Entrepreneurial Spirit in Cagli

Photo by Gavin Roddy

Photo by Gavin Roddy

By Lynsey Genson

Twenty-six year old Elisabetta Panico owns a clothing boutique on the ancient piazza in Cagli, Italy.  Determined to stay close to her family, she worked in the store for three years before a combination of entrepreneurial spirit and government incentives allowed her to become one of the city’s youngest business owners.

Elisabetta is a native of Cagli, a place largely unchanged since its beginning in the 12th century. Motorcycles whiz through the piazza and the people wear bright modern clothing, but locals will tell you not much has changed.  Old timers sit against the wall of city hall each day, memorizing every stone and the angle of every face.  Their families can be traced back to this area for centuries.   Life moves slowly, tradition and family are paramount, and the true Italian culture prevails.

Young Cagliese, such as Elisabetta, find limited  career opportunities.  Those without a thriving family business to carry on either choose to work in a local factory or must leave for one of Italy’s major urban areas.   However, three young entrepreneurs were able to envision a different future.  Elisabetta Panico, Matteo Susini, and Gianluca Caselli found a way to stay near family and still prosper professionally.

Elisabetta’s shop, Exclusive, is a new concept shop for Cagli.  It sells jewelry, accessories and clothing exclusively for women.   To survive in a challenging economy, she says she also focuses on providing lower-cost merchandise and superior customer service.  Since she knows most of her clientele, she stocks their favorite colors, styles and sizes.

Because she was a woman under the age of 26, Elisabetta also received financial incentives from the local government to open a new business.  This provided her the assistance she needed to upgrade the interior of the old building and open the store.

Photo by Gavin Roddy

Photo by Gavin Roddy

At age 36, Matteo Susini has lived in Cagli his entire life and has deep family roots.  He inherited the family business, a local hair salon.  Taking the salon to the next level, Matteo turned it into a school called Loft Project.  Loft Project provides education, managerial advice and technical advances to young adults looking for a career in the industry.

He also opened a trendy hair salon with modern décor and upscale furnishings  down the road, with modern décor and upscale furnishings.  He serves clients as well as provides practical application in his shop for educational purposes.  According to his website, Matteo envisions a team “constantly aimed at growing, technically and professionally, to a higher level.  These instruments are then transferred to the clients through beauty and satisfaction.”

Tourists are a small part of Matteo’s clientele, which consists mostly of locals and residents from surrounding towns.  He says he knows that if he wants to continue to grow the business he will most likely need to expand into a larger city nearby.   But, he noted, “Cagli will always remain my home.”

Photo by Gavin Roddy

Photo by Gavin Roddy

Gianluca Caselli, who is known by everyone as “Seven,” loves Cagli.  His entire family lives in the city, so he vowed to stay.  After working as a bouncer and surviving a work-related accident, he said he wanted to be his own boss. There were no incentives to help Seven start his own business.  Using all his savings, he purchased the bottom floor of a building close to the town center.   At one end of Caffe’ del Corso is a low-lit, trendy wine bar that plays American music. At the other is a casual eatery and bar.

Seven, who is 29, says he feels the town has not changed much since he was a small boy.  The café’s patrons remain Cagli locals and neighboring townspeople. On rare occasions, a tourist appears.  Despite this, Seven works 12 to 15 hours a day.  “It is too much and sometimes I wish I could work for someone else and work less,” Seven says with a sigh.  “However, the more I work, the less I have to pay someone else to do the work.  And I’d rather do this than work in the factory.”

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