Leaders Who Inspire Us Through Change
From a One-Woman Show to 13 Employees in Seven Months, Company Culture Included
What started off as a shared studio space in 2015, has grown into Story Louisville, one of Louisville, Kentucky’s first co-working spaces for independent, remote, and creative workers. This growth took place based on the vision and leadership of Natalia Bishop, Story Founder and Chief of Happiness. Natalia’s big-picture thinking helped Story expand from her first shared studio space, to their location on Market Street, but Natalia had even bigger plans. When Natalia met Taylor Tricarico, Open Eye (OE) Managing Partner, she was a solo entrepreneur who realized she would need help to bring Story to the next level.
Taylor and Natalia met when Taylor was looking for an event space for one of her clients at Story’s Market Street location. Through their interactions, Natalia observed the quality of work Taylor was performing with her client. At the time, Natalia was not looking for a consultant but on a personal level, the two hit it off. “We connected on the mission of Story and Story Labs. Taylor started asking about needs and pain points,” said Natalia. When Natalia recognized that she needed some help, because of what she witnessed of Taylor’s integrity, work ethic, and background, it was a no-brainer to begin their collaboration. Natalia brought Open Eye on in January 2019. Natalia quickly realized that Taylor balanced out her big vision and idealistic thinking with practical solutions and next steps to help her meet her goals. Taylor and Open Eye translated Natalia’s dreams for Story into a concrete plan. Taylor operated more like a member of the team, truly integrated into the company culture than an outside consultant; a staple of the OE method. Because of her extensive experience in company expansion at a customer-centric technology firm prior to joining Open Eye, Taylor was a fantastic resource with a lot of knowledge to draw from. When Taylor didn’t know the answer, she was able to lean on the her team for additional resources and expertise.
When Story first started working with Open Eye, they didn’t really have a service product. They were able to sell the co-working space, but Natalia was still trying to determine how to turn her vision of best serving entrepreneurs with resources and support services, into a reality. Story had a long way to grow, but Taylor was there to help drive the process forward; she was “in the trenches right alongside us as we figured out where we would pivot to,” said Natalia.
When Open Eye was hired, Taylor took the responsibility of founder interviews and data collection that were taking up significant portions of Natalia’s time. Taylor helped lead the customer discovery process, scoping out strategic questions to ask the client. She created a data set and processed the data for decision making about Story’s direction. OE helped Natalia develop a clearer picture of what services Story would offer, and how they would make the business more sustainable. Taylor also made introductions that lead to Story finding its second full-time staff member, their Executive Director of Story Labs. Taylor was considered an honorary team member and was included in all the leadership meetings because of the work she did to fill the organization’s needs, as a data-driven operational expert. Taylor helped Story learn to build and track meaningful metrics and forecast revenue and expenses, helping them to make sure all their ducks were in a row, while keeping that strategic partner hat on. Natalia lists Taylor as helping under strategic development and partnerships, but she noticed that Taylor picks up the mop and helps out however she can.
Taylor collaboratively crafted a growth system within the company, facilitating Story’s scale from a one-woman show to 13 employees in seven months, while maintaining Story’s culture. Story was able to utilize their team fully because Open Eye helped them fill the gaps. Open Eye helped guide Story through their biggest expansion yet. In Spring 2019, Story moved into their second space: a three-story former paint factory that had sat empty for years before its renovation. The 30,000 square foot space is now mostly occupied with event and office space, along with a locally owned restaurant. The new space and improvements in business operations allowed the co-working and entrepreneurial community tied to Story, to quadruple. “Taylor project managed for us, to allow us to triple our square footage through processes that allowed us to make that happen,” said Natalia. Revenue grew by over 400 percent in the time Open Eye was engaged, and Taylor helped contribute to that growth. Taylor aided in the launch of Story Labs - a community for Louisville area founders and business leaders, an initiative that added an additional stream of revenue from membership fees and programming. With the help of Taylor, Story was able to formalize a concrete business model and growth potential that attracted and secured a sponsorship agreement with Microsoft. Being still so early in their growth, this sponsorship is a major win for Story Louisville, contributing significantly to Story’s revenue and ability to serve their entrepreneurial community.
Having Open Eye as a partner allowed Natalia to put her talents to use in the areas where she knows she excels, while maintaining confidence that she had a partner who cared about her mission and values, and executed in an amazing and quality way.
I wish I would have recognized the value of the investment earlier, so I wouldn’t have had to struggle for as long. It is obviously an investment, but it also pays off. I wish I hadn’t hesitated as long.Natalia Bishop, Founder and Chief of Happiness
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