Kevin L. Richardson, 34: North Country Farms

 

The name of Kevin L. Richardson’s company encompasses much of what has helped shape his mindset as an entrepreneur: North Country Farms.

The Watertown native and SUNY Potsdam graduate is president of the agribusiness that specializes in producing white and whole-wheat flours that are primarily shipped to the New York City market. The company also produces a wide range of products through partnerships with local farms and producers that are sold under the North Country Farms brand, including pancake and muffin mixes, maple syrup, honey and jams and cheese curds.

“I was born and raised in the north country,” Mr. Richardson said. “I think there’s tremendous opportunity in the north country. This is a chance to give back to the community you were raised in and build a business in the area where you were born. I value the north country. I don’t think there’s a better place.”

Mr. Richardson said he views the north country as “one big family” and he wants to ensure that his success is shared by others in the area.

“It inspires me to give back to the north country,” he said. “I want to feel that Kevin Richardson and the businesses I run give back to the community.”

The former shooting guard for the Potsdam Bears’ basketball team said he views his former coach, Bill Mitchell, as one of his mentors, along with his business partners.

“As a college athlete, your coach always has an influence on your life, but he helped mold me into the man I am today,” Mr. Richardson said. “He was able to balance his working and coaching with having a family.”

He also credits his grandfather, Lewie Brown, with instilling an entrepreneurial spirit in him. Mr. Brown ran a hardware store and a home décor business in Adams.

“I saw how he ran his businesses,” Mr. Richardson said. “I watched him take a big risk and also have a good life.”

Mr. Richardson’s grandmother, Dorothy Brown, helped operate the family businesses and offered him advice he has tried to follow.

“Go with your heart,” Mrs. Brown told him.

Mr. Richardson said it is a myth that “being your own boss is fun,” and he concedes that his business success has come with the loss of personal time for himself. However, he has learned that success can require risk and sacrifice and he has used that knowledge to remain motivated.

“When the times get tough, I’m able to overcome it,” he said. “I keep a level head through the tough times and try to look forward, not look back.”

He relies on his brother, Kurt, for advice on how to deal with adversity.

“He’s just one of the most level-headed guys I know. You can just always talk to my brother easily, because of the way he sees things,” he said.

Mr. Richardson said there is nothing about him that would surprise his coworkers because “they see me every day and we talk.”

“If you’re actively involved in your business, I don’t think there are any surprises,” he said.

Mr. Richardson said he and other business leaders need to do more to encourage young people to become involved in business ventures and help them realize that there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs in the north country.

“We need to be more outspoken about the rewards of taking a risk and the importance of building businesses that can
help others,” he said. “Every day’s different in the entrepreneurial life.”

Despite his successes,there is one person with whom Mr. Richardson said he would consider trading places: his young nephew, Aston.

“Just seeing how happy he is with life, and he has no responsibilities,” he said.

One business he does not plan to start, but would like to see someone else start in the area is a water park.

“I wish we had an Enchanted Forest in our back yard,” he said.

— Brian Kelly

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES

The Kevin L. Richardson File

Hometown: Watertown

Professional position: President, North Country Farms; incubator manager for the state’s Business Incubator and Innovation Hot Spot Program

Family: Single

Education: Master’s in education, SUNY Potsdam

Community involvement: Member, Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce; donates food products to multiple charitable organizations

Last book read: “The Third Plate” by Dan Barbera Perino