1979 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"You can’t say ‘can’t’ and succeed."
The son of Italian immigrants, Nick Caporella was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, a rural mining community. His father worked long days as a coal miner to support his family. His mother helped by running a dairy bar and sandwich shop. By the age of 11, Caporella worked at odd jobs such as collecting scrap metal to sell to junk yards, operating a bicycle reconditioning business, and running a hauling service for farmers.
When he was in high school, Caporella's father took a construction job in Florida, and the family moved into servants' quarters behind a private house in West Palm Beach. Eventually, his parents saved enough to buy a home, but when they needed a second mortgage, Caporella assumed responsibility for it.
At 22, Caporella was working for $1 an hour as an oiler on a crane in southern Florida. He met a man who was selling a $9,000 excavating machine used in construction site preparation, and Caporella persuaded the owner to sell it for a $250 down payment-his entire savings. Caporella opened his own construction firm, operating his drag line day and night for two years. When a long rainy season threatened to throw his company into bankruptcy, Caporella landed a contract in Puerto Rico. He moved his family there and his business thrived. Soon he purchased a second business, a small sand and gravel company. At the age of 30, he sold his Puerto Rican enterprises and retired-a millionaire.
Within seven months, he had formed another firm, naming it Caporella & Sons in honor of his father. Soon it was the largest site preparation company in Florida. Ten years later, in 1972, he sold his company to Burnup & Sims Inc., a large national telecommunications service firm based in Florida. He was named president of the new Burnup subsidiary. In 1976, he became Burnup's president and CEO. In a strategy to avert a hostile takeover, Caporella formed National Beverage Corp., in 1985 and bought Shasta Beverages. In addition to Shasta, National Beverage also owns such recognized brands as Faygo, La Croix water, and Everfresh juices. In 1994, National Beverage and Burnup & Sims permanently ended their common equity ownership positions, allowing Caporella to focus on bringing National Beverage to a billion dollar company by the end of 1999.
One of Caporella's favorite activities is piloting a Falcon jet, which allows him to attend several business meetings in various locations throughout the United States on a daily basis. Known for his support of numerous civic, religious, and community programs, Caporella was named Italian-American Businessman of the Year in 1983. Of the many awards he has received, his Horatio Alger Award, which has always meant a great deal to him, is the only one he lists on his résumé. When speaking of his success, he says, "An entrepreneur must possess four qualities: self-confidence, perseverance, compassion, and desire. If you don't want something badly enough, you aren't going to get it."