Craig Cecilio is the CEO and founder of DiversyFund, an online platform that combines crowdfunding and technology to allow the everyday investor to invest in alternative assets, such as commercial real estate. Cecilio’s mission is to empower the average investor by giving them the same wealth-building opportunities that were previously only available to the 1%. Under Cecilio’s leadership, DiversyFund has raised $4.3 million in funding, according to Crunchbase.
Each week, GOBankingRates sets out to discover what makes the people behind top companies tick. We like to call this series “Best in Business” — and Cecilio really is one of the best. He told us how he got his entrepreneurial drive, how raising over $500 million in real estate funding gave him the idea for his company and ways that you can find (or build) your own dream job, too. Below, find our favorite moments from the story of how Cecilio launched his business.
He Got the Entrepreneurial Itch Early On
I was raised by my hardworking parents in Fairfield, Connecticut. I remember always having the entrepreneurship itch, even at an early age where I set my sights on making my own money. It was such a different mentality than what I saw in my father. He always wanted to start his own business, but the fear and uncertainty are what stopped him.
He always asked me, “Son, do you think money grows on trees?” At the age of seven, I did not understand what he was saying so here’s what I did: I went to the backyard, buried a dollar bill and watered it for three days! No joke, I really did that, and I quickly learned that money does not grow on trees. I knew that if I wanted to build my own wealth, I had to take matters into my own hands.
I may not have known back then exactly what I was going to build, but I knew I was going to create something and it was going to make a difference.
He Set Out To Help the Everyday Investor Build More Wealth
I worked for nearly 20 years in real estate as a syndicator and a sponsor. I used my networking skills to lead the development and raising of over $500 million worth of real estate assets.
Through these deals, I realized the traditional ways of raising money for real estate projects were archaic and excluded the everyday investor. I watched the rich get richer and always wondered how I could include the everyday investor in these incredible investments.
There is a considerable lack of awareness when it comes to building wealth and how easy it can be, even for the average person. This impacted and influenced — and still does — the way we reach and connect with our audience. We want to be sure we are educating our clients in a way that is easy to understand.
He Had To Learn Who He Could Trust
The hardest part about the process [of starting DiversyFund] was deciphering who was genuinely supportive and propelling me forward, whether it was friends, family or business colleagues. There are always naysayers or people who weren’t fully supportive of what I was doing. Vendors were definitely the toughest and are a reoccurring roadblock because you never know what you’re going to get. They tend to be short-sighted and always have their own agenda. This created barriers and slowed things down at various points of building DiversyFund.
He Doesn’t Think Work Should Be a Rat Race
In the late ’90s, I secured my real estate license and ended up working in a boiler room as a 1099 [contract employee]. It was so archaic that we had to pay the company for leads, bring in our own computer and set up our personal real estate. Still, there was a waiting line to get an office desk, and you couldn’t have a desk unless you produced. I remember paying for business cards and internet service before I even had a desk.
Everything about this, I didn’t want for my business. I wanted my team to feel supported and set them up for success. It’s not meant to be a rat race.
This Is How He Measures Success
In mid-November , DiversyFund was qualified by the SEC to work with non-accredited investors for our new Growth REIT. This is a win for us because there are very few companies that are doing what we are doing.
Success to me is all-encompassing. It’s a combination of your professional and personal development. In my case, it means having a company that is considered a game changer in the industry, being able to teach my daughters positive life lessons, supporting my wife and kids and successfully overcoming any unforeseen bumps in the road.
If you can look back and be proud of the life and business you built, then that is your success.
He Has This To Say To Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Stay hungry and never give up. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing or the goals you aim to achieve. The road won’t be smooth, but it’s up to you to persevere.
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