Veni, vidi, vici, and oh yes, Vince

When he lost out in the 1987 crash, Vince Stanzione almost threw in his hand. But he persevered, and mobile phones brought him fortune. Rachelle Thackray met him.
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The Independent Online
There is no standard route to becoming an entrepreneur, but for Vince Stanzione, who began in hairdressing and made his fortune in mobile phones and financial services, it has been a learning experience all the way. Vince, now 28, who recently published his own book about the secrets of his success, insists that anyone can follow in his formidable tracks; all it requires, he claims, is determination and will power.

His CV is intimidating. At the age of 11 he was already responsible for the payroll for his father's three hairdressing shops, and by 14, he was dealing in computer software at his comprehensive school. The family, Italian immigrants, had moved south to Luton from Lancashire. At 16 he joined the foreign exchange department at NatWest as a tea-boy, rising to become a trader on earnings of up to pounds 70,000 a year at 18. Inevitably, there had to be a fall; it came when he lost his savings in the stockmarket crash of 1987, along with most of his business interests. But the fall taught him lasting lessons.

"It was a shock. I remember being frozen, like a fly hitting a windscreen; I didn't understand. I spent heavily because life was good, but I learnt that you never know what's going to happen tomorrow.

"If you get knocked down, you just start again, otherwise you're going to be there forever. I was at the point of saying: 'I'm going to get a pounds 200 a week, nine-to-five job, a wife, kids and a Ford Sierra'." Seeing the potential to market the mobile phone, he went into business with an older partner and gambled his last few hundreds on an advert in the paper.

The response stunned him: "It went in and the phone started ringing. I spotted how you could sell phones at a reasonable price and still make a profit. I was one of the first people to use itemised billing, and I was very good at spotting little things like carrying cases and extras."

He started a finance company in 1990 and sold it, on a roll, four years later. He now plans to launch a themed computer restaurant, and has spent much of the past two years writing about his experiences in How to Stop Existing and Start Living.

"A lot of people are being led rather than thinking for themselves," he says. "I meet people who work for somebody else and they say: 'I should set up my own business'. I say to them: 'Why not?'"

He claims immigrants are four times more likely to become millionaires than native Britons: "They can't believe their luck when they get here, whereas you get English people saying: 'There are no opportunities'." He followed the example of US billionaire Ted Nicholas and self-published his book, which has advice on building confidence, how to make money, and - unusually - how to save money.

His tips for setting up business include:

Make sure you enjoy the business you're in: don't just see it as a way to make money.

Be market-driven, not product-driven; research your market carefully.

Project a professional image. Use a good-quality letterhead, get an answerphone and have a dedicated fax line.

n Learn not to waste money. Don't buy equipment you don't need, and don't rent an expensive office when you can work from home. Don't be afraid to negotiate discounts.

n Invest wisely, and buy goods and services that will improve efficiency. Invest in specialist training if necessary.

n Be flexible, and look ahead for changes in the market.

n Promote your business, not just to existing customers but to attract new ones. Advertise, send out press releases, get good signage, arrange contra-deals, and help your local community.

n Don't give up. You must bounce back, learn from your mistakes and, above all, keep going.

'How to Stop Existing and Start Living' is published by First Success Publishing, along with a 50-minute audio tape. It is available from leading bookshops; tel: 01908 261373.