The Jack & Jill of all trades
The work never stops for entrepreneurial enthusiasts Ryan and Hannah Maruyama, whose lives revolve around their own full-time jobs, a tattoo shop named YAMA Studios and a recently launched podcast called Degree Free Network.
Hannah and Ryan Maruyama don’t claim to have all the answers. But one thing the Honolulu couple does know for certain is the path to success isn’t the same for everyone, and it doesn’t have to come with a diploma in hand, either.
That’s the message the husband-and-wife duo share with the world on their recently launched podcast Degree Free Network, with the hopes of educating parents, teens and everyone in between on the many different routes one can take to accomplish their goals.
Hannah, 26, is an IT business analyst consultant and author, while Ryan, 29, is a firefighter with the City & County of Honolulu. Both work more than 50 hours a week and love what they do.
“If you grew up here, being in Honolulu Fire Department and driving a firetruck was every boy’s goal,” says Ryan. “It’s the best job in the world. I love being in the department, being able to serve my community, and help people who need help.”
On top of that, the Maruyamas own and operate YAMA Studios, a Kapahulu Avenue paramedical tattoo shop that specializes in scalp micropigmentation, micro-blading and more. Basically, they tattoo tiny dots on people’s skin to give an instant appearance of hair follicles.
“Right now, Hannah and I don’t really have a life — we just work,” Ryan says with a laugh.
“These people are suffering from hair loss and that affects their everyday life,” he adds. “Every time they look in the mirror, they see somebody who doesn’t look like themselves and it affects their self-talk. For me personally, having a hand in helping them turn that script in them and look in the mirror and see somebody they’re proud of seeing and somebody who reflects their image in their mind — that’s huge.”
Among their clientele are cancer patients who are currently in remission.
“Chemo can cause hair loss, and when it comes back, sometimes it will still grow back thin,” explains Hannah. “Scalp micropigmentation can help make the hair look thicker. It’s very fulfilling to help those clients, especially since they have been through so much.”
The business — which was recently featured on CNBC’s Make It, a website and YouTube series that focuses on success, money, work and life — attracts clients from not only across the island chain, but all over the globe, too. It’s a booming biz that could easily take up the Maruyamas’ entire schedule, if they didn’t love their day jobs so much, that is.
The empire that the duo is currently constructing can be attributed to hard work and communication — but not a college education. Coming from two sides of the spectrum, Hannah dropped out of college at age 18 and Ryan received a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. After donning a cap and gown, Ryan worked for a local bank and, although he was utilizing his degree in the real world, the Kapahulu native wasn’t fulfilled and experienced what he describes as a “quarter-life crisis.”
“I was doing work that was just soul-sucking; it was just crushing. I hated it,” Ryan recalls. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and my friend was living in North Carolina at the time and had an extra room. NC State University and the surrounding schools have good mechanical engineering programs, so I was like, ‘OK, well, I guess I’ll move up there and become a mechanical engineer.’ I applied for the school, got accepted and then I moved. While I was there, I realized that I didn’t want to do that. I was just throwing darts at a dartboard — and I didn’t want to throw that $70,000 dart.”
Meanwhile, Hannah, who’s moved 34 times in her nearly two-and-a-half decades before calling Hawai‘i home, felt that the college environment wasn’t one she was destined to be in, so she made a decision and has never looked back.
“I was sitting in my sociology class and they put the midterm in front of me and I filled out two questions and I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t want to be here.’ So I tore it in half and threw it in the garbage and walked out. I think if you’re going to quit college, that’s definitely the most fun way to do it,” Hannah chuckles. “That moment was as big as it sounds for me; it was a huge turning point.
“I moved back to New York and that’s when I applied for a job that said ‘college degree required,’ and when I got to the interview, they didn’t even ask me about it. That’s when I was like ‘wait a minute, hold on,’ which began this entire journey of me realizing that you don’t need a college degree for jobs that say ‘college degree required.’ Sometimes, you don’t even need experience.
“We had a conversation with our sisters, who were both 18 at the time, and we said, ‘Hey, you don’t have to go.’ We didn’t say ‘don’t,’ we just said you don’t have to go. His sister — and I’ll never forget this — looked at us and said, ‘No one has ever told me that.’ No one ever told her she didn’t have to buy a college degree for six figures. I think that’s a huge thing that people don’t realize, especially 17and 18-year-olds, they can’t comprehend how much money that loan is. For a lot of people, their college degree is the most expensive purchase they’ll ever make.”
Discussions like that make up Degree Free Network‘s approximately 45-minute episodes, which will also dive into topics like self-education, industry possibilities, small-business opportunities, paid on-the-job training and more.
“The first thing we feel that we need to address (on the podcast) is that it’s OK for you not to go to college — you’re not alone,” notes Ryan. “If you decided not to do it and there’s a bunch of people in your life asking you, ‘When are you going to go to college?’ or ‘When are you going to go back to school?’ — don’t worry about it. We’ve talked to so many people about this and they feel like they’re not supported, and that it’s constant pressure and shame about not going to college.
“Once you decide on not going, the whole world opens to you. It’s not easier — to not go to college is difficult — and I know because I walked this path. As soon as I decided I wasn’t going to get a second degree, I was lost and I had to trudge my own path. But it’s also extremely liberating because now you can create whatever career you want.
“There are no rules — you can tattoo people’s heads for living,” he laughs. “Everything is open to you.”
Since crossing paths six years ago, and getting engaged only a couple of months thereafter, Hannah and Ryan are stronger than ever before, as they make it their journey to help others define one of their own.
“Having a family is getting closer,” says Ryan when asked what’s next. “That’s been a driving goal for a lot of our work, getting to a place where that is financially responsible, so it’s humbling to see where we are now.
“Career-wise, I’m happy right where I am, and I know Hannah really likes her work, too. It’s a big blessing to be content in our jobs.”
MORE OF THE MARUYAMAS
Ryan and Hannah Maruyama are not your typical couple. Along with their jam-packed day jobs, the entrepreneurial twosome co-own tattoo shop YAMA Studios (yamastudios.co), as well as co-host Degree Free Network, a podcast that hopes to inspire people of all ages to explore options outside of a college education. The show talks about self-education, building businesses and more. Visit degreefreenetwork.com to learn more, or scan the QR code above.