Computer Science Alumnus is Hardwired for Entrepreneurship
By Jarin Eisenberg
Travis Proctor, founder and President of Artemis – The I.T. Department and Florida Tech Alumni, took part in the Nathan M. Bisk Visiting Entrepreneur Program on Monday January 26, 2012. In a room filled with friends, students, Florida Tech faculty and staff, and business leaders from the community, Travis shared his passion for entrepreneurship and his path to success.
Having grown up on a ranch in a very small town in Colorado, Travis learned at an early age that hard work doesn’t always equal success. He spoke of watching his parents struggle despite all of the time, energy, and work they put into their ranch. Travis said he had always wanted to be a business man and started trying his hand at doing so at an early age. In elementary school he and a friend had an idea to sell cupcakes to the neighboring middle school. What Travis and his friend didn’t realize was that while middle school students love cupcakes, they don’t have any money. Though the cupcake business wasn’t a long lasting venture, he was not deterred. In middle school he convinced the principal to hire him to paint a house near the school that was rented out to teachers. After getting the principal to agree to pay him $800 for the job, Travis then how to figure out how he was going to paint the house! This provided his first experience with sub-contracting. He hired several other high school students to paint the house for $400. This experience fueled his interest and passion for business and soon after he and a partner started a business fixing computers when they were juniors in high school. He had his first customer in two weeks and was able to hire two more employees within the first 6 months of opening.
After graduating, Travis, with the support of his family, decided to attend Florida Tech. As a sophomore, Travis founded Artemis and in 1997 moved the business from his apartment to an executive suite where he would have more space for meeting clients. In 1998 he graduated Florida Tech first in his class and while his other friends were taking jobs with large signing bonuses, Travis purchased a 4,000 square foot office space and decided to continue to build Artemis. The business continued to grow and with growth came a lot of lessons. One of the lessons Travis spoke of was making smart decisions in who you hire. He said, “Sometimes entrepreneurs fail because they want to be the smartest person in the room, but the key is to surround yourself with smart people who you can learn from and who are supportive.” He also learned not everyone is good at managing people and not everyone wants to be in that type of position. Understanding what motivates people and how to create a path to success essential.
The road to success was not without bumps and setbacks. The tech crash in 2001 impacted Amertis as it did many others businesses. It was the first time they had to lay people off and Travis spoke of how it felt like a personal failure. He said the crash forced him to think about how to keep the doors open and how to operate in a tough economy. He also learned that a company’s most limited resource is time and his model of being hands-on in all aspects of the business was holding the company back. He stressed the importance of hiring good people and letting them do their job. Today, Amertis has 32 employees and has experienced 70% growth in the past two years.
For Travis, doing something he loves and having independence are some of the qualities he enjoys most. His advice to others: Do something you love, take educated risks, understand most successes are not overnight, recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and build a support team.