As I got to know Ryan, I realized that this was how his world turned. His world was full of risk…people who trusted him and his ideas…2-page business models…little startup capital and lots of hard work…a high tolerance for chaos…resilience, tenacity, and adaptability. Ryan was full of true GRIT, risk-taking, and entrepreneurial spirit.
Ryan was the kind of person described by George Bernard Shaw, “…people who get up and look for circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.” In the words of Kathleen Allen, “…most business ideas stem from a problem or opportunity that the entrepreneur sees in his or her immediate environment.”1
The heartbeat of social entrepreneurship
Ryan is used to solving problems, but he has found a new motivation for doing so. In his words, “I can do all this to benefit myself; I can do it to benefit a big corporation or the government, but I have learned that the most satisfying endeavor is where I do it for the poor, disenfranchised and those victimized by injustice.” I can't think of a better explanation of the heartbeat of social entrepreneurship.
Developing a social enterprise
Ryan found that roughly 95% of the fly tiers are women. Most of these women also work in the brothels at night just to be able to feed their children. Ryan was shocked to discover how little they were paid and to witness firsthand the slum conditions in which they lived. He decided he must do something about and embarked on a new kind of entrepreneurship – social entrepreneurship.
Ryan developed a viable business model. He determined that the $3.50 average cost of a good fly is a small investment for a fly fisherman's well-earned vacation. The cost at the source is just pennies. Selling to the 4800+ registered fly-fishing outfitters proved to be the best and most scalable market. He tested the market with hundreds of styles of fish flies. He researched the cultural nuances of each country and the intricacies of the supply chain. He crunched the numbers on profit margins. His goal was to increase the fly-tiers wage as much as ten times so that they can live on a fair wage.
Changing lives with flies
Each box of flies that Ryan's company sells carries this description on the back of the box:
We work with disadvantaged populations to help them achieve their dream of an economically stable life. Each box of our ethically-sourced flies helps bring dignity and a decent wage to vulnerable men and women. Some of our fly tiers are at risk youth that have grown up in orphanages and lack any formal education. Others are widows who have children and women who have been trafficked. The bottom line is this: Our flies change lives.
You can see Ryan in action and hear more about the heart behind Fair Flies by watching this brief video (Fair Flies) or by visiting the Fair Flies website (fairflies.com). Getting hooked on helping people through business is what social entrepreneurship and Business As Mission is all about!