He’s so full of hope, inspiration and kindness, speaking with Rylan Hernberg for a few minutes is like getting an motivational pep talk.
“I believe you can accomplish anything in your life if you really want it and it is close to your heart you can do it. There will be obstacles but you have to be persistent. Eventually you will accomplish your goal, you have to,” said Hernberg. “It’s truly amazing once you figure that out and you really believe it. It is very powerful.”
With a certain spark about him and surrounded by his vision boards in the home office he works out of in Penticton, it is not difficult to start dreaming right alongside him. However, the Top 40 Under 40 nominee admits he wasn’t always the optimist. Making a high income in Richmond, but unhappy with his life, it was the death of his best friend Mark Cheng that pushed him to take a risk eight years ago.
“My best friend died from cancer. He was like my brother and it just really changed the way I looked at life. I was chasing the wrong things before and chasing money. I re-evaluated my life and found that giving back makes me happy,” said Hernberg. “That is where I dedicate a lot of my free time. It fulfills me. I feel like Mark is with me all the time when I do all these things.”
Hernberg is very active in the community. He has been involved with JCI Penticton over the past five years, sitting as president in 2012, as an entrepreneur purchasing five Coffee News franchises in the Okanagan. He credits the decision to join JCI with much of his success and opening up new skill sets for himself. Through JCI, Hernberg said, he sees a resurgence of a younger population in Penticton able to create jobs in the city to ensure they can stay here.
“What Jennifer Vincent and Nicholas Vincent (CoWork Penticton) or Max Picton (Barefoot Beach Resort) are doing is a new wave of people who realize we can make Penticton amazing and do well here,” said Hernberg.
But not everything is about business with Hernberg, he wants to make a change in the world. That starts with small things like placing money in books and putting them back on the shelf at retail stores to buying a coffee for the person behind him in line.
“About 10 days ago I gave the cashier at Blenz an extra $5 and said buy a drink for whoever you think needs it. I came back a week later and she was so excited to see me,” said Hernberg. “She said ‘you won’t believe what happened, this $5 keeps paying forward.’ I guess to that day people are paying it forward. She bought me my coffee that day.”
It was in 2008 that he came up with the idea of raising US $35,000 to build a school in Africa to honour his best friend. It took a few years, and the plan changed to raising over $25,000 Canadian to purchase and ship a 40-foot container full of items to Muhanga, Rwanda.
“It was just something in my heart that I wanted to do. I don’t know why, but I knew it was there. I am very intuitive and at the time that is where my heart was leading me,” said Hernberg. “I made a trip down there just before the container arrived and you see all these bare hospital beds and realize how fortunate we are in Canada.”
Teaming up with the One Person Project, a group out of Summerland, made it possible. Together they sent 17,000 children’s and education books, 2,000 soccer jerseys, 131 soccer balls, 15 sewing machines, seven hospital beds, one operating table, 10 wheelchairs, over 100 boxes of medical supplies and 380 brand new backpacks donated by Walmart.
Continuing on the same thread of making a change in the world, Hernberg is setting out to create a not-for-profit in 2014 called Touched by Kindness that will encourage people to do acts of kindness. Hernberg, of course, has a goal of what he wants to accomplish in one year and will be tracking it. The idea began as a Facebook page and website and he has seen the power of social media with one act going viral within a few days.
“I only have about maybe 200 likes on my Facebook page and this one day at lunch I got a fortune cookie that said ‘This random act of kindness is going to spread quickly.’ I put that fortune and a $10 bill in this book called the Happiness Project and posted it on my Facebook page. It just blew up and within two days over 18,000 people viewed it. My friends in Vancouver who had no idea I had anything to do with it were commenting on it,” said Hernberg. “It was really neat. I went back every week and the $10 was there in the book and I kept moving it to the front of the shelf and that happened for about a month and then finally it was gone.”
Hernberg never found out who became the owner of the fortune or the $10 bill. While most people feel only rewarded when a task is completed, for Hernberg not knowing is part of the prize. He gets to sit back and dream up of all the things that possibly could have happened.
“Sometimes people might just need that money and there is always this ripple effect when you do something kind, but I usually try to get out of the way before I see it. I have a business for that, this is the part that is unknown what will happen. I just can imagine if I can get people a million acts of kindness in a year what that ripple effect will do. We may never really know, but I guarantee it will do something good in the world.”
Penticton Top 40 under 40 is presented by the Prospera Credit Union in partnership with the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and JCI Penticton, with support from White Kennedy LLP Chartered Accountants.
Nominations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Top 40 Nomination.’ Please include nominees contact info and a brief reason for nomination.