By DAVE FLESSNER, The Chattanooga Times Free Press undefined
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (AP) — Ryan Dehoney won't start kindergarten until next month, but the 5-year-old Signal Mountain entrepreneur is already thinking about college and how he can help pay for it.
To raise money for his college fund, as well as aid those he saw eating out of garbage bins while living in Hawaii last year, Dehoney asked his parents to help him get starting selling one of favorite things — glittery Christmas ornaments.
"I want to make money for college and this seemed like a good way to do it," Ryan said Tuesday while displaying his array of floral bouquets, ornaments and other decorations he has assembled on the back porch of the family's home in Walden. "I also wanted to help the homeless people in Hawaii. I felt sad for them."
Ryan's business idea was birthed last November when then 4-year-old Ryan and his parents, Ross and Nicole Dehoney, moved back into their home in Walden after living a year in Hawaii. Ryan said he wanted to turn his passion for Christmas decorations into a business he could start to raise money for college and for other people.
"At first, we just laughed about the idea, but one day I figured that I had a ton of contacts from my career working in Hawaii and China with Kraft Co. and Ace Hardware," Nicole Dehoney recalled. "So I called up a few people are we ended up with a whole showroom of merchandise (bought from a store in Dallas)."
Ryan's interest in the holiday-focused business has continued far beyond the Christmas season. He asks most every day if new orders are coming in and helps personally create the displays that he packages and sends to online customers across the country.
Ryan's online business is on the web at www.WeAreCollegeBound.com and sells everything from $2 white tissue paper sheets to $25 neon ornaments to $49.99 floral bouquets. The business has had limited sales so far, but Ryan has kept his interest and his parents see the venture as a great learning opportunity in entrepreneurship at a very young age.
With great help from his parents, Ryan has set up a web page and delivery system for the showroom of glittery flowers, ornaments and Nutcracker models he acquired from the closed out showroom. Ryan puts the floral displays together, which he sells for up to $49.99 for weddings, holidays and other occasions. Many of the Chinese-made items are repackaged and distributed to those interested in crafts and Ryan has even went to a flea market to personally hawk his items.
"Ryan has always been very independent and eager to take on new tasks," said Nicole Dehoney, who refers to her only child as her "miracle baby" because the couple had struggled for years to have a child. "You can't really stop this kind of passion."
At age 3 when his parents were urging him to start playing soccer or baseball, Ryan said he would rather race go carts, which he has taken up over the past couple of years.
Dehoney, a San Francisco Bay native, first came to Chattanooga with her husband to work as a marketing and merchandise manager at Chattem to help sell such products at Icy Hot. After spending a year in Hawaii with family, the couple decided to return to the Signal Mountain home where they previously lived.
"We just love Tennessee," Nicole Dehoney said.
While Ryan's business venture so far has been primarily a learning lesson in business and entrepreneurship, the Dehoneys hope the business could be a means for Ryan and other young people to make and distribute products to help fund their 529 college savings plans.
"We all want to support our friends' and family's children as they grow up, but what better way than to help them become college bound by encouraging their entrepreneurship and, at the same time, helping to build their college savings?" Nicole asks on the website she created for the business.