Penny Forward

A Network Of The Blind

October 24, 2021 Chris Peterson and Liz Bottner Season 2 Episode 7
Penny Forward
A Network Of The Blind
Show Notes Transcript

Taylor Arndt founded Taylor's Accessibility Services after she lost her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She used her expertise in accessible web design to start a successful web hosting and web accessibility consulting company, and we wanted to learn how she made that possible through building a network of relationships with other blind people.

 

Taylor's business, Taylor's Accessibility Services, provides web hosting for, and is a proud sponsor of, the Penny Forward podcast. Visit her web site at https://www.tayloraccess.com

 

A full text transcript of this episode can be found at https://pennyforward.com/penny-forward-transcript-s2e7-a-network-of-the-blind/

 

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Taylor: I've had to fight all my life because of college and school issues in terms of accessibility, and so I know what it's like to have an inaccessible life. So, what keeps me motivated is that I'm able to help others, and I'm able to make a real change, and that I'm able to actually make a better life for myself in the process.

 



 

 

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Chris: This is the Penny Forward podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures, one penny at a time.

 

Liz: I'm Liz Botner.

 

Chris: And I'm Chris Peterson.

 

Liz: We are blind people, learning what it takes to be successful in our personal, professional, and financial lives.

 

 

Chris: Our guest this week is someone you've heard me talk about a lot. Taylor Arndt founded Taylor's Accessibility Services after she lost her job due to the Covid 19 pandemic. She was able to take some of her expertise in accessible web design, and turn it into a successful web hosting and web accessibility consulting company, and we wanted to find out how she did it, what were some of the challenges she overcame, and what were some of her greatest successes along the way?

 

Chris: Taylor, thanks for being here.

 

Taylor: Yeah. Thank you so much. It's my pleasure.

 

Chris: Can you talk about your early life, and your schooling, and that kind of thing and how blindness effected that?

 

Taylor: Yeah. So my early life, let's just say, was kind of crazy. School was not easy for me. I mean I would do good academically, but I faced significant barriers as a child, and in my even high school years. For example, I had to move to my own apartment when I was a senior in high school, because basically, the school district couldn't really accommodate, and trying to pay for a driver was literally gonna cost more than trying to pay for a semester's worth of rent, and to do duel enrollment so that I could continue my studies. So literally, when I was 18 I had to go move to an apartment by myself, about 30 minutes away so I could be closer to a community college where I could actually get transit. But in terms of early life, like I said, it was definitely a lot of challenges, but through that, I learned to advocate for myself at a very young age.

 

Chris: Tell us about yourself.

 

Taylor: My name is Taylor Arndt, and I am from Michigan. I'm a blind business owner, who owns my own company, Taylor's Accessibility Services LLC, where I specialize in website development, hosting, accessibility consulting, so trying to help companies become more accessible and compliant with the standards, and, as well as all of that stuff, doing some training as well. I started the company after I got laid off from my university job last year during the Covid 19 pandemic, and so I decided to start my own business.

 

Chris: Was a business something that you planned to start even before your job went away, or was it an emergency?

 

Taylor: Well, I needed to do something with my life, and not knowing if my college career was on the line because of the inaccessibility that I faced at the university that I worked for, and with Covid going up at that rampant rate, I knew that I needed to do something, and, well, it might not have been an emergency, I'm like, "What else am I gonna do with life?" cause again, yeah, it'd be nice to make money, and I knew that I liked to work, and, I knew that I needed to do something with myself or else I'd just be bored. So, that's why I'm like "Well, I guess I'm gonna start a business," and, you know, like I said, I've never looked back.

 

Liz: In getting started, you talked about what brought you to that, but what did that look like in terms of the things that you did to get started?

