Imagine buying a used lawnmower on Craigslist, only to discover that the person selling it to you is a 6-year-old.

“People didn’t really have a problem with it,” says Louis Cirignano ’20, who as a youngster would pull abandoned lawn mowers out of the transfer station in his hometown of Winchester, Mass., refurbish them and resell them online. “They were getting a $50 lawn mower, so they couldn’t complain.”

Cirignano, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, has always had a knack for tinkering and entrepreneurship. When he was 10, he started tuning up old dirt bikes and selling them online. At age 12, he learned how to weld. Although Cirignano was home-schooled until 15 (earning his high school equivalency at Middlesex Community College), he took part in the automotive and electric vehicle clubs at Winchester High School.

“I’ve always been fascinated by engineering, but at the end of the day I didn’t really want to be an engineer,” says Cirignano, who chose the Manning School of Business after bumping into Dean Sandra Richtermeyer on a UML tour. She told him about opportunities for business students to collaborate with engineering students through Entrepreneurial Senior Design capstone projects, which he did his senior year.

“I was good with hands-on things, but the common thread wasn’t really working on it — it was the business side of it,” Cirignano says. “I loved building a network of clients. The business thread pulled a little harder when I made my college decision.”

After transferring from Middlesex to UML as a sophomore, Cirignano wanted to immerse himself in as many opportunities as possible. So he spent nearly every available moment studying outside the Dean’s Suite at the Pulichino Tong Business Center. There, he became involved with “a network of really active students” and learned about guest speakers and events that he otherwise would have missed.  

Cirignano, who has worked as a licensed real estate agent at his father’s firm in Winchester since 2018, says his favorite event was a talk by Travis D’Amato, managing director of JLL, one of the world’s leading commercial real estate services companies.

“He has 90,000 employees under him, and we were able to ask him one-on-one questions. It was amazing,” Cirignano says. “There are so many opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. You’re really doing yourself an injustice if you turn them down.”

To that point, Cirignano became vice president of River Hawk Racing and a member of the Manning School’s winning Student Managed Fund team. Through the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, he began developing an app called FAM (Financial Action Manager) that aims to help students take control of their finances and plan for the future. 

“DifferenceMakers really helped me refine the idea and give me clarity. It provided a lot of support that I couldn’t otherwise get,” says Cirignano, who is now self-funding development of the app with his real estate income.  

While it’s not easy graduating during a global pandemic and entering a world hit hard by unemployment and uncertainty, Cirignano remains optimistic.

“There’s definitely opportunities in times like this,” says Cirignano, who also started an excavation company with some of his hometown friends just as the pandemic hit. “People aren’t going to forget who was there for them and who made a difference when things got really tough.”