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Meet Steven Cotroneo of SAC Designs in Stoneham

Today we’d like to introduce you to Steven Cotroneo.

Steven, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began my career at Lotus/IBM in 1998 after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. At Lotus I worked under the guidance of a fantastic art director – as well as other designers – that I learned so much from, some of whom I still work with today. I was just starting out at the time, so I was asked to do a lot of the grunt work that the other designers didn’t want to do such as archiving projects and preparing presentation boards. Fortunately, however, I also got the opportunity to help designers with branding guidelines, designing websites, creating tradeshow graphics, as well as designing other various printed material.

During the few years I spent at Lotus, it was a difficult time to be working because of the dot com burst. Then in 2001 there was 9/11 and eventually our whole department was let go by 2003. Before I left Lotus, I was introduced by my art director to a company called Stormship. I began contracting with them shortly after leaving Lotus, helping their team with Flash animations and other print and multimedia projects.

As a new freelancer, I interviewed with most of the top Boston area design studios. I constantly called for interviews, applied for contracting work and sent resumes to as many companies as I could. There were some projects that I knew may not be a good fit, nevertheless I always felt that any interview would be good practice with the potential to lead to new opportunities. I never turned any work down. If there was something I didn’t know I would learn how to do it or hire someone who did it better than me.

After building up a few consistent clients, I decided to officially start my own company. I am now sharing office space with the first design studio I contracted with, Stormship. Today, most of my work is through word of mouth referrals. I have been working with many of the same clients that I started out with when I first went on my own back in 2003.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, not at first. After leaving Lotus in 2003, the economy was so bad that head hunters and other online job placement services like Monster were receiving over 1,000 resumes a day and it was nearly impossible to get an interview. At that time I was working out of my parent’s basement taking on any kind of design work that I could possibly get. I was often losing opportunities when some of these companies were looking for designers that could do it all (program, design, animate) so eventually I realized that it was better to take on any job offered – even if I didn’t have the required skill sets – and then learn how to do it myself or find additional resources to help out. I believe it was at that point that I started to really grow my client base and was soon able to hire additional freelancers to help with my business.

Even today, I am constantly looking for work. I don’t think it’s wise to ever feel too comfortable.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the SAC Designs story. Tell us more about the business.
I own a web, print and motion design studio in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Our offices are located just north of Boston. We specialize in all kinds of animation design along with web design and development. It’s very important for me that all of us at SAC Designs keep up with the latest trends and design applications. As a result, we are known as a group that’s great at trouble shooting when it comes down to design and technology. Likewise, our animation abilities have really set us apart from other design companies. Our explainer videos and HTML animations have earned us a great reputation, and we have even won several industry awards for our work. Often times other design agencies will reach out to us to assist them with their animation needs. We must be doing something right when these larger advertising agencies and design studios call us for help.

I think what we are most proud of is the professional, trustworthy reputation we have developed over the years. We have been working with many of the same clients since back in 2003, and we make it a point to treat every customer, big or small, like they are our only ones. Being able to do creative work that our team can feel proud of is equally important to us as being able to meet our clients’ expectations, on time and on budget.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I wouldn’t say that I have been lucky as much as I have been prepared and open to opportunity. I truly believe that either things happen for a reason or as a result of hard work. When I left Lotus I was truly devastated, and at one point was considering changing careers. I think I would not be in business for myself today if the Lotus design department wasn’t let go. I think if anything I was lucky to have worked for an Art Director who acted as my mentor by guiding me professionally and then introducing me to some of the companies that I am still working with today.

There are two career-defining occasions while I was at MassArt that I still remember to this day. When I was first interviewing, I was told by one company that I should consider moving out of Boston, that I would never get a job doing creative work in what was at the time a very traditional market. Early on as a student at MassArt I was even told by one of my favorite professors that I should consider changing majors. Both of these negative, outside opinions really crushed me and I believe made me work harder to prove them wrong. Today, as a business owner and an artist, I always try to surround myself with positive people and with other leaders in my industry in order to always strive to be better.

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4 Comments

  1. donna bandar

    July 19, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Great story! If you are hiring – I am a constant thinker, creative mind, no degree but very passionate about visual and development ideas, love to learn and I live in Stoneham!

    Thank you!

  2. Janet Kenney

    July 19, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    Hi Steven! I work at Bentley University and would like to ask if you would be interested in hiring an intern. Your company looks amazing and many of our students would benefit from the work experience. If you are interested, please send me an email to start the process….thank you!

    • Steve

      July 23, 2017 at 11:55 pm

      Hi Janet,

      I tried to reach out through LinkedIn but didn’t hear back. I am interested but I didn’t have your email. You can respond to me at sacdzn.com

  3. Vartus Varadian

    July 28, 2017 at 2:08 am

    Great coverage Steve! So happy for you.
    Keep up the great work.

    Vartus

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