Client Story - SoHo Creative Studio
Client Name: Michael Cinquino
Business Name: SoHo Creative Studio
Business Website: www.sohocreativestudio.com
Location: Portsmouth, NH
SBDC Advisor's Name: Amy Sterndale
He’ll never forget the day…March 15, 2020. That’s when Michael Cinquino, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of SoHo Creative Studio in Portsmouth, found himself filming a video with a client in his then New York City studio as the world was, seemingly, falling apart.
News of the Coronavirus was blowing up their phones and not knowing what the future would hold, Michael told his California client he’d better get to the airport to ensure he could get back home. “I basically locked the doors on the studio, abandoned the studio, and rode my bike across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn,” recalls Michael. He did not leave his apartment for 45 days and didn’t go back to his studio until June.
SoHo Creative Studio originated in New York City when Michael bought a studio rental business in 2018 and renamed it SoHo Creative Studio, a 1000 square foot loft he could use for his own work as a photographer, and rent out to production networks, other photographers, videographers, etc. But, when Michael peddled across the bridge that day in March, he had no idea what the future would hold.
Michael’s work was deemed “non-essential,” due to COVID, so he couldn’t go back to work. As luck would have it, his partner, Rebecca, a textile designer, also lost her job. They had plans to handle one of them being out of work; not both. “So, we’re sitting in our apartment going, ‘oh my God, what do we do,’” shares Michael.
With prospects of continuing to do business in NYC looking bleak, they started researching places to move or possibly do other things. They looked for a cool state that was good for small business and met the pandemic with a balance. That’s when they found New Hampshire and SBDC.
Michael had never set foot in New Hampshire before, but when he and Rebecca visited Portsmouth for the first time that summer of 2020, they thought, “okay, this is a magical little place here.” They got themselves a short-term lease on an apartment and began to consider an official move to New Hampshire while researching the prospects of starting a business here.
Michaels says, “it was very clear that New Hampshire is good for small business. New Hampshire loves small business, and I googled and I just came across the SBDC and was like ‘oh. What’s this?’” So, he reached out, got an immediate reply, and was connected to what he refers to as “the perfect advisor,” SBDC’s Amy Sterndale.
Michael and Rebecca weren’t sure what they were going to do for work, but they had the idea of combining forces of each of their backgrounds. They thought Michael, a professional photographer who shoots video and also does presentation coaching, and Rebecca, who had pivoted into UX and UI design could build a creative agency of sorts. Still, they didn’t know exactly what that meant. Luckily, they had Amy to assist.
Michael and Rebecca shared with Amy what their strengths and backgrounds were and posed the question, “what does the world need that we can provide here in this market?” With her help, they found their answer: SoHo Creative Studio, a branding agency that provides website design, photography, video, and copywriting. Michael says, “one of the main reasons why our clients who we continue to work with love us so much, is that we are a one stop shop.”
Michael credits the SBDC, and more specifically, Amy, with helping them find clarity in their business.
“SBDC was and continues to be key in helping us with our identity and offerings,” says Michael. “Amy continues to be an invaluable resource. Nobody can see their blind spots and everyone needs a coach. Not taking advantage of this free and very valuable resource would be nuts!”
He appreciates that with Amy, he’s able to have very honest conversations with her and she’s always so willing to help. Just recently, Michael, a Veteran, contacted Amy about what opportunities are available to veteran-owned businesses. In less than 12 hours, she had four ideas to share with him. “She just immediately pointed me in the right direction,” says Michael. In addition, he recognizes how beneficial it is that Amy is connected and active in the business community.
Today, Michael proudly shares that sales at SoHo are up 75% from last year, so the future looks bright. He says, “we are still adapting to this new world and shaping our offerings, but it’s a very exciting and engaging process.”
When asked about where SoHo would be without NH SBDC, Michael states, “I don’t want to think about that. It’s like having a trusted guide for the adventure, and every adventure needs a trusted guide.”