One mistake nearly ruined Vince Serrano.
The New York native with Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic descent grew up in a low-income household. “I feel like that’s important for me to tell people because the background story is exactly why (I am) who I am today,” he says. “Everything I had to do was very tough.”
Tough enough that Serrano, now 40, ended up in prison for three years.
On the flip side, his childhood fueled him. So much so he became the first in his family to graduate college, when he earned a degree from Central College in Iowa in 2004. It was a feat made possible through the Bright Futures and basketball scholarships he earned.
Now he’s the founder of the Youngest in the Yacht Club, a Tampa Bay area media and entertainment company. He also founded Solar Central Systems, a solar power company that provided services to Rhode Island, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida. He closed down Solar Central this year to focus on Youngest in the Yacht Club.
Serrano has even dabbled in recording music. One song he was part of, Cha Cha, by Davis & Chris and Mr Foster, featuring Serrano, Sunset Martinez and Natalis, hit No. 4 on the iTunes charts and No. 16 on Billboard.
But what could be Serrano's most impressive feat, or title, is resilient entrepreneur. With all that he's been through, self-inflicted and outside his control, he now hopes to use his platform to not only build a business, but help others see that you can turn your life around after some mistakes.
One of Serrano's biggest mistakes? Trafficking and possession of cocaine, which landed him in a Florida state prison for two years and seven months. According to the Florida Department of Corrections database, Serrano entered a Charlotte County prison in September 2009 and was released in April 2012.
“I was a great hustler on the street and instead of applying that into something positive, I was going through something in my life and I just made the wrong decisions,” he says.
He eventually did turn it into something positive though, following this motto: “Don’t let your past become the architect of your future. You can make mistakes and learn from them. As long as you never quit, you’ll be good.”
From the experience, he learned he was good at sales. So he got into selling solar in New York for LGCY Power, a channel partner for Sunrun, which is one of the largest dedicated residential solar companies. He brought that passion with him in 2018 when he moved to Tampa and started Solar Central. But selling solar for a company is a bit different than selling for your own company, he learned.
“I wanted to quit every single day,” he says, noting there seemed to be a new problem daily. But he didn’t quit because of the people in his life. “Those days I felt like quitting, the people I surround myself with supported me and my dream.”
His wife’s strategy was laying out the problem in reverse. Jennifer Serrano made him see that if she wanted to give up on something that she loved, he would be disappointed in her. He recalls her saying, ‘You continue to do what you’re doing because you’re doing it great and you’re going to figure it out.’
“Those people gave me the motivation to believe in myself,” he says.
That’s exactly what he’s hoping to do for others through his Youngest in the Yacht Club.
“I want to give an opportunity to people who are just like me, who want to know my route,” he says. “I want to impact people’s lives positively through the knowledge and mistakes I’ve made. And also let them hear the stories of people who’ve been successful and hear their journeys.”
The club is designed to help those in the entertainment industry reach their highest potential. In November 2022 Serrano expanded the club into a podcast that first aired in March 2023. His hope is to “show the way” so others can navigate their own path through the complicated and often cutthroat industry.
“Every musician's dream is to sell out a show,” he says. “That’s great, but I love being able to sell out an experience.”
The lineup of industry experts and influencers at the Youngest in the Yacht Club's first event in May, held at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, included Billboard Hot 100 artist Strizzo; TJ Chapman, the manager for double platinum artist B.o.B.; Mako Music Group CEO Brabo Gator; DJ, producer and artist Lil Kee; and several local on-air personalities and DJs. The event also featured an entertainment attorney, a public relations expert and entertainment management experts, which spoke to Serrano’s goal of providing an educational platform. He now hopes the conference will become part of a nationwide series and an annual event.
Gabriel Ramos, event staff member for the Youngest in the Yacht Club and an artist, has known Serrano for over 12 years. After the event was over, Ramos remembers Serrano calling a meeting with the team. What happened during that meeting was representative of Serrano as a leader.
“We had quotas we wanted to achieve,” Ramos says of the event. “(Serrano) just wanted to take the time to say, ‘this is not the end, we got a lot of work to do, but great job everyone. Let’s keep this momentum going.’ I feel like when those conversations are brought about it uplifts us but reminds us there’s still work to do.”
It’s that ‘lead by example’ type of leadership Serrano delves out, Ramos says.
But as an entrepreneur, Serrano stays hustling.
Ramos, for example, recalls all the business deals that have come from nutrition shake spot La Gozadera in Tampa they frequent together. They ran into a bare knuckle boxer one day who would guest on a podcast episode. As the relationship grew, the boxer is now planning to walk out to one of Serrano’s songs before the next fight.
“He knows how to move in the room to talk to people,” Ramos says of Serrano. “He has a formula for talking to people and promoting a product. Networking is his forte.”
While Ramos looks up to Serrano as a brother figure, Serrano admits sometimes he struggles.
“My biggest mistake is not believing in myself sooner,” he says. “Sometimes I felt like I didn’t deserve to have a good life. Self doubt can destroy dreams.”
Serrano and his wife made vision boards in 2020. Ever since, he says, it’s like he's been checking off a to-do list. “The power of manifestation,” he says. “If you can believe in your dreams then you can make them into reality.”