Young Vidalia entrepreneur has lofty goals

Published 1:44 am Sunday, December 23, 2007

VIDALIA — Ryan Paul is driven.

At 24, he already owns seven houses and recently broke ground on what will soon be Vidalia’s newest “high-end strip mall.”

Though he is currently employed at BASF as the process engineer and quality manager, Paul’s real passion is his hobby — real estate.

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He got his start in the business when he was dissatisfied with life in the dorms while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.

“I didn’t like the dorms, but my mom told me she couldn’t afford to pay rent or a house note,” he said.

But that didn’t stop him. Drawing up a business plan, he approached his mother again.

“I said, ‘Look, we can buy this old house at $20,000, and over 30 years that’s a $200 a month note,” Paul said. “‘If I live there and rent it out to three other guys at $200 a month, that’ll pay for the note, the utilities and some extra.”

Paul went on to pursue the same model with two other houses in Ruston, and three more when he moved to Texarkana, Texas to begin pursuing his master’s degree at Texas A&M.

He credits some of his business drive to a job he had delivering papers in high school.

“That is where I first learned the importance of having a career and letting your money work for you and not against you,” Paul said. “It was definitely an experience to have the dedication on Christmas and Thanksgiving morning to wake up and go to work.”

Meanwhile, Paul studied up on his capitalist credentials, reading all of Donald Trump’s books and Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” and headed to the bank.

“I had to go bank to bank, and they would tell me, ‘You’re only 24. You’ve only had credit since you were 18,’” Paul said. “I finally got to a point where I evened out.”

“I’m not rich yet,” he said. “I’ve just made some good investments.”

The newest of those investments will be the Park Place strip mall, located near Weeks Furniture on Carter Street. Named after the high-priced slot on the Monopoly board game, Paul said the goal for Park Place is to be “a little better quality than a normal strip mall.”

Two of the five spaces in the mall have already been rented, he said, and he hopes to have the building completed by March and entirely rented out by May.

Paul is partnered with his older brother Aaron on the strip mall project.

“I’m kind of the driver, and he’s the backer,” Paul said.

His drive does not come from dissatisfaction with life, but from the love of a challenge, Paul said.

“Growing up, my parents were both teachers, and so we always had all of the necessities, but we were solidly middle class,” he said. “I just wanted to take the risk to see if I could move up out of that.”