Hello! My name is Matt Vassallo, and I’m the founder and owner of The Rhinestone World, Inc.
My wife, Laureen, and I became entrepreneurs in 2005 with the dream of one day being financially independent. We were both working as high school teachers, but we knew we wanted to do more.
My inspiration for our business came one day after our first child, Madison, was born. While teaching an online class with Madison by my side, she dropped her pacifier and began to cry. As I reached down to pick up the pacifier, for some reason, I noticed it was very plain.
Suddenly, my million-dollar idea came to me! Why not put a baseball or custom name on that large, blank area of the pacifier? Shortly thereafter, I purchased my first cutter for $200 and bought the materials I needed to post my proud new creation on eBay. I thought this idea was going to make me rich! But I waited, and waited; no orders came.
Although my pacifier adornment wasn’t the hit I thought it’d be, I was determined to make my idea work. With the competitive nature and drive I acquired as a high-level athlete to be the best, failure was not an option. n the midst of being full-time teachers and around-the-clock parents, Laureen and I worked-in hours of online research, continually learning new ways to use my vinyl cutter to accomplish our big dreams. Soon, we were selling an array of car window decals and rhinestone apparel to our family, friends, and fellow teachers and coaches as we organized school fundraisers and local events around town.
It seemed our dream was becoming a reality. In 2008, we started our first decal and apparel business using rhinestone and vinyl products called The Decal World. I had no formal business training—no classes, seminars, or education, just my Bachelors of Science degree in Physical Education K-12. But if sports taught me anything, it’s to give everything you’ve got in achieving your goals, despite the odds stacked against you.
Our nightly research, however, was running into dead ends as we exhausted every available idea. We realized we could no longer rely on the knowledge of others to grow our business. So, I began testing every product I could get my hands on, thinking of innovative ways that would benefit the industry and help our customers. As I discovered new things, I documented the process on YouTube so our customers could see how we put together their orders.
As the videos piled up, we received an increasing number of calls from other businesses requesting our materials and support. At this point, I realized there was an opportunity, not just to sell finished products, but to equip other businesses with the supplies and invaluable knowhow I had acquired. Hence, in 2010, The Rhinestone World was born.
Since starting in just a bedroom of our home, our current business has expanded to occupy a 12,000+ sq. ft. warehouse in Bradenton, Florida, has branched into a 1,500 sq. ft. storefront (Shirts & Stones), and has added over twenty-five employees to our team.
Our story was not always so optimistic. In 2001, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer from chewing tobacco. A series of invasive surgeries and grueling radiation treatments ensued. I’m truly grateful for the friends and family who helped me get through this difficult time in my life. I’m thankful for our success in such a short amount of time, and I’m here to say you can do the same!
Our company’s journey has been a challenging yet remarkably rewarding adventure. Our YouTube Channel that started with just a few instructional videos now contains 2,300+ FREE tutorials and 13,000,000+ views! Through it all, I can say with confidence that it doesn’t take a Harvard business degree to be successful in this industry. The things that I attribute to our success — drive, excitement, strong work ethic, morals, creativity, adaptability, and a willingness to learn — are all things that I didn’t need a classroom to obtain and that anyone can access.
We’ve learned to value each of our customers,knowing that their success is our success. I may have laid the foundation for my business, but I recognize that it’s our amazing customers and employees that have grown it. To that end, my advice to you is to do anything you can to take care of your crew, and they’ll take care of you.
I wish you the best as you consider starting or growing your own business, as I did. I encourage you not to fear the challenge, but to embrace it. As always, please let us know if there’s any way we can help you. We love our TRW Crew, and we sincerely hope you will join us in our adventure!