In the process of starting a pet-focused business, model and philanthropist Taylor Hill experienced a tremendous loss: Her labradoodle Tate lost his life to lymphoma. 

Instead of ending the project, Hill channeled her grief into an opportunity to help other pet lovers. Launched today, Tate & Taylor is an online community platform for pet parents that features a Shopify-powered marketplace of Hill's favorite pet products; so far, the site features 23 SKUs, including a "F*ck Cancer" merchandise line, which donates a portion of profits to the Buddy Fund at the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center to help fund pet medical costs and rescue organizations like Animal Aid USA. 

Starting a business wasn't a walk in the park for Hill. Without a business school education, she says she accumulated knowledge through speaking with friends, family, and her extended network. She sent surveys to pet owners to identify gaps in the market and spent two years developing her brand. "You can't build a business alone," Hill says. 

From building a website to figuring out a back-end process, learning about trademarks, and contacting vendors, Hill navigated the process of starting a business with the help of her community. Her advice for those looking to pursue a passion project? "Start talking about it," she says. "'Hey, I want to do this. Hey, I have an idea for this--do you know someone you can connect me to?' Even the smallest introduction can lead you to someone who knows something else."

Once you have a full vision for a business, you can then work backward, Hill says, and figure out concrete action items to build it. She adds that it's essential to be comfortable with your lack of knowledge so that you can be eager to absorb information like a sponge. 

With the aim of helping pet owners navigate the ups and downs of animal parenthood,  Tate & Taylor will feature free digital content on its website and social media accounts, compiling advice from Hill and other pet owners. "This is an area of the pet industry that I would love to see if I can innovate," she says. "Not start out by making my own product--but talking about some of the great products that are already out there and make a platform for those companies to stand apart from others."

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