Partnering with God in Business
(Please listen to Taylor’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
My name is Taylor Bloom, I’m the co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Nextdoor Photos, which is a company that just plain and simply exists to advance God’s kingdom through business. My story kind of picks up about a year or two after I graduated college actually. I was depressed. I was incredibly unfulfilled in my career and calling. I always had people speaking into my life growing up in the church and, and in school, saying, ‘God’s just got really big plans for you and really exciting things and you’re going to do great things.’ And then I graduated with a degree in Communications and Marketing in 2009, which was quite possibly the worst time to graduate with that type of degree in the environment that existed in the world. And then I just started to get just depressed. I mean, that was the best way to put it. Where I, you know, interview after interview just led nowhere. So I just remember just talking to God about it just like, you know, “What, what do You have for me? What do You want me to do?”
I finally landed in a place where someone took a chance on me. I came in just as a sales support really and then worked my way up over a couple years into the Marketing Director and a sweet spot. I had a boss who was really coaching me and leading me, helping me develop professionally. That’s just really when I just started to dive into, What does it look like to take God with you after you leave church on a Sunday–to take God with you to work and have that be just your reality seven days a week? Where it’s not just, you know, ‘hey, this is my religion. This is what I do on a specific day of the week;’ but what does it look like to build that in through the rest of the week? That led to great conversations with my boss, who’s the owner of the company, and that started to just grow over time. It was in that role where I actually learned the ins and outs of real estate photography. And so did that for several years. I found myself kind of enjoying it–watching YouTube videos and asking, How do I do this better?
At the time, my wife and I were serving in a church. She was the youth leader at a church near Grand Rapids, Michigan. So we decided that God was really just leading us and calling us back to the Lake Shore, back where we had gone to school together. We decided to sell our house, and this was in 2012, I believe. So the housing market, at least in West Michigan, was incredibly beat up. You know, it was tough to sell something for anywhere near the asking price and there were, you know, just way more sellers than buyers. A very different market that we have today.
I worked with a realtor friend of mine from high school and said, “Hey, I would love to work with you. If you don’t mind, I can take the photos for you to save you a trip out here. I kind of do this for work anyway.” And he said, “Sure.” So long story short, I captured photos of my own home for sale, sent them to the realtor. He put the listing online at like five o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. He calls me two hours later and he said, “You’ll never believe it, but there’s a couple who saw the photos, saw the listing and actually want to walk through your house tonight. And my wife and I were like, “What? That was, that was fast. So we, you know, I think we were eating. We threw everything in the dishwasher, you know, grabbed our infant and, left the house for a while. And within…hearing back from the realtor within two hours, they made an above asking price offer on the home. We sold it in just incredible time–record time, right?
I just knew instantly that it was divine intervention; that God was doing something specific in that moment. Because we had friends and family who were trying to sell homes for, for months, right and inventory was just not moving. And, and so we sold our house, and we moved back to Lake Shore. But the realtor, who is a friend of mine said, “You know, I’ve never had a transaction go that smoothly. Would you be interested in taking photos of my next listing?” And so I said, “Yeah, sure.” So I’m still working my day job, right, 9-5 as the Marketing Director for the vacation rental company. But then on nights and weekends, I started kind of moonlighting as a real estate photographer, working with just a friend of mine. I was doing that for really, it was only a month or two when I started getting calls from other realtors in the West Michigan community. And it just, it just started snowball. I mean, I had no business. I had no nothing and before I knew it, I was working two full time jobs. You know, trying to sneak in photoshoots on my way to work, on my lunch break, after work, and then editing photos all night long.
Finally, my wife sat me down. She’s like, “Hey, God’s doing something. You’re working crazy hours. We miss you. Your six month old son and I, we really miss having dinner together. Do you think that this is actually an opportunity that God is calling you to quit your comfy 9-5 and actually, like, start a business in real estate photography?” And instantly I was like, “What? Absolutely not. That’s, I mean, that’s crazy, right?” And then I just felt this…you know how God just gets a hold of you? And I just couldn’t shake it. It was on my mind. I found myself, right in the morning when I woke up, thinking about it and thinking about it. But every time I was like, “No that’s crazy.” Right? Like that’s, real estate photography might be a big profession in, you know, in New York City or LA or you know, bigger metros, but it’s just, just not really a thing. And back in, you know, 2012-2013 it was, it was still fairly new across the majority of the Midwest and especially in West Michigan. But God just kept, kept prompting.
