By KATE McILHONE.
29-year-old Wellington-based entrepreneur Guy Ryan has been announced as the University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year. As founder and Chief Executive of Inspiring Stories Trust, Guy plays a significant role in providing vital opportunities and advice to budding young Kiwi entrepreneurs.
Inspiring Stories was launched in 2011 and has dealt with nearly 5,000 young Kiwis through its many partnerships, programmes, and workshops. It works to unleash the full potential of “a generation of young New Zealanders who can, and will change the world.”
Guy is currently working on building the Future Fund, which will provide tailored support for promising young Kiwi social entrepreneurs and their ventures.
“We’re living in a world with increasingly complex and urgent problems that need solving,” he says. “Our work gives young people access to some of New Zealand’s most brilliant minds to understand these complexities, and grow ideas that can make a real difference.”
From a young age, Guy was interested in entrepreneurship. After studying design and marketing at uni, he went on to co-found several start-ups.
“Initially these were for-profit and self-interested, and then I started getting more of a social conscience,” he explains.
He was inspired by climate change activist Bill McKibben, who was doing a speaking tour in New Zealand. Guy began to learn more about climate change and other “complex and inter-related issues” that are not often brought into the public sphere.
“I became more and more interested in the idea of social entrepreneurship and enterprise, and felt the best way to learn was to dive right in.”
Despite being registered as a charity, Inspiring Stories operates more like a commercial business with “a really strong social mission” at its core. In 2011, the Trust was 100% grant-funded, with an annual turnover of approximately $100K. Just three years later, Inspiring Stories has an annual turnover of $400K, with only one third coming from grants and one third coming from ticket sales and events such as Festival for the Future.
The other third is contributed through an impressive range of partnerships with organisations including Leadership NZ, Ministry of Youth Development, Akina, Enspiral, Vodafone, KPMG and several councils and tertiary institutions. On the 20th of February it was announced that the Ministry of Youth Development has committed $500,000 to Inspiring Stories.
Over the last four years, Guy has spoken in both local and international capacities to over 10,000 people. His notable speaking engagements include opening TEDx Wellington in 2014 with his talk ‘A Vision for New Zealand’. He was also the youngest graduation speaker in history for AUT University’s Business & Law School Graduation Ceremony.
Guy’s advice for Kiwi youth with a dream: Connect your passion with a cause that is bigger than you.
“In the 21st century, entrepreneurship has to be about people and [the] planet. Our future depends on it. Even small town kids can make big things happen.”