We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Twichel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking has played a significant role in my life, especially in the past few years as an entrepreneur. I took a huge risk when I pursued starting a business in 2018. It was based on an invention from an OT (occupational therapy) school project that empowers people with physical disabilities to access the outdoors and recreation. I was working full time at my day job as a therapist and also starting the company from scratch. Within a year, I was already starting to scale back my hours as a therapist so I could keep up with the demand of the startup. That was really risky because I was living paycheck to paycheck with student loans. The risk was worth it because I knew I had to follow my passion. With Access Trax, I could help far more people around the world than I could as a clinician in my local community. When I think of risk, I like to think of reward, too. They go together like cause and effect. Sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone- the things you’ve always done- in order to achieve the greatest success. I define risk as acting on an opportunity that has both an objective upside and a downside with the outcome relying on at least one outside force you can’t control. I say ‘objective’ because often times, we let our emotions (subjective) script our thoughts and actions. In business, we want to minimize emotional decision making in many cases. When calculating the outcomes of a risk, I like to know what is the worst thing that could happen, and the best. Sometimes conceptualizing the worst-case scenario helps reduce anxiety over the risk because we learn that it isn’t very scary at all. Perhaps the worst-case scenario is in fact your current situation and action is the best thing you can do anyways!
Sometimes the risks I take lead to incredible opportunities and success, and sometimes they don’t. That is just the way it goes. I once heard that if being a business owner were easy, everyone would do it! The fear of risk and failure is something a lot of people get hung up on. The good news is that although we can’t change our past experiences with risks, we CAN change our interpretation of them and use everything as a learning opportunity. If you take a big risk and it doesn’t pan out the way you expected, the only real “failure” is if you don’t learn from it.
Remember the 4 R’s: Reflect, Reframe, Regroup and Return to the drawing board. I created this framework to help me continue to be a risk taker and go for opportunities that bring me out of my comfort zone. I’m not saying that we should take every opportunity/risk that comes along, but letting chances go by due to inaction or fear (as opposed to analysis) isn’t going to help propel you forward. And this definitely goes for more than just entrepreneurship. After all, without experiencing failure in life we would probably not fully appreciate each victory, no matter how small.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Access Trax is a social impact startup on a mission to make the outdoors and recreation accessible for all. The problem we are solving is that most outdoor terrain is a barrier for people who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs. We empower people of all physical abilities to access outdoor terrain such as sand, gravel, and grass with our modular portable pathways. It is basically a lightweight, folding sidewalk that you can keep in the trunk of your car or take on an airplane for travel. People use it for their yard, camping, beach days, events, and more. We are proud to serve families, adaptive sports organizations, and government entities like the National Park Service. So far, Access Trax has served people across 11 countries! Access Trax was invented by 2 occupational therapy students in 2016 and was inspired by the need of adaptive surfers to cross sand in their wheelchairs. I’m really proud that without a business or engineering background, my co-founder and I were able to use creativity, feedback, and critical thinking to create a viable solution. Some people may think this is just a niche product, but it is incredible to see how many more implications it has. For example, I would have never thought that the pathway would be needed by the film industry or construction/utility companies.
In 2020, we started working with ABC Studios (Grey’s Anatomy) and SDG&E since they both need a stable surface for moving heavy equipment across terrain like sand and loose gravel. There have certainly been many obstacles to overcome during the growth of the company. There will always be more challenges, too. That is just part of it. The first big obstacle was how to create a manufactured prototype and product as a broke student. You get resourceful if you’re passionate and determined! Grant competitions have been a huge source of funding so far, allowing Access Trax to grow without a lot of debt. I have also learned how to be an effective and emotionally intelligent communicator. If you can’t communicate or negotiate in business, you will have a very hard time. I try to share what I’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur with others. I mentor aspiring entrepreneurs, present to students, and volunteer at events. Giving back is a way of showing gratitude for the opportunity to follow my dream.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In San Diego, I would take my friend to outdoor places like Windansea Beach in La Jolla, to Balboa Park, and a hike up Iron Mountain for a great view. For food, we would go to Backyard Kitchen and Tap in Pacific Beach, Banbu Sushi in La Mesa, and Water front in Little Italy. The activities to check out include the North Park Farmer’s Market, a sunset at the beach, and of course the World Famous San Diego Zoo!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people and organizations that have helped shape me into the person I am today. For starters, my dad supported my dream and gave me a loan, writing on a note (that I still have on my fridge) “Go Baby, Go!” My fiance Jeff has been so incredible from day one. He volunteers at my events, understands why I work long hours, and even tells me not to forget to eat! I couldn’t have started this journey without my co-founder Eric who was a great friend and teammate in occupational therapy school. I owe much gratitude to all of the small business grants and accelerators I’ve been accepted into as well. These include the Amber Grant Award for Women Entrepreneurs, the FedEx Small Business Grant, and CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center. I have appreciated every ounce of opportunity and knowledge shared from these organizations. Finally, I would like to thank all of my customers and supporters for believing in me, in the company, and our mission. This has always been about serving you to the best of my ability. It may be hard being a small business owner, but seeing the positive impact on the customers makes it all worth while.
Kelly Twichel, Jessica Johnson, Johnathon Hall