So I sat down and I made a pros and cons list, as I think many people do when they’re faced with a big decision. The cons list was actually fairly long, because my wife had just gone from, you know, full time to part time at the church, and we had lost her great benefits and her income. We just had our first child. We didn’t have money saved up in the bank to start a business. In fact, we had student debt up to our eyeballs, you know, still wasn’t necessarily a great economy, although it was, it was just starting to rebound back then. But, there were just so many, so many costs, right? So many–this can happen, this can happen, this can happen. On the pros list it was, you know, create a business that you could actually, from the beginning earmark, and say, you know what, this business exists to advance God’s kingdom. You know, those are exciting things, but they’re not necessarily concrete things, right? Like, I could look at my current job, I knew that I was getting a 3% 401k match, and I had benefits, and I had all these different things, right? That’s, it’s very concrete, definitely very worldly, right, when I’m sitting there looking at the opportunity for both ways.
I remember sitting in church on a Sunday, and the pastor was preaching on Moses and the burning bush, that story. Which, you know, Moses walks up to this burning bush on fire, but it’s not burning up. And you know, God initiates the conversation with him and, and basically asked him this question, “Moses, what do you have in your hand?” And Moses says, “Well, I have staff.” And God asks him to lay it down, right, put it on the floor and then when he picks it up, it turns into a snake. Right? Then later in the story, it would part the Red Sea, and then that staff later would get water from the rock. Right? And so when, when he laid down that staff, there was a moment of surrender in that. There was a moment of deferring to God, and knowing that what was going to happen next would, would be supernatural. Right? And it was! And so the moment he picked it up, it equipped him for the mission that God had called him to. And just in that moment, it was just the Holy Spirit just laser focusing in on my heart. And it’s like every, everything else disappears. Everyone else in the room disappeared. And I don’t know if you’ve had a moment like that where it’s so it’s so clear that the Spirit of the living God is speaking directly to you that it’s almost, it almost takes your breath away a little bit.
In a moment God asked me, God said, “Taylor, what have I put in your hands?” Because I’ve been praying about this pros and cons list and I’ve been staying up at night wrestling with God, is this really what You want me to do? This doesn’t this doesn’t make sense. Like this doesn’t add up in the eyes of the world. This is leaving all safety and security and comfort to do something that’s completely unknown. Then God just cut through all of that and He’s like, “What do you have in your hand?” And I, my answer right away was, “a camera. I’ve got a camera.” And God said, “Good, I want you to lay that down.”
So I remember just, just clear in my mind, just taking this camera and just like laying it at the feet of this burning bush that’s not burning up right, and just like putting myself in Moses’s shoes. Then, man, God spoke so clearly. He’s like, “I want you to pick that camera up. Because now it’s anointed and I want you to go out. I want you to go do this. I want you to go start this business. And I want you to trust Me, because I’m doing it with you.” And it was one of the most…man, even thinking back to it–I can’t help but just like feel the power in that moment.
So on the way home from that church meeting, I remember telling my wife saying, “Hey, God said to do it,” and I told her the story. She knew instantly in her spirit too that it was affirmed and she was like, “I don’t know what this is going to look like, but, but let’s do it.” And so I remember talking to my boss about it, you know. I put in my two weeks saying, “Hey, I got this crazy opportunity. I know it looks wild on paper, but God’s calling me to it.” And he’s like, “Go do it.” And in a way, like, sent me off to launch this business.
So I cashed out the $863 in my 401k, to the surprise of, you know, the person who is financially advising me the at the time. He just kind of shook his head. But you know, I just knew it. And at that point, I had this, like this burning passionate conviction of like, I don’t know what this is gonna look like, but I know what just happened, and I know this experience, and I know what God just spoke to me so…So I’m going to go after it. It grew so fast, this business, that I had such a hard time keeping up; I was bringing on photographers. I was hiring, you know, different people in different regions in West Michigan to try and cover everything, just because the word got out in just an incredibly fast way. So I bootstrapped it and, you know, did a lot of it myself. I created the website and enlisted my brother to helped create the logo and, you know, bartered different things here and there to try to put together this business and God just blessed it.
Then it kind of got to a point where it’s like, Alright, I’ve maxed out, geographically, the territory that I could safely cover. But I knew this was an opportunity that could scale beyond just West Michigan. And so I was just praying, you know, “God, what does that next step look like?” And just another divine appointment, I got connected with an engineer with 30 plus years of business experience, who his specialty with systems scaling, hiring, you know, bringing the right team together and leading larger initiatives and scaling organizations. In the course of like, three hours, definitely supernatural conversation, I remember him asking me, “What, what do you want to do? How do you want to grow this business? How do you want to scale it?” And I said, “You know, I don’t necessarily have all those answers. But I know that this business needs to grow, because God wants to advance His kingdom through it.” You know, he knew the startup story. He knew how it started and at that moment, God was speaking to him.
