rural roots gave her

confidence to leave

corporate world

Shelli Ryan, who was born and raised in Hooper, attributes her independence and resourcefulness to her parents. She is the founder of Ad Hoc Communication Resources, and works from her home office in Omaha with a network of independent consultants.

By Kathy Brocky

Tribune Staff

Though it has been over a decade since Shelli Ryan's graduation from Logan View High School, the 30-year-old Hooper native has learned that reaching goals is a process that continues to evolve well after leaving the classroom.

A combination of life-long learning skills and a spirit of independence have driven her to success as a self-made entrepreneur.

Ryan, who has been named Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association and is listed with Who's Who of American Women, was raised on a Hooper farm along with her two sisters by her parents, Gorlyn and Ruthie Hagerbaumer.

Ryan spoke of fond memories of her parents' work ethic and ability to have fun in their spare time. Her parents led a polka band, and they performed in Fremont on weekends. Life on the farm in rural Nebraska gave Ryan "multi-tasked" skills that she took with her to the corporate world.

"What I got from being in a small community, plowing fields, changing snow tires, I'm thankful for — being part of Dodge County," Ryan said.

What's funny, Ryan noted, is that after graduating from high school, her goal was to become a secretary.

"I went to Spencer School of Business in Grand Island so I could get my business degree," Ryan said. "I said to myself, ‘I'm going to be the best secretary ever.'"

As Ryan was in a typing class one day, an instructor came in to ask who would like to try their hand at technical writing. Though Ryan said she knew nothing about the work, she dove right in, reading by lamplight to learn the trade.

"I worked at night — I had this raw engineer data and turned it into a program manual," Ryan said. "I knew I could do this. So I worked from 7 p.m. to midnight for six months."

The writing spurred Ryan into obtaining a bachelor of science degree from Bellevue University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma. Then, after 11 years spent in public relations and marketing, Ryan thought she could do more.

In 1996, Ryan decided she had had enough of climbing the corporate ladder. She struck out on her own and created Ryan Designs. She has recently renamed her public relations company Ad Hoc Communications. Ad Hoc translates to "as needed," which illustrates in two words the essence of her company.

As a result of company downsizing, more independent consultants are popping up every day. Ryan's business, which is based out of her home in Omaha, provides relief on both ends of the downsizing picture through a network of consultants Ryan contracts for her corporate clients. This includes public relations, marketing and special events services.

The motive to start her own business also stemmed from Ryan's ideas not being listened to until a male co-worker would pick up on it, she said.

"In the corporate world, I would have the opportunity to voice my ideas through someone else," she said. "I thought, this isn't going to work."

Ryan recalled working for a nonprofit organization in Omaha, where a co-worker asked her to list her skills, then told her that those were, in fact, CEO qualities.

"That was the turning point in my career," Ryan said. "I said to myself, this must be my calling."

Though her initial drive was to make her business a success, the result has produced even more goals — goals of helping others who want to walk away from the office atmosphere.

"I want to assist women who want a career, yet time for a family also," she said. "I think women are walking away from the corporate life because they want balance."

Ryan's goal for this year is to conduct education and social seminars to help women who want to work for themselves.

"My vision is to have part of the profits (from the seminars) go to a women's or children's charity," Ryan said.

As she has learned from experience, Ryan will teach others that a personal evaluation is needed to venture out on your own; or, as she puts it, "You have to understand your strengths and weaknesses before you walk away."

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