From Theater Lights to Tech Heights: The Journey of a Filmmaker to Chief Revenue Officer
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Cue the lights, roll the camera, and let the adventure begin! For Emily Speer Ryan, those three words marked the inception of a lifetime journey from filmmaker to entrepreneur. Emily's path diverges from the conventional entrepreneur's narrative, and through struggle, embracing challenges, and courage, her entrepreneurial odyssey commences with a humble dream rooted in the world of theater.
Living only 60 miles from the Canadian border in rural Idaho, the theater ignited Emily's aspirations to reach for the stars. Post high school, she followed the path of theater enthusiasts and set her sights on the dazzling lights of New York City. Attending the American Musical and Dramatic Acadamy and The New School, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, laid the foundation for her entrepreneurial ventures. Juggling various jobs during her undergraduate years, Emily, by her early twenties, not only provided for herself by working in a coffee shop but also thrived as a solopreneur— the founder and sole force behind an independent film company.
These formative experiences equipped Emily with invaluable business insights that ultimately propelled the film company to its triumphant third-year celebration in 2010.
However, all entrepreneurial journeys have a twist. Emily’s came in 2011. When the 2008 recession hit, people cut back on luxury expenses, and many industries, like independent films, struggled financially. This economic change challenged Emily to pivot in her career and find a new passion. Thanks to her experiences working in the theater and for small businesses, as well as starting her own film company, Emily used her startup skills and entrepeunerial mindset to transition from film to technology. After restarting her career from the bottom, Emily discovered she had a knack for improving a company’s revenue, margins and capacity with her care of the people in the business. Thanks to her success, she co-founded Sandpoint Consulting, helping startups focus on customers.
Grow By Learning
As Emily continued to grow her business and career, Sandpoint Consulting grew succesfully and was absorbed into a larger firm whose focus was on enterprise clients. While working with these larger clients, Emily began to notice that many of the people she interacted with on a professional basis had their Master in Business Administration degrees (MBAs). Through these interactions, Emily noticed that her largely “self-taught” way of operating did not fit with her clients and colleagues. To better understand the language of business, solidify the things that she had learned and communicate more effectively with her peers, Emily decided to complete the Executive MBA program at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. Emily says:
“The thing that was interesting about the Leeds School of Business and the Executive MBA program to me was the structure. The structure allows you to still do your job but also allows you to get deeply involved with your peers and classmates through your 20-30-person cohort. I liked this because it is very similar to what you do in a company: you’re hired onto a team, and that team is your team, and you have to make it work.”
In addition to the connection and flexibility with her work schedule, the Executive MBA program also offers some of the best hands-on learning opportunities for anyone who wishes to enhance their skill set. When describing this brand new program, Emily says
“The fact that I got to be the guinea pig really piqued my interest. I liked that I got to help to some degree, mentor, and coach how that program needs to show up for students in the future.”
After completing her Executive MBA in 2023, Emily has continued to grow her career and now works as the Chief Revenue Officer for ScaleSec, using her expertise to grow the business’s revenue with a focus on team building and operational improvement.
The Mindset That Makes The Entrepreneur
Emily notes that having an entrepreneurial mindset is what will set you apart from others in life. Anyone can have an entrepreneurial mindset, whether working for a large corporation, small business, or coffee shop. The difference is how you choose to show up. Those with an entrepreneurial mindset are constantly thinking about “how is that business's health?” “How is what I am doing contributing to or taking away from the health and value of this business going forward?”
For any young entrepreneur, Emily encourages you to think of a business as a physical body. An employee who just simply shows up and does the job is similar to our habits, habits happen without putting in any effort. An employee with an entrepreneurial mindset however, is always thinking about how to push that body to be better. This is similar to the way entrepreneurs are always thinking about self-improvement for themselves and their business. They think about how they can be a healthier person, a stronger version, and a more well-rested version. Those entrepreneurs who treat the business as a body and continue to care for its health and well-being, regardless of circumstance, will outlast those who simply go through the motions. She encourages students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in their personal, academic, and professional lives and to continue pushing themselves to grow and look towards the future.