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Meet Brenda Ryan of The Referral Resource Guide in Fort Worth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenda Ryan.

Brenda, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in Fort Worth. I’ve attended and been a member of the same church since birth, Broadway Baptist Church. I graduated from Paschal High School and was the chairperson of my class. Then I graduated from North Texas University. I am and have been a single parent to my two kids. They are grown and successful, I’m so grateful. My degree and career is Guidance and Counseling in Education. I have served a variety of people in many areas of life. I have counseled the handicapped sector, welfare women, the elderly, runaway/ throwaway teenagers, and children too young to express their feelings with words, they have to act out their feelings instead.

One day 15 years ago, my son said to me, “Mom, you should publish some advertising.” He had graduated from Baylor University with a double degree in Business. He began working for a guy who published advertising in the area then a couple of years into that he started his own publishing company. And, as I said, 15 years ago he presented me with that idea. That’s where I believe God stepped in, instead of saying “why would I do that?” I said, “I wonder who I would advertise for..” He said, “you know so many people!” Within the next 5 minutes, I knew the name of my company, Connections Publishing Company, I knew a portion of the proceeds would go to Heifer International a world hunger relief program, and that the Guide would be by referral only.

Next, I sat down with people I knew that provided contractor services. Once I explained what I was doing without anything to show them, they gave me enough money to publish the first Guide at 16 pages and 5000 copies! Now it’s grown anywhere from 44-48 pages and 12,000 copies. It has grown from just contractors to all kinds of product and service providers, now named “The Referral Resource Guide.” I started by handing them out to friends, family, etc., and now over 4000 are mailed out with specific addresses on them, not ‘or current residents.’ They are in 1000 locations, neighborhood associations, organizations, and eight chambers. The categories are automotive, beauty, business, dining, entertainment, healthcare, personal pets, service contractors, and more… These businesses must provide proof of integrity for themselves, or a trusted friend can recommend them to me, or I have done business with them myself. They must be committed to excellence and dedicated to serving the community. They must also be reputable, trustworthy, dependable, and credible. Our core value is not based on a transaction, but on the integrity, character, and work ethic of each company represented. In this Guide, you’ll find the standard we all want in the services we all need. You’ll see that we also provide community awareness for nonprofit organizations local to our area.

At first, my designer said, “now you need a website,” and I said, “what for?” I had to learn many things about business! Now, 15 years later, we have a dynamic website where every advertiser has a full page to give as much content as they want to about their businesses along with their ads, locations, etc. It’s all interactive. We have all the social media platforms which post 3-5 times a day, etc. In the print Guide, we show how long the businesses have established their reputable status, along with showing who I personally have done business with. Those were the first two questions I was asked in the beginning, so one of my designers helped me create logos that would indicate answers to those questions and be on each ad without distracting from their ad space.

I host “Mixer With A Mission” every other month with about 100+ business people and have for 2 1/2 years now. The proceeds benefit the Tarrant Area Food Bank. The assistant executive director comes and announces all the areas served and new projects they are working on. We have door prize drawings along with a DJ, photography, mobile photo booth and chair massage companies that give of their time to add to the mission! Bar Louie in Fort Worth gave us the space and provided food for us this year! It’s astounding how people love to pitch in for a worthy cause and come together to meet new business people! I have been amazed.

For two years, I have run the Fort Worth Development Group, it is a business group that bridges the gap between business and ministry. Button’s Restaurant in Fort Worth has open up early for us each Wednesday morning from 9:45-11, They give us the space and free food, coffee, etc. They have been so gracious to us… We focus each quarter on a different subject. This quarter our focus is on Peace. We always relate our meetings to both business and life, it’s important how we treat each other as we live both. We have Guest Speakers and a member Hot Topic once a month, In between weeks, we share insights with each other at the tables for a deeper understanding of the speakers topic. We definitely cultivate meaningful relationships in this group.

Fifteen years ago, none of this was even a thought, but I have built lasting relationships all my life. I am still in contact with friends from kindergarten! I have been blessed with a strong family who provides limitless joy. I have an older brother and sister with wonderful families too. I live out on the lake with my dog and two cats. My life is rich and full.

Has it been a smooth road?
It’s not easy creating a business out of an idea. I did not know what was in store. I found my first designer in an Office Depot where I was trying to create a flyer for a party, but the way he was able to do what I was asking him made me ask if he freelanced. Many other shortcomings were ahead. Communicating what it is has been most challenging due to the unusual nature of the Guide, It’s not a branding tool, it serves the community with trusted businesses. It’s not up for public review since that can build up bad businesses and tear down good ones. So, hanging in there and holding on tight is the key, never giving up on a dream you believe in.

I believe in my vision, mission, and purpose so deeply that I can’t quit, though I’ve told God I would if he had something else for me to do. Every time I get down and think maybe I’m supposed to do something different, things turn around, then I know again I’m doing what I feel I was intended to do.

There’s a quote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” -Frederick Buechner That saying has kept me going.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Wow! I am the founder and publisher. I found out long ago that anybody can say that they ‘own” their businesses. I didn’t know anything about franchises but found out quickly that they were introducing themselves the same as I was. I had to ask a friend who was a marketing expert, how was I different, so I’d know how I could stand out when I would introduce myself. That’s when he told me being a founder is completely different than owning a business. So, I am known as someone who created an idea and publish it in print and online. I am proud of its uniqueness. I didn’t realize it was such a novelty until my first networking meetings where people were telling me they’d never heard of something like it before. It seemed to me the only reason to go into an advertising publishing business would be to take care of the community.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and the least?
I LOVE Fort Worth! I love the community feel! I don’t think we separate pockets of communities like other cities do sometimes. I think we all enjoy connecting all over town. I love sharing deep roots with other locals and those new to the city as well. I think we’re friendly and hospitable. I love that it’s laid back. We have free art, music, and food festivals. I love our cultural district and Stockyards area. And many, many cool pockets of food and businesses all over. If I start with all of that, I won’t finish this for you! I really can’t think of a reason I don’t love our/my city.


  • Pricing ranges from $600 for 6 months to $2500
  • The pricing includes website and print, it’s all-inclusive.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Locations Photography – Tammy Graham

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition, please let us know here.

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