Ryan Ward-Williams is Founder, CEO and Creative Director at Ultrabrand. He has worked with a number of A-List Celebrities including the Jenners and the Lohans.
Photo Credit: Jeanne Mambo
When he is not working from his peaceful cottage-like abode, he is jet-setting across the world, ticking countries off his bucket list as he goes. At 26-years-old, he is an Ivey Business School grad, he is driving his dream car, building a custom beach house, and working with a client base most people could only dream of. This week we met up with Ryan at his Schomberg, ON office to pick his brain.
Tell us about Ultrabrand.
Ultrabrand is a luxury lifestyle digital branding agency. Our main service is high-end digital campaign management, but we do everything from digital marketing to fraud and risk management, and brand strategy and execution. Our clients are some of the world’s most influential people, businesses and organizations.
What is the biggest challenge of starting a business?
I think for most people – is trusting yourself. Trusting that your idea is a good one that will bring you success, and that you’re worth your price. Believing that your idea will support you financially and perhaps one day support the lives of employees. I was confident that whatever my idea was, I could execute it because I believed in myself.
What is your best tip for staying motivated?
It’s not a ground-breaking tip, but setting goals and staying focused without distraction is an important motivation strategy for us. We have a whiteboard in the office with a thermometer symbol we highlight when we’ve met certain sales goals (yes, like you do for grade 6 fundraising initiatives). Walking into my office and seeing this visual every morning really drives me. But, it’s not all about the numbers – cultivating a fun and rewarding work environment is essential in keeping us connected and focused as a team. Last year we had a difficult month. To realign, we went on a trip to Bali, the Maldives and Dubai. You’d think we were celebrating having our best month. I believe in laughing at yourself, and now we look back on that month and love how we grew as a team. We returned clear-headed and more motivated than ever. I’m not saying to blow all your money on a 5-star vacation when you fail, but don’t punish yourself. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, learn, have fun, and if you fail, move onto the next one.
What are your top three phone apps (aside from social media)?
1. The Amex app — Managing my activity and balance is essential. I also use it to transfer my points to Aeroplan miles about twice a month.
2. The Shopify app — Our biggest clients are eCommerce stores, and we are exclusively partnered with Shopify. This app allows us to track sales, view analytics and report problems.
3. Aeroplan app — We treat our miles like a bank account. They are an asset to the business and we like to monitor our miles and book flights directly from the app on the go.
Who is the most interesting client you’ve ever worked with and why?
That would be a tie between Kylie Jenner and Petra Ecclestone, the heiress to the Formula 1 fortune. It goes without saying that both of these personalities have the resources to do whatever they want. As a creative, it is a true luxury to have a project where budget is no object.
Tell us about your connection with Aeroplan.
I consider my ability to travel on a whim one of the biggest advantages of being an entrepreneur. Over the past few years, I’ve redeemed 30 flights through Aeroplan. The program is essential for our business. We are a Canadian company that works almost exclusively with American clients who expect us to be there (wherever ‘there’ is) for important milestones. Knowing that we can book a same-day flight to Los Angeles with our miles without being out of pocket on the flight is invaluable. We don’t have to worry about blackout dates, hidden fees, or ever having to communicate with an airline or travel website directly. I am a Diamond status member and enjoy priority access when calling the Aeroplan Contact Centre, making business travel so much easier. We can even use our miles to book cars and activities when we reach our destination.
You’re a big traveller, what is the next place you want to hit?
Having Aeroplan inspires me to travel to new and exotic destinations as well as unforgettable favourites that I’ve fallen in love with many times over. I’ve visited Dubai on four separate occasions and I’d get on a plane and go there tomorrow without a question. I would also really like to go back to South Africa. I visited that country in 2014 and stayed in an extravagant five-star luxury game reserve. On my second trip to South Africa, I plan to spend more time connecting with the people and absorbing the culture of this incredible country.
Do you prefer solo or group travel?
Sharing the experiences of travel with someone you enjoy being around is very special. I’ve traveled alone before but prefer to share these moments with those I care about.
What are ‘must-have’ characteristics in a travel buddy?
A happy travel companion really makes the difference when you’re on a long trip with three connecting flights. I also love travelling with people who are open to new experiences and excited to try new foods, explore new sights and learn new things about themselves and the world.
What is the first thing you do when you check into a hotel?
1) Ask for an upgrade.
2) Take a 45-minute power nap.
Where is your favourite place to unwind?
I stayed in the Presidential Suite at the Hanging Gardens of Bali and it was the most serene and calming experience of my life. It was raining the entire time, but I wasn’t disappointed. I was in the middle of the jungle surrounded by peaceful, soft rain coupled with the most fantastic sounds of nature. I felt the same in the Maldives, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, at Coco Bodu Hithi, a beautiful boutique overwater bungalow resort.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received (personal or otherwise)?
One of my mentors and role models in business is Cici Bussey, Kris Jenner’s cousin. We
worked closely together for six months on the world’s fastest-growing billion-dollar brand. One day she told me, “Stop being so nice. You’re a nice guy, too nice, and people walk all over nice guys”. I am a nice guy, and I’m proud of it, but I’ve learned to stay firm on some things to ensure I’m not compromised and that I feel good about what I do. I know my worth, the worth of the business and brand I’ve built, and I know that Ultrabrand delivers exceptional services to the best of the best.
Follow Ryan’s travels @RyanDubs