Alumni businesses prosper in San Diego

Ryan Bros Coffee


Ryan Bros is the official coffee supplier at USD.

Ryan Bros is the official coffee supplier at USD.

Ryan Bros. Coffee, owned and operated by brothers Harry, Carmine and Tom Ryan, first began serving coffee at University of San Diego volleyball and basketball games in 1994 and has been serving on campus ever since. The company that began began as a tea, coffee and chocolate cart is now the official supplier at USD. This November marks its 20-year anniversary. The Ryan brothers strive to make a locally produced and authentic product for the students of USD and the San Diego community.

Harry, ‘92, and Carmine, ‘93, began to realize their goals through their liberal arts education at USD. According to Harry Ryan, having a major other than business allowed for important influences that helped develop his skills of determination and persistence. He was most influenced by his poetry professor, Ron Hill, PhD.

“Dr. Hill mentored me into understanding the dedication it takes to learning and developing the skilled craft of writing,” Harry Ryan said.

The skills he learned in the classroom carried over into his business management.

The challenges the Ryan brothers faced while starting their company were far from few. It took them years before any salaries were established.

“Salaries? Took ten years before we could accomplish that. Crazy, huh?” Harry Ryan said.

The brothers’ biggest challenge in starting up their company was their need for money.

“Lack of capital, no co-signer on a loan, nothing but ‘sweat equity’ and the banks don’t like that,” Harry Ryan said. “Sacrificing personal desires for the family benefit is how you can overcome such obstacles. Personal egos have to be trash-canned if the team is to grow and become something special.”

The Ryan family even moved in together for a time to cut overhead costs.

“In the course of being persistent, never giving up, even though everyone you know – especially the banks – thinks you’re crazy to pursue such an uncertain, long-term goal as coffee,” Harry Ryan said. “A brand has been built by my family and everyone has sacrificed to make it happen.”

Harry Ryan also had a work study during his time as a student at USD.

“We loved the convenience of living and working on campus all four years,” Harry Ryan said. “It was the start needed to make our dream come true.”