We’re thrilled to have Taylor Harkins with us for today’s edition of the #welldesignedlifeseries! We love her sense of adventure and admire the courage and drive it took for her to start her PR company! Won’t you sit with us for a while and get to know her? (Hint: we know you’ll adore her as much as we do!)
Let’s start off with an introduction! Tell us about yourself. Roles you play and what you do.
Hello! I am the founder of Mason Jar PR and a proud American on a mission to see all 50 states before I turn 30. I started Mason Jar PR almost a year ago to help small U.S.-based companies with social media, marketing, and PR.
I am an avid traveler and have been around the world on a boat through Semester at Sea. After realizing I had been to more countries than states I set out to visit all 50 states before turning 30. I have loved this adventure so far and am grateful I’ve been able to share this experience with my family and friends.
From a very early age I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I started my own cake business in high school called T. Cakes and sold homemade bundt cakes I’d made in my parents’ kitchen. I have always been fascinated with sociology and marketing and studied both at Santa Clara University. I was captain of the Santa Clara Women’s Water Polo team and am happiest when I am working with others toward a shared goal.
I drive with the windows down and radio up, I love rainbow sprinkles, White Christmas is my favorite movie, and I used to ride to work on the cable car every morning. I am a strong believer that life is more enjoyable when you are true to yourself.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in life so far?
I think it is important to celebrate your victories no matter how big or small! Always remember to stay grounded when you accomplish your goals and express gratitude to those who have helped you along the way.
I am incredibly proud of the fact that I was daring enough to start my own company at the age of 25. Owning my own company has always been a dream of mine and one I am proud to say I am living out.
50 States By 30 is also something I take great pride in. I started 50 States By 30 three years ago and have visited 36 states so far. This travel goal has brought me so much joy and added an overwhelming amount of perspective to my life. I am thrilled that I’ve had the opportunity to share my story on AMHQ with Sam Champion, CNN Travel, Refinery 29, and many others.
Tell us about your big dreams. Where do you want to go, what do you want to do, and why?
Growing up I had a wildly active and creative imagination and felt like the world had limitless possibilities. I still haven’t lost that feeling even through the years.
My “Big Dream” is to build a summer lake house on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. I sketched out the plans for the house back in high school. The drawings had every detail planned out down to where the fire extinguishers would be placed! To me the lake house is a physical representation of all of my life goals- career success, marriage, and a family- coming together.
In order to afford the lake house, I will need to be successful in my career. I want to share the home with my future husband (anyone know a single guy looking for an awesome girl?) and raise our children there in the summer. I want to fill the house with my family and friends all summer long and celebrate the simple American life at the lake.
I have dreams of growing Mason Jar PR, hiring more employees, and opening a physical office (which I have also sketched out down to a tee). Of course, I would also like to fulfill my dream of visiting all 50 states for 50 States By 30.
What are some struggles you’ve faced in achieving your dreams so far? Have you learned anything from them that you want to share?
One of the biggest struggles I’ve had to face in order to reach my dream so far has been to trust myself and follow my instincts. Making the initial decision to leave my steady corporate job to pursue my dream of starting my own company was one I greatly struggled with. I had to risk everything to start a company and leave behind a steady paycheck, 401k matching, and health insurance. I battled with myself for a long time deciding if it was worth taking the risk. I love stability and I knew starting a company would be far from stable. I also knew I would regret not taking the chance at pursuing my dream so I decided to do it.
Starting a company is not easy. It is stressful, exhausting, and tough. You will grow more in one year owning your own business than you ever thought possible. When things aren’t going according to plan it is easy to question your decisions. Would I be happier at a corporate job? Am I good at what I do? Is it worth all the stress?
Questioning yourself is healthy when done in moderation, but it is important to know when to stop and take a deep breath.
Through all of this, I have learned that you need to trust in your decisions and follow your instincts. It doesn’t matter what other people think of your decisions. You will be the one impacted by the decision not them, so do what is right for you. Have faith in yourself!
If you could go back and visit yourself at any age, what would you tell your younger self? What kind of encouragement or wisdom do you wish you had at that time?
There are a lot of things I’d like to tell my younger self. I’d tell my 8-year-old self to break the piggy bank and invest in some Apple stock. I’d tell my 14-year-old self to wear sunscreen more. I’d tell my 16-year-old self to tell the guy I liked I had a crush on him cause he liked me too. I’d tell my 17-year-old self to not be such a pain in the butt when my parents asked about the progress of my college essays. I’d tell my 18-year-old self that I picked the best college roommate I could have ever asked for. I’d tell my 19-year-old self to be more careful with boys’ hearts. I’d tell my 21-year-old self to not drink so much at the Zac Brown Band Concert. I’d tell my 25-year-old self to start a company (oh wait I did that!).
