Former Air Force Officer Earns his Entrepreneurship ‘Wings’
Ryan Aspy MBA'08
Market development manager, PPG Aerospace
“Kelley was the only school that checked all of the boxes that were important to me.”
Ryan Aspy has wanted to be an entrepreneur for as long as he can remember—he just got side-tracked for a while. After spending five years in the Air Force, he felt it was time to go back to school to get an MBA and refocus on his business aspirations.
While choosing a program, Aspy knew he wanted to attend a top school that wasn’t located in a big city. It was also important to him to find a program that was strong in both marketing and entrepreneurship. “Kelley was the only school that checked all of the boxes that were important to me,” he says. “I applied to a few other places just to be safe, but when I was accepted to Kelley it was a done deal.”
Aspy’s can-do spirit served him well at Kelley in the many leadership roles he took on. Aspy and three of his classmates founded Kelley’s Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) initiative, service-learning program that sends students to developing countries to provide consulting services to small businesses. The first GLOBASE trip was to Peru in spring 2009.
Aspy says GLOBASE might not have gotten off the ground if it hadn’t been for the support he received from the MBA department. “Jim Wahlen (chair of Kelley’s MBA program) was the first one to hear our pitch for the GLOBASE program,” says Aspy. “We thought we’d go in and see if he’d throw cold water on the idea. He did the opposite—he threw gasoline on it. Not only did he give us great ideas to incorporate but he also allowed us to run with the project and he threw his whole weight behind it with the Kelley administration.” Aspy and Wahlen have remained friends since graduation and they hang out whenever Aspy comes back to B-town.
Additionally, Aspy was involved with the group that put together the first IU Entrepreneurial Connection, a yearly conference hosted by JCEI that aims to bring together alumni and current students who are involved in or interested in entrepreneurship. That first conference featured a high-flying entrepreneur as its keynote speaker: Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines.
While at Kelley, Aspy also had a great internship. He worked in Pittsburgh for PPG Industries, a leading manufacturer of glass and chemical products. While there, he investigated business opportunities that he thought had potential and cultivate them as his own projects. “It was exactly the type of internship I was looking for,” he says. “I was able to work autonomously in a very open-ended environment.”
He did so well he landed a job with PPG, and he now works as a market development manager at PPG Aerospace in Huntsville, Alabama, where he manages new business development opportunities and drives new technologies to commercialization. From Excel skills to market planning to negotiations, Aspy claims that hardly a day goes by that he doesn’t use something he learned at Kelley. “There is no way I could be successful at what I’m doing without the experience I had at Kelley,” he says. “It raised my intellectual maturity to a level that allows me to perform with the very talented group of people I interact with on a daily basis.”