Dream Big: A Young Entrepreneur’s Story

He grew up at his grandfather and father’s restaurant, stocking shelves at 5 years old, putting orders together. He was waiting on customers as a cashier at 8 years old, building the restaurant’s website at 11 years old and most importantly, he was watching his father run a business.

At an early age, he knew he wanted to become an entrepreneur like his father, and never looked back. 

"I knew from a young age that I couldn't work for anyone else," says Ross Snyder, a business and marketing sophomore and entrepreneur at ASU. "My dad owns his own restaurant, both of my grandparents owned their own businesses, so I was brought up with an entrepreneurial spirit." 

"I knew that working for somebody on a nine to five was not for me," he says. "I fell into this. I fell in love with this industry." 

At just 19 years old, Snyder is the owner and founder of White Tie Productions, a full-service audio/visual (A/V), event production and creative media design company.

"The energy that's in the room, the content that we can create on the screens and the lighting that we can throw in the room is almost inspirational, and that's something that I'm really passionate about," Snyder says. 

His process of forming the business began as a junior in high school when he was a member of a high school entrepreneur organization, DECA. There, he wrote the business plan to expand his work as a DJ into the company it is today. While serving as State President for Arizona's DECA chapter in his senior year, his proposed business plan turned into a real business.

It prepares them for careers in business, marketing, finance, hospitality and management through role play and written projects, like the business plan Snyder created.

Because of his experience with DECA and the connections he’s made, he says his clientele is mostly non-profits, but he also works with corporations. Even though he’s made several contacts, he still considers his small business as a startup. He relies on mass emails, friend-to-friend and word of mouth in order to expand his clientele, which he says is a current priority of his.

Gaining clientele is a continuous challenge for startups, especially in the niche A/V industry, but even more so for Snyder, he says, because of his young age.

“On the phone and through email, people have no idea how old I am,” Snyder says. “That issue of respect and trust of knowing what I’m doing has always been a struggle, and it’s something I constantly have to combat.”

However, he says that pricing competitively will help. Clients will notice his rates, look through his portfolio and “take that chance.”

"A lot of times I'll work with these non-profit clients, and they don't have the budget Coca-Cola or Intel has," Snyder says. "These people have massive conferences, but they still need that look because they have that volume of people and they need to portray the same kind of message." 

Kristi Kupchik, co-owner of Kristed Investments, LLC and former State Vice President for Arizona's DECA chapter, has known Snyder for almost three years, working closely with him to create a national campaign for DECA and entrepreneurship videos.

“He’s very personable and works his network very well, which is a powerful tool for someone his age,” Kupchik says. “When he leverages his network, he also is able to connect people in a powerful way.”

Snyder says he finds solace in ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business because of other students’ willingness to get their ideas off the ground. Although he came from a high school that believed in business, most students wanted to take the traditional route - get an education and then become an entrepreneur.

“They wanted stability, but you’re not going to get stability as an entrepreneur,” Snyder says. “You’re going to be broke for a while to make this work.”

Snyder says the environment that W.P. Carey fosters is very refreshing in that the foundation the school teaches is directly applicable to operating a business. They use methods that have been founded that work, and they put a name to it. These processes, Snyder says, allow him to apply the “how” to decision-making, a skill he was never able to understand before college.

The skills of operating a business have been ingrained in him since watching his dad and grandparents run a business. 

"You can see 'this is what work well for them, this is what doesn't work well for them. How can I fix what doesn't work well for them, take what's good and what's bad and turn that into my own thing,'" Snyder says. 

Watching what works well and what doesn’t work well for an established company is “invaluable,” Snyder says and a budding entrepreneur can learn from the company’s downfalls and make them into positives for oneself.

Kyle Kuo, marketing freshman and former State Vice President for Arizona's DECA chapter, has been friends with Snyder since freshman year of high school. Kuo is impressed by Snyder’s ability to work with clients.

“As young as he is, what he has been able to accomplish, is extremely impressive,” Kuo said. “A lot of kids our age aren’t able to accomplish this much because people look down on that, but Ross has been able to overcome that.”

Snyder says the key in operating a successful business is being able to prove oneself.

“If you have a dream and want to achieve it, just take a shot at it,” Snyder says. “The worst thing anybody’s going to tell you is no.”


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