At 14, Taylor was a Canadian National Gymnast en route to represent Canada at the 2012 Olympics when her path was severely altered; while attempting an extremely dangerous gymnastic exercise, she sustained a spinal cord injury, impacting her mobility from the chest down.
“Everything was a challenge,” she recalls. “I went from being the most independent person in the world – superhero athlete status – to the complete other end of the spectrum. Trying to become a woman and watching my friends party while I was in rehab was hard. But my friends made the process so much easier for me.”
Taylor compares her rehabilitation journey to attending summer camp, and her room was the “party” room. Being surrounded by other kids and teens going through similar transformations, Taylor wasn’t struck by the magnitude of living with a disability until she returned to her regular high school. With her mom at her side as a supporter and advocate, an accessible washroom was created for Taylor, and before long, she was thriving among her peers and even became the president of student council by the end of high school.
“It was initially suggested that I attend a school for people with disabilities, but I knew that wasn’t for me,” she shares, “I knew I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It was only post-injury that I could be myself, and not ‘Taylor the future Olympian’, or ‘Taylor the gymnast’. I was free to be myself for the first time.”
Fourteen years later, she is ‘Taylor the entrepreneur’ and is on a new path as CEO of her tea brand, Cup of Té.
Taylor tapped into her love for tea and successfully launched her business during the pandemic, though her entrepreneurial spirit is far from new. While studying Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University, Taylor started a podcast, interviewing guests over a cup of tea and discussing a wide range of topics. While she had hoped for a sponsorship, she found more success creating her own company and brand.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in university at first. It was also the first time I was able to present myself without people knowing my story beforehand, so it was new and exciting and scary all at once,” says Taylor, “I had wanted to be a sports doctor, but with my finger dexterity impacted, I had to find another path. I had a teacher who pointed out that I like to talk a lot and I could make a career out of that. I loved watching talk shows, so having my own podcast was so much fun.”
Taylor’s Podcast, Tea Time with Tay, paved the way for the creation of her own tea brand.
“It wasn’t easy starting out as an entrepreneur. I was underestimated a lot. In meetings and calls, people would ask to speak to my boss or the person above me. I want people to know that people with disabilities are capable of having their own businesses.”
Today, Taylor is ecstatic about opening her first Cup of Té store in North York this summer and looks forward to welcoming guests in person after a long time spent in lockdown.
But that’s not all: Taylor continues to be a disability advocate and serves as a board member at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. She also hopes to become a full-time motivational speaker and a mom in the next few years.
“I have a busy schedule,” she shares, “But it’s important for me to take part in committees, not just as a checkmark, but to initiate genuine change.” Taylor is determined to use her voice and courage to speak up for those in the disability community and other minority groups.
Reflecting on representation, she recalls entering many spaces where she has been the only person with a disability and encourages others to be comfortable making space for themselves and those who will come afterward. “It’s a great way to open doors for others,” she says.
And on gymnastics? Taylor still admires the sport and remains a fan to this day, watching it regularly. In a strange twist of fate, she worked with the Canadian Olympic Committee while in university.
“It’s a beautiful sport,” she says, “Only seven people in the world have experienced something like I have from gymnastics. When you come really close to death, you appreciate getting to wake up and experience another day.”
Taylor is deeply inspired by her single mom, a Jamaican immigrant fiercely determined from day one to give her daughter a great life.
Taylor’s words of advice to others? “Keep pivoting. Eventually, you will find what is real.”