Sabrina Matera, a creative strategist and visual designer, that has experience building measurable brand equity for legacy businesses and startups alike. Passionate about people and how they impact and contribute to technology, creativity and culture. Started as a disciplined print designer rigour in an architectural foundation. Her work, representing a range of industries from life sciences, consumer goods, finance, manufacturing and transport, widely recognise her as a versatile player and co-creator of innovative/disruptive ideas and high end, polished designs for the ever-changing digital consumer.
Her extensive experience partnering with senior executives, marketing agencies, and consultants globally and domestically has afforded her key knowledge and consulting practices in catapulting brands, both externally, supporting customer-facing strategies, and internally, supporting people strategies enterprise-wide. Throughout her career, a work ethic based on spontaneity and perseverance, strong people intuition, an entrepreneurial spirit, a client-outcomes focus, and an insatiable desire to raise the creative bar have differentiated her work and anchored client partnerships. Notable clients have been Sanofi pharmaceuticals, Abbvie, Invisalign, Bausch Health, US Treasury, Estee Lauder, Kohler products, Pandora radio etc.
Sabrina independently operates as a creative consultant with Design Maters LLC, a certified Woman & Minority-owned Business Enterprise and Small Business Enterprise with the tri-state area. She has concurrently helped to establish Magical Encounters along with two other female entrepreneurs, and experiential photography company that is bringing smiles to America’s household for families and celebrities all over the tri-state area. A portion of proceeds is donated to Autism Speaks of New Jersey as she is a strong mental health advocate with a child on the spectrum.
Recent accolades include Jersey’s Best: Top 30 under 40 MARCOM professionals of New Jersey, 2019 winnings in the NJ Ad Club, consecutive winnings in the Graphic Design American awards club and the Ragan’s 2012 Communication Award. Most recently, Sabrina participated in a global international speaking panel called #herstory movement that started in the United States, a features with us in BEYOUROWN along with luxury lifestyle INDUSTRY Magazine.
It is great to have you with us, Sabrina! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am humbled to be a part of this platform among other empowering female entrepreneurs. Thank you for inviting me! I’m so excited to introduce myself. I am a designer, wife, mother and creative entrepreneur from the New Jersey/New York area and I have a fascination with technology, design and culture. I’ve always been a creator of some sort and have a background in a multitude of areas stemming from media production, architecture, web/app design, graphic design and marketing. I’ve worked in in-house design agencies, large advertising firms, private agencies and startups so it was no surprise that I would start Design Maters as a visual design consultant. I take great pride in helping others look their very best when it comes to a digital and print context.
I find it very rewarding to help define successful brands for businesses and always had that spiritual intuition that guided me throughout my career. Fast forward to my 30’s… my perspectives changed, I had two beautiful children, and I vowed to create my own working terms so I could be both a mother and a business owner. I am a firm believer that in order to have a healthy work-life balance, you sometimes have to create it and fight for it. Consequently, I was approached by some fellow females to co-start an experiential photography franchise called Magical Encounters. It has been both personal and professionally fulfilling for me to establish a safe space for my children, creating a hassle-free, interactive experience. These days I live for the creativity of all capacities, defining new trending ideas while branding individual and company brands. I can say my life is far from “normal” but I love the excitement and I’m humbled by how far I’ve grown as a person.
Can you talk us through how it felt to land your first client for Design Maters and what advice would you give for others looking to get their client portfolio together?
I remember having my second baby and I was on maternity leave thinking to myself that I really didn’t want to be in the rat race anymore. I wanted to create a life where I could enjoy my family, have time for myself and career and be as creative as I wanted without being tied down – It just hinders who I am as a designer. Well, that dream took 5+ years to build; I hired a nanny, worked as a part-time business consultant and took on pro-bono work. All which contributed towards my goal of being an entrepreneur. I was fortunate my first client came to me when I was on that maternity leave in 2014. It was like a sign, as someone answered my prayers. They came with a large creative budget and wanted work done for the ending quarter of the year. I was more eager than anyone to make sure they got the creative deliverables they requested. They have been my strongest client and most loyal advocate since.
My advice for others that are looking to get their portfolio of work together is… don’t procrastinate! Get into the habit of developing it on a regular basis so you are not rushing when you get approached, as I did. It should always be updated whether it’s for an interview or someone needs to verify your qualifications. You never know what opportunities will get thrown your way. Recently, I’ve had to share my work with people whom I’d never imagine to do business with. The portfolio is important, but in order to stand out from the crowd, I’d recommend a 1-page introduction with case studies. I recently filmed a digital business card video discussing my work via client testimonials, which helped open the door to more conversations with larger organisations.
Ultimately, you have to invest in yourself before you can make others look good. In this line of work, I sit on the brink of business and creativity in order for people to see the value that I bring to the table and fast! Otherwise, they move on, so it’s an absolutely necessity to be engaging. Also, don’t be a perfectionist. You will keep improving upon these materials as you gain experience.
What was the set up process like for Design Maters?
