Entrepreneur: Follow dream

Startups need hard work, reinvesting, Ryonet founder says

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

Published:

 

Ryan Moor launched Thursday evening’s Clark County PubTalk by describing his journey from window washer and punk rock musician to founder of a silk-screen equipment business that employs 70 and earns $25 million in annual revenue. He spoke to a record 135 attendees gathered at Fort Vancouver National Site’s E.B. Hamilton Hall.

The evening’s theme at the business networking event was attracting so-called angel investment, a loosely defined category of funding offered by private investors to emerging companies with strong potential for rapid growth. Event sponsors invited Moor to tell the story of his Vancouver-based Ryonet Corp. as an example of an idea turned into a viable business by a creative entrepreneur. Launched in 2004, Ryonet offers screen-printing supplies and equipment as well as silk-screen training.

Moor, with spiked hair and barely in his 30s, described how his father’s sales of Amway products stirred a childhood interest in entrepreneurship. “It gave me the ability to learn how to dream,” Moor said.

He started small, earning money trapping moles, pressure washing houses, and cleaning windows before joining a punk rock band in high school. Moor began printing silk screens for shirts in his mother’s kitchen for his band, eventually making shirts for other bands. The idea of a business was born, with Ryonet selling online and using YouTube as a major form of product marketing.

Moor encouraged entrepreneurs to work hard and reinvest profits to finance company growth, adding that education and experience become increasingly important as a company grows. Ryonet now has U.S. offices in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Arkansas as well as operations in France and the Czech Republic. “Every step along the way gets a little harder,” he said.

Rob Wiltbank, associate professor specializing in entrepreneurship at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., said Moor’s approach to creating and building his business runs against the traditional business school model. Instead of defining a market need and creating a plan to fill that need, Wiltbank said, Moor and entrepreneurs like him take the approach, “What do I have? What can I do with that?” he said.

“Very successful businesses are a natural expression of the person who started them,” he said.

Nathan McDonald, Northwest chapter president of the Keiretsu Forum, outlined strategies for small businesses to increase their attractiveness to angel investors. Formed in 2000, the Keiretsu Forum is the world’s largest angel investor network and has a local chapter that met Friday in Portland.

McDonald offered encouraging words to entrepreneurs.

“I’ve seen more investment in the last two weeks than in the previous two months,” he said.

The next PubTalk will be held Nov. 10.