Title: President, Owner
Company: Ryan Young Interiors
Location: National City, California, United States
Tara Ryan, President and Owner of Ryan Young Interiors, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Business Owners for dedication, achievements, and leadership in Interior Design.
Ms. Ryan, President and CEO of Ryan Young Interiors, joined forces 28 years ago with Robert Young, a businessman in the San Diego Building Industry. Mr. Young was the financial partner and Ms. Ryan was the designer and day to day manager of the business. The focus of the business was model home interiors. Ryan Young got a very slow start in San Diego given that the company was established at the height of the 90’s recession and new building projects were few and far between. In order to get the business off the ground, Mr. Young and Ms. Ryan widened their search for upcoming projects throughout the entire west coast and beyond. “It was very challenging, and I honestly did not think we would be able to find enough projects to keep the doors open. Incredible perseverance and determination were the two factors that in the end were our winning formula to surviving, says Ms. Ryan. Ryan Young kept their staff small, salaries low and everyone wore many hats.
About five years in business, the tide turned, and the company picked up momentum. Projects and budgets became larger and Ryan Young started receiving more and more residual business. To keep up with the demand Ryan Young kept expanding their staff until around 10 years in business they had two offices, one in Northern California and one in Southern California and at their height they had 65 employees. It was around this time that Ms. Ryan was contacted by a businessman from Beijing who wanted to build a huge master plan community in China just like the gorgeous master plan communities he toured in Southern California. He picked his favorite community he wanted to emulate in Beijing and hired each community’s architect, landscape architect and interior designer which was Ryan Young. At first, Ms. Ryan was very skeptical and reluctant for many reasons. Her first hesitation was that she felt Ryan Young had their hands full with all of their existing projects and clients. She also knew nothing about China or doing business in China. Her business partner convinced her to drive to Pasadena and meet with the Chinese businessmen from Beijing which she agreed to do as long as she went alone so no one would influence her decision. The Year was 2000 and master plan communities were new to China. In preparation for making her decision, Ms. Ryan researched American companies working in China, interviewed those who had recently worked in China and even took a course at Caltech in Pasadena where she was the only female in the class. She finally met with the businessmen from China, which became a 12-hour meeting. Finally, Ms. Ryan agreed to take on what would become the first of 32 plus projects in China over the next 12 years with Ms. Ryan going to China close to 30 times. “Mastering the art of doing successful projects in China was a huge undertaking and something we did on our own and on our own terms. In the beginning, I was completely intimidated and nervous about the responsibility I was carrying for the Chinese who gave me total control over all project decisions but eventually I became a very savvy and confidant businesswoman who fell in love with the country, the culture and people who trusted me with their careers.”
Midway through Ryan Young’s tenure in China the recession of 2008 hit the US and hit the building industry hard. There were very few jobs and there seemed to be nowhere to go to find jobs except China. Luckily Ryan Young had a strong reputation in China by this time and so the focus of their business became solely on projects in Asia. Competitors went out of business and even with all the work in China it wasn’t enough to sustain a staff of 65 so slowly Ryan Young reduced its staff, closed their Nor Cal office until at their lowest they had 6 to 7 employees. “These were horrible times for me, said Ms. Ryan. I knew with each layoff these designers had nowhere to go and that they might lose their homes and their savings. It was heartbreaking but I had to focus on saving Ryan Young so I could bring people back. It didn’t feel like a recession to me it felt like a depression and it was the hardest thing I have ever done as far as staying the course and staying out of my head. I am eternally grateful to the individuals who hung in there with me, who made very little money and never complained, said Ms. Ryan.”
About 20 years into the business, Ms. Ryan made two big changes. She bought out her partner Robert Young and she decided to find her new frontier. Things had changed quite a bit between the relationship with China and the US wherein the beginning the Chinese seemed to idolize Americans and the designs we brought over to their projects but then they started to think they could do it on their own. “They had spent 12 years studying what we did, and they were great students but one thing they lacked was creativity because they focused more on copying what we had done, says Ms. Ryan.” In any case, she knew her time there was numbered so she decided to open a commercial design department. She hired designers that had expertise in this discipline and who were committed to getting the commercial projects off the ground. Although great luck came their way early on with three large commercial projects, it quickly became evident how much they had to learn, and the mistakes were costly. Not one to give up Ms. Ryan and the commercial team persevered and after a tremendous turnover to find the right team, they now have an abundance of commercial projects that span from large multi-family, to hospitality, to executive golf clubhouses to office buildings. “I have been asked what aspect of the business has been the hardest to get off the ground throughout the years and I can honestly say they have all been hard, nothing came easier than the other, says Ms. Ryan.”
So, what is the next chapter for Ryan Young? “I am focused on continuing all the great work we do and preparing our employees for the next 30 years. Ryan Young is my legacy and I will contribute to its success until I feel I am no longer needed says Ms. Ryan. My daughter, Mckenzie, has had a lifetime of preparation to take over the company where she will focus more on the model home side of the business. Her husband Taylor will take over the commercial division. I have an incredible leadership team at Ryan Young, and they embody my philosophy of doing business and at the same time bring their expertise and fresh ideas so that Ryan Young continues to be the best that it can be. I have other employees who will retire at Ryan Young and younger employees who are the future of where the company is going. Everything that Ryan Young has accomplished has been possible due to the hard work and dedication of all that have walked through our doors. “This company has never been about me says Ms. Ryan, it has been about building a brand and a company where individuals are mentored and trained to be the best that they can be so they can feel proud of the work they do.”
Tara Ryan was born in Staten Island, New York, and is the oldest of 4 children. Her father who was a mechanical engineer contributed to her attention to detail and her mother who was an Oncology RN taught her compassion and understanding which is vital to leading individuals. Ms. Ryan moved from city to city growing up due to her father’s career in engineering until they finally settled down in Spokane, Washington her freshman year of high school. This is where Ms. Ryan flourished, at her all-girls school, Marycliff. “I was the girl that tried out for everything,” says Ms. Ryan. “I was a class officer, on the debate and speech team and was both a junior varsity cheerleader and a varsity cheerleader for the all boy’s prep school where I met my husband.” She has been married to John Ryan of Spokane, Washington since 1980. They have one child, Mckenzie Yates. Ms. Ryan is a graduate of Design Institute of San Diego, has led the company to over 200 Best Interior Design Awards, has spoken at large Industry Conferences and has been published many times. Prior to opening Ryan Young, Ms. Ryan was a Vice President at McMillin Companies for five years. She gives credit to her mother for teaching her there was a big world out there and that it was up to her to go find it. She credits her business partner of 20 years for teaching her the financial end of the business and to take risks that she would never have taken. She credits her long-standing VP’s at Ryan Young for standing by her side even when they weren’t sure where she was going. And she credits the man she fell in love with at 17 for always making her feel like she could overcome anything and that she could accomplish all of her goals. When Ms. Ryan isn’t working which is rarely she spends her time with her daughter and son in law that she and her husband adore as well as their extended family in Spokane, Washington.
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