 

Taylor: Things I did to get started, well, obviously, I'm like, "Okay, I'm gonna need a website, because I need people to be able to find me," so I bought my website. And I had some basic skills already of how to build the site, so I was able to do that, right, 'cause that's kind of what I'm gonna be specializing in, in making it accessible. And I knew that I needed to have some basic software in place. I knew from doing research, and having a family of business owners, that there's something called "self employment taxes," so that even if I wasn't gonna be making a lot of money, I should probably keep some good records. Also, another thing that I did to get started was I started, you know, kind of advertising myself in different places. I did a lot of Blind Ads list posts, a lot of Blind Bargains ads, I gave JJ a lot of money, and, you know, tried to get my name out there for everyone, so that they kind of knew I was starting a business, and, you know, those are kind of some of the things I did to get started.

 

Male Announcer: We'll get back to our interview in just a moment. But first, ...

 

Male Announcer: Are you afraid to use a credit card because you might make a terrible mistake?  When you're in an unfamiliar financial environment and need a hand understanding the lay of the land, Penny Forward is here to help. We provide affordable one on one and group financial education programs that give you the confidence to get out there and achieve your goals. Visit

pennyforward.com

to learn more about who we are, and what we do.

 

 

Male Announcer: Do you have a short success story that you would like to share on the air? Leave us a message at 952-856-0313. If you missed that number, you can always find it at

pennyforward.com/podcast

 

Liz: In starting your business, can you talk about what were some of your quick successes in terms of things that came easily to you, and then maybe what were some of your more challenging road blocks that you overcame and eventually were successful with?

 

Taylor: Yeah. Well, successes, I was definitely able to get my name out there. I was definitely able to meet people and network. I was able to market and make a name for myself. I was able to get a basic website that didn't look very good, but it was up, and, in addition to all that, I was able to, well, in October of that year, get an LLC formed by myself, because obviously, I could be a sole proprietor, but, knowing that somehow, my skills were being used, which is great, to help people who may have gotten sued for web accessibility, I figured that I needed to have some protection. In terms of things that came a little bit difficult, I would say that the thing that came the most difficult, just trying to figure out how to run a business. Right, how are things done? How do you do things? Right, 'cause I've always been a W2. Meaning that I've always been an employee. And before that, I had no idea. I didn't understand how things work. I didn't understand, "Okay, how do I get clients to pay me?" "How do I invoice people?" Then trying to deal with people who've never worked with contractors before, and being new at contracting myself, that was kind of interesting as well. So those were some of the challenges and some of the successes.

 

Chris: Who are some of the people that helped you to get started, or maybe are helping you now?

 

Taylor: Oh man, I've got a ton of them. Definitely JJ Medaugh,, 'cause I knew him. He's in Kalamazoo just like I am. And then later on, I met Michael Doies as well. He just started his new company last week. And then I would say, you know, another one of the Michigan people, Sabrina Simmons, 'cause she has I Learn, the company that won that big Jacob Allerton award at the NFB convention, and I knew her for a little while beforehand doing some stuff with NFB of Michigan. So she's obviously a business owner. And then my family, my uncle does own a landscaping company. So he kind of, obviously didn't really do from an accessibility standpoint, but he kind of gave me general business advice. And then later on, really, honestly, after that point, right, I started meeting a whole bunch of people, for example through Clubhouse. And so through there, I met Damashe and Michael. So Damashe owns Bedrock Innovations LLC, and then Michael Babcock, who is with AT Guys, they've been also instrumental in kind of telling me the ropes and showing me everything that I need to do, and even helping Michael and I along. So, those are some of the people, there's obviously a lot of others that I probably forgot. But those are some of the main ones that have kind of helped me come along with my business.

 

Chris: What kind of help did they give you?

 

Taylor: Oh, jeas. Everything from, well, for example, asking general business questions, like, "So, do I have to file an annual report every year?" "Is this a multi-member LLC?" You know, just kind of, those kind of questions, from like, you know, my family, right, 'cause they owned LLC'S. Even like visual help as well, 'cause Michael Doies has some sight. He was able to help with some logo stuff, and he made a logo, which made my stuff look better, and my other designer, Lauren Flinner, who I also met on Clubhouse, in general, you know, just asking general business questions. Like, you know,  "How do I invoice people? How ... What's the best way to take payments?" You know, "how do I handle XYZ situation?" You know, so those kind of things. So just anything and everything that I just didn't know how to do. And I'd also do a lot of research, but sometimes it's always good to get perspective from others.

