Following transferring back again property to Chicago from California, Taylor Mason missed Los Angeles’ ubiquitous avenue tacos. She’d get an occasional whiff thanks to a dude who sporadically established 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, ideal into your plate,” Mason stated. “You could see the foods remaining cooked suitable in entrance of you.”
That craving impressed Mason to start Taylor’s Tacos, which she runs with her wife, Maya Mason. The small business, an alum of the Polsky Center’s Compact Business Advancement Plan, consists of a catering services, taco truck, and function area. But it also has a broader mission.
Born and raised on Chicago’s West Facet, Mason understands what it suggests to live in a food items desert. As she grows her taco enterprise, she hopes to open her individual catering and retail room in the local community she nonetheless calls residence.
“I’ve bought to make the West Facet great yet again,” mentioned Mason, who lives in Douglas Park.
Mason would not have predicted a career in tacos when she initially moved to California, on a complete basketball scholarship to Pepperdine College. She researched broadcast journalism at the Malibu university and aspired to get the job done powering the digital camera in Hollywood.
But as her higher education graduation neared in 2010, her mother endured back again-to-again mind aneurysms (she’s Okay now). At her father’s ask for, Mason moved property to Chicago, passing up a career she had lined up on the West Coastline.
“That was the most difficult but most straightforward conclusion I at any time experienced to make,” Mason stated.
She labored at her family’s organization, NBU Athletics, an organization that teaches basketball fundamentals to youth, as director of operations for five several years. But she wasn’t a lover of the spouse and children organization dynamics and required a little something different.
As she labored odd careers – a health club trainer, a basketball mentor — Mason retained going again to her longtime really like of bringing people collectively.
She hosted a celebration and built tacos, inspired by the Wicker Park avenue seller. They were a strike, and about the following two years she labored on perfecting her recipe for “street tacos with a total whole lot of soul.”
When she achieved Maya in 2016, the passion challenge became an casual company. Maya, at the time doing work as a restaurant server, experienced grown up in a foodstuff-centered domestic – each of her parents had attended French culinary faculty and her mom was an heirloom gardener – and was psyched about the likely.
In 2018, both Taylor and Maya Mason stop their careers to concentration full time on building Taylor’s Tacos.
The business enterprise specialised in pop-up catering — showing up at occasions and building tacos dwell, some of them exceptional twists on tradition this sort of as salmon, asparagus, and portobello mushroom tacos. When the pandemic hit and events have been cancelled, the Masons began providing taco platters, nacho bars, and ready lunches.
They also opened an occasion house, called Taylored, at 2451 S. Oakley Ave., obtaining realized through catering that celebration areas are in large desire. The ethereal 1,400-sq.-foot storefront, intended to exude “a bit of Los Angeles,” sells tacos to the community on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“That included a whole new facet of our business enterprise that we wouldn’t have with out the pandemic,” Mason claimed. “We went from earning $7,000 a 12 months to around $400,000 in gross sales.”
Mason also commenced a nonprofit, Tacos Make Neighborhood, that brings individuals into the place for a taco experience they could not usually have the opportunity to love. She hosted a Tacos and Tea application with Job sWish and at the moment has a partnership with the Above and Past food pantry.
Mason related with the Polsky Heart soon after listening to about it through the Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab, a nine-thirty day period virtual accelerator for Chicago-space business people. She participated in the tumble 2021 cohort of the Polsky Center’s Smaller Enterprise Development Application, the place a crew of UChicago college students aided her devise a marketing prepare.
“The most beneficial component was just obtaining a staff that you can bounce concepts off of,” Mason stated. “To have persons from distinctive walks of daily life that can give you suggestions, actually designed me comprehend how critical it is to get distinctive varieties of persons on our staff.”
Now a crew of 6 and running out of a kitchen in The Hatchery, a food incubator in East Garfield Park, Taylor’s Tacos is seeking larger sized digs as it gets much more orders than it can cope with. The Masons are exploring serious estate on the West Side in hopes opening their individual catering kitchen area with confined hours for the community to acquire tacos, and down the street they visualize bottling their sauce, making their very own tortillas, and franchising the organization.
By way of her adventures in entrepreneurship, Taylor Mason has acquired that the critical to viewing these aspirations through is dry but indispensable: observe the procedures and get all of the required paperwork, licensing, and insurance policy in put.
“Be prepared so that when option knocks, you are ready,” she stated.
Short article by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, affiliate director of media relations and exterior communications at the Polsky Heart. A longtime journalist, Alexia most recently was a small business reporter with the Chicago Tribune. Access Alexia via e mail or on Twitter @alexiaer.