The instantiation of any business usually requires a business plan, a dream, a sketched out idea, I had to start from the opposite end of the spectrum. I defined my company overnight, yes literally in a matter of days! I went from a regimented corporate world to guerrilla mode and having to fend for myself with no one to guide me. I left an agency in New York City and along with that move came my first large pharmaceutical client. I learned how to set up an LLC, work with a procurement department, designed a makeshift website in 2 days, draft an SOW, proposal and pitch for creative retainers. And most importantly, I had to design a campaign, rationalise it and present it all to the client.
All because I had one female client that just believed in my work. It just took one person to make me realise the value that I brought to the business and that trust helped me convert it into something profitable. Sometimes it’s hard to trust your gut when you’ve been groomed to be so compliant in a 9-5 world. You tend to question yourself. You vet it out with others, which is the worst thing you can do. I’ve always trusted my gut and went with it. That was the turning point for me and I never looked back. I broke the mould and I felt empowered to keep doing it! Probably one of the most exhilarating feelings ever, and as an entrepreneur, I think this is what fuels you to keep going right? It becomes addictive in a way! I’ve always liked taking risks.
Who are the team behind you and do you currently have any mentors?
I operate independently as a consultant and usually align myself with other businesses, freelancers and marketing departments, many whom I’ve developed some solid relationships with over the years. I take a lot of pride in representing not only a domestic but international and prestigious level of creative talent, which help to elevate my work. I align myself with others that help to compliment my services where it is needed. To name a few: marketing experts, digital architects, business analysts, animators, illustrators, copywriters etc. My expertise lies in graphic design, and creative direction so I usually set out to define the vision and then I work with a tight-knit team to execute.
As for mentors, I’ve met so many people over the years that I’ve looked up to. Most have been past CEO’s who I’ve had long-standing friendships with. Once you work with a c-level suite, you tend to understand their frame of mind and know what they need for their business before they even ask. It all helped me grow as a business consultant, a designer that could translate goals and see that future. I’ve also learned what not to do in many cases. How to keep your cool, stay level-headed and most importantly listen to people as it’s probably one of the most important traits for leaders.
What platforms are you using as marketing tools?
A lot of work has come through referrals and I’ve relied on word of mouth since 2014. This past year, I have now started to explore Instagram, LinkedIn, INDUSTRY Magazine as marketing tools to provide brand awareness and a means of educating the public about my creative background. The thing that is different about me is that I am a creative strategist and I help businesses identify gaps and plan these solutions but I implement them too, so my audience needs hand holding on how my services can help them.
They understand the various levels of services I offer in short form pieces. My form of storytelling comes in various ways of video, case studies, panels, personal experiences, past work, portfolio etc. Another tried and true method of gaining exposure has been attending many networking events and business development gatherings. It’s helped me expand my network outside of creative since these are where my leads tend to come from and I have learned very fast from like-minded individuals.
Who is the most influential female powerhouse that you admire and why?
I would have to say my mother has been the definition of success to me. She has achieved the work, life balance dream and has done it so elegantly and gracefully. She has overcome cancer, dealt with hardships, switched careers and built herself up in a male-dominated field. She is the epitome of success.
My family came from a background of real estate, construction, attorneys, and entrepreneurs. It would eventually become a passage rite, having parents who have lived through certain struggles. Being able to experience it first-hand, I was able to absorb it and it has only helped build a tough skin for me. I was mentally prepared at a young age and wanted to break barriers, be my best self and never settle for less. Part of that fire is due to my mother. She doesn’t give up and is an everyday fighter. She is a successful broker and I admire her empathy due to the fact that she listens and never judges. She can command her worth and still come home and uphold a loving household. That takes a lot and I respect her greatly for that!
The best lesson learnt throughout the business building so far?
The most rewarding experience of being in business independently is that you learn flight or fight and once you get used to the idea that you are your own motivator, then you quickly realise that nothing stands in your way except your own self. You learn to be agile, educate yourself, be nimble and adapt. Continual learning coupled with self-discipline is the two most impactful areas to me as I continue to focus on my growth.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
That’s a loaded question. To #BEYOUROWN means to embrace fears and channelling that into a positive of mental strength, life-balance, happiness and ultimately independence. You’ll know because you don’t really let negativity affect you. You will stay driven and you know your purpose. When you feel comfortable in your own skin, then you will then know that you are your OWN woman! I’ve felt that the moment I started following my heart and mind and never looked back.
What does 2020 look like for you?
There’s so much transformation that happened in 2019 that has set up the path for me to take my brand to the next level of growth in 2020. Apart from personal brand development, I am looking forward to additional speaking engagements, some international design competitions and writings I’d like to publish for others who would like to “Define their Creative DNA”. I am looking to gain some clientele in several emerging industries: some of those businesses include drone technology, cannabis, bitcoin and medical beauty industries.
I’ve also noticed a recent boom of thought leaders, celebrities, athletes and influencers that have come to me for branding solutions. It will be a fun year to help build these individuals up and watch them grow. Vastly different, but I love challenges and helping others define stand out brand strategies. I’ve also set my heart on attending Yale for a creative leadership crash course with the best of the best in the league and hope this will help expand my horizons and lead the effort in defining a not so traditional creative consultancy. As for Magical Encounters, we are seeking to franchise outside the tri-state area to other parts of the domestic region and eventually hope to bring more smiles to families nationwide. It should be an exciting year for many. Onward and upward!