The Ryan Devlin interview and This Bar Saves Lives
Ryan Devlin co-founder and CEO of This Bar Saves Lives, a brand that makes premium snack bars that provides a solution to hunger and malnutrition around the world, talks about his business and how you can save lives too. Ryan is best known for hosting MTV’s hit series, Are You the One? returning for its fourth season this summer. Now he is on a mission to feed the world and help children who are suffering from malnutrition.
“A child dies every 12 seconds from severe acute malnutrition and it doesnt have to be that way. All they need is a safe caloric food aid and that’s what we donate.”
For every bar sold, Ryan and his business This Bar Saves Lives, will donate a packet of life-saving food to a child in need. And so far, over 750,000 packets have been distributed around the world.
Ryan recently spoke with College News regarding his trip to a refugee camp in Liberia, where he became inspired to help millions of children suffering from malnutrition. He provided an insightful and unique perspective to what drives passion and purpose in our lives and careers. He also spoke with us about his motivation to become an actor, his time at Michigan State university and shared tips on how you can start a business to help save lives too.
College News: How did you get into acting? What made you want to become an actor?
Ryan Devlin: I did a lot of acting when I was in school in Michigan. Elementary school, middle school, high school and then even at Michigan State university, so it had always been just something that I really loved to do. School plays, local theatre productions, and then at Michigan State, I was part of the film makers club. We would make short little films; I worked with the campus TV station and I did some theater productions as well. I wasn’t a theatre major, I studied business at Michigan State, but I always used acting as a fun and creative outlet. So when I graduated from school, I decided that if there was ever going to be a time to take a crazy swing at a dream – now was the time. I was young, I had my degree and not many responsibilities in life at that age, so I decided to move to Los Angeles, grab a bartending job and give acting a shot. It didn’t happen overnight I can tell you, I worked really hard and it took and couple of years to get my – quote, unquote – break. They say out here ‘it always takes 10 years to make an overnight success. It didn’t quite take that long for me, but it took a bit and fortunately, I’ve had a pretty good run at things ever since.
CN: So using acting as a platform, how did you actually get involved with hosting MTV’s Are You The One? which returns for its fourth season this summer?
RD: I had only kind of done a little bit of both acting and hosting and I enjoy them both. It’s a totally different type of work. With acting, you’re ignoring the camera, and with hosting you’re often talking straight to the camera. It’s a different set of skills. It’s a differnt kind of energy and I’ve always liked them both. So when MTV and the producers of the show Are You The One? came to me with this concept, I had already hosted a few other shows for MTV and they were cool enough to ask me if it was something I’d be interested in doing. So as soon as I heard about the concept for Are You The One?, I was 100% in. There is just no show on television like Are you the One? It’s unique, it’s fun, it’s crazy but it also is a really interesting game and every once in a while, people fall in love and win money. So that’s pretty cool too.
CN: Being that you also starred in Jane the Virgin and Grey’s Anatomy. Juggling between actor, producer, family man and now, CEO and humanitarian, how do you keep it all together Ryan?
RD: Somedays are better than others David. Honesty, I’ve got no complaints! Life is good. When you are in my kind of business whether you’re a performer or an entrepreneur – you know self-employed, whatever you are doing in that line, it’s always good to have a lot of irons in the fire. That way you don’t put too much of your eggs in one basket. I love producing, I love acting, I love hosting, and I love running this company, This Bar Saves Lives. All of them are passionate projects for me. So it’s never a dull moment. I love to pop out of bed at six am every day and get to work. I think it makes me a better husband and a better dad, because Iam passionate about what I do. That I think really permeates everything else in my life. Beyond that -- how I keep from completely falling apart in all my career? I do rock climbing, which is a great way to focus on that task at hand. I unplug at night. When dinner starts the phone goes away. Its dinner! Its playing with my family. Its bath time. I don’t take my phone into the bedroom and that’s really hard to do these days, when you run your own business. I find that I keep much saner if I set a rule for when I put my phone down for the day. It really helps me to keep focused on my priorities in life.
CN: Speaking of your business This Bar Saves Lives, how does the bar save lives, and how did you get started with the business?
RD: The concept for This Bar Saves Lives is really simple. We are a one for one company. So for every one of our products that we sell, we donate a packet of life saving food to a child in need. We do that through a variety of non for profit partners and we send food aid all over the world. We’ve sent shipments to Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Philippines, Nepal, and Guatemala. Wherever there is need. And there is need everywhere to be honest. The concept started when myself and the co-founders of the company took a trip to Liberia. We were doing some humanitarian work over there. We visited some refugee clinics, some doctors and nurses that were treating children, suffering from severe acute malnutrition. It is really scary. It’s like the most dire stages of starvation. It’s really hard to see, but it is 100% treatable and preventable. All they need is a safe caloric food aid and that’s what we donate. It’s a packet of food called Plumpy’Nut and it’s on our webpage. There are videos and more information on how Plumpy’Nut works. It’s very simple! We just decided right then and there that we needed to get more of this food aid to children in need. A child dies every 12 seconds from sever acute malnutrition, and it doesnt have to be that way. Our whole motto is “We eat together”. So when you buy one of our bars, and they are really good tasting bars with lots of different flavors, you get to know that you’re making an impact to the world. You can find them at stores all over the country. We just rolled them into 1000 Target stores. It’s been a really successful model. We have great customers and supporters and we are growing really fast. It’s fantastic!
CN: Where can I get your product This Bar Saves Lives?
RD: We just expanded into about 1000 Target stores. You can go to our website and there’s a store locator. So just type in your zip code. We are in a ton of coffee shops and in Whole Foods Market locations, Target locations, and we are in a lot of hotels and natural food stores. I am sure you can get them near you or you can of course swing by thisbarsaveslives.com and put in an order and they will be shipped right to your door!
CN: I like it! I can save the world and satisfy my hunger at the same time! Ryan is there anything that you want to say to students out there that might be interested in starting a business of their own?
RD: My biggest piece of advice to anyone who is looking to start a business is ‘fire aim ready’, which is of course the inverse of ‘ready aim fire’. Those are words that I’ve kind of lived by throughout my whole career and definitely with This Bar Saves Lives. You can really have a great idea, product or service and start to put it all together, but you can over think things. You can overdevelop, you can basically kill the project by wanting to make it perfect before you put it out into the world. That’s how startups die. If you’ve got a business and you are ready to rock, get it out there! Fire, just fire, and you’re going to learn way more when it’s out there then if you are just trying to develop everything in the back theme of your own head. You’re going learn from customers, from friends and family, from other businesses, and from competitors. Just get it out there and make mistakes. It’s ok to make mistakes and then evolve or pivot or feel good about where you are at and push forward. When I was at Michigan State university, I had all sorts of little side businesses and things that I was trying to do to essentially not have to go to class or not take a bartending job. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t work, but it pays from the years to learn something by doing it. If one idea doesnt work out, then it has just prepared you that much more for your next idea like This Bar Saves Lives.