Backstory: Ph.D. sees future in tarot card reading and astrology

vbridges@newsobserver.comSeptember 30, 2013 

Philip Young, owner of Black Unykorn Enterprises, thinks the visuals on tarot cards force people to think harder and smarter.


  • Advice from Philip Young

    •  Do something you love and perform at a ridiculously high level.

    •  Invest in quality business cards. A business card is like a handshake. People notice when it’s flimsy.

    •  Get a professional to build your website.

— Merriam-Webster defines “tarot” as “a set of 78 cards with pictures and symbols that is used to see what will happen in the future.”

Philip Young, a full-time tarot and astrology reader with a Ph.D., explains it a different way. Young, who started Black Unykorn Enterprises out of his home in June, sees the cards as a visual representation that makes you think harder and smarter about questions floating through your head.

“I am not a psychic. It’s not magic. … The cards are printed by U.S. Game Systems. They are cardboard with pictures on them,” Young said about the 65 decks of tarot cards in distinctive boxes lining bookshelves in his office. “They are not something that tells you what to do. They are something that helps you really push yourself to think about each decision.”

Black Unykorn also provides Web design, life coaching, editing and résumé writing services, but about 80 percent of his revenue comes from astrology and tarot readings.

Young got his start in tarot reading 24 years ago during a boring summer as he prepared to start graduate school at UNC-Greensboro. A set of tarot cards based on Greek mythology turned his head at a bookstore.

He completed the accompanying workbook and continued to learn about the practice, along with astrology. He started tarot reading professionally as a side job in 1992 after a stranger at a coffee shop paid him $20 for an impromptu reading.

Young went on to earn his doctorate in English and taught classes at UNC-Greensboro for nearly 13 years. He then worked for nine years as a webmaster and instructional technology facilitator at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I retired in 2007 to become a stay-at-home father,” Young said.

Earlier this year, he decided to open a full-time tarot reading and astrology service out of his Cary home.

“I finally realized this is what I really need to commit myself to do,” Young said. “I am going to have to figure out if I can do it or not.”

Young wrote a business plan and thought carefully about his target market, and how he would reach it, he said.

“I am not Madam Cleo, it’s not ‘Hey (anybody walking by) come get your future told,’” Young said. “I want to work with people like myself: highly-intelligent people who want to get a question answered.”

Young built a website that includes links to his LinkedIn profile, Yelp reviews and information on his Meetup networking events. His site also has customer testimonials and information on pricing, which ranges from $25 for a 30-minute consultation to $500 for a 12-month subscription to a personal astrology report. He reached out to his previous base of about 100 clients to let them know that he was reading full time, and he invested in Square credit card and PayPal readers.

Young plans to publish a beginner astrology book through Balboa Press by the end of the year, and is working with a graphic designer to draft his own tarot deck that’s set to debut in 2014. Each month, Young performs about 15 readings, which include six people who have annual subscriptions.

“My goal is to build a relationship with clients over the long term, because, especially with astrology, we are going to look at transitions over an entire lifetime,” he said. “What I want to do is be as helpful as possible.”

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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