Ryan Murphy ’19 was just 7 years old when she started her first business, and she hasn’t looked back since.
Since graduation, Murphy has been hard at work on her newest business, Scholarship Navigator, where she offers consultations to help college students locate and apply for scholarships. This business is her latest in a long line that began with oranges.
“I just taught myself to make orange marmalade,” Murphy said. “Surprisingly, it turned out good, and I started selling it to family members and friends.”
While at Hillsdale, she studied politics and even went on the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, or WHIP. But Murphy said she has always been interested in entrepreneurship, and that’s what brought her back to Scholarship Navigator.
Murphy’s story, however, begins long before Scholarship Navigator was even conceived. In high school, mostly during her sophomore year, Murphy thought of putting the public speaking skills she learned through participating in debate to good use. She gained an interest in public speaking and wanted to promote her conservative political values as well.
“I thought, ‘why not become a public speaker in my community?’” she said. “I could be a resource, someone knowledgeable on certain topics.” So, Murphy started Ryan Kelly Speaks.
Murphy toured her community to speak on many different topics, often political. She spoke to rotary clubs, conservative campaigns, and often shared stages with community leaders. This experience led her to conceive of business as she does today.
Murphy offered a different view of entrepreneurship than the classic businessman trying to earn as much money as possible. “If I wanted to make money straight out of college, I would not be an entrepreneur right now,” she laughed. “With the age of the internet, entrepreneurship is changing. There are so many opportunities now for people to share their talents to improve other peoples’ lives.”
To Murphy, entrepreneurship means something much deeper than money-making. It was a chance to serve her community with her knowledge and skills — be it marmalade, public speaking, clothing accessories, or finding scholarships. With that in mind, she thought about how she could best serve her community.
Before and during college, Murphy worked hard to secure enough scholarship money to cover her entire undergraduate education, so she knew how to maneuver around the scholarship world. It was only a matter of time before she put the idea together: she could serve people by helping them find lucrative scholarships and avoid thousands of dollars of debt.
“For those on the outside looking in, it can seem like, ‘well, they must be doing it for the money.’ But often the opposite is true,” Murphy said. “They’re doing it first and foremost because they love it and they want to share what they love and what talents they’ve been given to improve the lives of other people in a tangible way.”
But it’s not all fun and games for Murphy either. To live out her dreams of community service, there’s a lot of work involved. Earlier this year, while still in school, Murphy taught herself how to build a website on top of being a full-time student with a part-time job.
“You’re CEO, you’re social media coordinator, you’re the sales representative. You’re everything all in one,” Murphy said. “That’s been the biggest challenge for me. How do I do all these things efficiently and stay organized and stay motivated? Sometimes it can feel incredibly overwhelming.”
Sometimes, Murphy explained, you won’t see immediate success with your business. Entrepreneurialism requires hours of work that often don’t have tangible rewards in a short amount of time.
“But I just remind myself, ‘Okay. What’s the end goal?’ It’s to take my gifts and help other people,” Murphy said.
Everyone is the entrepreneur of their own life, Murphy said. It makes sense to take your experience, skills, and passion and leverage them in a way that you can help others, she added.
Murphy encouraged anyone who has an idea to better their community to take a shot. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results, she said, and think of it as a “way to let creativity flow.”
In the end, Murphy believes she and others will be successful entrepreneurs if they keep sight of their goals of service and community support.
“Some people may see entrepreneurialism as a self-centered activity, but it’s everything but that,” Murphy said. “Everything is others-focused and that’s what I love about it.”
You can find Scholarship Navigator by clicking here.