KALAMAZOO, MI — Desi Taylor started her first business while she was a college student at Western Michigan University. Her second venture was designed to help others bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.
Taylor, now 30, recently opened the Kalamazoo Start-Up Center with a goal of filling a void in the startup community, specifically as it pertains to financial education and important first steps for any business.
Or, as she puts it, she has a startup business designed to help fellow startups, focusing on everything from bookkeeping to editing, grant writing, connecting people to the right resources and helping develop pitches.
Taylor knows a bit about what it is like to go into business.
Her first business, Cluventure Travel, was a travel agency fueled by an air of mystery. For five years, she and her team sent clients on trips, destination unknown to the client, following interviews that would uncover the type and length of adventure travelers might be looking for while taking into account the clients’ budget and how they wished to travel.
The business was featured in local media as well as on The Travel Channel and in Frommer’s Travel Guide, Practical Wanderlust and National Geographic Traveler.
But as the pandemic put a halt to travel plans for most, Cluventure slowed down and eventually came to an end after a healthy five-year run. It was then, as Taylor bided her time helping other entrepreneur friends get their businesses going, that her next business idea came to be.
“It all kind started as a way to streamline what I was doing for my friends, and the more I talked about the idea, the more I realized there’s a huge need for these services in the community,” she said about the launch of Kalamazoo Start-Up, recalling her early days with Cluventure.
“When I started Cluventure, I was in charge of a lot of people’s money, so I wanted to make sure I had my bookkeeping down pat. I started calling around to different accounting firms, all the places I could think of and kept hearing ‘no, we don’t do that.’ It was just a lot of ‘no, no, sorry, no.’”
Eventually, Taylor found a mentor who took her under her wing and taught her the ins and outs of bookkeeping, a service that is a central focus of Kalamazoo Start-Up.
“People either tell me ‘I don’t know how to do it’ or ‘I hate doing it’ or ‘I don’t know what software to use,’” she said. “A lot of entrepreneurs really think they can do everything, but there’s just not a lot of resources out there to teach people how to keep their books properly, and that’s really a crucial part of any business.”
Once Taylor gets her hands on a client’s books, she does what she calls a “book makeover.” Once she’s done, she shows the client what she changed, why she did it and how they can maintain their books moving forward.
Should they not want to maintain their own books anymore, she can be hired to fulfill that role.
In addition to bookkeeping, she is an experienced editor and seasoned at assisting with grant writing, perfecting pitches and connecting people to the right resources to help their business grow.
When it comes to rates, Taylor offers her services on a sliding scale. To determine rates, she said they look at how much revenue the business is already generating.
“If you are a well-established business that needs help keeping track of bookkeeping, or if you are somebody who is just starting out and working to get your first customers,” she said. “We want to be accessible and approachable and help build up businesses. We don’t want cost to be a deterring factor.”
Taylor, who was born and raised in Kalamazoo, is excited to be part of a new wave of economic growth in the area, and to fit in where she sees a need.
“Kalamazoo is really growing and thriving, and we saw a huge increase in entrepreneurship over the pandemic,” she said.
“I’m just excited to do anything I can to help foster that culture and contribute to this community. … I just think there’s so much potential in this city and so many amazing people living here and anything I can do to help them; I am here for it.”
The Kalamazoo Start-Up Center is partnering with The Foundry to cohost a speed networking event — think speed dating but with an entrepreneurial angle — on Tuesday, June 14. For more information or tickets to the event, click here.
For more information on Kalamazoo Start-Up Center, visit startupkzoo.com, email [email protected] or call or text 269-775-4596. The business, at this time, does not have a brick-and-mortar location, but Taylor says she is happy to meet clients where they are at or conduct business online.
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