A homeless man named Everett Taylor who worked odd jobs to pay his school fees has now become the CEO of a prominent company in the United States.
Everett Taylor, a native of Richmond, Virginia was appointed as the first black chief executive officer of Kickstart, a crowdfunding platform for creative projects like music, movies, art, theater, games, comics, and photography in 2022 after the then CEO, Aziz Hasan, officially stepped down.
During an interview with LinkedIn’s The Path, Taylor mentioned that his earliest career aspirations ranged from being a basketball player to a rapper. However, these aspirations were driven more by his desire to find a way to survive and get out of his community.
“A lot of people where I’m from stay in this small neighborhood, i was always a dreamer. And so a lot of the things that I wanted to do were things that I felt were going to get me out of Richmond, Virginia, even if they weren’t realistic,” he said.
He said when he was 14 years old, he got his first job which was selling illegal drugs and substances. Immediately his mother found out, she got him a job as a junior marketing assistant, promoting bookstores and gift shops for Civil War parks and Black history museums across Virginia.
Taylor said the job got him out of trouble and gave him his first experience in marketing. But in his senior year of high school, he became homeless, a setback he says eventually saved his life and gave him his greatest skill.
“It was one of the worst moments anyone can go through in their lives. But I think it really molded me into the person I am today, I think my strength as a leader is empathy, and there’s no better lesson of empathy than not having anything,” he said.
As a homeless teenager, Taylor found refuge in a local library, where he discovered a computer for the first time. Through the internet, he came across stories of individuals like Mark Zuckerberg, who, despite being just a few years older, were already leading prosperous companies.
Taylor stated that the discovery ignited his passion for Technology. After high school, he said he did different menial jobs from washing windows to playing drums on buckets, to gather the money he needed for college.
He enrolled at Virginia Tech, United States, and worked at the same time to help pay for his classes. While at Virginia Tech, Taylor said he launched a company that used social media to promote parties and sell pictures, an idea he considered as being risky that year.
“I think it was survival. I’m working, I’m making minimum wage. It was this feeling of, like, it could be taken all away. That’s how we ended up being homeless in the first place. For me, entrepreneurship provided me this kind of safety net,” he said.
Taylor mentioned that he eventually sold the company, left school, and relocated to another state. He then moved around to various startups and even started a couple of his own, getting experience in PR, email marketing, SEO, and more in the process.
Later, he joined Artsy, the biggest online place for buying and selling fine arts. At Artsy, he said he noticed a lack of diversity and knew he needed to make a change.
Being the Chief Marketing Officer who works closely with the CEO, Taylor said he learned the skills to run a large, consumer-facing organization and turned things around until 70 percent of the company’s most successful artists were people of color.
With time, news spread within the business community about Taylor’s activities at Artsy, leading to his getting recognition. Not wanting to stay on one spot at the top he decided to apply for the CEO position at Kickstarter.
Taylor said he applied despite knowing it was risky as he did not have a college degree but he took the risk. After his appointment, he ensures the company prioritizes people over profit with unionized workers and a four-day work week. And under Taylor’s leadership, Kickstarter was named one of Time100’s Most Influential Companies of 2023.
Sharing his best career advice, Taylor urges people to remember that your job should not be the only thing that defines you. He added that it’s important to have a good balance between work and personal life and to remember that you’re more than just your job.