We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Dillon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
For Open Book Branding, it was a lot of things. I had been in private practice as a therapist for about seven years, and I had been training other therapists on how to develop and grow their own brands for six of those years. The long-term goal was always to go into the consulting side for therapists and helping/healing professionals, and it was actually the pandemic that sped up the original plan. One day, it felt like the right time because I knew a lot of people would be struggling with the forced shift in business the pandemic had already caused and what it would continue to cause when businesses began to open up again. Instantly going from an in-person practice to an online practice is rough, and I knew that when the vaccine came out people would struggle to find the “new normal” for their business. I find it encouraging that many therapists and helping/healing professionals have decided on a hybrid model for their business, having an in-person option and a virtual option, and being able to see that tele-mental health isn’t going anywhere, and it shouldn’t. Having a hybrid model in your business does take a different kind of upkeep and a different process than just an in-person practice. With this added virtual component, therapists aren’t limited to just their surrounding area, they can serve the entire state that they are licensed in, and that’s incredibly exciting but it can take a lot of work. I have the opportunity to work with many inspirational professionals and assist in getting their practices set up in future-facing ways.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Open Book Branding is a marketing and brand consulting practice dedicated to helping therapists and helping/healing professionals develop and grow their business brands authentically by creating lasting connections and engagement with their audience. I work with a lot of different people within these fields but I have a passion for working with Queer & BIPOC professionals.
I want to help therapists and helping/healing professionals create brands that stand out and attract an audience authentically. A brand that says “fuck off” to the ideas of professionalism that was created in order to keep people “in their place.” Brands that work to dismantle toxic systems such as white supremacy, cis/hetero normativity, sexism, racism, ableism, and so much more while decolonizing their fields and uplifting historically underrepresented and undervalued works and voices. I am a person who was born with a lot of societal privilege, even though I identify as a Queer person myself, and it’s important to me to use my privilege in ways that help dismantle these systems.
It’s a lot to do for this little brand consulting practice that is run but just little old me, but many helping and healing fields, specifically the mental health field, were founded on horrible toxic principles and do not have a history that has been kind to women, BIPOC, and queer people. Many mental health professionals aren’t aware of this history or some try to excuse it away as “being in the past.” Which, of course, it’s not, and the field can’t move forward unless we handle the issues directly. My overall goal is to help people create brands that actively help to change the field while empowering others but not speaking for those who have their own, powerful voices to use.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is an interesting question for an introvert who loves food more than crowds, but thankfully Austin has a lot to offer everyone. If I had a friend visiting from out of town, especially if it was their first time in Austin, there are a handful of places I would make sure to take them. On their first morning, I would get up early and go get donuts from Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery on Airport Blvd, a store ran by a small family that always serves delicious donuts. Then, I think some hiking would be in order. Austin has some beautiful trails that show off the city and the surrounding area like the well-known Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake trail and the Lake Austin/360 Overlook. Taking them to explore the Three Falls Hike and the Riverplace Nature Trail to show off the surrounding area and its beauty would also be a must. Lunch at Picnik on Burnet Road, drinks at Easy Tiger in the Lync, dinner from China Palace on Airport Blvd, and then depending on how we feel after dinner we could either go for a low-key night and grab some ice cream from Lick in the Mueller neighborhood or head downtown for a more high-energy night and hang with the patrons at the Iron Bear.
Then I would wager I would need to sleep and just chill for a day or two to recharge my introvert battery but we could order food in from places like Biscuits & Groovy and Sapp’s Thai Cuisine, and go for a nice stroll at the beautiful park surrounding Mueller and recharge with some drinks at BD Riley’s Irish Pub or a Mayan hot chocolate at Halcyon and then go see a movie at the Mueller Alamo Drafthouse.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh my, so many people deserve recognition! My husband above anyone else deserves special recognition, if it weren’t for him I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish all of the things that I have. We got married young and made a promise early on to each other that would encourage and support each other in our individual growths because that’s the only way we would grow as a couple and a partnership. For the last 13 and a half years we have made good on that promise.
My parents deserve some love and recognition. As a queer person, I recognize the rarity and privilege I have with being able to say that I had amazing and supportive parents from the start. Growing up in Southern Kentucky was difficult, especially after coming out. My parents always had my back and even went into battle themselves to support, not only me but other kids who didn’t have supportive parents at home.
There are a lot of other people to thank, Dr. Karen Rayne of UN|HUSHED who brought me on as a sex educator for the organization and trained me how to be confident in front of a room, even when I felt anything but confident. Julie Burke of Violet Crown Therapy, who is my best friend and partner in crime. Lindsay Camp of Texas Teen Therapy, for being the friend that loves to have the difficult conversations between busting out laughing at random things. Ms. Adam Maurer of Moontower Counseling for showing the world what being authentically you is all about. Melody Li, Dr. Ebony Butler, and Natalia Amari of Mental Health Liberation & Inclusive Therapists for constantly showing me what being a badass looks like and how to truly dismantle and decolonize the world of mental health.