Secrets of success: ryan emmons

4 MINS Team

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Ryan Emmons, founder and CEO of Waiākea, which produces and sells Waiākea Hawaiian Volcanic Water. Ryan was born and raised in California, but spent a lot of time with his family in Hawaii, where he says he “gained an incredible appreciation for the environment.”

Ryan discovered his Hawaiian family had access to one of the most naturally healthy, pure and sustainable water sources in the world, and while at the University of Southern California Ryan, now 26, developed the concept for Waiākea Hawaiian Volcanic Water.

Waiākea is one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the United States. Ryan was selected as a Bridge Entrepreneur by SVN (Social Venture Network) in early 2014 for Waiākea’s initiatives and groundbreaking social platform.

Waiākea runs on a triple bottom line platform built on healthful, sustainable and ethical standards. For example, for every liter of Waiākea sold, the company donates 650 liters to rural communities in need.

Ryan is committed to Waiākea’s vision to sustainably provide healthy, delicious Hawaiian Volcanic Water, while contributing to and promoting clean water access to people in need in Africa and throughout the world.

The company is very active on social media and you can find them on all platforms @waiakea.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Ryan Emmons: A professional footballer [soccer player].

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Emmons: We started Waiākea to create a resonating lifestyle brand that could inspire and create meaningful, positive change in a variety of ways–from giving children vital access to clean water, to creating new environmental and transparency standards for the beverage and greater CPG industries, to promoting holistic health and an active lifestyle. Creating a brand that mimics our own values allows us to enjoy it every day. We also wanted to be able to control our own destinies and not be limited by the beck and call of a cubicle and 9-to-5 schedule.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Emmons: I think every entrepreneur experiences multitudes of these moments throughout the development of their company. The key is to maintain your positivity, composure and faith in your abilities and that of your team. The first few bumps seem like the end of the world, but as you encounter and overcome more and more of them, you develop a thick skin and a certain confidence. Notice how I didn’t say success because while I’m extremely proud of my team and what we have been able to accomplish, I wouldn’t deem it a success just yet. Let’s give it a few more years.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Emmons: Hire slow and fire fast.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Emmons: Embracing the growth mindset. A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence, but as an opportunity for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. I see too many entrepreneurs with fixed mindsets, striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs so they can maintain their sense of being smart or skilled. It’s toxic, unscalable and synonymous with ego.

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?

Emmons: I have a hope, not a prediction, that banks will be more inclined to make low-interest loans to small businesses once something similar to Glass-Steagall is brought back to discourage local banks participating in risky loans from Wall Street [which took us into the recession].

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Emmons:Mission in a Bottle” and “Saving Capitalism.”

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Emmons: “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

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