After relocating back residence to Chicago from California, Taylor Mason missed Los Angeles’ ubiquitous street tacos. She’d get an occasional whiff many thanks to a dude who sporadically set up a grill on a Wicker Park sidewalk, drawing a line of hungry patrons that stretched down the block.
“It was scorching of the plancha, suitable into your plate,” Mason claimed. “You could see the foodstuff getting cooked ideal in entrance of you.”
That craving influenced Mason to start Taylor’s Tacos, which she operates with her wife, Maya Mason. The business enterprise, an alum of the Polsky Center’s Little Business Growth Method, contains a catering assistance, taco truck, and event place. But it also has a broader mission.
Born and elevated on Chicago’s West Facet, Mason understands what it signifies to are living in a food items desert. As she grows her taco company, she hopes to open up her individual catering and retail place in the community she nonetheless calls residence.
“I’ve obtained to make the West Facet fantastic all over again,” stated Mason, who life in Douglas Park.
Mason would not have predicted a job in tacos when she very first moved to California, on a total basketball scholarship to Pepperdine College. She analyzed broadcast journalism at the Malibu faculty and aspired to do the job behind the digicam in Hollywood.
But as her higher education graduation neared in 2010, her mother endured again-to-back again mind aneurysms (she’s Alright now). At her father’s request, Mason moved household to Chicago, passing up a task she experienced lined up on the West Coastline.
“That was the hardest but best decision I ever experienced to make,” Mason mentioned.
She worked at her family’s business enterprise, NBU Athletics, an corporation that teaches basketball fundamentals to youth, as director of operations for five years. But she wasn’t a fan of the spouse and children enterprise dynamics and preferred anything distinct.
As she labored odd positions – a health club teacher, a basketball mentor — Mason held going again to her longtime love of bringing persons collectively.
She hosted a social gathering and produced tacos, encouraged by the Wicker Park street vendor. They had been a hit, and more than the up coming two a long time she worked on perfecting her recipe for “street tacos with a complete large amount of soul.”
When she satisfied Maya in 2016, the enthusiasm challenge became an casual small business. Maya, at the time operating as a restaurant server, had grown up in a food items-centered domestic – each of her moms and dads had attended French culinary college and her mom was an heirloom gardener – and was energized about the opportunity.
In 2018, each Taylor and Maya Mason stop their jobs to target whole time on making Taylor’s Tacos.
The organization specialised in pop-up catering — demonstrating up at occasions and creating tacos reside, some of them exceptional twists on custom these as salmon, asparagus, and portobello mushroom tacos. When the pandemic hit and activities ended up cancelled, the Masons commenced supplying taco platters, nacho bars, and prepared lunches.
They also opened an celebration house, identified as Taylored, at 2451 S. Oakley Ave., having acquired by way of catering that celebration areas are in higher demand from customers. The airy 1,400-sq.-foot storefront, intended to exude “a little bit of Los Angeles,” sells tacos to the general public on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“That extra a full new facet of our enterprise that we would not have devoid of the pandemic,” Mason explained. “We went from earning $7,000 a 12 months to about $400,000 in revenue.”
Mason also started off a nonprofit, Tacos Develop Neighborhood, that brings men and women into the room for a taco working experience they may well not in any other case have the possibility to love. She hosted a Tacos and Tea application with Venture sWish and now has a partnership with the Over and Past food stuff pantry.
Mason related with the Polsky Heart just after hearing about it as a result of the Community Entrepreneurship Lab, a 9-month digital accelerator for Chicago-spot entrepreneurs. She participated in the drop 2021 cohort of the Polsky Center’s Modest Enterprise Progress Application, where by a staff of UChicago learners helped her devise a advertising and marketing approach.
“The most handy aspect was just acquiring a workforce that you can bounce suggestions off of,” Mason stated. “To have people from various walks of everyday living that can give you suggestions, really manufactured me understand how critical it is to get various kinds of people on our group.”
Now a group of six and running out of a kitchen in The Hatchery, a foodstuff incubator in East Garfield Park, Taylor’s Tacos is searching for larger sized digs as it gets additional orders than it can tackle. The Masons are discovering real estate on the West Side in hopes opening their very own catering kitchen with minimal several hours for the general public to invest in tacos, and down the street they envision bottling their sauce, producing their very own tortillas, and franchising the small business.
Via her adventures in entrepreneurship, Taylor Mason has figured out that the crucial to looking at these aspirations as a result of is dry but indispensable: adhere to the procedures and get all of the vital paperwork, licensing, and insurance policies in location.
“Be well prepared so that when opportunity knocks, you are completely ready,” she explained.
Posting by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, affiliate director of media relations and external communications at the Polsky Middle. A longtime journalist, Alexia most not long ago was a business reporter with the Chicago Tribune. Achieve Alexia by using e mail or on Twitter @alexiaer.