He built a $2 million business around his passion for home theaters. Now he’s helping entrepreneurs with disabilities reach new heights.
Gustavo Serafini has built a dream business around a job he loves. He is the co-founder of Pure Audio Video, a Fort-based high-end home theater equipment reseller. Lauderdale, Florida. The movie buff and his co-founder and brother Marcelo create elaborate home entertainment experiences for people who love tech, movies and music. Serafini is also the host of the Enabled Disabled podcast, which aims to change the narrative around disability and empower people with practical advice and stories.
Pure Audio Video, founded in 2005, has reached approximately $2 million in annual sales and currently has nine employees, placing the duo in the small cohort of entrepreneurs whose small businesses reach $1 million in annual revenue or more.
Serafini built her business while living with a disability. He was born with Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD), a rare, non-inherited condition that results in shortening of the femur, for which he wears a custom-made prosthesis; he is also missing his right arm. (He is among several entrepreneurs who will be speaking at a free community event at the New York Public Library on entrepreneurs and disability this Thursday, June 28 at noon EST; I will be the moderator.)
What drove Serafini through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship was the belief in “choosing yourself,” as in “This is what I want my life to be.” This is the path I’m willing to take. These are the sacrifices I am willing to make,” he explains. “If we don’t have the courage to choose each other, nothing will happen.”
Serafini embraced this mindset from an early age. “The first time I remember really taking a risk and choosing myself was when I was playing basketball,” he says. “I decided to try for the 8e rank team. I was shorter than everyone [who was trying out] and slower. Everyone was nice and told me, basically, “Gustavo, you won’t make it”. I don’t think that’s the best idea you’ve ever had. My reaction was that it doesn’t matter if I succeed or not. I want to test myself. I want to see what I can do. »
He was part of the team, which was undefeated. Although as a pre-teen he never asked his coach why he was chosen for the team, he had a hunch that the coach had two reasons: to inspire the other members of the team to work harder and score points like everyone else.
“The coach changed his attacking system when I was playing,” he recalls. “It didn’t matter if we were ahead by 20 points 30 points, 50 points – if I wasn’t performing he fired me, straight away. I had the opportunity to make myself look good and make her look good. If I didn’t, I was out of the game like everyone else.
This experience was very motivating for Serafini. “I realized for the first time that all the limitations I thought I had were wrong,” he says. “The true boundaries were much, much further and much darker than I thought. Just having this world stretch out before me was life changing.
What playing on the team ultimately told him, he says, was, “I can make it in the world. Maybe I should work harder. But people will give me the opportunity to do something.
This experience led him to serve as a coach at a basketball camp, where the head coach saw that he had a deep understanding of the sport. “It was another great experience,” he says. “I learned a lot about motivation, team leadership and camaraderie. All of these things led to entrepreneurship.
Beyond that, coaching has been an opportunity for personal growth. “There was always a fun and drive to defy expectations,” he says. “If someone said to me, ‘You can’t do that, I took on the challenge of proving them wrong.'”
Serafini attended college at the University of Chicago – inspired by an English professor who wanted him to be a writer and liked the English program there – then went to law school at the University GeorgeWashington. He found he had no passion for law as a career – “I was deeply allergic to it,” he says – but he held on. However, when it came time to apply for after-school jobs, I felt the call of entrepreneurship. Ask yourself, “What can I do to take control of my life and the things that interest me? he concluded, “I should own my own business.”
His brother Marcelo shared a similar desire. “We loved the film music experience,” he says. They did some research and a year and a half later decided to launch Pure Audio Video and never looked back. They first started marketing their service to audiophiles and then refined their business model. In addition to working with clients to plan theaters and sell audio and video systems, the company also performs related electrical and cybersecurity work. Over time, they focused their attention on serving serious audiophiles with home theaters.
“It was an exercise in patience, in introspection, in determining who we wanted to serve and for who we were,” he says. “We realized we wanted to get into the high-end, luxury custom home market, which is really hard to break into. Builders control much of this work.
They did all the networking they could to find their first clients, and the business started to take off in 2007. But by 2009, the country was in a recession. “We had that moment where we didn’t know if we were going to make it,” he recalls. “We decided we were going to go upscale or close.”
Finally, a builder they knew gave them the opportunity to bid for a job with an NFL player. They won the bid, and the builder hosted a barbecue to celebrate the deal. “Once people knew we were working on this work and he was happy and willing to tell people, the opportunities started,” Serafini says. By taking each project to the highest level possible, they built a positive word of mouth that helped the business grow.
“The creative stuff we do with pure audio/video is really in honor of the artists,” he says. “When you create a theater that exceeds the expectations of people in the industry, it tells you that you are doing something right. Personally, I love sitting in a big theater with friends and watching something that I know is as close to how the artist intended it to be. Thousands of people are working on a big budget movie. How many times can we enjoy these nuances and special effects? At best, it’s transformative.
He and Marcelo are now aiming to make the business an annual revenue of $4-6 million. “I really see the benefits of doubling or tripling the size,” he says. “But we don’t want to sacrifice the experience of working with us. We don’t want to feel corporate.
For Serafini, a big part of the joy of building the business has been the learning process. “That idea of mastering something and spending a very long time doing it for the sake of seeing what you can do is hugely motivating for me,” Serafini says. “What am I capable of if I apply myself to it? »
A little over a year ago, he launched his podcast. Since then, he has become much more comfortable opening up and talking about his disability, he says. On one occasion, he worked with an elderly couple, in which the man noticed his disability and asked, “What happened?” When Serafini shared her story, the man’s wife shared her own story of losing two children. “There was a deep human connection and trust established,” he says. “If I hadn’t been open to being vulnerable, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Serafini has discovered that while disability is part of who they are, everyone is shaped by many different experiences, and different ones come into play in different situations, both in their business and in life outside of it.
“Disability is part of us,” he says. “Sometimes this part can dominate the rest. Sometimes it is there in the background. It depends on where you are and what you do for a living.