Ryan Kirkpatrick’s two businesses market to the young and the cool; he stages snowboarding events at college campuses across the western United States — on real snow. He also manufactures high-fashion sunglasses made from exotic woods.
Corvallis residents might have heard of his “Snow in the Quad,” events — a snowboarding exhibition that has been held each spring in the Memorial Union Quad at Oregon State University since 2006. But the 26-year-old insists he’s more nerdy than trendy, despite the fact his two businesses, Galvanic Design and Shwood Shades, are marketed to the 18-to-34 consumer demographic.
“I’m kind of nerdy for business,” Kirkpatrick said. “I could stand up here and talk about business for hours.”
How to succeed in business without being cool was the message that the self-described nerd brought to an audience of more than 100 students and interested would-be entrepreneurs Thursday afternoon at OSU’s LaSells Stewart Center at OSU. Kirkpatrick was making his first public speaking appearance on campus since he graduated in 2006 with a general science major, with minors in entrepreneurship and chemistry.
Kirkpatrick told his audience how he went from planning to be a dentist to becoming a thriving entrepreneur.
“I had taken all the classes I needed and shadowed dentists,” Kirkpatrick said. “I was ready for dental school, but it just didn’t sit right (with) me.”
He also offered plenty of advice. His tips to students who are hoping to make a career out of their hobbies include:
• Find your passion and run with it, even if it’s nerdy.
• Value your mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions; use them as a sounding board.
• Experiment often, especially when it doesn’t cost you anything.
• Do what you’ve got to do to keep things going. Even, for example, if that means taking a bus to make queries on business opportunities; the road to success means taking some unglamorous side roads.
• Monitor cash flow all the time. That advice may seem obvious, but Kirkpatrick said that many start-ups fail simply because they let months’ needs trigger too much spending.
Kirkpatrick closed his presentation by urging audience members to channel their inner nerdiness into success.
“You need to be a nerd,” he said. “Nerdy is cool. You need to find that passion you are nerdy about. You might make half of what you would make in another job, but you’ll have more fun.”