The UMaine Business Challenge team recently sat down with Ry Russell, Vice President of VR Marketing Consultants and an entrepreneur. Ry has been involved in several startups of his own, consults for and invests in other local startups, and is very passionate about Maine and small businesses.
Ry Russell being young, helpful, and experienced has also agreed to help the contestants in this year’s competition. In early April he will be working with the finalists to sharpen their business plans and pitches. The finalists will give a “dry run” of their business pitch to Ry and his business partner Sean Violette for initial feedback. This is invaluable and we are excited to have him on board!
And remember, as Ry Says, “if you believe in it, and you’re determined enough, you will be successful.”
UBC: I know this is a loaded question Ry, but in summary, what is it that you and your company do?
Ry Russell (RR): VR Marketing Consultants LLC was established last year to become the parent company of TXTWave; a mobile marketing company launched in May of 2011. I established myself as an entrepreneur and a marketer after I took over the Saco Drive In and turned it into something new and exciting. TXTWave was first used at the drive in to increase sales in the concession stand. This early success drove me to further pursue TXTWave potentials. Once the drive in was closed for the season, many local businesses requested services in mobile and social marketing. This led my business partner Sean and I to establish VR Marketing Consultants LLC as the all-in-one marketing firm positioned to increase sales for small and medium sized businesses.
UBC: Both VR Marketing and the Drive in are located in Southern Maine. The companies you support are also local. So, why Maine? What are some of the benefits of working in Maine?
RR: I get asked very often, “WHY MAINE?” Simple response – “I LOVE IT HERE”. There is no place I would rather live and start a business. The greatest thing about Maine is its sense of community. The Saco Drive In may be a privately owned business but it operates off the energy of the community. I brought attention to the drive in and the community helped make it successful. When you are out scrapping and painting and passersby from Route 1 are honking their horns and stopping to just say hi, you know you did something right. Here in Maine, we live in a unique market, and it is VR Marketing’s and my own personal goal to help these businesses succeed.
UBC: You would certainly understand some of the “growing pains” that our contestants are going through. With that in mind, do you have any advice for them and for young entrepreneurs in general?
RR: I say it all the time, the important thing for young entrepreneurs is to stay confident and not get discouraged. The second you get discouraged and doubt starts running through your head you will become mentally crippled. Your judgment is clouded and reaction time slows. Here is an example – I had $10,000 in funding promised to me and the week prior to opening the drive in the check never came. There were essentially two ways to respond – Get discouraged and call it quits or take 5 minutes, create a strategy, and make it happen. Luckily, I had the ‘lets make it happen’ mentality. The other key component for an entrepreneur is to put everyone’s opinion in the back of your mind. 80% of the time you will be told your ideas are not going to work, but if you believe in it, and you’re determined enough, you will be successful.
UBC: Your story is impressive, in part, because of your age (22). What inspired you to be so proactive and what drives you to be such an influential member of your community at such a young age?
RR: My inspiration was ignited by the drive in. It started out as a resume builder and it ended up pouring gasoline on a fire that I didn’t know existed yet. By the time I closed the drive in doors I was not ready for school, I was ready for business. The entrepreneurial drive is something within me, it is not about the attention or the income – It is my lifestyle. As for being an influential member of the community, well that is not something I take lightly. I am honored and grateful for all the opportunities being in this field provides. I am not entitled to anything. I have to work for it like everyone else. I constantly receive great guidance from professionals in my network and as a result, I am always learning. It is my appreciation for those individuals who have motivated me to get involved and help other entrepreneurs get started and find their way.