The unexpected Sept. 2 death of his mentor and friend, Rick Fawley, left more than a hole in JB Taylor's heart.
It also motivated Taylor, one of the longest-serving executives at east Manatee County-based Fawley|Bryant, to do something he never thought he would do: start his own business. That company, Bradenton-based Taylor Studios, is a partnership with his wife, area artist Sarah Taylor. The firm's services include architecture, interior design and public artwork. “We have a little bit of everything going on,” JB Taylor tells Coffee Talk.
But there would be nothing, says Taylor, without Fawley — whose late summer death after a short illness shocked his colleagues and many others in the business and civic community. Fawley hired Taylor to work at his firm before the 1994 merger with Mike Bryant formed Fawley|Bryant. Taylor then came along for the combination, and helped secure and work on dozens of projects for the company. He never intended to leave the Fawley|Bryant, and even rejected at least one opportunity to work for a competitor.
“When Rick passed it was earth-shattering on so many levels,” Taylor says. “It was a shocking moment and a defining moment. It really shook me up.”
Within a month, JB and Sarah Taylor were talking about what their own company would focus on and look like. They launched the firm in November, and work has steadily streamed in. Projects include a 20,000-square-foot commercial real estate development in north Manatee County, and work on several residential properties.
Taylor says being a scrappy small player in architecture and design, a highly price-driven and competitive sector, isn't daunting, mostly because of one of the best business lessons Fawley taught him. “He would always say, 'if you don't have work,'” says Taylor, “'you go out and create it.'”
Yet going from steady paycheck to startup hasn't been all roses. “There are a couple of nights I still wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if I did the right thing,” says Taylor. “So far I believe I have.”