From Ex-Gang Member to Self Made Multimillionaire Entrepreneur: Ryan Blair
From Ex-Gang Member to Self Made Multimillionaire Entrepreneur: Ryan Blair
Here is the story:
Blair’s father was a cruel and violent drug addict, that held a day job as an engineer. His father would often abuse his mother, sister, brother and him. Blair recalls an occasion when his father held a gun to his mother’s head in front of everyone. He spent his youth in and out of orphanages. At the age of 13 years old, his mother was given a court order to remove the children away from his father. He struggled with the problems surrounding his family life. His mother became a drug addict and alcoholic. He battled with Attention Deficit Disorder and Dyslexia and felt there was no support and no one to turn to at school; therefore, he dropped out in the 9th grade. Blair soon turned to the close-knit gang life of criminals and murderers to escape. Blair didn’t care if he was alive or dead. Eventually he went to prison close to a dozen times for criminal activity. At the age of 16, Blair had been arrested for the last time, he recalls he was facing a four-year jail sentence.
“I quickly saw how the system worked, how the street lords kept themselves in power through influence and manipulation. I observed how the older people used bribery and fear to get the younger kids to do their crimes, and I saw how the young people willingly went along with it because it seemed like the only power structure that had any kind of respect in the neighborhood,” Blair writes in his book “Nothing to Loose, Everything to Gain.” Shadows of his former self was destined for a tragic ending, but he soon broke free from the chains that bound him.
Epic Victory: Blaire thanks his spirituality and focus on God for opening his eyes and allowing life transformation to begin. He says, “I know what its like to be at the bottom, and I know what its like to be poor and a high school drop out.” When Blair turned 17, his mother got clean from drugs. He prayed for a miracle and Blair said, “when he was ready, the teacher appeared.” His mother began dating a wealthy man named Bob Hunt, who worked in real estate. Bob opened Blair’s eyes to see how business worked off the streets. Bob soon became his stepfather and he provided for the family and gave them the best possible life he could. Bob, his stepfather, gave Blair a wake-up call when he said, “I have faith in you.” Those words pushed Blair to strive to do better and brought something out of his own courage. “My stepfather never gave me any money. He was a real stickler about that. But imagine taking this kid with zero confidence, zero self-esteem and putting a guy in front of him who says ‘I believe in you.’ No teacher ever believed in me, no social worker ever believed in me, no judge ever believed in me. And suddenly this guy (step-father), who was more qualified to give his opinion than anyone I had ever met, said ‘I believe in you,” Blair recalled. The words echoed in his mind and worked as a miracle throughout Blair’s life. Bob was always Blair’s first call in the morning and last call at night, he helped guide him through the tough entrepreneurial adventures, and gave him moral support when Blair needed it the most.
Blair realized that legal business tactics weren’t so different from the street ways. He decided to apply the blueprints he learned from the street life into entrepreneurship. At twenty-one years old, he decided to turn his life around for the better and he started his first business called 24-7 Tech. His business soon failed, but it didn’t stop Blair from trying again. Blair went on to start 10 different businesses; they all ended in failure, but again, he didn’t stop there. Blair said, “my success came from taking small incremental steps. And I really became addicted to the subject of success and addicted to each little goal that I set.”
In 2005, Blair began the business ViSalus, a weight loss and fitness program called, “Body By Vi, 90 Day Challenge” based in Detroit. When the recession hit, ViSalus was millions of dollars in debt and almost went out of business. He laid off hundreds of employees and only kept 20. Blaire continued to strive through the hard times, knowing that he was going to make sure that the company was running at a potential he was proud of. Blair, ViSalus’s founders and investors, “have huge aspirations. Our goal is to be the first billion dollar company to emerge from the great recession.” When striving through hard times, he feels that sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions; you make the right unpopular decisions and things work out in your favor. As a CEO, Blair feels to market a great product, you have to make products for yourself and then tell the customer what they want.
“You have bad days in anything that you do, you know that at the end of your bad day, that you did that and went through the pain for a reason, and that you will be better because of it,” Blair said. After hard work and determination, this time, Blair’s efforts was a success! Today, he has brought the company around from a $6 million debt in early 2008 to $150 million revenue 16 months later; winning him the coveted DNS Global Turn Around Award in 2010. In just two years, the current value of the business is $600 million per month. According to Blair, “the company now signs up about 1 new person, per 1 second.” He believes, to be successful, you must get active, go to a networking events, set one goal each day or week that you can work toward; to achieve the life you are desiring or that you want. Blair states, “so what I always tell people is to get out there and do one thing today that is going to take you in the right direction,” he believes, “the secrets to success is taking incremental steps toward the direction you want to go to.”
“If you surround yourself with people that are doing what you want to do, you will eventually find your way to doing that.” says Blair. He states there is importance in surrounding yourself with great people. There is value in hard work and proving your value. The best advice he can give to those who wish to become entrepreneurs, he suggests, “get a job working for a great entrepreneur, in the category you want to have,” he believes that you can then see how they work and apply the approach to own life. He admits that it was a lot of work, “I spent 18 hours a day, I really try to find myself into the mind of the consumer, because I knew what it was like to be a consumer, because I am one. I went back to the basics, back to where I came from and built a company and a product around that.”
Blair has invested in multiple start-up company’s and share’s his story of adversity to help others overcome their adversity. Blair strives for honesty and shares his story so it’s not weighing him down. He looks for the same characteristics in people who are open and honest about themselves. He told Business Insider, “I am 100 percent open to (hiring someone with a criminal record), but only if the person is honest about it.” He continues to apply these same beliefs when hiring new people.
Blair comments that it’s okay to fail and that “sometimes getting fired, or the potential threat of it, or the reality that you are putting it all out there, is the best thing for you.” he continues, “you grow from the decisions that you make and that’s just how it works.” He encourages others to work hard, prove value and there are countless people out there that are willing to help. Blair’s says, “you are who your network is,” and encourages others to surround themselves with good people.
In August 2011, Blair collaborated with biographer Don Yaeger to write a book about his accounts with adversity and he spoke about how he became what he is today. The book titled, “Nothing To Lose and Everything To Gain: How I Went From Gang Member To Multimillionaire Entrepreneur,” became the New York Best Seller. Blair wrote the book, seeking to teach the subject of entrepreneurship to youth and for others seeking to learn about the subject.
Anytime we come across strife or set back, we should also rise above and seek our fullest potential. Abnormal circumstances allow us to see the world differently and help define our character. Like Ryan Blair it took a special person to believe in him, but we too can find the power within us to believe in ourselves. With the right formula, we will have “nothing to lose, and everything to gain,” by overcoming the adversity.
The most important thing in life is to stop saying “I wish” and start saying “I will.” We must consider all things possible and treat our possibilities as probabilities.
Choose Victory and Overcome Victoriously!
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