Bold Women in the C-Suite: Abby Taylor
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Bold Women in the C-Suite: Abby Taylor

Bold Women in the C-Suite: Abby Taylor

Name: Abby Taylor

Brand: Playa Bowls

Title: Co-Founder, Chief Marketing Officer

Age: 33

Years in franchising: 7

No. of units: 165

How important is making bold moves in a woman’s path to the C-suite? Making bold moves is a crucial part of any woman’s path to the C-suite. In my situation it was always about doing whatever was necessary to protect the growing brand at Playa Bowls while sustaining brand authenticity. To maintain our original vision, which was rooted in a passion for surfing and adventurous travel, it was important for every location to exude that aesthetic as our journey unfolded and we began to rapidly expand across the country. To protect what my partner Rob and I had created, we had to be bold and be the loudest in the room when taking these big risks

Describe bold moves you’ve made in your career. Early on in our journey, we signed some sizable leases, with no road map or guarantee for what was to come. I always knew Playa Bowls would be a success, but committing to something like that was a brave step at the time.

How did you envision those moves changing the brand you were with? I knew signing big leases in well-known locations with tons of foot traffic and eyes on the location would help us gain visibility for our growing brand. My intuition in taking these daring steps told me that this would elevate the brand into a household name on the Jersey Shore and were necessary to take us to the next level.

How has your leadership helped evolve the brand? I really believe I am a true representation of the brand and our mission to bring superfruit bowls to the masses using only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients while providing an amazing in-store brand experience. I don’t take that responsibility lightly and I hope that my passion for healthy foods, surfing, and our culture comes through to every single person I meet. As the brand has grown exponentially and we have made the move into successfully expanding as a franchise, I’ve started looking at Playa Bowls as something much bigger than I had ever dreamed or imagined. I now look at the weight and influence of each decision I make, and how it will affect my team around me and all of our franchisee partners. I want to bring ideas and initiatives to the table that continue to inspire and benefit everyone involved in the brand and have surrounded myself with smart and savvy businesspeople to bounce ideas off to achieve just that.

Was there pushback? How did you handle that? In terms of signing the big leases, my dad told me I was being outrageous and asked if I was sure that’s what I wanted to do. Looking back, he was concerned (as any parent would be) and was preparing me for the consequences of taking a sizeable risk, looking out for my best interests. Rob and I knew it was the right move ,and I listened to my gut instinct to evolve Playa Bowls to what it is today—a national successful brand with 165 locations and counting.

How are you imparting a culture of boldness to other women in your organization? I truly believe that I’ve shown all the women in my organization that we are just as capable as men (even more so) of creating the life they always wanted. We need to be able to speak up in a room full of men when we are not being heard. Working hard to sustain that mindset and to keep pushing the envelope even when things are not going as planned is a strong suit of mine, and I hope other women in my organization take notice. When I speak up in uncomfortable situations or throw out a wild idea that may not end up working out exactly as I envision, at least I am strong in my convictions and not afraid to be bold and take risks!

What motivates you as a leader? Seeing how many people’s livelihoods rely on Playa Bowls. It’s wild to think this little food cart on the side of the road in Belmar, New Jersey, now employs hundreds of people who share our love for the brand. Although growth comes with immense pressure, I am confident that the decisions I make that affect everyone in our organization set us up for success. It truly motivates me to see store employees move up to store managers, then territory managers, and then on to operate their own franchises. A lot of people have been working at Playa Bowls for years, and I love to see them feel inspired to grow with us.

What are some ways women leaders in franchising can drive change? So many of my team members and franchisees are such strong, business-minded entrepreneurs. I see the power they have over making positive moves that have influenced how we do business. As a leader, mentoring younger female employees to see the great opportunities there are in franchising for themselves is a great way to influence positive change in the franchise industry for women.

What role has mentoring played in your career? How did you meet your mentors? Growing up, my uncle owned a very successful business. So when I found that I was struggling, I would reach out to him for advice. No matter what type of business someone is involved with, we tend to face similar challenges and obstacles. My uncle would use his experience and guide me to make the best decisions for me.

Describe one of your biggest failures. What did you learn, and how did it contribute to greater personal or business success? I don’t really consider anything a failure. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow, and there have been many made along the way as any entrepreneur would attest. I instill this message to all my direct team members, and I truly mean it. Some of my biggest “failures” have been hiring candidates too quickly who were not a fit for the brand. This really taught me to take my time in the hiring process, as challenging as that may be at times. Since recently solidifying our brand’s missions and core values, I have used that as a guide to find the right people moving forward. Finding people you can work and collaborate with is really important for me.

What is one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make, and how did it affect your life? I would say making the decision to bring in private equity. This company is and has been my baby since 2014, and it was hard to decide if that was something I was ready to give up control of. It was a lot of late nights staying up and really thinking through the pros and cons. It was a stressful time, but I could see how quickly Playa Bowls was growing, and it was the right time for me to mitigate the risks of a growing business. Luckily, I am extremely involved in the business, and protecting what Rob and I have created allows us to remain creative and work on projects we are passionate about. 

Taking on our PE partners allowed us to make a lot of good connections and hire strong team members. It was really a pivotal point for us, where we recognized the need to strengthen our infrastructure with strong talent and really focus on nationwide expansion and leading in the acai bowl segment. This shift has allowed us to implement structured teams and be more strategic with our franchisee partners, while remaining authentic to our roots—an actual cart on the side of the road in Belmar, New Jersey.

If you could do it all over again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? I wouldn’t change a thing. Starting your own business is hard work. I did not go to school for business or franchising and had no clue what it entailed. There was no playbook to follow. Learning lessons along the way is part of the journey. We have so many funny stories to reflect on, like going to the grocery store and asking if you can buy cases of bananas, or biking to the farmers market at 2 p.m. on a busy summer day to wipe them clean of the strawberries they had in stock, and not knowing about product distribution. We always made it work and evolved with each part of the process. A lot of people are so afraid to take the leap of faith and make these bold moves, but I think we need to take risks to see rewards. Overcoming challenges, learning from your mistakes, continuing to better yourself on a personal level, and surrounding yourself with people who understand the vision is a realistic path to success.

What advice do you have for aspiring female leaders? Women can do anything, and we do it with grace, and that gives us an edge. Women are kind and strong forces to be reckoned with! Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something, because I really believe that if someone like me can, anyone can.

Published: May 14th, 2023

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