The highly successful multimillionaire entrepreneur Ryan Blair did not grow up in the way that anyone would have imagined. He was the product of a broken family and a past that was dark and unexpectedly changed. He had also suffered from disorders that contributed to him dropping out of school at a young age. This amazing story of a man that went from rags to riches will surely give others hope that anything is possible.
Ryan Blair suffered from dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder, which ultimately led to him dropping out of school in the 9th grade. His biological father abandoned the family due to drug addiction. Without a support system in his life, he turned to the ways of a gang life. At only 13 years old, he was already heavy into drugs and was committing crimes–from drug dealing to burglary–and was destined to have a prison life in his future. Between the ages of 13 and 16 he had been arrested close to a dozen times.
While the teen years are meant to shape a person to become an adult, Blair was trying to survive the emotional damage of an abusive father, dropping out of school, and joining a gang. The future of someone that grew up this way often turns out in failure or giving up on motivation. But Ryan Blair has proven that anyone can turn a bad life into an extraordinary one.
At 18 years old, his mother sobered up and started dating a man in real estate. Blair was finally able to see a good influence in his life – one that did things and earned a living the “legal” way. When Blair’s mother began dating Robert Hunt, a wealthy entrepreneur she would later marry, the teen saw a way out of his troubled life. He felt this wonderful man coming into his life was an opportunity given to him from God. He truly desired to get out of the gang life and make something of himself, but did not see a door open for him before then.
His new stepfather, Hunt, moved the family to an upper-class suburb, and became a father figure to Blair. The successful businessman was the first to tell Blair he believed in him and gave him the confidence and the means to change his own life. This started with Hunt offering Blair an entry-level job at one of his companies, with the stipulations that he would return to high school and earn his GED. Motivated by Hunt’s successes as a real-estate developer, Blair chose this path and graduated. He was set on a businessman’s aspired to build an empire of his own despite his upbringing, which might have deterred others in the same situation.
He noticed that the street smarts he learned were similar in some ways to legal business tactics. Blair analyzed this and figured out how to turn these lessons into positive ones that he could apply to the corporate world. One of his observations included the realization that the most powerful organizations aren’t always the ones that become the most successful; it’s the ones that understand how to manage their politics in ways that are adaptable with the changing times.
Only three years later, at the age of 21, Blair had started his own company and became successful in another. Due to his consistent work ethic and a proficiency in technology, it took only three more years for Blair to rise to vice president of Logix Development. By then, Blair had also launched his own company, 24/7 Tech, a computer repair service. The business failed, but Blair stayed motivated, driven by the fact that he had seen tougher times. He figured he had seen the worst, so nothing could be as bad.
After the first failed business came the second: one—SkyPipeline, a broadband service provider. It was more successful with the startup selling for $25 million in 2004, making Blair a millionaire at the young age of 25. In 2005, he co-founded ViSalus, a brand that markets weight-loss products. He won the DSN Global Turn Around Award in 2010 when he turned the company around from a $6 million debt in early 2008 to $150 million in revenue just a little over one year later.
Now at 36 years old, Blair has begun to branch out into other ventures: He just finished a nationwide book tour revealing his autobiography called “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain.” He also came out with a documentary that portrays his rise from gang life to millionaire businessman.
During his time in jail, Blair learned that adaptation is the key to survival. In jail, the guy who rises to power isn’t always the smartest or strongest. The successful one is the one that adapts to the changing environment, while influencing the right people. He uses this in business by staying in tune with market trends, changing his game plan as technology changes, and adapting strategies around his company’s strongest competitive advantages. Blair lives up to the idea that survival, whether in business or other aspects, is a matter of how you respond to change. And he has done that well.
Being raised in a state with the highest dropout rate in the nation (about 20 percent), Blair had the personal experience of seeing some of the brightest minds misidentified because of a one-size-fits-all learning environment. He had added struggles of ADD and dyslexia that kept him from getting past the 9th grade. A career counselor in continuation high school told him that he didn’t have the intellect or aptitude to become anyone professional or successful. But he sure proved them wrong.
After his stepfather’s influence, Blair is now inspired by another man: his 4-year-old son, Reagan, who was diagnosed with autism in 2011. His priorities are no longer just himself. He is motivated to succeed in order to provide for his son. Blair is determined to give him a platform to be successful, just as he has been. Blair learned the hard way, but he is determined to make life better and easier for his son to succeed.
Much like Blair’s success in business, he draws his approach to fatherhood from his stepfather, and plans to teach Reagan the same lessons: be authentic, work hard, share your success with others, and never give up. Bad experiences can be used for you to better yourself, and Ryan Blair is a great example that this is true – even if it seems there is nothing to lose, in the end, there is a lot to gain.
All of the proceeds from “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain” are donated to organizations that support people with autism.