It all started as a school project.
“What we’re doing sparks an interest in people,”said Kelly Twichel ’17 Occupational Therapy graduate from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS).
Twichel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Access Trax, a company that sells and rents portable tracks called Beach Trax. The Trax allow people who use mobility devices to access beaches and other community areas.
Twichel and her former classmate, Eric Packard, took a class in Assistive Technology at USAHS with course instructor “Mo” Johnson. The course challenged them to create a device to help a specific population with a disability. It was then Beach Trax was born.
“We’ve made connections with individuals in South Africa, Canada, Mexico, England, Costa Rica, Australia, and the list goes on.” Twichel said. “There are people in all of those areas who want to help us get this to their communities.”
Access Trax is a top 100 finalist out of at least 5,000 across the U.S. that applied for the FedEx Small Business Grant Award. The company is also in the running to win the year-end $25,000 Amber Grant Award for women entrepreneurs.
Although Packard had to take a step back from the day-to-day operations of the company last year, Twichel has gone full speed ahead making personal and professional sacrifices to make her vision for the company a reality.
The company started out providing Beach Trax to adaptive surfing events in the Southern California area. Relationships with the surf community have since expanded, and volunteering in Hawaii has become a yearly effort since 2018. She is also gearing up to travel to Costa Rica for another competition next month.
She’s been able to build her business through volunteer work and networking at events. The more interest builds, the harder it gets to run a one-man show. She received some small business loans that carried her through last year and this year she’s taken on another partner to help scale the business.
Access Trax was also accepted into the first cohort of the CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center Accelerator Program. This program is a strategic partnership between the City of San Diego, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and CONNECT. It aims to nurture early-stage, growth-driven startups and supports the entrepreneur community with resources that encourage growth and creation of new businesses.
The Accessibility Movement
Access Trax’ latest connection was with the Runway of Dreams, a company that focuses on inclusion in the fashion industry. The company partnered with Zappos for an adaptive fashion show in Las Vegas this March. Access Trax was asked to join and provide the accessible pathway for attendees. Even more recently, Access Trax was asked to provide the accessible pathway for the 2019 Angel City Games held each year at UCLA. Rentals are also picking up for other outdoor camps, shows, and events that in the past didn’t have inclusive pathway solutions.
“All of these amazing events are recognizing that they want to be accessible,” Twichel said. “And yeah it’s 2019 and ADA has been around for a long time, but I truly believe that businesses, cities and communities are just now starting to realize that they’re missing out on 20 percent of our population by not having accessibility solutions and inclusion in everything they do.” It is also important to consider that if an area or event is not accessible for someone, their family and friends will also not attend.
As Twichel watches this movement happening first hand, she and her team are trying to leverage that and the perfect timing of it.
“We’re trying to push that Access Trax and accessibility isn’t only a good thing, but it’s a necessary thing,” she said.
Twichel said that she gets messages from people who are in tears of joy because they found her product. She takes pride in being a problem solver, being able to think creatively and help individuals and families do the things they want and need to do in life.
“I wouldn’t give that feeling up for anything,” she said. “No matter how hard this journey has been.”
To help Twichel bring Beach Trax to the many communities and individuals who need them, please show your support by voting for Access Trax in the Amber Grant Award for women entrepreneurs.