February 7—Taylor Ford once said it was her heart. IT, as in information technology.
Not just his job. Not just his company, IT’s 4 Me.
If you’ve never seen someone having fun setting up secure office networks or helping a family member choose a phone, you can catch their tech talks on their Facebook page. They’re concise, laid-back, and just the opposite of intimidating.
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Last August, Ms Ford, 29, sat in a client’s server room in what looked like a basement and gave a 10-minute lecture on how to centralize data. She explained the difference between a Google Drive and OneDrive, a living document and a static document.
She likes to say that the only reason to say telecom instead of phone is to keep the customer confused so you can charge more.
She founded her IT services consulting firm to be the opposite of that.
As a child, Ms. Ford did what many children do today: she explained and programmed devices for older members of her family. At age 10, she convinced her uncle, a football player for the Seattle Seahawks – in other words, someone who had enough money to do a fun experiment – to buy her a computer. Within hours, Mrs. Ford had it set up, updated its operating system, connected it to the Internet, and accomplished its main purpose: playing The Sims.
Before long, she was charging other Seahawks players to load their iPods with music.
No one in her family was allowed to visit Best Buy or go to a phone store without her.
If you don’t think of it as an IT department, Ms. Ford would say you don’t think well.
She launched IT’s 4 Me in March 2019, fueled by the pain of losing her sister to sickle cell disease, a blood condition that disproportionately affects black people. She is now the information director for her sister’s foundation.
“I used his strength,” Ms Ford said. “I always had a dream, and that was to find a space for minorities in tech. I never got to see people like me” in this industry, she said.
When the pandemic shutdowns began, Ms. Ford’s services were suddenly in high demand. Restaurants had to process online orders. Companies that stored all their data in the office – despite Ms. Ford’s warnings – had to centralize and go virtual, and pronto. Much of the work was voluntary, she said.
A significant break came when Urban Academy hired Ms. Ford to help with its COVID-19 policies.
IT’s 4 Me helped the charter school purchase and distribute 450 new computers to students and faculty.
“The kids really liked having someone who looked like them to distribute their technology,” she said. And parents love having someone to call, directly, to help with network or software issues. If they needed to vent along the way, Ms Ford said that was also a service she provided.
Today, his company has nine employees, including a human resources manager, a network engineer, several technicians and a cabling team.
Last month, the managed services portion of the company — like in the outsourced IT department — spun off into a subsidiary called Taylor Made IT Services. It has five clients under contract. Asked about the total number of customers between the two divisions, Ms Ford said: ‘I’m lucky I can’t give you the number this year.
IT’s 4 Me is now the technology education part of the business. It conducts seminars, organizes a summer camp for children, and develops courses for people re-entering the community after serving a prison sentence.
New customers come by word of mouth, she says. And while business is not lacking, Ms Ford said her biggest challenge was securing funds to expand.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority has been a resource for IT’s 4 Me, she said, helping her secure loans and introducing her to others in the community.
“I’ve had a lot of support from African American executives who see what I’m trying to do,” she said.
Its goal is to have 100 employees by 2025. Why this number? “I shoot high, so I don’t aim low,” she said.
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It pays particular attention to businesses overlooked by large IT vendors – one-person businesses. These non-employee businesses actually make up the majority of small businesses in the United States. About 96% of black-owned businesses are businesses without employees, according to an annual survey of minority businesses released by US Federal Reserve Banks.
“I’m here for the little guy,” she said. “That’s who I was.”
Anya Litvak: [email protected]
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