With all that has happened in 2020, it’s time for a lemonade out of lemons story. I cannot think of a better one than Taylor Paladino.
Owner Ben Paladino should be winding up the first semester of his senior year, majoring in public policy, at Stanford. But, as we all know, 2020 fell apart for almost everyone.
Some of us ordered cases of wine (guilty), fretted, and quit coloring their hair (never). Others obsessively baked bread — and packed on pounds. Then there were those that made the best of things, like Ben.
Let’s get a little backstory first.
After high school in Arkansas, Ben moved to Dallas to live with his godparents before heading off to college. I think we can all remember this is one of the most stressful times of your life. Ben started to paint as a way to relieve that stress.
“I did a few watercolors for family and friends and thought putting my images on cards would allow me to share the art more widely,” he said. After printing up some cards for personal use, Ben took a leap of faith. He headed over to his neighborhood store, Talulah & Hess, to see if they might be interested in carrying his cards. The answer was a resounding yes, and Fly Away Style was born.
“The name is about flying away mentally and emotionally to a better place in your head,” Ben said.
Now, remember, Ben was 19. He was starting college — at Stanford. This was his side hustle, but we all know that it becomes your life if you are passionate about your work. With his godparents’ help back in Dallas, he continued to grow the business, expanding into candles and soaps and into more stores across the country in over 20 states. He’d head back to Dallas for the January and June trade shows. So, things were moving along nicely.
Then the pandemic hit, and retail, in general, took a nosedive. His senior year was put on hold, so he came home. Fly Away Style had two full-time employees by then, and Ben got a crash course Stanford would be hard- pressed to deliver. He navigated through the Payroll Protection Program and the Small Business Administration, and never lost his focus.
In fact, he quickly saw opportunity. “To have a year off school, not worry about academic pressures, and be able to focus 100% on my art and business became a silver lining,” Ben said. “In a lot of ways, the pandemic made us more successful because of that ability to focus.”
Ben has spent this extra time dreaming up new products and creating new collections. He is at his booth at the Farmers Market, selling out every weekend. “This January, I’m releasing a huge number of Texas paintings and a lot of Louisiana inspired work,” Ben said. “Our notepads are bestsellers, and we have amazing tea towels. We have also expanded into gift tags and ribbons.
And Ben is launching a name change. Fly Away Style will now be Taylor Paladino. “It’s my middle and last name, “Ben said. “Taylor is also the last name of one of my godfathers. So, it’s a perfect transition between the people that own the company, and built it, and a continuation of the art.”
The 2021 Taylor Paladino product Ben is most excited about is an acrylic desk easel calendar. “It’s more than just a calendar, Ben said. “It’s a cookbook! Each month you get an envelope with the calendar piece and what I like to call a little gimme, something that is meaningful to us. For the Louisiana side of the family, we have a crawfish image, and we then tell you how to do the best family crawfish boil. It’s sharing who we are.”
It’s that sharing that Ben loves most about his art.
“I do a line of gay cards,” Ben said. “There is one with flamingos and the phrase werk it. It’s about being proud of who you are. A woman purchased one for her sister, who had recently come out, and just started to cry because it was so meaningful. To share a part of me, to make someone else feel loved and accepted, that’s what it’s all about.”
If you’re looking for meaningful holiday cards or inspired gifts, we think Taylor Paladino is the perfect place to begin. Find products at Talulah and Hess, the Farmers Market, or online.