Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in design services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Steven Cotroneo, President and Owner of SAC Designs, Inc., located in Boston, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the owner of the graphic design studio SAC Designs, located in the Boston area. Our specialties focus on animation and web design for businesses and corporations, both large and small. We're a proud, passionate group, and most of all, we love what we do. We surround ourselves with highly dedicated and experienced teams of creatives and developers, always striving to take our clients well beyond their competition.
Tell us about yourself
I have worked with the top design studios and high technology firms in the Boston area. Graduating from Massachusetts College of Art in 1998 with a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design. My career started at Lotus/IBM. And several of the people I worked with and learned from in those early days at Lotus, I still have good working relationships today. Around that time, both the dot.com burst and 9/11 happened, causing a lot of layoffs. My art director at the time helped me tremendously when our whole department was let go because of the recession. She connected me to several design studios in Boston. If it wasn't for her help, I feel like I wouldn't be doing what I'm today.
In 2001 I embarked on an independent consulting career path, establishing relationships with many well-known local design firms and building a reputation for design excellence. During this process, I built a network of designers and creators that gave me access to extensive design and business capabilities and resources.
I try to surround myself with designers and business people who not only do great work but from whom I can learn and grow. I thrive on creating unique designs and animations and building new relationships. Many of the same clients that were working with us at the beginning of SAC Designs are still working with us today. I feel like our greatest asset is that we are forever evolving and making sure each of our clients is involved in the process.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
As a designer, we want the most creative jobs, but it doesn't always work that way, at least at first. It was difficult for the first few years, taking on small jobs and constantly trying to prove myself to companies in order to build good relationships with new clients. But after a few years, things started to change, and companies began to reach out to me. I soon began to be recognized as a designer to work with by a number of global organizations. It feels great and shows that all the hard work was worth it. I still get excited when I hear from new clients saying that they have been waiting to work with us for a while.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Wearing many hats. My background is in design, and learning all the other things that come with being a business owner has not been easy. I've spent a lot of hours on the marketing, sales, and financial side of the business, as well as remaining a full-time designer. Even though I have a great team, I constantly worry about work coming in. But no matter what, I wouldn't change it for the world.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Before going on your own, learn as much as you can from as many people as possible. And never stop learning.
- This may apply to more designers. Being a good designer and doing great work is important but doing what you say you will do in a timely manner or even ahead of time is even more important, in my opinion. The reason we have some of the clients we do is because of how quickly we work and how easy we are to work with.
- Always try to meet new people and make new connections. It's difficult to find new clients, so treat the ones you have professionally and with excellence. Most likely, much of your work will be via word of mouth. Again to the point, make sure you make your current clients happy.
- When a job is complete, ask for a Google review. Many customers will say they will but often don't follow through, so make it easy for them. Give them a link to your review page and if they said something nice about your work in an email, copy and paste it back to them and ask them to use that in your review. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they will write one.
Where can people find you and your business?
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