We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Blythe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I had worked for a technical school in Atlanta that taught welding and industrial maintenance. The school had ownership issues and lacked a business plan or modern equipment. After limping along with 90 percent of its revenue coming from government grants the school finally closed in 2011. Despite that failure I was convinced there was a tremendous need for alternatives to college and the career skills being taught were in high demand. Location would be critical as would finding the right staff and developing a sound business plan. We chose the suburbs of Atlanta where there were more high school students that would be seeking a pathway after graduation. Additionally locating close to a large public university afforded us student housing opportunities for our students coming in from other states. Our business plan was built around developing relationships with High Schools and in particular schools that had existing construction programs. These would become natural feeders. Also we focused on securing employer partnerships as outcomes are consistently rated as the most important factor in selecting a trade school or college. By having a database of employers with job opportunities in a range of industries we were able to document the potential. Finally telling those success stories whether in print, social or digital media would become a differentiator from our competition.
What should our readers know about your business?
We have focused on steady growth but always with a quality over quantity approach. We made the decision early on not to participate in Federal Financial aid as we wanted students with skin in the game. This decision also kept our overhead costs low and allowed us to keep tuition reasonable and spend more money on the welding lab and staff instead of back office functions that don’t lead to obtaining additional labor marker value. Most of our graduates leave with multiple welding certifications and have met employers who visited our campus during their attendance. Our relationship doesn’t end when students graduate. We will continue to provide them employer access and job leads as long as they are maintaining their own responsibilities. Also we are community focused. We are active members of business associations, industry groups and the Chamber of Commerce. We want you to come into our lobby and see all the local youth leagues and charities we support. That’s what makes Main Street America so great.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In Acworth where our school is located you have to eat at Henry’s and Fusco’s (the latter recently was visited by Ivanka Trump) Acworth also has a lake where you can paddleboard and recently a brewery. The central business district is full of independent retailers and eateries. In Atlanta you have to see a sporting event or concert at one of our world class venues. Go out for a big night in Virginia Highlands or Midtown where the bars and restaurants are among the best in the region. Finally hit a comedy club or get in touch with nature at the Botanical Gardens, Zoo or Aquarium. There’s so much to do here- you can come back again and again and make new discoveries
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would credit my late parents for my success. My father instilled discipline and work ethic. My mom gave me empathy and patience.