Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ryan Blair: Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain


What is your name? Ryan Blair

Your job? CEO and Co-Founder of ViSalus

What social causes are most important to you?
Long before I was an entrepreneur and a New York Times best selling author, I was a gang member with a juvenile criminal record. Luckily, before it was too late, a mentor came into my life, my stepfather Robert Hunt, who was a successful real estate entrepreneur.  With much patience, Bob challenged me to be a better man and opened my eyes to the world of legal business enterprise. Based on these real life experiences, it has become my personal calling to help at-risk youth and kids who are like I was—one mentor away from becoming an asset to society.

What charities do you support – and how?
In 2008 I founded The Blair Foundation, a Los Angeles based private charitable organization that supports causes like juvenile outreach and mentoring at-risk youth and makes regular contributions to charities and religious organizations.

In 2011, The Blair Foundation partnered with the Goergen Foundation and philanthropist Percy Miller (Master P) to donate to Johnel Langerston's Urban Born project, and launched the Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain At-Risk Teens Program, an educational program that helps teach at-risk youth to trade in their spray paint can for a camera and learn the art of film making or other entrepreneurial endeavors. 

My company ViSalus also has a meal program for kids in need, and to date, we have served over 2,000,000 meals. I plan to do a lot more giving to causes I care about in the near future.
 
Why do you have a passion for this, is there a personal tie?
I wouldn’t be living the life I am today without my stepfather Bob—his belief in me helped me to become the man I never knew I could be. A lot of people say I got lucky, but I know that my ‘luck’ is duplicable. It’s my personal mission to prove that anyone can find a pathway out of their circumstances given the right influences, entrepreneurship and education.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?
Support the Blair Foundation. The easiest way is to buy my book (Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur), read it, and give it to others who can benefit from it. I have pledged 100% of the proceeds of my book to the Blair Foundation. In fact, 90% of my assets will be donated to The Blair Foundation, and I often lend my staff and resources to the cause.

How would you define social responsibility?
For me, social responsibility is finding the imbalances and injustices in your own life, then turning around and correcting them in the world. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers; it is our job to solve our world’s problems, not the government’s. As a CEO, it is my social responsibility to found companies that create solutions and impact our world in a meaningful way.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your social work?  
The first tattoos I have are homemade. I got them because in my neighborhood, the tougher you looked, the less people messed with you. Later, my tattoos were more about important steps in my life and my beliefs.

Quick list of tattoos: I have the Roman numerals for 8-4-11 on my left forearm for the day that my book was published, I found out my son had Autism, and I went to court to get custodianship of my mother who had been in a coma for 5 months. I have dragons tattooed on my arms that represent transformation, I have my last name on the back of my neck (in case I ever get lost), one of my favorite philosophies “carpe diem” tattooed on the inside of my left bicep, and my mother’s name, Erla, on my chest.  All of my tattoos have meaning. 

Photo Credit: Sally Peterson

3 comments:

  1. Brother, I know it's hard to pose as a tough guy because I know your heart. I've seen you at Vitality in Miami, FL last July and not able to stop the tears because of the love you have for your fellow entrepreneurs! God's speed as you continue to wipe the tears and remain one of "just 3 guys."

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  2. I loved this interview. I am coming into my own at the ripe old age of 46 and this has totally reinforced the fire in my to continue writing and crafting my personal "life script." My family and I started a toy drive as we were inspired by my mom's love and inspiration. Seeing the passion and fire (and the social impact) that Ryan has had, it truly inspires me to keep on the path of trying to help in any way that I can.

    Ryan, thanks for being such a fabulous example of transformation and change. It wasn't so much you that changed but the rather the focus of the energies and your abilities. I love it. Continued success!

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  3. I'm 46 and started my own company 8.5 yrs ago. I'm a high school drop out and after many go-no-where jobs, I created one for myself. I knew how to clean and I could handle being around death so I started a funeral home cleaning company called Dust2Dust Cleaning Services. There is so much more to my life and my story but the main point being - I never gave up.
    Kim Elizabeth
    Vancouver, BC

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