By Caroline Brooks
When an entrepreneur can use creativity to save lives, magic happens.
Broad College of Business alumnus Ryan Devlin (BA Hospitality Business ’03) has done just this with his company, This Bar Save Lives: a one-for-one nutrition bar. For every bar sold, This Bar Saves Lives donates a packet of life-saving food to a child in need.
Devlin’s creativity rightfully earned him a spot on Fast Company’s 2017 list of 100 Most Creative People in Business, a tremendous milestone for Devlin and his company.
“We built our giveback brand on a simple idea: it feels good to do good. Millions have supported our mission, and this Fast Company recognition will challenge us to continue disrupting the food space and impacting lives around the world,” Devlin said.
By creating unique corporate social responsibility partnerships with brands such as Starbucks, Google, and Target, Devlin inspired and educated people with everyday opportunities to create a life-changing impact through one simple act.
In the midst of his global travel, we caught up with Devlin to discuss his tremendous achievement – and get a sneak peek into the entrepreneur’s plans and memories of the Broad College.
What has changed in your mission as a leader, or vision as a company, since you started back in 2013?
Our mission has and will continue to be the same as when this company was started. How we deliver on that promise has grown and evolved a bit over the years, as we’ve expanded our giving network and begun to explore additional product categories. Simplicity and clarity are our greatest strengths, which have allowed us to stay focused.
Who or what inspires you to be creative?
Creative people! I’m inspired and driven by those at the top of their game. Tony Hsieh, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and others that are crushing it in their respective businesses. I’m also inspired daily by my wife and toddler. Life isn’t all about driving revenues — it’s about being in the moment, carrying a sense of curiosity in everything we do, and taking risks because life is short. Failure shouldn’t be feared — we learn a lot more from failure than we do from victory.
What was the single greatest mistake you’ve made (if any…), and how did you recover?
As a growing startup, we’re making mistakes every day. I’ve found that it’s best to own it and make it right. A few that come to mind include taking too long to grow our team as we were rapidly expanding and working on extremely tight deadlines instead of looking ahead at the big picture. When these types of issues arise, I’ve taken ownership, which has helped me to build stronger relationships with these people.
Is there one thing that you learned at MSU and Broad (in or outside of the classroom) that you still practice every day?
Aside from how to set up a killer tailgate? I learned that there’s a great number of smart and driven people out there, and for the most part, they’re good people. Rather than trying to do everything myself, if I just open up and ask others for help (advice, mentorship, hiring, etc.), the outcome is far more positive.
Beyond partnerships with companies like Google and Starbucks, who or what do you hope to partner with in the future?
The right partnerships with the correct distribution is the name of the game. Retailers that understand and truly support our giveback mission have been our best partners and are passionate about amplifying it. Starbucks and Google definitely fall in that category, and we just kicked off an integrated collaboration with Amazon that I’m very excited about. This year, I’ve got my sights set on partnering with a few additional national retailers that can share our story and global impact.
Separate from partnerships, what’s next for This Bar Saves Lives?
New flavors for our signature line are coming very soon! We’ll also be announcing some new initiatives this year on the philanthropic side of things that I’m really excited about.
Additional background on This Bar Saves Lives appeared in Broad’s newsroom in May 2016.