We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Hickman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I was only 3 1/2 years old when my dad took me to our local recycling center and I wasn’t really thinking about starting a business. I just thought recycling was fun and I asked all of my neighbors to start recycling with me. Soon, I was collecting bags from all of them full of cans and bottles and I decided I would make it a business. My dad made me a logo and business cards and I started handing out informational postcards to potential new customers. I figured if a kid like me could help make a difference, what if I could help hundreds of people or thousands of people do the same thing? Now I’m 11 and I’ve inspired millions of people all over the world to recycle and to think about a clean environment.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
In 2012 I started my business by recycling with my neighborhood and it grew pretty quickly. In December of 2016, my story went viral and since then I’ve been featured on a lot of tv shows and news stories. I think the publicity has helped my business because we get calls all the time from people who say they saw me on the Ellen Show or they read about me in a magazine or saw me on the News. I’m very lucky that my dad drives me now to all over Orange County to pick up cans and bottles from people and businesses that call us during the week. I’m very proud to say that I’ve recycled over one million cans and bottles since I’ve started and I’m not slowing down anytime soon. I also travel a lot to do speaking events and recycling education events and I talk to schools and various communities. I organize community clean up events and I have partnered with organizations like Recycle Across America, Sand Cloud, Valet Living and others to help make a difference. It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s been worth it because I’m able to support my friends at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center with donations and I love hearing from people all over the world every day that recycles now because of me. I’ve learned over the years how to be more efficient at recycling and I’ve also learned the recycling process for many industries. I want the world to know that you don’t have to be super crazy about recycling like me to make a real difference in your community. Every item recycled and every piece of trash picked up makes a difference. A few years ago, I started doing weekly beach clean ups as well because that was another way I realized I could help clean up the environment. It’s not something I make money with but it helps keep the beach clean and it only takes me an hour a week. I just started a new non-profit organization named Project3R which will help educate and raise awareness for recycling and clean environments worldwide.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in San Juan Capistrano so I would take them to the Mission and go for a bike ride down to the beach. We’d probably go to one of my favorite places to eat which is Donut Hut, The Olives Branch, Thai Juan On or to Slice Shabu. We’d hang out at Doheny Beach and get a Blue Cookie Monster ice cream at the Scoop Deck in Dana Point Harbor and I’d take them for a tour at The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. Maybe we’d stop by and see my friend Wyland’s gallery in Laguna Beach and look for animals in the tide pools on the beach by the Montage Resort.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Thank you to my mom, dad and grandma for supporting me and thank you to everyone around the world recycling and caring about the planet. I also wanted to give a special shout out to my friend George at the El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel, CA. Thank you George for saving all the cans and bottles for me from the club since I started. You’re the best.