He was doing some business consulting and I mean, he was, he led some, some pretty large organizations and teams. He said, “Well, what if we do that together?” And in that moment, we created this partnership–He’s still my business partner today–to create the company, Next Door Photos, that is today, which is in six or seven different countries and has 40 plus locations across the United States, and a global editing team of over 400. That’s another supernatural story…
So my business partner happened to be in a church on the other side of the world in Siais, Philippines. Basically, one of the roughest churches around; they intentionally planted it on the side of a squatter cemetery. You know, really run down. But he happened to be there with one of his friends who oversees Vineyard Churches in Asia. So his friend was going to be there at the same time, so he invited him. In the middle of that church service, he met a couple who, God got ahold of their heart and called from two incredible careers in Ireland. He was in finance, and she was a medical doctor. God called and said, Hey, I want you to move to the Philippines and start a business process outsourcing company that employs people rescued from human trafficking. The fact that we happened to be in that church meeting, at that same time with them connected. Then they had, they were doing no editing. They were, you know, they just were doing accounting, and back office work, and database management. Through the course of conversation, again, the Holy Spirit’s speaking to Paul saying, “Hey, you need to, you need to totally redirect the course of why you’re here and you need to spend time with that guy.” And he spent the next couple of days with them.
A kingdom business is one that always partners with heavens viewpoint, and always partners with what the Holy Spirit has to say about someone.
We started working with them right away on some of our back office, accounting system work. Then had the opportunity to basically say, “Would you be interested in training your entire–if you let us train your entire team on how to edit real estate media, photos, videos, floor plans, and be the partner company that grows and scales with us as we expand across North America?” They had 14 people at the time. And they said, “Why not?” That was January of 2017 and now there’s over 300 people who are in the organization. They’ve got a hub in Cebu and now they’re branching out and creating a hub in Kathmandu, Nepal that employs trafficking survivors as well. Basically, being gainfully employed by doing editing work, because every photoshoot requires three to four hours of editing.
We believe that the quickest way to poverty alleviation is through sustainable job creation. And, to create jobs that can provide opportunities for freedom, fulfillment, flourishing for rescued former slaves is a byproduct of our commitment, you know, at the very beginning of the organization, to say, Alright, this is going to be something that creates impact, that creates freedom, and that provides change.
Six months after we partnered together, we got a line of credit from a local businessman who said, “Hey, that’s your business model, I see it growing. I see it being really successful. Here’s a $150,000 or so line of credit. I want to be a part of helping this come to life and helping to see this come to fruition.” Six months after we kicked off, we’re building the parent company. We’re investing in platforms and systems and finding, you know, the right teams slowly as we wanted to, to kind of replicate this outside of where we had started in West Michigan. And I remember one Friday, we get a call, or maybe a text message, from this partner investor who said, “Hey, hey guys, I need to tell you that we cannot do the scheduled draw, like we had, like I previously committed to you today. In fact, we need to have a pretty urgent conversation about, about draws moving forward.” So he came by the office and sat down, and we had a conversation. He was visibly shaken up and you could tell it was hard for him. And you could tell that it was really just painful for him to be there. And he said, “Hey guys, listen, I know we kicked this off six months ago. I know I made this commitment.” And he said, Not only can I, I can’t meet the draw on the timeline of today, I have to, I have to pull out all together. I came into some really difficult things financially that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for and I’m evaluating all of my obligations financially right now. This is just an obligation that unfortunately, I am no longer able to keep.”
We were just getting ready, that following week, to launch our location in Detroit, and we had a local owner who was ready to launch it. We had just that week launched in Grand Rapids. So we had launched our, you know, three locations total. Kind of the one I had started, which someone else was running now, but the other two that we were launching. We find that we have no more runway; that the plug needs to be pulled immediately, you know. So it wasn’t even like we had two weeks to prepare; it was–we’re not getting the funds today to pay us and the rest of the team that we were planning on. What we knew God had an agenda for, was now starting to just unravel and unwind. We’re sitting there hearing that our single sole source of funding was going to be no longer.
I remember sitting in that moment, instantly in my head I’m like, What, like, what do we do? Like, how are we going to raise this money? How are we going to keep this team? What am I going to tell my wife, after we risked everything and invested everything into this opportunity? I mean, all of our eggs are in this basket. And, you know, How much are we going to be on the hook for? How long is that going to pay? You know, so all of these tapes are going on overdrive when you’re sitting there hearing news like that. And I remember like it was yesterday, because my business partner, he said after, after this investor who was pulling out, stopped talking, he just looked at him and he said, “I’m just so sorry. It must be such a really challenging thing that you’re going through financially in your life. Taylor and I would like to spend some time praying with you if you’re okay with that.”
That was the initial reaction. That was the first response.
