If you feel the odds for business success are stacked against you, I’d like to tell you about Joe Mattucci. He is an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. penniless, spoke no English and had a grade school education.
Our story begins in Italy where World War II brought death, destruction and grinding poverty. Joe’s father joined the partisans to battle the fascists and was often away. To help support the family, he taught young Joe his trade as a tailor. There was no time for Joe to attend school.
Mattucci said, “After the war, based upon my age, they put me in the third grade.”
In the next two years, he attended the fourth and fifth grades. “I learned to read and write, but I went no further in school because I’d become a tailor,” Mattucci said. “We struggled so hard during and after the war, that I’m not afraid of anything. I became a man when I was still a boy.”
In 1955, when Mattucci was 18, he convinced his family they’d have a better life in America and so he and his father, mother and brother went to Baltimore. Joe said, “We had no money, didn’t speak English and worked for a clothing manufacturer in a hot, rundown, dirty factory.”
The Mattucci family worked hard but was paid little. Disillusioned, they left Baltimore. “My dream was to go to Hollywood and we came by train,” Joe said. “We opened a tailor shop in Los Angeles but we couldn’t speak English well and it was hard to answer the phone.”
Gradually they learned English and in 1961, they opened a tailor shop in upscale Westwood. Because they had outstanding tailoring skills, they built a solid trade and did well enough that in 1970, the father moved the family back to Italy where they could now live comfortably.
In 1984, the elder Mattucci died. Joe and his family moved back to the U.S., and he opened a tiny tailor shop in the Los Angeles suburb of Redondo Beach. But their savings were long gone.
“I was 47 years old with a wife and three kids and I was broke,” Joe said. “The shop was barely 300 square feet but it grew because I treated customers well.”
As his tailor shop grew, it created a greater opportunity for him. “Because the shop kept taking more space, eventually I bought the building,” Mattucci said. But how could he afford to do this? “I had to put three mortgages on it,” Mattucci replied.
“Then as more money came in, I paid off those mortgages and started buying apartments and stores. I’d ask the sellers to carry a mortgage for me because it was easy to qualify this way and eventually I paid off the property from the income. Today, I own 10 properties, all paid off.”
Could you do this? “Everybody can do what I’ve done or even much better. I’ve never made easy money and I have very little education,” Mattucci said. “The most difficult thing is to make the first $20,000.” This is your down payment money, whether to buy real estate, buy a business, become an investor or take the next big step in whatever your financial plans are.
“If you don’t save $20,000, you can’t make millions, so you have to be willing to sacrifice and save,” Mattucci said. “Seven days a week for many years I worked long hours in my shop. It takes that kind of dedication to become successful and step by step you’ll get where you want to go.”
Success Tip of the Week: Mattucci is a talented tailor but even if you have no special skill, work hard, save your money and educate yourself, so that when you find the opportunity that’s right for you, you’re ready to act on it.
In the next KazanToday, A Black man who triumphed over bigotry and poverty to build a giant household name business. His story contains some valuable lessons for us.