About Darin

When I was growing up, being a small business owner meant survival.  That's how my mom successfully raised three kids by herself in a small town in Eastern Ohio.  She owned and operated a hair salon out of our house (she still does).  We were poor, and it was a daily struggle for her to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.  But, we made it.  And, the strong example my mom set for us would stick with me for the rest of my life.

Growing up around my mom's hair salon and my uncle's video and record stores influenced me to want to become an entrepreneur before the term was mainstream.  It was the 1980s after all,

Eventually, I went the traditional

route, and I became the first in my family to earn a college degree (even though it took dropping out the first time and enlisting in the United States Navy Reserve before I finally did it).  While that was an accomplishment, the real achievement for me was paying for it by myself.  I was able to pull it off by working two and sometimes three jobs at a time along with using student loans.  Unfortunately, my dream of starting my own business quickly faded the closer I got to graduation.  The heavy burden of student loan debt that had accumulated over the years was starting to become very real, and I knew that I would have to work for someone for a while in order to pay it down (at the peak, including both undergrad and grad school, I had nearly $90,000 in student loans).

Between 13 and 18 years old, I helped both my mom and uncle with their businesses.  I jumped in

and using the word

entrepreneur seemed too highfalutin

for what we

America.  Wasn't this word reserved

were doing in small-town

shot founders of billion dollar

corporations?  Not to mention that

for big

choosing to be an entrepreneur in those days usually meant to most people that you weren't smart enough to go to college and have a real career.  Thankfully, a lot has changed since then.  Today, being an entrepreneur has the positive image that it deserves.

and did

everything I could.  I wanted to learn

as much as possible

about running a

business, and I wanted to give back to

my family.

And, because extra money

was a luxury that I didn't have as a kid,

I had to figure out a way to get it.  So, during those years, I tried my hand at everything I could think of to make a buck.  Cutting lawns, recycling soda cans, helping out friends with their paper routes, performing card tricks, shooting pool, and trading coins and collectibles were just a few of the things I did.

If I'm going to start my own business one day, why not learn as much as I can from large corporations?  That remained my thought process during the next 14 years as I worked for three Fortune 500 companies and earned a master's degree in business.  During this time, I continued to stay connected to my passion for entrepreneurship, both through working on my own side projects, as well as helping out small businesses in any way that I could.

Over the past 17 years, I've now touched several hundred businesses in one capacity or another - as an adviser,

mentor, consultant, board member, investor, coach, trainer and volunteer.  After I left my corporate career, I also created a successful real estate investment business where I applied many of the principles that I learned from the institutional investing world to my own company.

I've always wanted to have a positive impact on people during my lifetime.  Working to help fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners get more success, happiness and juice out of life is how I've chosen to do it.  Nothing gets me more pumped up.  I love the energy, excitement and creativity that comes from working with others as they realize their dreams.  This is what I'm passionate about.

Make no mistake about it.  Entrepreneurship is tough.  Like all entrepreneurs, I've been though the ups and downs that come with the territory.  But, one thing is for certain, this journey can also be one of the most rewarding of your life.  So, if you're hungry, if you want it badly enough, and you're willing to learn and put in the work over the long haul, anything is possible.  I'm living proof of it.

I hope this introduction is just the beginning of our relationship.  And, I'd love to hear about you.  The best way for us to get and stay connected is to make sure you enter your name and email below.  Yes, I do run a business, so that means I have products and services for sale.  But, the vast majority of my creative work is available to the public 100% free of charge.  It's always my goal to provide as much value as I can to the small business and entrepreneurial community that I love and admire.  Thank you for the hard work that you do every day.

With gratitude,

Darin Vilano

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