Taylor King is an entrepreneur and the owner of Espionage, a unique and carefully curated gift store in Los Angeles. Her store is home to beautifully crafted jewelry, high-end designer clothing, one-of-a-kind vintage items and more. HOLR chats with Taylor about her journey with Espionage and the challenges she has faced during COVID-19.
How did your journey with curating gifts first start?
In a way, it has been my life’s journey. When I was little, my mom used to take me to the Rose Bowl Swap Meet and other local antique shops where I discovered all types of strange and amusing objects. But it was in high school while I was working in a local gifting store in Pasadena, that I discovered that the act of gifting can be an act of self-expression in itself. I realized that gifts can be more expressive and meaningful than words — and just as people sometimes need help in finding the perfect words to say, I realized that I could help people find the perfect gift to give.
What were the most significant challenges you faced as an entrepreneur when opening Espionage?
Business. Since I didn’t have a formal background in business, I had to learn everything by trial and error. Buying a gift is different from buying inventory. That said, I attribute my confidence today as an entrepreneur to these early struggles that forced me to learn how to run my business.
How has COVID-19 impacted your line of work?
COVID-19 was definitely disruptive to my business because of the stay-at-home orders and social distancing. But as they say, necessity is the mother of creation. COVID-19 actually propelled me to create one of my all-time best-selling products. I created a product called “The Quarantine Care Package”, which included hand sanitizer, colouring books, puzzles, sage, hand cream, inspirational books and games. It was really just a nice gift to enliven your home life or to give to a friend or colleague in need of cheer during these tough times.
What do you find is the most helpful in acquiring new customers?
Word of mouth was traditionally how I generated business. But recently I have begun leveraging social media, especially Instagram, to attract and acquire new customers. I think that it has been successful for me because something like Instagram allows me to showcase the visual brand elements of Espionage in many different ways. You would be shocked at how many things I have sold off of our Instagram stories or through Direct Messages.
What sets Espionage apart from other companies?
Every gift from Espionage is hand-picked and custom curated by us. Lots of other gift stores standardize their gifts and packages but in the process of gaining efficiency, they give up the authenticity of the personal touch. We offer gift packages, but no gift basket will be the same as any other unless that something is what you have specifically requested. We curate each gift and package to-order based on the notes you provide us.
Do you have any standout gifts that you have curated in the past?
One of my favourite gifts I’ve curated was for Jesse Eisenberg starring as Lex Luther. We found a vintage uranium glass ashtray with an almost otherworldly yellow-green colour to represent Kryptonite. We also had a client who wanted to give a gift for an aviation lover and we found a WWII original airplane propeller. That was pretty cool and a challenge to gift wrap!
Who inspires your sense of style the most?
I am most influenced by my mother. She has been my style icon since I was little. She’s like my in-house stylist and interior designer. I still to this day send her photos of my outfits for special occasions to get her approval.
What are your plans for 2021?
This year I plan to build out the e-commerce side of the business. I want to revamp and streamline my digital presence so that Espionage’s online experience is as intimate and valuable for customers as visiting Espionage’s physical store in West Hollywood.
What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
You will work 80 hours for yourself, so you don’t have to work 40 hours for someone else. It’s a grind but it is rewarding if you are willing to be tough and persevere. Just keep going!
Check out Espionage: www.espionagela.com