Pressing the start button: A San Diego-based father’s journey to entrepreneurship

Up and running

Ryan Mills, Empower by GoDaddy graduate and San Diego-based founder of multimedia consulting firm Four-M, spent most of his career in HR services and sales. Eventually he asked himself, “What convinced this customer to pick up the phone and call about our services?”

He felt something was missing from his career and sought out new opportunities to meet important financial goals he planned for himself and his family.

“A light bulb went off in my head and I decided it was time to work backwards,” said Ryan. “I took a role as a marketing director for a mortgage company, climbed up the ladder, and then saw myself doing this on my own, so I launched a business.”

Ryan’s first business, however, was not successful. After pinpointing some of the reasons for his first business failing, including limiting his clientele to the food and beverage industry, he felt determined to try again, this time leaving the door wide open for client industries of all backgrounds.

“In February 2020, I launched Four-M, which stands for Mills – my last name – media, marketing, and management,” Ryan shared. “It’s a one-stop shop for content creation. We provide video content, visual media, marketing services and campaigns, manage clients and their content – clients across a variety of different verticals, including music artists, makeup artists, and a video production company. All our services are under one roof.”

Ryan hopes to spend the next few years scaling his business. “Because of COVID, I’ve had a bit of downtime, and the business has flatlined some, and so coming out of that period, I hope to be able to regrow and bring in new clients,” he said.

“Long term, I’d like to create a sustainable business that I can pass off to my son,” he continued. “Having a son really helped to fuel my business. Once you find out about having a kid, perspectives change and it’s time to buckle down, but also find flexibility in work and fatherhood. Being a business owner gives me the flexibility I need, and my family has really been a catalyst for becoming my own boss.”

When the pandemic hit, like many businesses, Ryan found himself with more free time than anticipated. When he came across the Empower by GoDaddy program offered in partnership with the Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest, he was intrigued by the opportunity to access free resources and support to help grow 4-M’s digital presence, solidify business infrastructure, and develop a sense of community among other local business owners.

“Empower by GoDaddy allowed me to take a step back as an owner and evaluate my business more broadly,” Ryan said. “And then we had the opportunity to learn from the other participants and the ups and downs they may have faced in starting their business. All the businesses were at different stages, going through the same struggles, and getting the nuts and bolts together of their business strategies and ideas. The community that was built from our group sessions, and what we could learn from each other – that was the most rewarding.”

Growing a business is not without its challenges. Ryan shared that the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur is pressing the start button.  “After getting started, the next hurdle is building your business plan. Before Empower, I was very confident in my business strategy, but when you start looking at risk and where your business could be if you had a bad couple months or quarter – it can really be deflating and makes you want to reset. But, conquering that challenge, I now feel prepared for any type of scenario.”

Ryan continued, “There are a lot of talks about inflation and a possible recession. If I learned anything through the pandemic and my involvement in Empower, it’s been the solidification of infrastructure and my business plan. It gives me the ability to adapt to most situations, whether I need to scale up or down.”

As a personable and charismatic personality who often found himself building clientele via networking and in-person meetings, the challenges of COVID, and the transition to a fully virtual model, left Ryan with fewer business leads and traffic to his services. Because of Empower, he said, he was able to come full circle and rebuild the networks he needed to continue growing business.

“Empower taught me new digital strategies that were important for bringing in clients. What was once done in person in San Diego to attract business was no longer possible, but Empower helped me to pivot my strategy, create that sort of ‘brick and mortar’ online, and open my doors for clients nationally,” Ryan shared.

For others interested in launching a business of their own, Ryan encourages them to “just hit that start button.”

“It’s a big challenge, but you must stick to the script, give yourself hard deadlines, and not be too hard on yourself. Just start!” he said. “There’s a lot to navigate, like getting online and filing your LLC, getting your business license, or buying your domain with GoDaddy. I’m a big fan of buying your domain right away.”

August was National Black Business Month and Ryan believes empowering Black business owners is critical to stimulate the economy. “I highly recommend more people from the Black community start businesses,” he said. “I appreciate that GoDaddy helped to support entrepreneurs of all backgrounds in their business endeavors and give folks like myself an opportunity to share our voices and stories.”

Empower by GoDaddy Spotlight Series: By partnering with diverse local nonprofits around the world, Empower by GoDaddy aims to reach those who haven’t otherwise had access by offering skills training, resources, and mentoring to help accelerate their business journeys. This article is part of the Empower by GoDaddy spotlight series that shines a light on the individuals who make this unique initiative possible. 

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