Evan Taylor is a Minnesota-based professional advertisement photographer, commercial filmmaker, director, producer, drone pilot, and video editor. He is well-known not only in the Mankato community but throughout the state and, ultimately, nationwide. As a good friend of ours here at Kōvly Studio, and as one of the best in his field, we were excited to pick Evan’s brain about how he got his start as an entrepreneur.
What piece of advice would you give young business owners?
I once spoke on a panel of business owners to a room full of college graduates. I told them that I believe so many people think that in order to start a business, you need to invent the next Apple Computer or develop the cure for cancer or invent a product that lands deals on Shark Tank, when in reality, you just need to buy some paint and a brush and start putting paint on a house. You didn’t invent painting. You weren’t the first person to come up with the idea of painting. But you got out there, and you did it. And that’s what you need to start doing. Painting is just an analogy there. Find that thing in life that you’re passionate about and start doing it. While finding the cure for cancer would be great, we could use another Taco Truck in town.
What was the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Back in 2012, I was working at an Agency in Downtown Minneapolis. I loved the work that I did, and I absolutely loved the team. But I knew I wanted to get back to Mankato. I wrote a letter to Jonathan Zierdt about wanting to get back to town. Minutes later, he responded, inviting me to lunch. I drove down to Mankato and had lunch with him at Tav on the Ave, and he told me that the reason there isn’t a photo/video job in Mankato is because I needed to create it. “If it doesn’t exist, create it.” “If you want to be back in Mankato, do it.” JZ was a huge asset to this town and posthumously remains a huge influence on this community. I owe much of my career to him, and I know thousands of people in Southern MN would say the same thing.
How did you get your start in business?
I initially worked for Fast Horse in Downtown Minneapolis – which was awarded the #1 Most Effective PR Agency in North America. It introduced me to the world of PR, marketing, advertising, etc. From my connections there, I found myself working on all sorts of projects, which eventually evolved into new clients, new connections, and, eventually, starting my own business. My experiences led me on assignments for many restaurants, athletes, non-profits, and multiple Fortune 500 clients including Coca-Cola, Polaris, Medtronic, Federal Premium, BlueCross BlueShield, Caribou Coffee, Toro, BF Goodrich, Mentos, DJ Khaled, and the National Marrow Donor Program (Be The Match).
The last 10+ years have gone by quickly. Still, when I look at my portfolio, I’m filled with the memories of photographing at 18,000 feet on the ice-capped glaciers of Ecuador (Gustavus Adolphus College), filming in the woods while strapped to the back of a snowmobile as riders zoom past me (Polaris), witnessing the smiles and tears on the faces of bone marrow recipients as they meet the donor who saved their life for the very first time (Be The Match), experiencing the sound of power being generated inside a Nuclear Power Plant (Ecolab), feeling the sand in my hair as we film in the Western Sahara Desert (Cabrinha Kites), and seeing the sheer joy brought onto wounded soldier’s family as Jared Allen hands them keys to their brand new home (JAH4WW).
What drives you?
My children. My wife. My family. I started my career right when social media was getting started. I think many photographers in my generation had dreams and aspirations of “being the best photographer in the world” and becoming the next Nat Geo Photographer, but I couldn’t be any further from that now. While I enjoy my talents, I’d be fine with being the world’s okayest, most mediocre photographer as long as my children think I’m the “World’s Best Dad.” Everything I do is for them. It’s the same way my parents raised me, and it’s the same way my in-laws raised my wife. They’re amazing grandparents to my children, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. My wife is a rockstar; she supports everything I do and picks up double duty at home when I have to be on the road for work. I’d be nothing without them.
I’m also driven when I see other people find their purpose. I’m often on 5-30 person crews for work, and it’s incredible to watch everyone come together and work hard at accomplishing their goals.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in the Mankato community, with lots of family history in town. My great-great-great-grandfather started the first department store in Mankato in 1868, The Brett’s Department Store, which was in business for 124 Years. The building still remains today, connected to the Mankato Place Mall near the Civic Center.
What do you think is the most essential professional skill?
While I think many clients hire me because of my photography and video skills, I think most hire me because I’m reliable. Showing up, being on time, and timely communication are some of the essential components