A local entrepreneur is trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of her business, following the closure of the Outlook Recycling Depot last month.
Taylor Layton, a lifelong resident of Outlook, remembers how proud she was at the prospect of starting a curbside recycling business when Taylor’s Recycling Pick-Up was launched. Her mom, Eloise, had the initial idea. “We’d just always recycled,” Eloise said, “and there were so many times when I thought to myself I would pay someone to come and get my recycling, so that’s how it started. I knew it was something she could do so we decided to try it.” For Taylor, it was a business idea that had a larger purpose as well. “I was doing this because it was good for the earth,” she said. “I wanted to make it nice and clean.”
The business started on a small scale more than seven years ago with Taylor picking up the recyclables of friends and family who initially signed up. “We started in my little car,” Eloise explained, “and we’d go out after school on certain days and pick up and sort outside at the bins at AG Foods.” Soon after, a contest opportunity for Taylor arose, and that is when things really took off.
Sponsored by Community Futures, the “Just Watch Me” contest encouraged entrepreneurs with disabilities to submit videos highlighting their business ventures. “I made a video,” Taylor recalled, “and everybody could vote for me. I found out I won when my friend Michelle Hooey called. She told me I won and I freaked out!”
Her win, and the ensuing media coverage, caught the attention of many, including representatives from jewelry company Lia Sophia who presented her with a huge collection of beautiful items, as well as an invitation to be the guest speaker at their gala in Toronto. Another offshoot of the win was an offer by Flaman Sales of Saskatoon to provide Taylor with a trailer for hauling recyclables. This greatly impacted her business because she could now more efficiently meet the needs of an expanding customer base. “The trailer certainly made it easier,” Eloise said. “It meant we weren’t going back and forth, picking up from a few places and then having to go and drop it off. The trailer meant we could get the whole swoop done and not make so many trips.” Another development at that time was an offer by Town foreman Rick Pederson to move their sorting operation inside the recycling center. It was clear Taylor was providing an important service, and the business continued to grow.
At its height, Taylor’s Recycling Pick-Up had over 100 customers, along with part-time employees to handle the customer base, but that all changed on October 15 with the decision by Town Council to permanently close the recycling depot.
“I got a phone call,” Eloise said. “We were out recycling and I got a call from the town office asking us to come in. I said, ‘Well we’re busy right now, we’re out recycling.’” She was told this was what they wanted to talk about so Eloise indicated they would try to get to the office before noon. As they continued on their route they saw Loraas bins come rolling into town and wondered what might be going on. “Then Jesse, my son, phoned and said ‘Mom, don’t go drop off at the depot. It’s closed.’ And I thought, it can’t be, and he said, ‘No mom, it’s closed. It’s shut down.’” So Taylor and Eloise headed to the town office where three staff met with them. “And that’s when they said it’s done,” Eloise remarked.
The town has contracted with Loraas Disposal North Ltd., and each residence in Outlook will be provided with a 95-gallon cart that will be picked up by Loraas, meaning Taylor’s Recycling has to shut down. Since Outlook businesses are free to explore options other than Loraas, some wonder if there is opportunity for Taylor to get them as customers, but Eloise isn’t sure it is viable. “I’m looking at it,” she said, “but where am I going to put a great big business bin? On my front lawn? And we can’t do the big businesses in town. We have a few businesses now who use our service but it’s not enough to keep it going. Taylor has expenses.”
The outpouring of support for Taylor has been greatly appreciated, with some of her customers even offering to keep her on and pay for both services, but Eloise says they would never expect people to do that. They’ve also heard from some of their senior customers who aren’t sure what they are going to do since they can’t haul a big cart out to the street. Currently, Taylor goes into garages and porches of those who need some extra help. That is what made some of the comments at the town meeting on October 17 hurtful, particularly remarks highlighting that the new service is going to be curbside and people won’t have to do any sorting. “We’ve had that service, and more, for years,” Eloise remarked.
It has been a difficult time for the Laytons. “It’s so hard. We worked so hard to get it going, and Taylor works so hard every week. As a mom it’s just so heartbreaking. I just think it could have been handled much better, I really do. We feel totally bulldozed out.”
But their thoughts also quickly go to the other employees affected by the depot closure. “We are feeling so bad for the town guys who have mortgages and families. They were amazing in there helping to make things work smoothly for Taylor.”
Taylor has a message for all of her customers. “First, I love them,” she said, “and second, they are part of my family now.”