 

Liz: To the listener out there who may be wondering how to start a business, what advice would you give that person?

 

Taylor: Um, you just need to do it. Now I know that's gonna sound like, "Oh my gosh. Taylor, well that's easy for _you to say." But to be completely honest, a lot of people that want to start businesses don't do it because they just don't take the initiative. Take those first steps. You don't need to start an LLC on day one. You can be a sole proprietor for example, which basically means that you just start offering your services, and then, if you make more money, you can do all that kind of stuff, right? But what I would say is, just start. Like if there's something that you want to do, just don't be afraid to do it. Because you can test out the waters before you really take it, you know, as a big, like company per say. So, you know, if you have a job already, start a side business. And see how you like the waters. And who knows? Maybe eventually that will become your full time career. Just do some of those basic steps. Like start advertising yourself, something else that helped me as well was to create like videos and podcast episodes, you know, about what I do, you know, so have like a personal brand, and definitely meet other people. Networking is your friend. cause yeah, you may think they're your competitors, but actually, they can become partners and they're really not. So you want to try to meet and network with others as well.

 

Chris: Without specifically naming names, except me maybe, can you talk about who your customers are? Like what types of people and organizations they are, and how you've gone about finding them?

 

Taylor: My customers range from universities, for accessibility contracts, like web accessibility compliance, they range from podcasters, you know, like Penny Forward and others who want websites, and they want web hosting, or web management, other small business owners who may need to try to get themselves on line for the first time, and who want an accessible website. Right, because that's something else to differentiate. We can make fully accessible websites because we know what it's like to not have accessible websites. I've had bakeries, non-profits, and so the way that I've found these people just depends. Clubhouse was a definite great way to go. Because I could talk to people and then they could kind of see my credibility. And then I would also say blind ads, Blind Bargains, and then also Facebook and Twitter and Linked In, and YouTube as well. Podcasts, I've been able to get my reach out there, so those are kind of some of the customers, and you know, like I said, I've had a whole variety of different customers.

 

Chris: So, have you ever worried about getting too big, and having too much work to do?

 

Taylor: Oh yeah. That's a common concern. Right? That's why you need to partner with others. Because if you have too much work to do, they can help you and vice versa. cause there's only so much you can do as a one-person operation, but maybe you as one person can't bring in enough income, for example, and that's where partnering with others can really help you. And so, right now, I have a bunch of contractors that I contract with for different projects. Because I know that me as a single person, I can't bring in a lot of income for myself, just because A, the nature of my work. There's a lot of visuals to it. Right? I need to make my websites look visually appealing, and for my web site accessibility reports, obviously we have to test with magnifiers and low vision devices, and obviously, you know, I can't do that because I don't have sight. What I would say is, yeah, obviously I'm worried about too much work to do, but that's where having other people that you can rely on, that you can partner with, is definitely your best bet. And you know, sometimes you just have to say no. You know, and I've had to do that as well.

 

Male Announcer: We'll continue our interview in a moment. But first, ...

 

Chris: Hi. This is Chris Peterson from Penny Forward. I use Superblink to produce my podcast, because I want it to sound polished and professional, and they have the skills to make me sound better than I am. Visit

superblink.org

and check out what they have to offer. Maybe they can help you.

 

Male Announcer: Do you have a tip or trick you've discovered that makes managing your finances easier? Tell us about it at 952-856-0313. If you missed that number, you can always find us at

pennyforward.com/podcast

 

 

Liz: Thinking about the process from where you were when you were laid off, and then where you are now, is there one thing that stands out as the most fun or most impactful thing, in your mind with the whole experience, and conversely, is there something that stands out as maybe the scariest or most difficult thing that you had to go through in getting yourself where you are right now?

