WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Most business owners just like to talk about their successes and not their failures, says White Plains’ Danilo Vicioso.
But not this University of Delaware economics major; he not only expects to flop once in a while, he embraces failure as part of the process -- both in business and in life.
The 21-year-old, whose borrowed motto is “This is the time to take risks. Do it while you’re young,” just made a pile selling his online store, Authentic Ink Graphs.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Vicioso moved to Westchester with his family when he was in the fifth grade.
He has also lived in Spain, Los Angeles and New York City where he had access to lots of celebs, sports figures and other A-Listers.
Authentic Ink, which started as a hobby collecting their autographs, morphed into a real business. With only $200 in capital invested, Vicioso eventually was raking in tens of thousands of dollars a month.
The then-19-year-old was doing so well that he opened an 800-square-foot office near Hollywood, hired a team of independent contractors, full-time employees and interns, and even took a year off from studying entrepreneurship to concentrate on building his memorabilia business, not knowing if he’d ever return to get his degree.
In the summer of 2015, he flew out to LA where he plunged into minutiae such as setting up order processing systems to insurance policies, contracts and payroll.
“We did it all,” he says, adding: “It was the definition of learning on the job.”
Vicioso, who had babysat, but had otherwise never held a “real job,” even hired a team from Pakistan to handle social media, data entry and analytics.
Things were going swimmingly – revenue went up by more than 700 percent. But there also were challenges, such as the departure of his interns, who had been fellow UofD students.
Eventually, the amount of work began to exceed the monetary gains and Vicioso began to wonder if it was all worth it. It was also around that time he read Timothy Ferriss’ self-help book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.”
“I realized I could put the business on auto-pilot and still make enough money to pay for my education … and have more time for personal growth,” he says.
Vicioso scaled back his direct participation, let go most of his staff, which, he says, was the “hardest thing” he ever had to do, and re-enrolled in school.
This past November, Vicioso had just finished some school work and was wrapping up a meeting on yet another venture, when he decided to spend some “down time” clicking around the internet.
That was, "Bam," he says, when he got a sudden inspiration – Why not sell Christmas sweaters that will appeal to millennials?
Vicioso whipped up a business plan, designed a website, and four days later, www.christmassweaterworld.com was born.
Fast forward to Dec 18. Despite having sold 300 cotton shirts printed with sweater-like designs and humorous sayings like “Fleece Navidad,” Vicioso’s operation is no more.
(Statistically, 98 percent of startups fail.)
“Did I make a profit? Yes. Was it financially worthwhile? Heck no,” he says.
What went wrong, he explains is that while he saw an opportunity and went with it, he failed to ask himself the right questions. “Instead of thinking hard, I worked hard,” he says.
Taking risks is the only way you grow, says the young entrepreneur.
“I took time off from school, that was a risk. I started one business and then another. I learned a lot and I grew. It’s something that for the rest of my life, will change my life.”
Now, Vicioso says, it’s time to focus on his “own stuff” and strive for a better balance between work and play.
But even then, Vicioso won’t stray far from his true calling; he has partnered up with a fellow student to sell posters of rappers on a Twitter account. He also hopes to land an internship with a big company this summer so he can continue to build his skills.
It also means he will have more time to “do for others.”
Right now, Vicioso is helping out fellow students and other jobseekers with their resumes and “branding” campaigns.
He is also blogging about falling on his face, and getting back up again.
Sharing your shortcomings with the world is, after all, risky business. But for one young up-and-comer, it’s more than worth it.