Football legend Ian Taylor talks to David Johns about the challenges of carving out a new career with music at its heart
The Beautiful Game could do with one or two Ian Taylors right now. Certainly his beloved Aston Villa could. A great professional born and bred in Birmingham who played for the team he went and watched as a kid in the Holt End. A fine player giving everything to the cause. And a bit of a character to boot. In fact a legend in the truest sense of the word. “Football’s my life, still is, always will be,” he says. “But once the playing’s over, you have to commit just as much to finding new challenges and goals.” Ian has done just that over the past five years using his football and sport contacts to make quite a name for himself as an entrepreneurial businessman. The pitch he used to play on has given way to a focus on a very different kind of pitch – one provided by sound.
“I’ve always been into my music, so I couldn’t be doing anything better with my life right now,” says the boss of expanding audio business IT7 (named after his initials and football shirt number). Over the past four years, IT7 has gone from a fledgling operation to a brand that’s worn by the nation’s leading sports stars, including Wayne Rooney and the England football and cricket teams, as well as celebrities on entertainment shows such as The X Factor. The range of headphones, speakers and audio equipment is stocked in some of the UK’s biggest retailers and has received bucket-loads of five-star reviews from music critics. Ian’s wares have even appeared on the front cover of Birmingham Living! “One of your issues last year featured Suzi Perry on the cover and she was wearing a pair of IT7 headphones,” explained Ian. “When I saw the magazine I thought to myself… YES!!!” Ian’s passion for his products takes him all over the country, and the world for that matter, promoting IT7 goods and pitching them to retailers large and small. “I’m 80 per cent of the brand,” he explained. “So, I am very hands on and I will contact retailers myself and go along and meet them. I’ve met with Argos recently to talk about launching a new range.”
Ian retains very close ties with Aston Villa as a club ambassador. “I got to every game, home and away. I’m in the boardroom and get involved with the marketing and PR side.” The audio business came as a direct result of his links with the club when he travelled to Hong Kong with the team and bumped into mad Villa fan and MD of a leading telecoms tech firm. “We got chatting and I started going on about my love of music – I’ve got a nice collection – and he told me that he’d had an idea in his head for a while about making some headphones and would I be interested in getting involved. It all started from there. My contacts have meant that I haven’t had to spend a fortune on promo or anything. The business has grown by word of mouth and the endorsement of people like the FA and so on.” Ian is hoping for more of the same moving forward. “I’m looking at growing exposure for the brand with sales hopefully really going through the roof as we get into more and more outlets. We sell ourselves as a British brand that is known for really good, quality products.”
As well as his audio business and Villa club duties, Ian also has his own sports consultancy business and he also has interests in the US. “I’ve become involved in a project in California,” he explains. “I found some land and I’m putting together the funding needed to build a state-of-the-art sports complex, and hopefully we will grow from there.” He’s also playing a key role in setting up a football tournament between the American MLS, English Premier and Chinese leagues promoting the growth of academies developing young talent for the future. As Ian himself admits: “I guess you could say that I’ve got my fingers in lots of pies!”
PAST:Ian Taylor played 290 times for Villa scoring 28 goals, including one in the 3-0 League Cup Final victory against Leeds at Wembley in 1996.
PRESENT: “I’ve got everything crossed that can be crossed that we turn the season around and avoid relegation!”