And I had to catch myself instantly from being like, What? Everything is falling apart, is crumbling before our eyes, and you want to sit here and have compassion and empathy on this person who’s backing out from an obligation, putting us in an incredibly difficult spot, when we’re in a kind of a vulnerable position to begin with? And the first thing you want to do is have compassion on this guy and pray for him? And I man, I was just washed with conviction from the Holy Spirit of like, Yes! Like, that is my agenda. That is my agenda in this moment, to make sure that this investor knows that there are people who, in spite of hearing this devastating news and the implications that surround it, the first thing that they want to do is to pray and love. To spend time saying, “That must be really hard right now. I’m so sorry, you’re carrying that. I’m sure it’s not an easy situation. We’d just love to pray for you that God would intervene in your life financially and that you’re able to put back some pieces back together.”
It was in that moment–it’s just a flash, right? It’s just one small example. But at the end of the day, that’s what a Kingdom business is. A kingdom business is one that always partners with heaven’s viewpoint, and always partners with what the Holy Spirit has to say about someone in their situation. Because, it’s not about the fact that our funding was going to get the plug pulled on it. Like, it wasn’t about that. It was about, in a time of crisis, reacting and meeting a crisis with love and meeting a broken down distraught investor who generally did not struggle financially with an opportunity to hear straight from the heart of heaven…Hey, like it’s not about your money. Like, it’s about you understanding God’s love for you, despite your circumstances and we’re going to, we’re going to speak that over you and we’re going to react in love and figure the rest out later.
We prayed for him. We laid hands on him, Holy Spirit moves, and I have to imagine it’s a moment that he’ll never forget in his life. Just like it’s a moment that I’ll never forget in mine. And I remember he just didn’t, he just couldn’t do anything but he just thanked us, you know, and then he left. It was just my business partner and I, we’re sitting there and he’s like, “We need to pray that God comes through. That God comes through big time, because we know He’s going to come through.” And, and true story. While this meeting was happening, I get a text from my wife. And it, I mean, it was relatively common for me to get texts throughout the day; just like cute update photos of my son at home while she was with him and different things like that. But she sent me this text, while this is happening, and she said, “Hey, God just really put this on my heart very, very clearly for you and I need to share this verse with you.” She’s like, “I feel like, most of the time I’d just wait to talk to you about this over dinner tonight. But there’s so much urgency on it that you need to hear the word of the Lord right now.” She sent me Isaiah 43:19 and it says, “See I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland.” I just, I just looked at that text and my mouth just hit the floor. I was like, “Paul, you’ll never believe what my wife just sent me.” I showed it to him and we’re both sitting there emotional, right? Like, “Alright God, You’re making a way. You’ve got streams in the wasteland.”
So we got together and we said, “Okay, we’ve got a run rate to run this organization for two weeks. If we don’t raise a couple hundred thousand dollars, we’re gonna have to figure out something to do because this business can’t can’t sustain itself.” You know, we’ve got investment costs, we’ve got people on payroll…We had two weeks to raise those funds. Some of you listening might know the time it takes to properly go about fundraising. But, it takes longer than two weeks because you’ve got to build up financials, you have to have a pitch deck and you have to have a network of people you’re going to go to. We’re sitting there saying, “All right God. You’re going to do something new. There’s streams in this desert. We feel it. We believe it. You’ve spoken. Now give us eyes to see where that is.”
In 24 hours, we had built the financial outlook in the picture. We had put together a deck and in 10 days, we raised a quarter million dollars and fueled the business that didn’t skip a beat. The launch in Detroit went incredibly well. The launch in Grand Rapids went incredibly well, you know. We finished the year 2016, with three locations and now we’ve got 45 and counting as we continue to grow across the US and Canada. So if there’s anything that I’ve learned through this journey, and there are so many more stories of, of how God’s not looking for us to work for Him, God’s actually looking for us to work with Him. Because Kingdom business only happens through partnering with the Holy Spirit because God is the source of endless creativity. He’s the source of endless excellence.
You want to run your business excellently? Take a look at Kingdom Principles that operate in the realm of excellence, in heaven, and start applying those in the way you love people, and the way you partner, and the way that you use business as a way that does way more than just making money for people and making investors get a financial return. You can actually partner it with solving complex problems, like combating sex slavery in the world today. Solving complex problems through business in a way that is sustainable, in a way that is far reaching, in a way that it brings heaven to earth, because God always has something to say about every aspect of our lives and learning that there’s always an opportunity to partner with Him. Even when we see a roadblock, God says, “Nope. See that desert? It looks like a desert but there’s actually streams.” You know, “See that, see that wasteland? It actually looks like a wasteland but that’s actually a luscious path that I have for you.” It’s been through that journey where we’ve just been able to see it time and time again.