MBA & Finance Alumnus Turned Entrepreneur
B.S. in Finance, 2008
Co-Owner, LLT Group (provides services in web and graphic design, direct mail, printing, and search engine optimization)
Born in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Tony Zipparro became interested in finance (trading specifically) at an early age when he saw a financial statement on the dining room table of his parents’ home. He says, “Later that night I asked my Dad what it was and so began the obsession with trading.” Zipparro attended Eastern Illinois University where he completed his bachelor’s in Finance and MBA. While at EIU, he was involved in various organizations including the Student Investment Society, Beta Theta Pi, Beta Gamma Sigma (Honors Business Fraternity), among others. Today, Zipparro and Rahul Wahi (also an Eastern alumnus, B.S. in Management, 2008) operate their own business, the LLT Group, which provides services in Web Design, Graphic Design, Direct Mail, Printing, and Search Engine Optimization. While functions of this firm do not resemble those one would expect from a finance concentration, they found that diversifying business ventures was the best way to guarantee financially security, one of those niches being the LLT Group.
At LLT, Zipparro heads the Design and Programming division. Here, he manages graphic designers while partaking in branding and marketing campaigns. He says, “We began our company 3 years ago, and due to business demand for certain products, we have a high market potential.” He notes that the biggest challenge in starting your own business is building a brand and expertise that businesses will find valuable while differentiating yourself as an individual and a company.
Zipparro says Eastern’s finance and MBA programs helped him in balancing increasing amounts of freedom. “As my undergraduate and graduate programs progressed, more responsibility for time management was being left up to me as a student. Homework dwindled, but the need for individual effort on projects increased dramatically . . . there is no homework in the real world, only projects that make or break your career.” Zipparro points out the “respect” provided to students, “EIU has given me an open mind to speak equally to those around me.” He admires the way classes are conducted which allows for a comfortable learning environment where students can interact passionately. This ability is vital in the business world as "those who do business with you will be confident in you if you can passionately communicate your ideas." Zipparro says that what separates EIU from the pack is that faculty do not speak at students, but rather engage in conversations with them. This occurs in and outside of the classroom, as professors are available to students in their offices where they will sit down with students one-on-one. Additionally, professors serve as the advisors of School of Business student organizations. This gives students the opportunity to develop even closer ties with faculty, and those ties will continue long after graduation.
Zipparro’s advice to students would be to engage with professors and courses and to think outside the box, “Your time at EIU is short, and if you are just going in and out of classes according to your course schedule, much of your learning potential will be left on the table.”