Pictured: Tom Ryan, photo sourced from IN-SPY
Not many people start a business when they turn 14. On the same token, not many people start three businesses by the time they turn 17 - here's why I did things differently.
Growing up I never saw the advantage of following the crowd. When I was 7, I got into community softball and quickly escalated the ranks with an unimaginable support network of other young people and adults around me. I quickly learnt some valuable lessons from the people around me and to this day, I think that taking the extra step and getting involved within the community has been one of the most valuable learning experiences of my life.
When people ask what I do and how I do it, I tend not to answer with the typical: I'm an entrepreneur........ Instead, I always like to focus on why I do what I do. In the words of Simon Sinek, "always start with the 'why'". Having no qualifications in any type of business/entrepreneurial coursework I often get criticised for a lack of understanding and an incomparable state of mind that differentiates from other people my age. So you may be asking; what's the true difference? Well, things started to trigger an entrepreneurial switch in my mind when I was about 4 years old, when I saw that you could turn oranges into orange juice in the middle of Summer and then be able to sell it on the footpath of a residential street where passersby would be hot and thirsty - classic marketing and sales' strategies.
I started figuring out that once you found a customer, you could then upsell them and push your product because they're already hooked. For someone under 10 years of age, the child-sale process worked a treat, but while I masked a salesman, I was taking practical lessons about reoccurring revenue - derived from consumer sales while all the customer thought I was doing was making a dollar or two.
I also started to learn more about sales when I sold low-cost consumer goods to friends, peers and members of the public, with a minimised value-adding process, therefore making it easier to gain additional margins from a cost-efficient production strategy. When things started to pick up during my later years as a child (not even a teenager yet) I started reading up and watching tutorials about human psychology, consumer trends, micro and macroeconomic performance, customer service, training and marketing topics. For someone who should (in the context of a normal 11-year-old) be doing their homework learning about times tables, I faced the extra curricular activities of becoming different within the community, and in my own future career expectations.
When I turned 13 my family and I went on a holiday and came back through the duty-free section where there was a $200 camera kit for sale. No one knew at the time where that would take me; just a hobby at the time, I didn't even know myself. Fast forward a year and I was shooting photos every weekend, meeting incredible people and seeing some magnificent events in others' lives. It was never a better time not to be working at a fast-food restaurant! A year later I was starting to see that if I was to expand this business, and create a fresh outlook, I must change the name and create a different approach. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened: I created another art firm in Sydney that took off quickly and is still growing as we speak. It's difficult to embrace the new when there is so much attached to the old, but sometimes you just have to do it.
When people hear this story for the first time they always look confused about how I changed my own direction without the assistance of any qualifications. My response has always, and will always be that if you really want something and you have things in the way, you'll figure out a way to move forward with or without those obstacles - when your vision comes first then everything else won't.
At the start of 2016 I wanted to explore more options surrounding business and my passion for men's fashion/lifestyle. I ended up creating an Instagram blog - @tomryanlifestyle - which I have maintained every single day, and it continues to expand into new areas every moment. I've always found it honourable to help others, although I may or may not be getting paid for it - that's what I enjoy doing. Whether it be helping the community through sport or helping a small business make an additional $20,000 in revenue - the outcome is never achievement. The achievement lies within the legacy of securing a structured framework that can bring change to any movement that I'm involved with.