For the last nine years, Joe Vagnone has been hosting "Local Biz Now," a radio program on WSIC 105.9FM dedicated to sharing a behind-the-scenes look at area businesses, with advice for new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike. His own experience spans a wide variety of industries, including multi-state restaurant concepts, multiple different franchises, publishing, and more. For 30-plus years, he has also worked as a business broker, helping others to buy and sell small businesses."I like to say, 'I have bought, sold, owned and operated more small businesses than anybody I have ever met,'" Vagnone says, with a smile. And it all began at Central Piedmont with an Associate in Applied Science degree in hotel and restaurant management in 1987.
It was a natural fit for him, he says, a first generation college student pursuing his goal to own a restaurant and be self-employed."The holistic approach to education and training within the hospitality industry at the time was one of the top in the country," says Vagnone, who received Central Piedmont's Hagemeyer Award in 2015--the prestigious honor is given to one outstanding alumnus or alumna annually.
"This approach required me to understand accounting, legal, and personnel issues and prepared me for rapid growth, allowing me to rise above my contemporaries..." he says.Outside of classes, he also gained valuable leadership experience at the college. That included stints as student body president and as an executive board member of the Hotel Restaurant Association Club, for which he traveled across the country promoting the college's hotel and restaurant management program (now known as "hospitality management") at industry expos.
After graduating, Vagnone opened his first sandwich shop with the help of connections and relationships he had made through the college.
For Central Piedmont students just starting out, he offers this advice: "To succeed, learning is not a singular or defined process. It is constantly learning something new and enjoying the process, while applying it in an intentional manner."