As college students, we often fantasize about what our future will hold, but making these dreams a reality often requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
For one local college graduate, a long-time dream is finally coming to fruition—but the work has only just begun.
Jami Ryan, 35, had once dreamed of being a sports reporter, which led him to study journalism at Radford University. However, after realizing what the life of a journalist entails—long hours with little pay—he decided to take a different route.
“In college, I was a news reporter covering high school soccer, but I was making more money with my job at Burger King,” Ryan said. “So, I started my computer science degree, becoming more fascinated with the web.”
Ryan did not completely abandon his passion for writing, but paired his degree in journalism with computer science.
While Ryan was in college, he saw a need for a website to post about fun and interesting events in the New River Valley, a need which would lead him on a long path to his dream.
“The idea for my website, NextThreeDays, started at Radford,” Ryan said. “I saw a story about Blues Traveler coming for a concert but I never knew about it. I was so disappointed I missed the concert; I wanted to take local information to one resource.”
‘Entering the business world’
Like many college graduates, Ryan did the sensible thing and found a job upon graduating. He took a position at Automation Creations, Inc. in 2001 as a software developer for websites. After several years of serving on other company projects, Ryan finally shared his website idea with the company.
“I always had the idea in the back on my mind while I was working at ACI, but I was always working on other people’s ideas,” Ryan said. “I was young; I wanted my own site.”
Following the economic downturn in 2009, Jim Wyers, CEO of ACI, was looking for creative website spin-off ideas that the developers were working on, which gave Ryan the opportunity to share NextThreeDays.
“Jami had the passion and the drive to take [NextThreeDays] to the next level,” Wyers said. “He created a prototype and ACI had numerous meetings going over the design, information, and programming.”
ACI officially released the website during Gobblerfest of that year, an ideal time to inform students – the main target audience – of its inception.
‘Taking the lead’
After several years of directing the site’s operation under ACI’s guidance, Ryan decided to leave the company in 2011 to work on NextThreeDays full-time.
“I wanted to run the website on my own and pursue the possibilities that were available,” Ryan said. “After many discussions with my wife, I decided to go for it.”
Leaving the stability of his job at ACI behind, Ryan was relying fully on the website’s advertising income and his wife’s salary as a school teacher to support their family. While it may have seemed like a risky decision, Ryan felt that it was necessary to run the site more efficiently.
“In order for the site to work properly, you have to feed it with information,” Ryan said. “Sometimes, it got stale so I took over to be the person to keep my eyes on the information and make contacts in the community.”
In addition to the blessing from his wife, Ryan received full support from Wyers and the rest of ACI.
“ACI has always been the company that encourages creative thinking, letting our employees take time to explore their ideas,” Wyers said.
According to Henry Bass, President of ACI, the company continues to host NextThreeDays on its server, showing support for Ryan’s creative, entrepreneurial spirit.
“Jami continues to create, maintain and run NextThreeDays, pursuing his passion for working with great local restaurants and event venues, while ACI focuses on our core: custom software development and support,” Bass said.