We had the good fortune of connecting with Taylor King and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Taylor, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I wanted to do something creative while at the same time be my own boss. It turns out being your own boss has a lot of perks with just as many disadvantages. It is rare to find someone that will work as hard or as passionately as you will and if you want a job done, sometimes you gotta do it yourself! Overall I think I’ve been fairly lucky the past 9 years in that our vision has been well received by our customers and community and while the struggles have been real they could have been much worse.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What sets Espionage apart from other gift stores is that we offer curated gift packages that are tailored to each individual. We really listen to our customers in who they are gifting for and try to take the information they give us to create the most thoughtful gift. If you have ever been to Sugarfish sushi our gifting has a similar model. You name your price range and trust us to do the rest. I’ve grown so much as a business owner throughout the past 9 years. When I started I had just turned 24. I had a personal savings and gambled the entire sum of it into opening the store. Now that I look back at that I wonder if I should have invested it and took a different career path working for someone else. Luckily we’ve been able to sustain as long as we have but it definitely isn’t as glamorous and fun as it looks. Sometimes I wish I had a partner to share responsibilities and tasks with. I think i’ve come across too many challenges, mistakes and lessons along the way but they have only made me smarter and stronger. I never had a background in business but thanks for my sociology degree from UCSB I have become a savvy street smart ninja. I also have enough personalities so I can relate to ALL sorts of people. In retail you become an unpaid therapist and what I like to call a “chit-chat survivor”. Everyday is a new experience and I have no idea what the future of Espionage holds.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of my favorite things is when out-of-towners ask me for recommendations of places to shop and eat. As a frequent traveler I always try to find local shops and hidden restaurants because I do consider myself a foodie and lover of the arts. I would highly recommend the Huntington Library and Gardens in my hometown, San Marino. Google it. It’s one of my most favorite places on earth. I then tell them to go to Juliennes for lunch. It’s a local gourmet marketplace and restaurant that makes you feel like you’re in Europe! Across the street is the first place I ever worked, Simply Fresh, the cutest gift store that has a little bit of everything. The owner, Michelle Whang, is still a close friend and mentor.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to give a shoutout to our community of the Beverly Boulevard district as well as Los Angeles as a whole. I think we’ve been the go-to gift store for a wide range of people and businesses. Our local neighbors have been supporting us since the beginning as well as some of the big-time talent industry leaders. The beauty of our store is that there is a little something for everyone. My original business model was that anyone could walk into Espionage feeling like they could have a fun time shopping and walk out with a purchase they were excited about without breaking the bank. We also don’t do any paid advertising so thanks to their continued support and referrals we’ve been able to keep going. I also want to give a big shout out to my mother, Angela. Many of you know we are very close and if it weren’t for her encouragement, creative and savvy ideas and guidance, Espionage wouldn’t be in existence. It was her push that made me even think opening a store at 24 years old was possible. She’s never pressured me to do anything in my life except go to college and get a job. So, thanks for being a “tiger mom” only when it was absolutely pivotal to my success in life.