Eighteen-year-old Ryan Berglund of Raleigh, a freshman at the University of Mount Olive, started his own company at the age of 12. Rain Barrels Intl. began when Berglund made his mother a rain barrel for her birthday. He constructed the prototype from a recycled pickle barrel, a brass faucet, and some netting. His mom loved it, and so did her friends.
That was all the encouragement that Berglund needed. He took his product to a local garden center, who agreed to sell the rain barrels. Over the next several days, the garden center sold four. Berglund then enlisted the help of his twin sister, Miranda, to help in the assembly process. The siblings decided that this would be their way to help the environment and make some extra holiday spending money. They quickly found out they were providing a top quality product with high demand.
From its initial start in 2006, Rain Barrels Intl. has grown significantly, selling products in 119 stores in nine states. The rain barrels are no longer made in the family’s garage, but now are assembled by a crew who still make the products out of recycled food grade barrels that would otherwise be headed to landfills.
Now as a freshman in the Ag Department, at the University of Mount Olive, Berglund hopes to learn even more about agriculture to take his company to the next level. After graduation he plans to help young people, like himself.
"My goal is to be able to become an agriculture education and technology teacher,” Berglund said. “I can't think of a better job than teaching my passion for technology to future students.”
When asked how he chose UMO, Berglund said, “Mount Olive has an excellent reputation within the FFA organization. I visited the University and felt extremely comfortable. The teachers in the Ag Department really made me feel welcome, and I just knew that Mount Olive was a school that I would do well in and grow from my experiences.”
It was also a bonus that by going to UMO, Berglund became closer to the supplier of the key component of his rain barrels – Mt. Olive Pickle Company. “It was a win-win situation for me.”
At UMO Berglund is already an active member of the CFFA and is the goalie for the Club Lacrosse team. When not studying, he can be found working in a new start-up business that he is developing called Mobile Welding Tech where he fabricates trailers, pig cookers, custom bumpers, bottle trees, etc.
Berglund gets his drive and work ethic from his parents, Mike and Cindy Berglund. “My parents inspire me the most,” he said. “Everyone in my family believes in me and is really supportive. My mom is knowledgeable about sales and marketing and running a business. She still finds time to always be there for me and is super supportive in all my new ideas. My dad is very mechanically inclined, and he has pretty much taught me everything I know about tools, mechanics, electronics, and computers.”
How does he juggle it all? “My agreement with my parents is that school ALWAYS comes first,” he said. “Time management is super important, and I really try to have good organizational skills. I don't promise something unless I know that I have given myself enough time to complete the job to the best of my ability.”
What do Berglund’s professors think of his business acumen? “I don't really tell them,” he said. “When I am in school I try to focus on my studies. I am really like any other student doing my studies, hanging with friends in my dorm room, and ALWAYS eating!”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College. For more information, visit www.moc.edu.