Taylor Paige Nealand '14: Simmons Made Me a Strong Business Woman
We caught up with Taylor about her business, Opt for Epic, and her plans to travel the world.
On choosing Simmons
I fell in love with Simmons the moment I stepped foot on campus. At the time I didn’t know it, but going to a women-centered college was so integral to my growth and I'm so proud to be a Simmons alum. What attracted me to Simmons right away was the location — obviously! And the fact that it's a small school in a big city. I felt welcome and safe the minute I arrived.
Simmons taught me to be a strong woman. I meet a lot of different people every day — some are great and kind, and some are pushy and hard. Simmons taught me how to stick up for myself and handle myself as a strong business woman.
On starting a business
I started Taylor Paige Photography (now Opt for Epic) while at Simmons because I knew I'd have four years to grow, learn, build my network and have so many mentors at my fingertips. I worked for a photographer in high school, then friends and family started to hire me to photograph their weddings and special events. Eventually I thought, “hey, I can do this.”
It was tricky to be a full-time journalism student and athlete AND run my business. At times I was definitely overwhelmed and didn’t know how to do it all. I remember from day one I had to be really organized with taking jobs because I had class and regattas on the weekends — those where my first priority. After a while you just figure out to have a great planner, stay organized, and make sure your priorities come first.
On becoming an entrepreneur
When I graduated I felt the societal pressure to get a “real” job. I felt like if I didn’t give it a shot I'd never know what I was missing. So I took a job as a real estate photographer while still photographing weddings on the weekends. I quickly realized that working for someone else wasn’t for me and after six months I made the decision to put all of my effort into my business and work for myself 100%.
My favorite part of working for myself is the flexibility. I try and map out my year in advance and put in any events I want to go to, vacations I want to go on, trainings and trips, etc., then I schedule my work around that. It’s a blessing to be able to say yes and no to certain jobs — and I’m still learning when to say no. I also love the freedom it allows me to have with who I work with. If I want to donate a session to a small new business I can, and if I want to turn down a job because it doesn’t feel right I can also do that.
On advice for students
Find a mentor in the field you want to get into. Having multiple mentors changed the game for me and I believe that’s what allowed me to be very successful right out of Simmons.
You should also learn to be okay with failure. Expect mistakes and tough moments because they will happen. I learn the most when I mess up or fail, and as bad as it feels in the moment, there's a greater lesson the universe is trying to teach you. Don’t let it ruin you, allow it to make you stronger and a better business woman.
On turning a bus into a home
I've always had a vision to travel the world for a long period of time. Not just for one month or two months, but years. There is a huge community of (mostly) millennials who are living full time on the road, working for themselves and living their dream life each day. After about a year of research and planning we found this bus in Los Angeles and decided it was the right time for us to begin this dream. We flew out there on a whim and made the trek back to New Hampshire on "Bruce the Bus."
Yes, we broke down twice and had many struggles, but we're still working on our dream and we've learned a LOT along the way. Bruce is now in New Hampshire at my family house where we are demoing him and making him our full time home.