I recently caught up with Ryan Dickerson. Ryan is the founder of Rylaxing, a company he started after his freshman year in college after finding out that he had recurring back pain due to his sitting positions. Especially since the chair in his dorm room was less than comfortable, severely lacking lumbar support.
Here is the full interview.
Can you briefly give the readers some background information about yourself?
I am a Syracuse University graduate, with a BA in Economics. I started Rylaxing LLC as a sophomore while I was attending Cuse.
Have you always had a passion for business or is it something you picked up in college?
I have always found business interesting, but being in college and seeing the world of possibilities really opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship and my place therein
Tell us about Rylaxing and the story behind the idea?
After my freshman year I found that i had recurring back pain due to how and where i was sitting for most of the day. My dorm room came with a bed, chair, and desk; the chair was less than comfortable, severely lacking lumbar support. So, the summer before my sophomore year, I designed and manufactured the first two Rylaxers. I designed them initially with my mom, who is an interior designer. To start, we designed my dorm room in AutoCAD - and after much trial and error found the only way to bring a couch into a dorm room was to make the bed itself into a functional couch. So we did. After using the first two in my own room for a semester, my friends started asking where they could buy one… The lightbulb clicked on in a sense, and from there I have been trying to make the Rylaxer an essential product for socializing and being comfortable anywhere.
What would you say was the most difficult aspect in starting the business and how did you deal with it?
To be completely honest, each individual task was not overwhelmingly difficult, but the broad scope of work required to establish a legitimate LLC, pay taxes, manage a supply chain, establish branding and marketing, building a website… etc etc… the list never ends… I think the work load was the greatest challenge, and just getting used to the nonstop business life style took some adjusting, but at this point i don't think i could go back. I like how exciting running the business can be, the ups and downs keep it interesting and challenging.
How did you raise finance starting the business?
This was an interesting challenge, my first two years of college, i studied year round, august through may at Syracuse, then i lived and studied in Florence Italy after my freshmen year, and Shanghai China after my sophomore. This allowed me to be a year ahead in terms of credit, so in stead of graduating early, i became a part time student and spread a years worth of classes over two years. This allowed me to take the difference in tuition and apply it towards the business.
Are you working on Rylaxing full-time?
Do you have any plans to start stocking the products in shops or is it just going to be available only online?
Absolutely, that is our big project for this upcoming school year. (Syracuse gave 3 of my associates and me full rides for an MBA and Masters in Entrepreneurship.)
How would you describe your journey so far as an entrepreneur?
An adventure! It has been a blast so far, but I am positive it was only the tip of the iceberg.
What would you list as some of your most valuable lessons so far?
Someone told me very early on that i should do all the things i don't want to do first, get them out of the way, and establish a clear and functional ground work for the company, then have fun with it. So, do the not fun stuff first, pay your taxes, get all of your ducks in a row, then do the fun stuff
How has your market changed in the past few years? How has your business changed to keep pace?
Yes, we started in college, now we are moving into few new markets. Specifically adults who read in bed, pregnancy pillows, and boarding schools. Our branding, product design and marketing strategies have all adjusted with the markets
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
That’s a tough question; I don't think one specific thing can be attributed to our growth other than working hard every day regardless of success or failure
Since the birth of your company, what has been your most memorable moment?
The INC magazine photo shoot was a blast, they shot it in my fraternity house, and the whole fraternity got involved. It was a great time
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
Getting into major retailers is goal one, expanding our product line is a second, and redeveloping our website is the third major goal
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. Anyone can be an entrepreneur. If you have found a way to improve your own life or solve your own problem, chances are other people may have the same issue, and if your solution is effective, see where you can take the idea.
2. Do your due diligence. In a sense, do your homework, hold yourself to a high standard, and never settle for the minimum. Keep pushing and keep thinking
3. Have fun with anything you do. I work with the people i enjoy working with, people i enjoy spending time with, and so work doesn't feel like work. Find people who you enjoy working with, make an environment that is true to you and your company, and then run with it
Thanks for your time Ryan