This week, I wanted to take some time to introduce my counterpart at UpAhead, Mr. Ryan ‘Stirling’ Botts.
Ryan and I have known each other for several years, first becoming friends in the Fall of 2015, eventually moving in with each other in the summer of 2016. Our relationship has taken on many different forms in all those years, none more adventurous than launching UpAhead, LLC.
In the fall of 2017, Ryan came to me with an idea and a vision — we would improve the economic strength and vitality of the region through good, accessible design. This idea would ebb and flow somewhat over time, eventually emerging into the business model you see today.
Ryan’s desire to make North and Central Louisiana a better place to live and do business was (and is) monumental. In the places that I lack vision, Ryan sees and beautifully communicates a clear path forward.
Our strengths complement each other in the best ways. While I often think in small manageable tasks, he is a dreamer — a visionary who has the wherewithal to turn a small idea into one of grandeur (a quality of which I greatly admire!)
Take a look at my interview with Ryan where we discuss what he’s learned, his challenges, and our vision moving forward!
Dylan: So, what was your original vision for UpAhead?
Ryan: The precursor to UpAhead was actually presented to me from a friend in Alexandria, LA who wanted to provide websites for artists in Cenla (Central Louisiana). We initially started on that idea, bringing Dylan in to help with the visual design of the websites and exploring if the concept was even feasible from a business profitability standpoint. After a few months of looking at what the market in Cenla could support given our target group of artists and the existing web design companies I realized we weren’t in a healthy position. While we had been exploring Cenla, I had been dreaming of a version of the business covering all of North Louisiana in addition to Cenla and servicing more than just artists. And so, after realizing we needed to either expand our target audience or region (or both), I made some organizational changes including purchasing what was now known as UpAhead from my friend in Alexandria and bringing it to Ruston with Dylan where we could focus on small businesses, non-profits, and anyone needing an online presence (including artists!).
Dylan: What has been your biggest challenge?
Ryan: The biggest challenge has probably been maintaining momentum in the daily operations of UpAhead. With most of our business being project based and on a relatively small scale right now, there isn’t always pressing administrative or big picture work to be done. Of course that doesn’t mean that I have nothing to do; this is a business, there’s always work to be done. I’ve had to work on better encouraging myself to just work on something, so that I'm engaged with the business daily. I know at some point UpAhead will reach a level of activity where I’ll need to be intimately engaged everyday; the sooner I practice that, the more prepared I’ll be when that time comes.
Dylan: Which of your skills do you think has helped you the most here?
Ryan: While I was a student at Louisiana Tech, I started a student organization and a few projects on campus. Every time I began my work on these endeavors I encountered a lot of ambiguity. I often didn’t know exactly where I was going, if what I was doing was the right method, and if I was setting myself up for success. Navigating ambiguity always makes me feel exposed and vulnerable to failure. But while living in that ambiguity was a mighty stressful thing as a student in undergrad, it was incredible practice for UpAhead. When we’ve run into situations like not knowing what to do or where to take the business, I’ve found that my stress hasn’t gotten too high because I've been here before, in a sense. I guess the actual skill at work here is that I have developed some level of maneuverability and discernment with making organizational decisions. It came from years of making decisions that had good outcomes and bad outcomes. I celebrate the good outcomes and learn from the bad outcomes.
Ryan and I have always believed that the impact good design could make would be life-altering for nonprofits, small businesses, and those who looked to have a presence on the web.
I am forever grateful to be partnered with a visionary, a bold leader, and a passionate advocate for creativity. Ryan truly is the heart and soul of UpAhead, LLC, driving us towards a better and brighter Louisiana!