Nicholas Richards Explains How He Launched His Sermon Service ROHO
If you’re like me, you wake up in the morning wanting to go back to sleep, or at least snuggle under the covers for a couple more
hours minutes. I need a little something to help me get motivated to start my day. And I prefer it to be something positive and uplifting. After all, if my spirit is lifted, hopefully I can do the same with my body.
Enter ROHO. I learned about the service that sends sermons to your phone or email every morning in church one Sunday. And it’s been a blessing ever since. I got a chance to speak to the founder of the service, Nicholas Richards where he explained how a breakup inspired him to start the company, how he put it together and what people have gained from it. Check out his story below.
Nicholas, you’re a minister yourself aren’t you.
So tell me how old were you when you realized you were called to preach?
I think the call was a little forced upon me. I was in grad school. I was really interested in philosophy so I was studying to get a phD. I ended an internship my first year of school and so a mentor got me a job in a church, in Atlanta. I was at Emory. It was this really small, Black church in southwest Atlanta. And my job was to push papers. Super regular, intern work. Push papers. Get coffee for the preacher. And they were paying me like a $1,000 a month. And so while that was happening, it was the summer time. And so maybe like a month or two in, the preacher comes up to me and he’s like, ‘Hey you know it’s Youth Sunday in two weeks and I want you to give the sermon.’ And I was like, ‘Nah, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to kind of like get coffee and push papers.’ And he was like, ‘Nah, I really think you ought to give the sermon.’ Then it became really clear that if I didn’t give the sermon, there would be no more stipend. So, of course I went home and wrote me a sermon.
It was just crazy because I didn’t know what I was doing. That’s not what I was studying for. But I was like, you know, I need to keep this 1,000 dollars. So I wrote the sermon, went to church that week and I preached about spiritual gifts. I don’t remember exactly all the contents of the sermon but I remember, in the moment, I felt super clear. It was like a clarity that I had never experienced before. And it wasn’t on some whole other level. It was just like one of those moments when you’re doing something and you’re like, ‘I should be doing this.’ It was just then that I knew that no matter what I did, I would be preaching somewhere.
So you didn’t try to run from it afterward?
Naw. Because it was a feeling I’d never experienced before. And I’m not one who talks in super religious language. But I knew there was something special about that moment and I was like 21.
So tell us about ROHO. Tell me where the idea came from. I use the service actually. I go to First Corinthian…
Yes! So, Pastor Mike was like you guys should really download this service. And I was like, ‘I don’t know about this. But we’ll just see.’ And I really, really enjoy it. I play the sermons when I’m in the shower, getting ready for work. It’s a great way for me to start my day. And it really changes your outlook when you start it on a positive note. So tell me where the idea came from.
So like most ideas, it’s sprung because of a woman, right? I was dating this girl for a couple of years and we broke up. And I was super depressed. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh what am I going to do with my life.’ All of that sort of stuff. And one Saturday night, I was really down and I went on YouTube to watch a sermon, cuz that’s what I do. I was looking for inspiration, at–had to be like– 1’o clock in the morning, a Saturday night before church. And in the middle of the sermon, a Jack Daniels commercial comes on. And I was like, ‘Dag! This is crazy.’ It was just super insensitive. How did YouTube not know this is not the best commercial for this moment? I was just really ticked off by that because not only was I in a bad spot, I was thinking, ‘I’m a minister, I’m ok. I’m going to shut it down and just go do something else. Maybe go meditate or whatever.’ I had other things to pull on. But I was really upset because I’m like what about the next guy who was really dependent on this moment being special and then they’re infiltrated with this random commercial that is super disconnected and insensitive. And I’m like there has to be a better way to do this. I randomly went online and looked at other religious websites and it really wasn’t. A lot of it was kind of focused on White Christians, it just wasn’t done great.
I think when it comes to religion and the web, the standard is just so low. Sites are just not beautiful. They don’t function the way every other sites function. And I was like, I’m going to make my own. I’m going to make a place where people can have access to great, quality content and it’s content that they actually want to listen to. So that’s why we focus on it being on-demand. As we roll out some new features, later on this year, you’ll be able to curate ROHO to exactly what you’re going through.
So tell me about the name. What does the name mean, how did you come up with it?
The name is Swahili for spirit. In that weekend brainstorm, we were trying to figure out names and we threw a lot of names on the wall. And ROHO was a word that was simple to say. Being from New York, where everyone is kind of bilingual, I was like ‘People are going to think it’s rojo, like Spanish, like red.’ But other than that issue, we knew it was super simple. It was something my grandma could say and people didn’t really have any meaning for it. So we felt that it was something we could make our own.