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“Surround yourself with gritty people” with Craig Cecilio and Phil Laboon

Surround yourself with gritty people. We are fierce competitors, tackling all situations head-on with passion. We will never compromise our values to get there. We work hard, we are aggressive but we play by the rules. I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Cecilio, the CEO and Founder of DiversyFund. Craig’s mission is to disrupt traditional […]


Surround yourself with gritty people. We are fierce competitors, tackling all situations head-on with passion. We will never compromise our values to get there. We work hard, we are aggressive but we play by the rules.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Cecilio, the CEO and Founder of DiversyFund. Craig’s mission is to disrupt traditional alternative asset investing and empower the average investor by opening up the same wealth-building opportunities available to the one-percent. Craig’s visionary approach to democratizing alternative asset investing combines the power of crowdfunding with cutting-edge technology through DiversyFund’s online platform.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path.

I was raised by my hardworking parents in Fairfield, CT. 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 of my father. He always wanted to start his own business, but the fear or uncertainty is 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.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

After graduating from college in Colorado, I moved to San Diego in 1997. My goal was to work odd jobs, claim residency, then go to business school so I can learn how to run my own business. Well, I had a hard time finding a job and ended up crashing on friends’ couches — it seemed like the odds were against me. Once we found a place to live, we were working 15-hour days, but the building’s landlord unfairly kicked us out with little notice.

We had no choice but to go back to the couches, but we never got discouraged and kept pushing our way to the top. It was hard knowing that no one took us seriously until one late night conversation.

I remember, it was around 9:00 PM, a gentleman told me he wasn’t worried about me becoming successful. He saw my work effort and attitude and was sure it was going to happen for me. Fast forward eleven years, when I had the opportunity to buy a property, that same guy was an attorney in the transaction. It was his recommendation that helped us get the approval from the seller.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The drive to continue was from within, to be honest. Of course, I had surrounded myself with people who could help propel me forward and showed me the path for success. For example, I worked with customers who became wealthy in real estate, developers, syndicators and hedge fund managers. All of which I learned one thing or another from. These people had a strong influence on me.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit is the secret sauce to success. When you have grit, you’re courageous, conscientious, resilient, confident, and have great long-term goals, endurance while striving for excellence.

I constantly reminded myself that what I was doing or planning to do mattered. It wouldn’t only benefit me but also those around me. If I ever felt doubt, it was the internal grit that was the driving force to keep on track.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Things are going great now. The idea of DiversyFund came to me in 2014 and I launched it a few years later with my business partner, Alan Lewis. We grew from a team of four to twenty in eighteen months and had to double our office space, which we moved into a few months ago.

In mid-November last year, DiversyFund was qualified by the SEC to work with non-accredited investors for our new Growth REIT, which is huge. We opened the door for the Average Americans to invest in alternative investments once exclusive to the wealthy.

Watching all of this come to fruition is truly a testament that hard work (and grit) pays off.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Persevere through it all. In building a company, you are tossed a lot of curve balls. But it’s up to you to keep pushing through. This is something I experience weekly but it never stops me. We are challenging the status quo, tearing down the barriers and changing the game. Regardless of what we face, we will never give up.
  2. Set goals. Goals, whether short-term or long-term, personally or professionally, will keep you on track. At DiversyFund, we’ve set our goals for up to five years out and each year preps the company, and team, for growth into the following year’s goals.
  3. Take each failure as a lesson. I feel like a broken record preaching this, but I cannot emphasize it enough. With failure, you build character, courage and motivation. Everyone has failed and will fail again. Use it to your advantage.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. This is the path to getting as close to perfect as you can. I find myself struggling to do certain things because I do not feel 100% about it yet, but with practice, the confidence will come. I always aim to do my most challenging item first, so you can celebrate your win (it’s important to celebrate the little wins too), and that sets the tone for the day ahead.
  5. Surround yourself with gritty people. We are fierce competitors, tackling all situations head-on with passion. We will never compromise our values to get there. We work hard, we are aggressive but we play by the rules.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

You know, I am always grateful for my family, my team and the people who doubted me. My family supported me through the ups and the downs. My team who helped me build DiversyFund is the foundation of the company. And those who doubted me drove me to push the boundaries, be even more successful and never stop looking at the future.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

DiversyFund’s goal is to disrupt traditional alternative asset investing and empower the average investor by giving them the same wealth-building opportunities available to the one-percent.

We are leveling the playing field for people to invest. Gone are the days where you needed millions of dollars to become an investor in lucrative deals.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We do have some things in the works that will enhance investment opportunities and create more avenues to build wealth for a financially secure future. That is the goal, right? To feel confident about your future when it comes to money.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I would have to say, never stop learning and show your team that learning can happen from failures. I learn every day from my team and the people I network with or have relationships with. It’s refreshing to be in a room with people who are smarter than you even though some old-school business folks wouldn’t agree. If you put forth that culture, then your team will grow and thrive with the company.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Support one another. There is no form of support too big or too small. Whether you can share a piece of knowledge or be a connecting person between two people, you are supporting one another and their success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Winston Churchill defined success as, “the ability to move from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” If you’re not trying and failing, then you are not learning.

I learned a lot on this road to success through failing but I never gave up. I never let go of the vision or my goals. That is important for people to remember — 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.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

People can reach on Twitter at @CraigCecilio and Instagram at @Craig_Cecilio. Search me on LinkedIn too.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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