Taylor Murray’s FUNctional Accessories – A FastStart DC success story

What if guitars had clothes? The thought came to Taylor Murray at a young age when as her step-mom was teaching her to sew, she realized that any shape could be wrapped in fabric. It was a strange question, but it proved to be an important one. Murray took her passing thought and turned it into a business idea at age 11, then held on to it for years until she was finally able to make it a reality. In October 2015, Murray launched her first product, AcouSkins, a line of machine-washable fabric covers designed to personalize and protect acoustic guitars from daily wear, which eventually led to her founding FUNctional Accessories, a creative guitar accessories business.

Back when AcouSkins was still only an idea, Murray enrolled at Sir Wilfred Laurier University, where she pursued a degree in Concurrent Education with hopes of becoming teacher. However, by her third semester she felt teaching might not offer the kind of flexibility and creativity she craved. Murray left the program in pursuit of more control over her career path, and after careful consideration of numerous options, she chose the Entrepreneurship and Small Business program at Durham College (DC).

“I felt this particular program could help me gain the tactical skills I needed to support my ideas — and I was right,” said Murray. “By my second semester I was creating the business plan for what would become FUNctional Accessories. When I started, I didn’t know about marketing and branding strategies, so going through the programs, I learned a lot.”

It was also during this time that Murray learned about FastStart DC and met team member and mentor Jay Fisher. “Jay was extremely supportive in terms of solidifying my idea,” said Taylor.

In the course of her entrepreneurial journey, Murray has found the manufacturing process to be the most challenging. The production of AcouSkins was an intensive process. She first approached several professional sewers with the project only to hear that a customizable, one-size cover would be impossible to produce. Finally, Murray purchased a sewing machine and spent months learning how to use it just to be able to finalize a prototype that she could share with potential manufacturers.

Next, with her custom product designed, Murray moved into her sales and marketing mode, going so far as to audition for the hit reality TV show Dragons’ Den, where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists in the hopes of securing financing.

As she gained experience and confidence in her business abilities, Murray added to her stable of brands, including her own Freshly Picked line of guitar picks, which feature designs of fruits and flowers (pun intended!), as well as Strings by Aurora and Inlay Stickers, for which FUNctional Accessories holds the exclusive Canadian licensing rights. Now she is focusing on developing a family-oriented music accessory brand and getting her products into more major retailers. Murray has already found success with Long & McQuade, Canada’s biggest music store chain, and Amazon.ca, both of which are now carrying FUNctional Accessories products thanks to her hard work, persistence and passion.

Armed with a clearer understanding of her market segment, Murray plans to eventually launch an online store and hire staff, including sales representatives, administrative assistants and a social media manager.

The FastStart DC team has helped Murray throughout her journey and taught her how to see the bigger picture. No wonder she references the program when asked for her advice to young and aspiring entrepreneurs. “Just start talking to people and get useful feedback,” she said. “FastStart was great for this and it introduced me to the best tools.”

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