The “Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs” list serves to elevate awareness of the innovation, professionalism, competence and tenacity demonstrated by Native entrepreneurs across Indian Country. Native Business is rolling out profiles of these 50 Native entrepreneurs online, in no particular hierarchy, to document and memorialize their innovation and self-determination. The inaugural class of the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs recognizes leaders across 13 business sectors, demonstrating the diversity of industries where Natives are making an impact. Among the entrepreneurs recognized in our Graphic Design & Media sector is Travis Komahcheet, Founder of Intertribal Visions Unlimited.
While now on the brink of success, Travis Komahcheet’s entrepreneurial path is laden with the remains of the “bad medicine” he and his wife have endured. Raised in a non-Native environment he describes as “dysfunctionally poor,” Komahcheet taught himself to draw on the back of tithing envelopes his mother gave him to keep him quiet in church.
“My way of making friends was drawing pictures for them. It was my first feeling of knowing that I had something to share,” reminisced the Comanche co-owner of Intertribal Visions Unlimited, a cutting-edge multimedia design company based in Cache, Oklahoma.
Advancing past notebook paper and other media, he realized his need for advanced technical skills. His host of professional friends helped, but without income from the carpentry he abandoned due to heatstroke, he instead enrolled in college. For one semester. Then he applied for a job as a graphic artist that required a degree. He got it anyway, and “spent three years working in a ferocious, highly professional, fast-paced environment” training-ground.
During his three years there, the Komahcheets — Travis and his wife and Intertribal Visions co-owner Kristy — also toured with a rock band. In spite of their passion for music, “the lifestyle of touring wasn’t very spiritual,” Travis Komahcheet admits, and it brought both of them to their knees. Literally. “I made a pact with God that I would do right even though I hadn’t been living it. Spirituality was lacking in all of my life, and I wanted to correct that. The power of one wasn’t working for me,” he recounts.
So they relocated to Oklahoma 10 years ago and hit restart. Travis also wanted to get to know his father and reconnect with his Comanche roots.
But his highly romanticized version of Tribal life was quickly dashed. Komahcheet experienced the negative social impact of historical trauma on people. Worse, bad medicine — which he didn’t believe in before coming to Oklahoma — engulfed them.
His antidote? “Carrying myself so strongly that when people looked at me they would say, ‘That’s what a Native looks like.’”
When Komahcheet’s side work eventually created a schism with his employer, he broke off on his own. Then a fortuitous meeting with Gary and Carmen Davis changed his life, setting a new bar for the quality of his work and infusing him with renewed passion.
The Komahcheets incorporated Intertribal Visions Unlimited in May 2010, and generated immediate income by hitting the powwow trail. “We were on fire. We were relentless,” Travis recalls.
Intertribal Visions offers branding, graphic design, illustration, printing, pro-sound recording, web development, video and more.Their store of Intertribal-themed merch features hoodies, shirts, headwear, skate decks, flags decals, prints and more.
While a hit, running his own firm was “a way different scene.”
Someone unexpectedly pulled their business. Other clients didn’t pay their bills. Things fell apart. Nearly broke, Komahcheet confesses he thought of calling it quits. “Nothing was happening fast enough in spite of my prayers,” and it left him in deep depression.
A call to speak at the Comanche Nation job fair to talk about being an entrepreneur put him back on his path. The Comanche people reacted with encouragement, a Comanche Business Committee member funded the Komahcheet’s rebuilding of the abandoned print business on the Reservation, and Tribal business returned.
“The whole adventure has been exhausting, enlightening and brutal. But I want to inspire. I want the flicker to become a raging flame,” Komahcheet explains.
And it is. So much so that he hasn’t been able to share their vision. Until now. Having rebuilt since those dark days of 2017, the Komahcheets have just added multimedia capability to their long list of high-quality graphics art products.
Komahcheet’s best advice for new entrepreneurs? “Put God first, find the right team, surround yourself with people that will educate you, and embrace putting yourself outside your comfort zone.”