include Splashes at Surf and Sand hotel and Broadway in Laguna Beach, as well as Gulfstream and Bandera in Newport Beach. I also like Bistango in Irvine. For live jazz, I love Bayside restaurant (great food, too) and Campus Jax. There are incredible performers at both venues. You can’t go wrong visiting Crystal Cove beach and the shopping center there, where there are some great restaurants and shops. Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza are hard to pass up when you’re in OC, of course. Hiking at the El Morro trail in Newport Coast is fabulous. I enjoy the galleries in Laguna and when life is back to normal, I suspect people will be buzzing in Laguna and all these places once again!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents have been instrumental in guiding me throughout my career and life. I’m so fortunate to be able to speak with them frequently even today. When I think about the ultimate entrepreneurs and risk takers, that’s my parents. They were great business people, but also highly creative problem solvers. Whenever I’d ask my Mom if she thought I should take a particular risk in business, she never hesitated. I can still hear her say, “Of course!” When it came to life in general, both my parents always advised us to never come from a mindset of scarcity. They believed in aspiring to better things; envisioning success; and being strategic about your future. I also credit my parents and especially my grandmother with the important role of humor in my career, story and life. People who know me well know that I can’t make it through many conversations without some degree of levity. As a result, I’ve always had the greatest admiration for people who take things with a grain (and sometimes a bucket!) of salt. Above all, I’m so grateful for my parents’ encouragement, love and wisdom.
Image credit for Lynn in brown leopard blouse: Scott Rinaldi Photography
Photography Image credit for Lynn in black blouse: William Lee