Honestly, I am glad I can’t go back and tell my younger self any of those things because I am pretty darn happy with how my life has turned out. Of course there were tears, heartaches, and accidents that could have been avoided but they made me who I am today. When things went wrong, I was lucky to have my friends and family provide all those encouraging words and wisdom to help me through it.
What three daily things can you not live without?
- My alarm clock: Seriously, I would never make it to a meeting on time without it.
- My Day Designer: I would be lost without it.
- Social Media: It is my job, but also how I plan most of my trips.
What is something you strive to be intentional about? How do you design it into your life?
I strive to be more intentional about following through with my personal goals whether that be a fitness goal, new routine, or sticking to a steadier sleeping schedule. I have started to be more conscious and prioritize these goals over things that are less important. I block off time for each of these in my Day Designer to make sure I dedicate the time each day.
How do you create balance in your life?
Creating any sort of balance in life is never an easy task. I take each day one at a time and accept that some days I am more successful than others. When I sit down to work, that is the only thing I focus my energy on. When I spend time with my friends or family I make sure to be present and focus on what we are doing. When I go on a trip for 50 States By 30 I make a conscious effort to unplug from work.
Technology is amazing, but everyone needs a break… even your iPhone needs to be turned off every once in awhile. I let all my clients know my travel schedule and that if something comes that is an emergency they can contact me but other than that I stay un-plugged. One of these days I am going to set my out of office message to read, “only call me if: the office is on fire (literally), Scott Eastwood called and would like to take me on a date, or the Travel Channel wants me to host a show about American travel. If all three occur, I will reimburse you to fly out and tell me in person.”
What does your daily routine look like? Is there anything that helps you feel most successful at the end of the day?
When I am not traveling to a new state, my daily routine usually starts with me pressing the snooze button on my alarm clock for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. This is why I said I needed an alarm clock so badly! I ALWAYS make my bed. It takes 2 minutes and makes me feel like I have already accomplished something in the day! I try to get an endorphin kick each morning with a workout, but am not always able to fit this in.
I work from a home office and make sure to be sitting at my desk by 8 am every morning. It took me awhile to get used to working from a home office so I actually leave my house, walk outside, and then walk back in to mentally process the feeling of a new workday starting. I am most productive in the morning and most creative in the afternoon so I plan my schedule accordingly. If I have any extra time during the day, I work on the 50 States By 30 blog or plan my next trip.
I often schedule dinners out with friends or my family to have some human interaction (working from home can get lonely!). Living in a clean and organized environment is important to me to feel successful so I spend a few minutes every night tidying up my house. I usually end the night by watching one of my favorite TV shows to unwind.
I feel most successful on the days where I go to bed with a clean house, my top to-dos complete, and a plan for the following day.
What checklist(s) do you live by?
I use my Day Designer checklist along with a few random post-it note reminders around the house.
What do you wish you had more of in life? What about it makes it so special?
I would love to have a larger budget to spend on travel for 50 States By 30. It is more important to me to have life experiences than material goods and travel gives you that. As the saying goes, travel is the only thing you buy that makes your richer. Sharing travel memories with family and friends is something I find incredibly special.
What do you wish you had less of in life?
Unread emails… I spend so much time every day going through emails and responding to them.
Are you willing to share a story with us about a time in your life when things felt out of control? How did you get back on course?
I’d like to think that my life has always been in perfect order, but that is far from the truth. I spent a year of my life feeling completely out of control working for a large tech company and a not so great boss that thought micromanagement was a preferred style of leadership. I had been fortunate before having amazing bosses and role models, but this was not the case with her. I was working 80 hours a week, hating my job, constantly stressing trying to meet tight deadlines, and barely sleeping. I don’t mind working hard (heck, I started my own company!), but it was not a great situation to be in for me.
I am an incredibly positive person, but I had lost my sparkle. I did everything I could to improve the situation, but no matter what I did the situation wasn’t getting any better. I was miserable and felt like I had no control over my life. I toughed it out for a year before accepting the fact it was time for me to find something new. As soon as I made this decision and took the steps to make it a reality I started to feel like I had control again. My life quickly (within days!) found the balance that I had been missing over the year… and my sparkle was back!
Taking control of my life and leaving the company was the right decision. I knew that then and I still see it the same way now. I also know that without that experience I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today. I learned about the kind of boss I don’t want to be and it added a new perspective to my work-life balance. Without that experience I never would have been nudged in the right direction to start my own company.
Do you have a life motto?
You never get what you don’t ask for. People are willing to help you, but you have to be willing to ask for help. Always be willing to help others in return.
If you could share one thing with our readers, what would it be?
Be nice to yourself not just to others! Celebrate who you are, rejoice over little victories, and don’t be afraid of what makes you unique. You are incredible, so the sooner you embrace and start to believe it, the sooner others around you will begin to see it too!