Travis Luther | Overcoming a Tough Childhood and Building Million-Dollar Businesses
Smart Business Revolution

Travis (Scott) Luther is the Founder of TrialLine, a SaaS-based interactive timeline software for attorneys in the legal industry. He is a business and leadership advisor with over 25 years of experience in entrepreneurship. He is also an award-winning speaker and best-selling author, and his work has been featured in PBS, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal. 

Travis has been a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) for 10 years and is the President-Elect of the Colorado Chapter. He is a past US National Chair for the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA), a program of EO. Travis is also the President of Law Father, an award-winning digital media agency for lawyers and law firms, and the Founder of Queen Anne Pillow, a luxurious pillow company. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Travis Luther, the Founder of TrialLine, about the lessons he learned from his tough childhood and going into entrepreneurship at 16 years old. They also discuss Travis’ strategies for building a business to $1 million in revenue and launching secondary businesses. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Travis Luther talks about his tough childhood and being the caretaker of his family
  • Travis’ experience going back to school, starting a skateboard business at 16 years old, and launching a coffee shop
  • The business lessons Travis learned from building a valet ads company and joining Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
  • How the idea for launching Queen Anne Pillow came about
  • How to build a business to $1 million in revenue
  • Travis talks about creating TrialLine, his expectations for the new year, and his parenting approach
  • The peers Travis acknowledges for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And for those who of you who are new to this program, you will love this one because we got some great a lot of variety of different businesses and personal stories and life experiences to run through. But check out our archives also because we got great interviews with smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of companies and organizations, ranging from Netflix to Kinkos, Redfin, YPO, EO, Quicken, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, and many more. And I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. My guest here today is Travis Scott Luther, he’s the founder of trial, the SaaS based interactive timeline software for attorneys in the legal industry. So you’ve listened before, you know my background as an attorney. These are for trial attorneys that are going to try on the trying to explain the oftentimes very complex timelines to a jury, or to a finder of fact that judge or something like that. And so it’s not easy to do that, especially when you have long trials. So this is making it easier. And he comes from a background having a legal technology company kind of came in as an outgrowth of that, but he started many companies along the way, we’re gonna hear about other ones including a pillow company, cafes, Skateboard Shop, which he started when he was 16 years old. I don’t know who’s opening a retail shop when they’re 16 years old, and had a tough childhood as well that he emerged from but he’s also an award winning speaker and best selling author. work has been featured in PBS, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. Of course, this episode brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b companies to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with Dunphy upon podcast and content marketing. And you can learn more at our website Alright, Travis, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. And first of all, let’s start with your childhood because I was little shocked to hear that you started a business at 16 years old. I don’t hear many kids who have to do that. But you had a rough childhood, poor upbringing, father, who was a drug addict. And so you actually had to take over and raise your younger siblings. So take me back to how that all unfolded.

Travis Luther 2:52

Yeah, my, my parents were from Los Angeles, my, my mother got pregnant with me when she was 15. And by the time she was 19, she had me and my two younger brothers. My father had, unfortunately contracted polio as an infant. And so by the time he was nine years old, he was a drug addict already, unfortunately, just from the different painkillers that he was taking for the many, many surgeries, he had to try and save his leg. And he was never quite able to get away from that. And he had a bit of a temper. He can be very unpredictable, as well as very loving but also very unpredictable when my mother, when she was 20 years old, decided it was probably a better idea for us to leave California. And so she fled him and him and went to rural Washington. So we left to Los Angeles for a town in Washington state called Steptoe, which had a population of about 13 People often say, four of which were my family. So it was, it was a big change. You know, and from there, my mom worked really hard to, to, you know, try and put her life back together. And but it was a hard road. And, you know, we we, we did have, you know, we tried to have things work out with my father and, and then they wouldn’t my mom, just, you know, she was a child when she, when she had us and so she was really trying to figure out things for herself as it went, and, and unfortunately, it didn’t go as good as it goes for other people. And so yeah, by the time I was 15, we had been bounced around from alive, relative’s house, foster care, friends, neighbors, things of that nature. And so, two weeks before my 16th birthday, I just kind of after, you know, being sent off to another relative’s house and then being sent out of there. I said, You know what, I am going to just kind of break out of this cycle of, of being sent around and just start my own life. And, and so that’s what I did. And by the time I was 16, I had finally found my own place after, you know, maybe, you know, close to a year of, of homelessness. and taking advantage of offers from friends. And then at that point

John Corcoran 5:04

16 years old, were you ever sleeping in a car or sleeping on the streets, we’re still in Washington.

Travis Luther 5:11

Steve asleep storage sheds, I’d slept church balconies, a lot of what a lot of couches with friends. And then and then I lied about my age and got a job full time job at a hotel cleaning hotel rooms and started taking advantage of some of those empty rooms and sleeping.

