Global keynote speaker, author, stick figure connoisseur, brand consultant, surfer, and recently, an eCommerce store owner, Ryan Foland’s talents know no bounds.
We sat down with him and talked about his latest project stickfigure.store – an eCommerce store that sells one-of-a-kind motivational mugs that are designed by Ryan himself. Let’s dive in (pun intended)!
1. Your stick figures are awesome! Since when have you been drawing them?
I’m so glad you like them; yes they are awesome. To be honest I’ve been drawing Stick Figures ever since I can remember. It’s funny to think back and see how they integrated as part of my life’s story.
In 2006, when I took a job as a sales agent at a mortgage company I drew Stick Figures to get the attention of the loan processors. This helped my files move through the process faster, and that helped me fund more loans. I worked my way up to become one of the top sales reps and I credit the Stick Figures as a big part of this success.
In 2008, when the US had a major recession, I pivoted into construction, selling remodeling services. When the potential clients had a tough time describing what they wanted, I would sketch out their vision, complete with Stick Figures, and that helped me close more deals.
Fast-forward to 2014 when I was brought to the University of California, Irvine, to start their first-ever undergraduate entrepreneurship program. I drew Stick Figures on whiteboards every day, as I helped map out strategic plans so students could bring their ideas to fruition. The simple Stick Figure roadmaps made it easy for students to learn complex business topics.
In 2015, I decided to implement my Stick Figures on social media. I wanted to be on Instagram but didn’t know what to post. So I decided to draw and post Stick Figures. Five years later and I am still sharing daily Stick Figures across all my social media platforms.
Now, one of the things that set me apart from other speakers is my hand-drawn slides featuring Stick Figures. It’s a fun alternative to death by too much text on a PowerPoint or a stock photo that looks like a stock photo. Now, when I am booked for keynotes, the fact that I hand-draw my slides adds a personal touch.
Today Stick Figures are still part of my daily life and they now have their own store!
2. What is the story behind stickfigure.store? What led to its inception?
As it happens, I turned 40 this year. It’s a milestone, and I wanted to throw a big party to celebrate. But then came COVID-19, and I decided to cancel the celebration.
That left me with two options: be bitter, or get creative. So, I got creative and decided to build an e-commerce store for my Stick Figures. I dubbed it my “pandemic project,” and decided to try and launch it on my birthday.
I wanted this project to have a higher purpose, and not just launch a store to make money. My “aha” moment was when I decided to donate net proceeds from the store to charities I believe in.
Honestly, the idea of building an eCommerce website was intimidating. I contacted friends I knew who are good with websites, reached out to business associates that knew about eCommerce, and did a whole lot of Googling and YouTubing to find out how I could create a store.
Search your .store domain NOW!
I decided to build a WordPress website from a template, integrated WooCommerce as the eCommerce back-end, and partnered with an on-demand printing and shipping company.
From start to finish, it took me just over three months, and I needed a lot of help along the way. However, taking ownership of the project and setting a realistic deadline for myself made the launch successful.
3. Any personal/specific reason behind choosing these charities?
It was hard to narrow down the charities that I wanted to support, but I finally chose three of them.
I picked the TechStars Foundation because of its track record in supporting underserved entrepreneurial communities on a global basis.
I choose the Surfrider Foundation as my second charity because being on the water is my second home. They take environmental preservation seriously, and I appreciate their work to sustain our world’s oceans, waves, and beaches.
And third, I genuinely want people to be happy and live healthy lives. Many people struggle with mental health, especially during this pandemic. I have personally seen friends impacted in a bad way.
That’s why the stickfigure.store supports Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit that educates and cares for those who suffer from mental illness.
Start small! As I looked into products to sell, I was very overwhelmed by all the options. I knew that I needed to avoid offering too many random products that didn’t necessarily relate to each other.
I decided to start small, only offering two product lines and mugs. Mugs make for great gifts, and it’s the type of product that has a large print area to showcase my Stick Figures.
When you start any type of business, having succinct and clear offerings is crucial. If you try to cater to everyone or anyone, then you are likely catering to no one.
I look forward to expanding my product line as the awareness of the store grows, but starting small and staying focused was a key part of my launching the stickfigure.store.
5. Why did you choose a .store domain name for this project?
I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I think that the .store domain chose me. I referred to my idea as the “stick figure store,” and unfortunately, stickfigurestore.com was already taken.
The URL needed to have the words “stick figure” in it, and I wanted a website that was easy to remember.
That’s when a friend of mine asked if I was aware that there were actual domains that ended in .store. I did not know that.
When I heard it, I said, “stick figure dot store” out loud. It just made sense. Thankfully it was available and I love it.
Search your .store domain NOW!
6. Here’s a completely random question. One of your stick figures is stranded on a deserted island. What are they doing?
I love random questions, and you are correct, that is a Stick Figure stranded on a deserted island. When I come up with my drawings I search for situations and scenarios in my head.
They’re like puzzle pieces I try to fit together to visually represent something. This particular drawing was inspired by the quote, “you are what you think.”
And when I thought about how to represent that quote in terms of a Stick Figure drawing, I had a vision of a Stick Figure on a deserted island, who was thinking about being on an island. So I drew it!
Maybe subconsciously, the drawing was inspired by months of quarantine. I think during this pandemic a lot of people feel like they’re stranded on an island. We are in a sense all stranded on our own islands.
But the power of thought can help you turn your island into whatever you want. It may be deserted technically, but our ability to influence our behavior based on thoughts is a unique human power that we can all tap into. How is that for getting a bit meta for a simple Stick Figure drawing?!
7. What are your future plans for stickfigure.store?
Along with helping spread awareness about the various causes that it supports, I see the stickfigure.store of the future as a place for people to find and share inspiration.
Now that the store is live, I am excited to come up with more products to offer and more partnerships to expand the Stick Figure brand. I am working with a few strategic partners to launch a stick figure drawing content in January of 2021.
I’m passionate about inspiring people to share their stories with the world. Why not encourage people to do it by drawing something as simple as a stick figure!
Search your .store domain NOW!