Leaving a Legacy of Entrepreneurialism
All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine. ~ Jim Rohn
In 1915, my great-grandfather Luigi Vallorani left his home in Italy to start a new life in America. He was told the streets in America were paved with gold. When he arrived, however, he discovered the streets were not paved with gold, and it was the Italians who did the paving!
Like most immigrants, Luigi had a dream for the good life and he was willing to work hard and take the necessary risks to make his dream come true. He eventually opened a grocery store and a restaurant to support his family. Luigi was a shrewd and competitive businessman, and intent on putting down roots, planning to make the Vallorani family a business empire.
His vision for the Vallorani family was sadly cut short. Life in America cost him three infant sons and a young wife who died during childbirth. He took his only surviving son, three-year-old Eugenio, and returned to Italy. Despite the turn of events, Luigi’s dream for his family did not end with his return to Italy. He continued to instill this vision in Eugenio, my grandfather.
When Eugenio came of age in Italy, he was required to join a military youth group. One day, Eugenio found himself marching down the streets of Rome in a parade supporting Hitler and Mussolini. Luigi wanted nothing to do with fascism. That day, Luigi went to the consulate to send my grandfather Eugenio back to the United States. At the age of 15, my grandfather sailed alone across the ocean to pick up where his father Luigi left off in America.
In a twist of fate, Eugenio joined the United States Army–Airforce during World War II and helped defeat the same Axis Powers he had been forced to support as a youth. After the war, he returned home to raise three children and work as an electrical engineer at Westinghouse. In 1979, he was one of 24 men who received a special commendation for distinguishing themselves apart from all others in the courageous defueling of the Three Mile Island nuclear-generating station in Dauphine County, Pennsylvania, where a partial nuclear meltdown had occurred. He had a strong Italian accent and drank wine until the very day he passed away at the age of 92.
My grandfather had a profound impact on my father, who earned his degree in Journalism and worked as a reporter for various newspapers and an NBC-affiliate television station. Since entrepreneurialism is in our DNA, my father exchanged his secure job as a reporter to start his own weekly newspaper shortly after I was born. I grew up working in every department of my father’s business, learning photography, graphic design, and advertising. Over the years, he’s provided jobs and a great service to his community.
It is a humbling experience to look back on the lives of my ancestors and the risks they took. Not speaking a word of English, my great-grandfather immigrated to America and started two businesses. As an adolescent, my grandfather sailed alone across the ocean to carry on his father’s vision. My father traded security for opportunity when he started his business. And in 2007, I started a media company which was named a five-time honoree on the Inc. 5000 list.
Each generation has built upon the other.
I recently sold this company and now devote my time and energy to my newest endeavor, Vallorani Estates. We present hand-curated products to the modern marketplace that bear the name of my family, which got its start in the Old World. Three of my children are now working in the business. Four generations later, my children are fulfilling my great-grandfather Luigi’s dream of a Vallorani dynasty here in America.
What legacy can I leave my great-grandchildren? What stories will be passed down? These are questions that foster my entrepreneurial mindset.
Brandon Vallorani is CEO of Vallorani Estates and the author of The Wolves and the Mandolin: Celebrating Life’s Privileges In A Harsh World with ForbesBooks. Learn more at valloraniestates.com.
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