Taylor Schrang Ready is Ready to Take on the World!
By Danielle Echols
After having a “quarter-life crisis,” Taylor Schrang Ready did what a few adventurous 20-something year olds do and joined the Peace Corps. While working with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, she launched a successful youth program and explored the concept of social entrepreneurship: the idea of using business techniques from the private sector to find solutions to social, cultural, or environmental problems. Most recently, she completed her tenure as the Sales and Marketing Manager of Symbology Clothing. This unique clothing line partners directly with female artisans from around the world to create textiles that can be used in fashion-forward clothing.
According to their mission, “Symbology aims not only to produce beautiful clothing but also to preserve traditional art forms in each garment — from Indian block printing to Palestinian weaving and Native American embroidery.” Taylor’s passion for social entrepreneurship can be seen in everything she does. Currently, is preparing to begin a new venture in her life: starting graduate school. Read more of her story below:
Tell us a little about yourself.
My adult life can kind of be defined in two chapters: pre-Peace Corps and post-Peace Corps. It was a really defining moment in my life. Prior to Peace Corps, I was working in media and advertising, sports media specifically. In a lot of ways I really loved it (I’m a jock). That job went away so I did the obvious thing, had a quarter life crisis and joined the Peace Corps.
What was that experience like?
I get there and I equate it with taking the Red Pill in the Matrix. My eyes, all of a sudden, saw the world in a completely different light: understanding what global poverty looks like, what global inequity looks like. By seeing an individual who was smarter, harder working, or more capable than I was, living a dramatically different life with much fewer opportunities by the mere fact that I was a college educated American and they were a school teacher in Paraguay, that really shifted a lot of my thinking.
I really found my footing in Peace Corps when I started engaging with the idea of entrepreneurship as a way of creating economic development and prosperity for marginalized groups. While in Peace Corps, I developed a youth business plan competition with other volunteers. We gave away $2,000.00 in seed money the first year and it has now grown to a national initiative of Peace Corps, Paraguay that has a $60,000.00 budget- it’s just totally beyond my wildest dreams of what I thought I had started.
What are some of the challenges you faced when you returned?
I came back to the states, talking about social entrepreneurship. In Dallas, Texas people looked at me like I had 3 heads! I literally got laughed out of rooms. My favorite was when someone told me my ideas were “tangential to the business ecosystem,” which is the nicest way someone can tell you they don’t care about what you’re talking about. During that experience, self-doubt really started to creep its way into me “Am I crazy? What did I do for two years in Paraguay? Are there even jobs in this space?” When no one understands what you’re saying, you start feeling crazy. I kept sort of shoehorning myself into positions because I needed a job, and low and behold I was really not successful in most of them. It was very clear I wasn’t thriving in those positions.
How did you feel when you found Symbology?
It was really just phenomenal when I found myself working for a social enterprise working to take artisan textile crafts and infuse it into fashion forward designs, and making something that would be saleable to a broader Western Market. I was able to help grow the company’s revenue by 100% over 10 months, I got us national account which was really transformational for the company, and we some national brand recognition. I really started finding my footing again. During that process, I also started applying to business school. I had the social impact side down, but I decided I needed that technical business acumen, expertise and quite frankly the credibility. I put my message front and center “I’m here because I think social innovation, and social impact and marginalized opportunities present the next wave of innovation and growth in business.”
What are some things that you’re really hoping to get out of business school?
I’m hoping to get that technical business know how that will allow me to transfer my ideas. I really want to learn the language. When you know the language, people really start listening to what you have to say.
It sounds like where you are now with is very rewarding.
It’s really rewarding, it’s validating after a long time of having doubt and wondering is there a place for me? Is there a place for my ideas? It was great to say “...well we just doubled our revenue this year (with Symbology)” -people start listening, and that was the most validating thing.
Right after you left the Peace Corps, if you could have told yourself one thing, what would that be?
That you’re good enough exactly as you are. Just feel like you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and you don’t need anyone to tell you otherwise.
Taylor will be starting Business School at the SMU Cox School of Business in the Fall. She will be speaking at our Acceptance Tour in Austin on Monday, April 24th. You can learn more about Taylor here:
Website: About Taylor
(This interview has been slightly modified from its original recording)