Tap Into Your Passion

Ramona Fantini: From drug-company exec to gelato store owner in Hilton Head, South Carolina

by Kate Ashford and Dana Hudepohl
ramona fantini image
Photograph: Courtesy Ramona Fantini

“I worked my way up the corporate ladder until I got to a point where I had to ask myself, Do I really want to continue doing this? I had just turned 40 and felt confined working for someone else. I had been playfully thinking that someday my husband and I would open a gelato store in Hilton Head, our favorite vacation spot. But how and when? Then my mentor said, ‘Ramona, you need to take your emotional temperature. Sit down and see what’s important to you.’ He encouraged me to stop thinking so hard and just open my mind and listen for an answer.

For me, the answer came in the form of a phone call from my mother after my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She lived across the country from me, and I could hear the struggle in her voice. I knew then that ‘someday’ was now. My husband and I relocated to Hilton Head, and I moved my parents there as well. Our store, Pino Gelato, opened in 2004, when I was 45. We’re now in 15 locations [including five airports], in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Last year we received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blue Ribbon Small Business Award for being one of the country’s top 75 small businesses. Pino Gelato is on track to gross just under $2 million in 2013.”

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