John Corcoran 5:33

How did you not get caught? Well, I

Travis Luther 5:35

did get caught, you got caught caught and the and the manager of the hotel and her daughter they lived on the premises a lot of those hotel owners did and I kind of just came clean with her and explained my situation. And she was wonderful. She set me up with a room. Wow. And said said you can just stay here and work here. And so you can get get on your feet. And so shortly after that I was able to find a mobile home a trailer in a trailer park and got that and then my brothers came in live with me from there. So yeah, so I

John Corcoran 6:06

was 16 years old. And that and then I was in you have two other mouths to feed. How old? Were your siblings at the time? They would have been? About 13 and 14. Wow. Wow. And so we I know you had to drop out of school? Where were they continuing to go to school, you’re continuing to like, make them lunches, bring them to school, all that kind of response adult response?

Travis Luther 6:28

No, you know, when they came to live with me, they had come out of foster care been asked to leave foster care. So I can’t remember exactly what the circumstances were. But by this point, they were they were also doing things like alternative school or, you know, just not traditional school. And they were just never able to get back into a rhythm to go back to school. So I you know, as much as I wish I could say that I raised them well and did a good job. It was more a survival for all three of us. And so you know, none of us ended up graduating from high school, though.

John Corcoran 7:01

Did you end up working though? Were they on their own?

Travis Luther 7:05

I was able to get jobs.

John Corcoran 7:07

Yeah. Well, how did you? How were you able to go off and work? I guess the 13 14 years old. So they’re kind of independent by that age?

Travis Luther 7:17

Yeah, I mean, they probably shouldn’t have been. But yeah, I just lied, I to be honest with you, I would just tell people, I was 18. Or I just turned, you know, and no one really asked. I think there’s a little bit too of you know, living in a fairly small town where people kind of knew me and my family history. And I think they kind of knew I was taking care of my family. And so there were some things I was able to some cracks, I was able to slip through that maybe other people wouldn’t have been able to, you know, I think that the police in general had a good idea of what was going on, and that I was taking care of my brothers. And so I got treated with a little more respect and a lot fewer questions, and maybe other 16 or 17 year olds in my positions.

John Corcoran 7:54

Yeah. Now, given all you’ve been through, you’d be you could easily be excused for being angry and upset about the rough hand that you’re dealt. And yet, you seem from all the way that I know you pretty even keeled. I’m gonna be jumping ahead in the story here to talk about that. But is that something that you’ve worked on? Is that something intentional? Or did you did you come out that way? Or, you know, is that a product of, you know, having observed the way your father was and made a deliberate, intentional decision to be a different way.

Travis Luther 8:32

I definitely made an intentional, deliberate decision, but I was also the oldest one of my family and kind of always the caretaker. So you know, from a very young age, I always have had to be taking care of stuff, right, taking care of the family, taking care of my own money situation, getting people fed, getting people moved around, making sure people were happy, you know, making sure my dad was alive. Sometimes, you know. And so there was my mom always said, I was always acting 40 From the time I was four, she said, I just always seemed to be somebody who was taking care of me. And I asked her later years, you know, you know, talking about, you know, why didn’t you help more, give me a little more assistance. And she said, Oh, I’m, you know, she’s very, honestly, I’m very sorry, I just didn’t realize that you would ever needed that. Because you always seem to have, you know, your life together. You know, and in the face of everything else that you were going through that she always kind of looked at me as the strong one and never really thought I was suffering or needed any help. So

John Corcoran 9:27

it’s not an uncommon thing for children of addicts that they end up becoming very responsible because they have to from a young age. Yeah,

Travis Luther 9:36

yeah. So, you know, I think I certainly have had periods and bouts of a lot of anger. I think, certainly when I was younger. You know, when you’re in your 20s, you don’t see things the way you do is when you’re in your 40s like I do now, and now I have the benefit and I will say I have a great relationship with my mom. But now I have the benefit of being able to look back and say, you know, what’s a 15 year old supposed to do? Like, my mom got married, I think two or three weeks after her 16th birthday, had a lot of mental health issues in her own family and then married an alcoholic and a drug addict to at a could be pretty violent. I don’t, I don’t know that I would have been able to do much different. So at the older I get that the, the more empathy I have towards the decisions that both of my parents made. Because when you look at it, you don’t see a lot of choice there, right. And, unfortunately, is poverties is kind of recursive thing where every generation seems to have a few choices as well. But I’ve had a chance to be able to kind of step outside of that and understand my place in the world, and then make better decisions to get me to where I want to go. And I think that’s kind of the difference between me and some other people, especially my younger brothers, unfortunately, who were always just kind of being led, right, always kind of just being told where they were going to live next, or where they were going to go next. And didn’t never got a chance to do something on their own or make something of themselves, they definitely acted out a lot more than I did. We’ve all struggled with myself included, I don’t make any secret about this, but with addiction issues ourselves, for my brothers. Never those ruin their lives, like really ruin their lives. And never, they never got to thrive, because by the time they were in positions to be on their own, they had felonies they had been in prison. They didn’t look like very nice people, even though they could be. But by the time they were 18, you know, they had they had been through the system and they had records and they had debts and they didn’t have driver’s licenses and stuff, and they just were not ever in a position to thrive. I avoided a lot of that myself. And so I was able to open some doors for myself that, that they just weren’t