An Interview with Diamonte Zarba: Taking Initiative and Turning Tragedy into Success

Rose Alarcon

Diamonte Zarba’s story begins tragically, with a severe and dangerous injury that effectively ended his college basketball career. Forced to consider other options and faced with an unsure future, he took initiative and decided to pursue real estate after a spur of the moment decision. Now he is the proud owner of Woodlawn Media Group and Woodlawn Property Advisors, who is still looking to continue his success and expand his entrepreneurial ventures. Furthermore, his hard work is not only fueled by his own ambitions but also by the hope to eventually give back through funding youth basketball.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a former college basketball player turned real estate and digital marketing executive. I’m excited to say that the Woodlawn Media Group and Woodlawn Property Advisors will be launching the Woodlawn Auto Group in late August. I started my first business at the age of 18. It was an app connecting odd-job seekers with their desired line of work in their area. My team and I were able to raise a small seed round but never really got the business off the ground floor. While some may consider this unsuccessful, I used that experience to reflect and gather the confidence to pursue future endeavors, including sponsoring college parties, starting and operating a multi-state CBD distribution business, and my current five-year career in investment real estate.

What made you get into doing what you do now?

Fate! I remember it like it was yesterday. It was January 12th, 2015 and I had woken up to the realization that the college basketball, career-ending injury I had suffered the day before was real. With sixty-four stitches in my right hand, I was left wondering… now what? Fast forward a month and my options were running out. I had to think fast because I had dropped out just three months shy of my degree and hadn’t even told my parents yet. That is when fate played its role. Every day, I would walk from my part-time job in the college town to my small one-bedroom apartment. I happened to walk by the welcome sign to Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties and I figured, “Well, I like dogs… and money, why not stop in?” That decision totally changed my life. Now, five years later, I own and manage a growing real estate portfolio along with a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in social media management and growth. I also have plans to expand the Woodlawn brand into the auto broker field, with Woodlawn Auto Group (@Woodlawnautogroup).

What differentiates you from others within your industry?

I would say what differentiates me is true market experience. My last real estate firm was seven blocks from where I grew up in the Bronx. This gave me the homecourt advantage of knowledge. I knew all the bodega owners, the guys that made the best $1 pizza on the street, and even where to find the best chopped cheese. This allowed me to connect with the community and my clients in ways my competition simply couldn’t.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

That’s a great question. Five years from now, I’ll be 30 years old. I mean, Forbes 30 under 30 would be nice, right? Other than that, I see myself continuing to build a real estate development and property management firm well into the multi-millions of dollars. In addition to that, I’d love to get back into basketball, albeit on the sidelines. Maybe I could assemble a youth team or possibly put together a basketball camp. I have family in Haiti, so I’m planning to donate money and resources to create a youth basketball ecosystem in the country. I’m thinking this can be accomplished by creating training camps or forming a summer tournament… or maybe both!

What challenges have you faced while building your business and brand?

The greatest challenge I have encountered was my career-ending basketball injury which cut three ligaments, an artery, got over 60 stitches, and left me with a seven-inch scar on my wrist. Honestly, I almost passed away that day. When I woke up the next morning with blood everywhere and a club for a hand, I knew it was time to wake up and take accountability for my decisions. Within a few weeks, I was working full-time on my real estate career, all the while working on my tech app.

What have you learned from these challenges?

Well, after my career ending injury, I had a huge identity crisis. It’s something I’m sure a lot of former athletes can relate to. For six or seven years, it was all I knew. I was all I lived and worked for. That day, I realized there had to be more to Diamonte Zarba. I became determined to build a brand, career, and name for myself professionally apart from basketball. I had to ask myself “what do you want to be known for?” That experience taught me the value of life. In the years since, I have volunteered with social, entrepreneurial, and basketball related initiatives throughout the inner city.

What advice would you give to others while on their journey?

Keep going. Although it won’t get any easier, the struggle is what will separate you from the rest. Stay focused on the end goal. Stay focused and know your “why.” Are you thinking and planning 15 years out? If not, wake up and start. Furthermore, it’s important to appreciate the small victories. Often in this industry, we only appreciate the big wins, whether it’s the big whale of client or that multi-million-dollar sale. But how about that small rental? I appreciate all my victories evenly because, although the money is great, I don’t just do it for the financial gain. I do it to help my clients grow in any way I can, whether it be in life or in business. After all, the goal is progress in all ways, always.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would give him the same advice: just keep going! You career will definitely get more difficult as it progresses but appreciate the fact that new problems likely mean new opportunities. Focus on being solution-oriented because your only REAL JOB as an entrepreneur is to solve problems. Do that, focus on nothing but that task at hand, and everything will play itself out.

What is your why?

To retire to a 400-acre ranch in Montana, ha-ha. However, more important than that? My “why” is all the Zarbas that have come before and will come after me. They deserve my constant determination and the hard work I put in every single day.

Leave a Reply