 

Taylor: What I would say is, it's a lot of work. And you have to be motivated enough to do it. The most impactful thing is I would say that I've been able to help customers who may not have even had a website, or whose websites, for example, were literally gonna get taken offline in a matter of weeks to rebuild a new website from the ground up. Yes, this did happen. And having to train them on how to do it themselves as well. Being able to make real change and help customers who really want to try to make themselves better, and that want to make themselves more inclusive and accessible is definitely the best thing. I would say the scariest thing is just trying to deal with the challenges. cause freelancing and self employment, you don't always have a stable income. And so making sure that you can save enough for the months that you might not make as much. Or, getting, for example longer term contracts as well. And recurring revenue. Having that safety net is definitely something that's important.

 

Chris: Do you ever find yourself getting discouraged? And what keeps you motivated?

 

Taylor: Yeah, I mean I get discouraged, like I said, if clients are mad or stuff's going down, but what keeps me motivated is that I'm basically making a real difference, and then also, you know, that I have a drive. Like I said, you know, I've had to fight all my life because of college and school issues in terms of accessibility, and so I know what it's like to have an inaccessible life. So, what keeps me motivated is that I'm able to help others, and I'm able to make a real change, and that I'm able to actually make a better life for myself in the process.

 

Chris: Why do you think your business is unique?

 

Taylor: I think my business is unique because not only do I bring a blindness perspective, which is great, but I also am able to understand what it's like to be a user, and to be able to be on the other side. As well as being a developer. A lot of developers, believe it or not, don't know about accessibility at all. And so having that ability to both be a developer, and a user, and understanding the accessibility nuances of how web sites are supposed to work, from both a user and developer's perspective, is definitely something that my company has been able to bring to the table in helping people both get online for the first time, and also make their existing websites more accessible for all.

 

Liz: What one thing would you want someone to take away from listening to this podcast episode?

 

Taylor: Yeah. The one thing I would say is, you just need to go for it. Right, even if you don't know what you're doing. Just try it. You don't know until you actually give it a shot. You may fail, but you just need to try it. You need to be able to understand that you're probably going to fall flat on your face, but you will pick yourself back up, and you will be able to be successful if you really want to.

 

Liz: How can people contact you if they would like to?

 

Taylor: My new website is

tayloraccess.com

And so if you would like to contact me, you can E-mail me at

[email protected]

I am on twitter,

TaylorArndt 22,

and my podcast and YouTube channel as well have twitter accounts.  Tay's Tech Talks, and then Taylor's Tech Talks on Facebook. So those are some of the ways that you're able to find me, and also on clubhouse from time to time.

 

Chris: So far, has it been worth it?

 

Taylor: Yes. It's been absolutely worth it, and, honestly, while the job lay off kind of stunk at the time, honestly, I'm a lot happier and a lot less stressed now. Even though running a business can definitely be stressful, knowing that I'm actually in control, and that I'm able to actually make the difference, yeah. It's totally worth it.

 

Chris: Taylor, thanks for being here.

 

Taylor: Yeah. You too. I'm super excited, and I'm hoping that listeners will definitely learn a lot, and feel free. If you want to start a business, yeah. You just need to do it.

 

Chris: If you enjoy the Penny Forward podcast, please rate, review, and share it with your friends. We're supported by your donations. Please help us to continue producing Penny Forward by following the tip jar link in the show notes, or by visiting

pennyforward.com

 

Liz: The Penny forward Podcast is produced by Liz Botner and Chris Peterson. Audio editing and postproduction is provided by Byron Lee, and transcription is provided by Anne Verduin. Music was composed and performed by Andre Loui, and web hosting is provided by Taylor's Accessibility Services.

 

Chris: Penny Forward is a community of blind people building bright futures, one penny at a time. Visit

pennyforward.com/about

to learn more about who we are, and what we do. Until next time, for all of us in the Penny Forward community, I'm Chris Peterson.

 

Liz: And I'm Liz Botner. Thanks for listening, and have a great week.