Success Stories

When you get right down to it, Charlotte is a community. And from the people we call neighbors, to the people we
work with, play with, and create with, we each contribute and strengthen our respective communities.
As any entrepreneur will tell you, community involvement is an important part of being a small business owner. For
Kevin Taylor, owner of IMEK Studios in Charlotte, the idea of community drives everything he does.
“When I went out on my own in 2012, the DNC was in full swing. It was then when I learned the value of
community involvement,” Taylor says. “It was pretty remarkable to see so many different parts of the Charlotte
community come together to pull off such a big event. I learned a lot.”

A graphic designer by trade, and now running a design firm that specializes in everything from design and
branding to e-commerce and digital marketing, Kevin has been heavily involved in Charlotte’s street art community
the past few years. “As a co-founder and creative director for the Talking Walls Mural Festival, I get to bring some
of the best local, national, and international talent together to create public art in Charlotte,” he says. “It’s a
wonderful experience that strengthens our community.”
As far as his business is concerned, he was on track for his best year ever in 2020—until the COVID-19 pandemic
hit.

“It was tough,” he says. “Like everyone, I had no idea what was going to happen and was wary and cautious
about what would come next.” It didn’t take long for him to begin to see the fallout from the pandemic and
Governor Cooper’s stay-at-home order for non-essential businesses. “Work from small businesses and regional
agencies dried up immediately. It was pretty sobering.”
It was then that Taylor got to work on pivoting. “I thought, what is it that I actually do control? I couldn’t just sit
around waiting for the phone to ring,” he says. “I am a graphic designer. I knew there were places I could put my
energy not only to survive, but to continue building community.”

With a foundation in e-commerce in place, Taylor moved from branding and marketing to apparel. “I launched
DeepFriedFamily.com which features two in-house apparel brands, Carolina Style and Permanent Vacation, as well
as making the Talking Walls festival merch available online for the first time. The idea was to create a marketplace
where I could continue to collaborate with other artists and small businesses so we could all benefit. The goal was
continued collaboration.”
A recipient of the Open for Business Access to Capital program from the City of Charlotte, Taylor says that the
grant helped him stay positive, “I was so grateful. It came at the perfect time and really helped me to focus on
continuing to move forward.”
As far as advice to other entrepreneurs struggling to make it through 2020’s challenges, Taylor says to try and
focus on the positive. “It’s like this, there’s no success without some level of struggle. And when you think about it,
this year is just one long struggle that requires us to keep innovating and changing to meet the new daily
challenges. And we can. We’re entrepreneurs—we are used to doing what’s necessary to make it through tough
times. But you have to stay positive. You have to keep moving forward. You have to get involved in your
community. There’s really no other option. You can do this.”
And together, as a community, we will.

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