President and CEO, the Creative Strategy Agency Inc., age 29
On the one hand, he gained the first national client, Agway, for the Creative Strategy Agency, a digital marketing and communications firm with a focus on web, mobile, and video that he launched roughly a year earlier. But he also lost his only sister, Lucia. Looking back, he said Lucia ultimately became his “motivating factor” as he battled through a long and difficult stretch for his new venture and eventually put it on solid financial footing.
Today, his client portfolio includes Williams Distributing, the United Way, the Insurance Center of New England, and others who have benefited from Santaniello’s expertise in everything from website design to effective use of social media.
Recounting how his firm survived a slow start and has since enjoyed steady growth, Santaniello said that, when he started his venture, many firms, large and small, were still trying to find their way in the quickly changing landscape of social media, and were, by and large, unaware of how they could use the various vehicles to build brand awareness and reach new audiences.
So he started to educate them. Indeed, he launched and hosted an online webinar, which morphed into a web talk show, called Strictly Businews, focusing on local business with an entertainment-like feel. After two years of the show and preaching the many potential benefits of social media to companies up and down the Pioneer Valley, it all started to gel.
And while continuing to grow his company, Santaniello spreads what little time he has left among a number of area nonprofit organizations, including the United Way, Human Resources Unlimited, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, and assisting events such Valley Gives. A 2013 graduate of Leadership Pioneer Valley and a spinoff project called Next Generation Pioneers, a resource for young professionals in the Pioneer Valley, he’s leading by example and feels that Western Mass. has a solid corps of young leaders.
“There’s a lot of synergy going on … a good vibe,” he said. “And over the next five to 10 years, I see young people doing more in the community.”
— Elizabeth Taras