Natalie Manns Taylor Biography
Natalie Taylor grew up surrounded by adults who believed that hard work would lead to success and who demonstrated that belief in the way they lived their lives. Taught to aim high and expect a lot of herself, she has set and achieved one goal after another throughout her career. Beginning with paying for her college education by working several part-time jobs as a teenager, Taylor worked her way up the corporate ladder rung by rung to attain a top position in a large grocery chain. Even then, she continued to reach for new goals. Supported by her family and her deep religious belief, Natalie Taylor left an executive position in a major corporation to fulfill her lifelong dream of starting her own company.
Taylor was born Natalie Manns in the summer of 1959 in Columbus, Ohio. Within a year, her mother, Betty Manns Casey, took her new baby daughter to live with her parents, James and Hattie Manns, in the small southwestern Virginia town of Radford. James Manns had worked for the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, once a central part of the Radford economy. Later, both he and his wife Hattie worked in the housekeeping division of St. Albans Hospital. Betty Casey worked at the Radford Army ammunition plant for more than thirty years, changing often between early morning and late evening shifts. Living in an extended family with her parents enabled her to care for her young daughter even while working long hours with an unpredictable schedule.
Cherished by her mother and her grandparents, young Natalie flourished in Radford. She not only attended school, but was also active in many community activities. She joined a softball team, Girl Scouts, and 4-H, an agriculture-oriented club for youth growing up in rural areas. She was also active in her church, singing in the choir and first attending, then teaching, Sunday school. By the age of 16, she also had her first part-time job, working at a McDonalds restaurant.
Education was highly valued in the Manns household. Taylor's grandparents believed that a college education was the way to a better life, and they expected their granddaughter to continue her education past high school. James and Hattie Manns had worked hard to send their children to college during a time when it was very difficult for many African Americans to pursue higher education. Before the civil rights movement of the 1960s, many traditionally white colleges and universities did not allow blacks to attend, or admitted very few. This led African-American educators to establish a network of 105 colleges and universities specifically for black students, though they did not exclude students of other races. These colleges are now commonly referred to as "historically black colleges."
By the time Natalie Manns was ready to choose a college in 1978, however, she had more choices than her mother's generation had had. She did not choose an historically black college, but chose Radford University, partially because of its excellent academic programs and partially because it was close to home and her supportive family. She paid for her education by continuing to work at part-time jobs, sometimes holding two or three jobs while attending classes full time. It was during her college years that she began her career with Food Lion, a large chain of supermarkets with stores throughout the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states. She took a job as a cashier, balancing that with her college classes and another job at a bank. This experience managing several jobs and tasks at the same time would be helpful when she rose to a high management position in the company.
After her college graduation, Taylor moved to Ohio for a short time. However, she missed the support of her family and community in Radford and soon moved back to Virginia. She went to work again as a cashier for Food Lion again and was soon promoted to the customer service department at the Roanoke, Virginia, store. Anxious to keep advancing her career, she entered Food Lion's management training program. In less than two years, she earned promotions to assistant manager and then to store manager.
In 1985, as she was training for her management positions, Natalie Manns had married Timothy Taylor. The young couple was separated almost immediately when Natalie had to leave for Tennessee for the twelve-week training program. By the late 1980s, the Taylors had relocated to North Carolina, where Timothy had taken a job. Natalie applied to work at the corporate headquarters of Food Lion in Salisbury, North Carolina. Though she often had to commute more than an hour to work, she continued to rise within the company, working in various positions in employee training and community relations. By 1995 she had become Director of Diversity Planning; in 1997 she became Vice President in charge of Diversity.
Diversity means variety and difference. The word is often used in the fields of business or education to mean the inclusion of a variety of people from different racial, ethnic, or economic backgrounds. One part of Taylor's job as Director of Diversity Planning and Vice President of Diversity was to make sure the company hired and promoted employees from many different groups and that those employees and managers learned to understand and appreciate their differences. Another part of the Diversity process involved the role of Food Lion in the community. For example, Taylor worked hard to develop Food Lion's relationship with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), a college athletic organization of historically black colleges. Under Taylor's leadership, Food Lion not only sponsored several CIAA tournaments, but the company also offered a management trainee program where graduates of historically black colleges could learn about the grocery business. Because of Taylor's work, these young graduates had the chance to enter the business on a management level, rather than working their way up from cashier as she had done.
Taylor's work in the field of diversity helped Food Lion win several community awards, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Fair Share Award in 1995 and 1997, the North Carolina NAACP Corporate Supporter Award in 1996, and the Corporation of the Year Award in 1999.
In 2004, after 21 years with Food Lion, Taylor decided to leave the company and pursue her own dream. Ever since her marriage, she had wanted to start her own business, and her hard work and success within the Food Lion corporation had convinced her that she could be successful on her own. With the support of her husband and son Ryan, she started Capture Communications Resource Group, a video production and executive coaching company. In athletics, a coach is the person in charge of training and encouraging the team. Many corporations employ executive coaches to teach their high-level employees to meet the challenges of their jobs. Having risen step by step through the levels of a corporate system, Natalie Taylor felt that she had learned many skills that would make her an excellent executive coach to help others negotiate the complex world of business.
Black EOE Journal, Summer 1996, p. 14.
Crisis, August 1995, p. 12.
"Historically Black Colleges and Universities," Department of the Interior, www.doi.gov/hrm/black.html (September 24, 2004).
Information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Natalie Taylor on September 20, 2004.
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