Valley business owner Travis Richards grew up in Barry’s Bay and graduated from Madawaska Valley District High School (MVDHS). His business, Travis Richards Office (TRO), is a social media agency that provides marketing support to small business owners. He said established businesses sometimes get “stuck” and fail to consider new ways to reach their customers. He has also drawn from his own experience to become a passionate advocate for people with disabilities. Richards’ message for would-be business owners is simple: There is help available for people who are prepared to work hard to make their dreams come true.
While still at MVDHS Richards started his own business delivering papers, recycling pop cans and walking dogs. He also participated in the Special Olympics. Richards admitted it was a bit too much at once, but he laughed and said,
Ambition is my middle name.
Through his activities Richards had met Community Development Consultant & Social Worker Elser Lee (Faith) Archer. As he approached graduation from the Life Skills program at MVDHS, she referred him to Links to Health (Links) in Bancroft. Links is an Employment Supports Provider for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients. It connects people with the necessary resources to develop work habits and on the job skills to be successful in the workplace. Richards admires Ilda Furtado, Director of Rehabilitation Services at Links to Health in Bancroft. He said, “It is a tremendous organization.”
On Archer’s recommendation, Richards was admitted to the Skills Link program right after high school. She suggested he consider providing Facebook marketing for business-owners, so he quit the pop cans and dog walking to concentrate on social media marketing. Access Work Services (AWS) implements some of the Links programs here in the Valley and found Natalie Robinson to work with him on that specialism. Archer said,
Travis has drive and determination. He will work very hard to develop his skills.
Richards proudly displays many certificates in his home office and credits his business teacher at the Training & Learning Centre of Renfrew County for his biggest achievement in education: Introduction to Small Business Basic Skills Certificate earned in June 2016.
Richards in his home office
I first started in business [on] July 25, 2015. I remember that date because I framed my first invoice that was paid…. When I started the business I said I was going to do it and do it well. I was determined to make myself known in the business community.
Richards’ outgoing personality and talkative nature led him to start competing in public speaking contests in his early teens. In 2012 he spoke about “Learning & Developmental Disabilities” at the Barry’s Bay Legion. His high school teacher recommended Toastmasters International but he had to wait until his eighteenth birthday to join. Richards now belongs to two different Toastmasters Clubs where he writes, practises and delivers his talks whenever possible. Click BELOW to view part of his keynote address on Entrepreneurship for People with Disabilities.
To remind himself to stay positive, Richards keeps many inspirational memes and posters in his home office. His belief in himself, combined with organization and natural persistence, has paid off. He said his greatest business achievement has been building up TRO’s roster of clients. He is proud to help promote each one, especially the entrepreneurs with disabilities, and gets job satisfaction from developing good relationships with his clients. These days Richards works with a dozen business owners not just in the Valley but also in North Hastings, across Renfrew County and in Ottawa. Click HERE to visit the TRO website.
Richards said connections are vital for a sole proprietor. He volunteers on the Board of Start-Up Canada in Ottawa as a Special Expert Advisor on Social Media, and locally on the AWS Board as a Self-Advocate Advisor. He said his hero for start-up business owners is Arlene Dickinson from Dragons Den. So far he hasn’t managed to meet her and tell her what a big fan he is, but he remains hopeful their paths may cross through his contacts with Start-Up Canada.
For would-be young entrepreneurs with disabilities or other employment barriers, Richards recommended talking to AWS in Barry’s Bay or contacting Links in Bancroft. He said any youth living outside the Valley who is out of school and receiving ODSP should ask to be placed with their local support organization.
I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for anything. I love what I do. I love helping entrepreneurs.
Editor’s note: We are pleased to have a business partnership with TRO Social Media Agency. Richards manages The Current’s Instagram channel and continues to make creative suggestions about how we connect with our readers. He plans to contribute occasional articles to The Current on using social media.