NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
There's no business like your own business, according to Robert Criscuolo.
"I see people as either an entrepreneur or not an entrepreneur," he says. The 35-year-old is definitely the former.
Seven years ago, he started a skilled labor staffing company, using money he had saved from a series of odd jobs held during and after college -- including stints as a house painter, gas station attendant and deejay.
"I invested just about every dollar I had in the business and didn't take a paycheck for close to a year, except from odd jobs," he says. "That motivated me more."
Fortunately, he's now in a position where he can control his schedule and spend more time with his wife Monica, 32, a former aesthetician, and their two-year-old daughter. Money was tight during their courtship, but he won her over nevertheless.
"He was very ambitious and motivated," says Monica. "Besides the fact that he is handsome."
Business as usual
"I always wanted to start my own business," Robert recalls. He didn't, however, expect that it would be a staffing company.
Robert had been working in customer service and corporate security for three years at a New Jersey-based Macy's when the unit was transferred to the flagship store in Manhattan. He wasn't interested in commuting to New York City, so he took a sales position at a nearby job placement firm.
"The interview was very general," he says. "I didn't know what they did, really. They called me to tell me that you start Monday."
It didn't take him long to learn the business -- or figure out how profitable it could be. Soon, he was exploring the idea of opening his own firm.
"There weren't too many companies that did skilled labor," Robert recalls. If you weren't union, he says, "there was really nowhere to go."
Robert took on a business partner to free him from the administrative aspects, so that he could focus on sales and marketing. The company forecast $2.5 million in sales for this year, from which Robert draws his $114,000 salary, plus additional profit sharing.
Robert's not planning to retire anytime soon although he is looking at selling his company, now valued at $1.7 million, and moving into real estate.
He also wants to develop his e-commerce business, which he first started as a hobby to help him learn how to navigate the Internet. Robert now operates seven Web sites.
Robert's rules for living
Neither Robert nor Monica ever had extensive credit card debt. When they do use cards, they always pay the balance off during the grace period. They aren't big spenders either, which also helps.
"I buy things that we need but I buy things on sale," says Monica. Her husband admits that he's a bargain shopper and isn't afraid to negotiate for a better price.
"Nine times out of ten, the stores will work with you," he says. "It's so competitive out there. Everyone wants you to be a customer."
Robert and Monica credit their parents for teaching them to respect their money, and want to pass those values onto their daughter.
"She is going to start out with her chores and we are going to give her an allowance very week," says Monica. "She is going to have to put aside a certain amount of money in her piggy bank."
They've put a lot in their own piggy bank with $181,227 in cash savings, $16,180 in retirement accounts, and $2,130 in stocks.
Their biggest personal asset is their home, which they bought for $500,000 with a 40 percent down-payment last December. A recent appraisal pegged the current value at $700,000, boosting their equity to roughly $400,000.
With no debt other than their mortgages, the Criscuolos are worth $599,537.
Their success, Robert believes, is anything but accidental.
"During college, when everyone was going out and having fun, I was working," says the Seton Hall graduate.
"Everyone said: 'You're working again?'," he remembers. "Now, some of those people who said that are working for me."
He sees setting clear priorities as the most important of his keys to success, followed by making a detailed plan and networking.
"If you want to do something," he says, "don't give up until you are where you want to be. Don't give up."
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