Lauren Taylor was born in Flint, Michigan at a time when memories of its glory days were just beginning to fade. It had been a company town, where jobs were plentiful, unions were strong, and middle-class families could put down their roots. Lauren’s grandfathers both worked in the auto industry and retired with pensions from General Motors. But, as those jobs began to dwindle, the children of factory workers set off to make their own way in life; a whole generation of entrepreneurs.
Lauren Taylor learned the art of possibility from her father. Paul Taylor started from scratch. With an uncanny sense enterprise and a whole lot of guts he spotted opportunities from miles away, and if there wasn’t one, he’d make it. He built a power washing business by turning Sunday drives into treasure hunts for dirty houses and a painting empire from chipped paint on a restaurant ceiling and a call for the manager. Lauren learned from him at a young age. She found “diamonds” in her driveway when she was five, leaving sledgehammers on the pavement and inciting calls from the neighbors to her mother “Do you know what your daughter is doing? She’s selling rocks at my door!”. She drew Christmas cards to earn money for gifts. In high school she started a mural business and left the town covered in her paintings and in college she paid the rent with her earnings from dog shows where she drew canine caricatures and taking commissions.
Lauren’s sense of compassion came from her mother. Throughout Lauren’s childhood, Tami took care of children all day, and made room for the homeless at night. Her innate sensitivity to the needs of others instilled in Lauren a deep concern for the wellbeing of those in need. Throughout her life, the chance to help others has been a guiding force in all of her choices.
In 2014 Lauren Taylor designed and patented a specialized pet collar that solves the problem of loudly crowing roosters in backyard chicken keeper’s flocks, saving tens of thousands of these animals’ lives. By the time they are old enough to crow, most roosters have already become a family pet and not easily given up. The inevitable fact that most roosters end up being someone else’s dinner makes the choice to surrender them all the more difficult. Lauren created the NO CROW Rooster Collars because too many roosters were dying just because they were loud. She came up with it by studying the anatomy and the behavior of roosters when they crow and implementing both in her design. When she borrowed a rooster and put the collar on for the first time, it reduced the volume of the crow by more than 50%. She shared her discovery online and it began selling worldwide the next day.
Lauren is proud to say that her products are and always will be made in the USA but, as a small business owner, getting a product made in Michigan has not been easy. Sewing contractors and skilled workers are hard to come by and difficult to keep. Smaller shops are downsizing and closing their doors all the time. As small operations grow, it seems to get harder for them. One major issue is finding the help that has experience or training in the field. More than that, startups can’t afford to hire enough help because the cost of doing business is just too high. The major obstacle for most job makers is health care. Lauren would propose restructuring our health care system so that small business owners and their employees are able to focus on reaching their own potential. By relieving that burden, Michigan could draw businesses and innovators, and strong workforce from all over the country and fully revitalize our State’s economy.
Health Care Battle
Health care is, without a doubt, Lauren’s biggest and most personal issue. In her mid-twenties Lauren an episode that presented like a stroke. It started with spotty vision, then, near blindness. Her thoughts were muddled and she lost her words. She felt tingling that began in her fingers and slowly crept up her arm, spreading to her face and one side of her mouth. Her balance was gone and her limbs felt too heavy to move. It turned out to be a very complex form of migraine. Sporadic at first, the attacks came more and more frequently until she was officially diagnosed with chronic migraines. She and her husband, Jim, were photographers then; a team. But, as the migraines took hold of her life, taking the photos fell to him and she did what work she could from home. Having lost most of the life she loved, she found herself locked in a new reality; life behind curtains, in constant pain, day after day, after day with little hope of ever finding relief. For years, Lauren struggled to get the help she needed until, finally, the Affordable Care Act changed all of that. Lauren was able to become a patient at the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute. She was cared for by a team of specialists who understood her condition and saved her. She got her life back.
In 2016, Lauren began the fight for her life. When the quality health care she depended on was threatened, she stepped up. She stood up to her Congressman when he voted to dismantle the ACA and rescind coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. She organized and rallied for the health of all people. She persisted. When the Senate had their chance to terminate the care of millions of Americans like her with pre-existing conditions, people with disabilities, people on Medicaid and Medicare, and all those who just simply can’t afford the cost of treating their illnesses, she stood up again. Hundreds of people gathered to support these rights to life, and liberty, the opportunity to be healthy enough to pursue happiness, and the Senate’s health care bill failed.
For Lauren Taylor, the only way forward is to leave the partisan bickering behind. In August of 2017, she had a chance to put that theory to the test. She was chosen to be part of a 60 Minutes focus group, “America Divided”. She found that it really is personal to people. Each individual in the group, Lauren included, had a unique set of circumstances that framed their worldview and a unique set of influences that kept them there. No one is exempt. But, what if we change the scope of our experience to take in the experiences of others? Then can we break through to the other side?
After the show, the group spent some time getting to know each other and two of them exchanged contacts. The opportunity to find common ground was laid out, “Will you take me to a shooting range? I want to understand your passion for guns.” and accepted. Thirteen of the fourteen focus group participants came together after that. They spent the next six months discussing the issues together in an ongoing message they named “America’s Hope”. Because of the hard work they did together, because they did break through to the other side, 60 Minutes came back to Grand Rapids and filmed a second episode that was a discussion among friends. The group does not always agree but, they agree that we need to work together.
Running for Office
This is about more than just politics; it’s personal. It hardly matters whether someone voted for one party or the other, or whether they identify with a political ideology. We are all human. We all struggle and, we can all succeed. For Lauren Taylor, the fight is not over. She is running for office now because she can; she’s healthy. What about the others, though? Those who are still sick, those who are too poor or too marginalized to get up on their feet, those who can’t seem to pass Go due to college tuition prices and mounting debt, those who work three jobs and still can’t pay the bills, those who do their best to take care of their employees but feel that the cards are stacked against them, those who are working hard all day at home to take care of their kids, those whose kids have been ripped away from them, and all those chasing the American dream that just can’t find humanity enough in our legislators to get it; what about them?
These stories are personal, and they unite us. After the 2016 election, we let politics divide us. We lost each other. Lauren is running for State Representative to find common ground and work together. She doesn’t see politicians doing that right now. So, she’s doing things a different way. She wants to put people first. She wants to know you personally and work with you to make things better.
Lauren Taylor is married to James Kusmierski, an artist in everything he does, her partner in business and in life. She describes him as wonderful, practically perfect and counts herself very lucky. The Affordable Care Act saved her life, but, it was Jim who kept her going. None of this would be possible without him. They live in Cascade, Michigan with two Springer Spaniels, and a rescue cat named Luna.