Inspired by the Sport of Lacrosse, Taylor Ryan Fosters Her Entrepreneurial Spirit
- Written & photographed byKat Monk
Makerspace is an extracurricular program within our elementary schools that caught the eye of Taylor Ryan. When Taylor was a student at Pacific Elementary, she attended as many scheduled sessions as she could during lunch.
The program offers a hands-on empirical learning opportunity that gives students an opportunity to experience being inventors, builders and creators. Makerspace gives kids tools while showing them how to innovate and exercise creative art skills. “It was where I learned to bring my ideas to life,” shares Taylor.
Determined from a young age to be her own boss, she strongly believes in the exploration of alternatives to what our current market has to offer. After learning how to bring her ideas to life, Taylor started to focus on her entrepreneurial business skills.
The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce sponsors a program called the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy (YEA). YEA is a groundbreaking after-school program that transforms students into confident entrepreneurs—offering them an opportunity to develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research and pitch their plans to a panel of investors. Taylor anxiously awaited the results of her interview with the chamber’s Kelly Stroman and was beyond excited to become an official member of YEA.
Coming from an athletic family, Taylor started playing lacrosse in fifth grade. While playing the game, it is technically illegal for the defense to push out while holding their sticks sideways. According to Taylor, it can be quite painful to be hit across the chest with the stick. She noticed men had protection cups, but the market was void of protection for women except for outdated chest plates.
Taylor, who lives by the motto “creative solutions for everyday problems,” decided she was going to manufacture this safety product. “She came to YEA with a problem she wanted to solve,” remembers Rachel Thomas, YEA instructor. “She wanted to figure out a way to protect herself and girls like her while playing sports. It was fun to watch her research various ideas and see how her business idea morphed as she learned more about protective gear, manufacturing and the marketplace.”
Taylor believes her product is essential for every female athlete because blunt force trauma that can occur from a blow to the chest almost always leads to internal bleeding and damage to the breast tissue.
Rachel watched Taylor become more and more confident and accomplished as the program progressed. Amazed with the opportunities the program offered, Taylor was excited to meet the guest CEOs who came to their meetings to speak and was impressed with the business skills shared by lawyers, logo designers, mentors and other community volunteers.
Students receive practical knowledge on how to become successful and effective business owners. “You go into the class a dreamer, and you leave as a CEO,” says Taylor.
Now 15, Taylor owns her own business, Unstoppable Protective Gear, specializing in breast protection. The cup has a hard outer shell to take the initial hit and softer material inside for comfort. They are thin and durable and slip into any sports bra. “We are enormously proud of her determination to bring her product to market and are excited to be a part of her success,” shares Kelly.
YEA hosted a local competition called the Saunders award. Taylor won with her company and was awarded the opportunity to represent Manhattan Beach in the Saunders Scholars national competition in New York. Of 200 nationwide teens, Taylor was a finalist in the top eight.
According to Taylor, there are an estimated 3½ million female athletes in high school, with approximately 40% of those athletes participating in contact sports. Depending on the particular study, 36% to 58% of female players have reported experiencing a contact breast injury during training or a game.
“She is a perfect example of realizing a need, addressing a problem and taking action to improve it,” adds Kelly. “She wants every female athlete to feel comfortable, safe and confident while playing their aggressive sport. By feeling safe and confident, it will help each other excel in a competitive atmosphere. Her vision is spot on, her mission is strategic and her drive is unstoppable.”
Currently a freshman at Mira Costa, Taylor wears her protective cups while she plays lacrosse, as does her older sister, Lauren, a junior. Friends have helped with the sizing for her prototype cups. Her first prototype, inspired by NFL football helmets, was made with a 3D printer, and hopefully soon she will be offering small, medium and large protective gear for women.
Taylor’s plan is to launch a fundraising campaign through Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding site. She has set a goal to raise funds to begin manufacturing her prototypes for mass production.
She firmly believes in the philosophy that the pain of hard work is better than the pain of regret, so she is working hard now in order to avoid regret in later life. She credits her parents for instilling this value and her sister for her theory of “delayed gratitude.”
Rachel says of Taylor, “She is an ambitious young woman, and it has been exciting to see her continue to pursue her passion long after our program was over. With her skills and drive, she has a world of possibility before her.”
The Makerspace program has only been in our local school system for a few years, and Taylor is on track to be one of the program’s first successful entrepreneurs. Don’t be surprised to see her furthering her business education at USC or Pepperdine—working on her entrepreneurial skills—in a few years.