Jessica Taylor loved hearing her grandparents tell stories from their lives and studying the histories of family members. She loved it as a hobby, but until she got to college never realized it could become both a passion and a profession.
“When I first got to BYU, I was really looking for a major,” she recalls. “That’s when I discovered the school had a family history-genealogy major. That’s how it began for me.”
She graduated and started her own business, Legacy Tree Genealogists, in 2004. This May, she was honored with the Small Business Administration’s Woman-Owned Business of the Year at a ceremony held at the Silicon Slopes facility in Lehi.
“Legacy Tree Genealogists was among a competitive field of deserving applications,” says Siobhan Carlisle of the SBA. “Legacy Tree stood out during the selection process because of its sustained growth in the genealogy field, for its peer-to-peer support within that community and its dedication to a high standard of personal service to its worldwide customers.”
In the beginning
“When I started the company, the web was still fairly new. So I started advertising on Google Adwords—which was also new and cheap,” Taylor says. “It was a pretty good time to put a business out there. I assembled a simplistic website by using an online hosting company, and we were off.”
She started doing most of the research for clients herself, eventually adding contracted researchers as business dictated. By 2008, she brought in a project manager, and the company continued to grow. Today, Legacy Tree has 20 employees and works with 50 other contractors throughout the world to fulfill the needs of their customers.
Honored by the award, Taylor says she appreciates the help that the SBA offers small businesses like hers as they are getting started.
“As the name implies, we work with small businesses to aid them in any way we can,” says Steve Price, deputy director for the Utah SBA office. “Governments know that most new jobs in the country come from small businesses, which is one reason we offer SBA loans. You almost always find you need more capital than you have when you start a business.”
He says the SBA loan program, a part of the entire startup support system offered by the SBA, provides capital at reasonable rates.
“Most banks don’t want to deal with small businesses, since they have a high failure rate during the first five years. So we work with lenders that want to sign on with us, guaranteeing the repayment and thus bringing those lenders to customers they might not otherwise participate with,” Price says.
He says last year, the SBA of Utah loaned over $ 500,000 to local businesses. And he says the “loss rate” is usually only 2 to 3 percent—not much different than regular loaning institutions.
Though Taylor didn’t seek an SBA loan, she did reach out to them for some SCORE counseling and mentoring.
“They were great to work with,” she says. “It’s been nice to have a free resource, especially when we were young and didn’t have disposable resources.”
“Our SCORE program is perfect for businesses like Jessica’s,” Price says. “We utilize the experience and expertise of retired men and women to help businesses prepare and research their plans in advance. The way businesses structure themselves can be the key to not just their success, but their survival as they start out.”
“Our clients come from all over, and many have been doing research on their own. When they get to a point where an ancestor speaks a different language, or they find records in those languages, they turn to us for help.” – Jessica Taylor, Legacy Tree Genealogists
Looking to the future
Taylor says Legacy Tree partners with other genealogy research groups. Her company has done a lot of research in Scandinavian countries, the British Isles, Australia and South America. The Middle East (Greece, Egypt, Turkey) and lots of Eastern European countries are also being researched on an increasing basis. She says Asia remains an untapped source for genealogical information—an area she sees ripe for expansion.
“Our clients come from all over, and many have been doing research on their own,” she says. “When they get to a point where an ancestor speaks a different language, or they find records in those languages, they turn to us for help.”
And many give family members the “gift” of genealogical research for a birthday or anniversary. Recently, there has been an increase in the search for biological parents.
“DNA is a game-changer in a lot of ways,” Taylor says. “People want to know where and who they came from, particularly with all the attention on immigration these days. So they get an idea of where to start to look and we can take it from there. I like to look at research as net fishing, rather than line fishing. You cast that large net of research and you find the quickest and easiest connections you can first.”