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.