Kicking off our female entrepreneur series is President of the Darien Sport Shop Inc., Gina Zangrillo. The Darien Sport Shop , one of Fairfield County’s leading retailers, provides a boutique-like atmosphere filled with fantastic brands, trend-setting items, classic fashion staples and sporting equipment.
Tell us a little about how the Darien Sport Shop got started.
My father, Steve Zangrillo, founded the company in 1946. The entire store was in a single room and we specialized in sporting goods and men’s clothing. In less than a decade the business tripled in size and in 1954 we moved to our existing flagship location. Over the years, I grew up doing odd jobs in the store, working my way up to my current role as President, and always envisioned making it something more, especially for women.
What has been your biggest accomplishment within the company?
In 1994 I became General Manager of the store. At that time, big box sporting goods stores and upscale outdoor malls were gaining traction in Fairfield County, which created new competition for us and threatened the future of the business. Our revenues were low and plans to sell the company were in place, but I had a vision to take Darien Sport Shop to the next level. I created a plan to restructure the business and convinced my family that it would be a success. From there I restructured the management team, transformed the company culture and delivered the prospect of profitability. By 1997 our revenues had increased by 45%.
When challenges come your way, how do you tackle them?
Head on! I find that tackling the most difficult challenges are most rewarding. When someone tells me I can’t do something it motivates me to prove them wrong.
What’s one thing that makes your company stand out?
As a family, we have always focused on customer service and building relationships with our customers. Our business has grown tremendously , but we still hold on to family traditions in larger ways, like being actively involved and giving back to our community, and smaller touch ways, like coffee and donuts for customers on the weekends and always having lollipops out for children.
What advice would you give other women who want to start their own business?
Always offer to do more than what is expected of you and push yourself. You can have it all.