When it comes to sound advice, look no further than brothers Steven and Anthony Drago and their father, Joseph Drago, owners of Florida Soundproofing and New England Soundproofing. What started as just one of many services offered under an existing business turned into it's own business with operations based in two states and satisfied customers up and down the eastern seaboard. Steven shared the story from humble beginnings built on hard work and proper positioning, to a future with a tremendous amount of untapped potential.
"My father started his original business, Drago General Contracting, in Boston in the 80s," Steven said. "In the 90s, a lot of his high-end clients wanted to sound proof their homes. He started by importing products from overseas and got some good results. In the 2000s, the products improved, but a lot of other contractors were doing hack jobs with soundproofing and related renovations. My brother, who had been involved in the business for at least 10 years at this point, and my father saw this as an opportunity to provide a better product and stand out from the competition. When I joined the team in 2010, we made the decision to form New England Soundproofing so people didn't think we were just general contractors."
When the Drago's formed New England Soundproofing, the industry was still fairly new. Much of their time was spent educating their customers and building trust. As Steven shared, soundproofing is invasive work and you don't actually see the end-result. Building trust with their clients that the money they put towards soundproofing was money well spent was one of the keys to growing the business.
With education, trust, quality jobs, satisfied customers and networking opportunities at numerous home and architecture shows, the Drago's quickly developed a reputation as being one of the best in the industry. By 2012, they were set to take on a new challenge.
"Leading up to 2012, we bought all of our materials," Steven said. "Many of our products were shipped in from overseas. By 2012, we started manufacturing our own REVRB (Reduce Echo Voices Reverberation and Background Noise) acoustical panels. We found we could make a better product than the ones we were importing. Not long after we started manufacturing is when we entered the restaurant space.
Between 2012 and 2016, New England Soundproofing saw significant growth. With Steven overseeing finances and managing projects, Anthony focused on acoustics and soundproofing sales and Joseph doing a little bit of everything, the Drago's reached another milestone. They partnered with Sonic-Shield, a premiere soundproofing company that specializes in commercial and residential soundproofing, providing soundproofing materials throughout the United States. Sonic-Shield eventually became a distributor of New England Soundproofing's REVRB acoustical panels, followed by an even greater opportunity.
"After many years in the business, the owner of Sonic-Shield wanted to sell," Steven said. "Because of our excellent working relationship with them, we were the first people they brought the offer to. Right away we knew it was a great opportunity. It was also our entry point into Florida, a market with a lot of restaurants and one we wanted to expand into. In 2018, we purchased Sonic-Shield, giving us the agreements they had with vendors, their physical location in Port Richey, equipment, trademarks, employees and, as a result, we formed a separate entity called Florida Soundproofing. The acquisition gave us the ability to offer a full turn-key solution."
Even though Steven is excited about the expansion into Florida and the opportunity to employ more people and gain new clients, the Sunshine State does present some logistical challenges.
"Florida is massive," Steven said. "Trying to connect with people all over the state is certainly going to be a challenge. Competition is also stronger in Florida. Fortunately, our excellent relationships with vendors and the fact that we do installations gives us an advantage. We also give our customers that small family business feel, but we still have the ability to do big jobs."
Since expanding from 300 sq ft to 900 to 1,500 and now, to over 15,000 sq ft, New England Soundproofing and Florida Soundproofing are bullishly optimistic about the future. They're considering additional locations in Florida and would like to expand their manufacturing process.
What advice does Steven have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Starting a business is scary, but if you're serious about it, it's important to do your research, analyze the pros and cons and to really understand your marketplace. You have to know that business or industry inside and out before you jump in. Also, think about what you'll need, financially speaking, to survive as you build out the business. At a minimum, you should have a year's salary saved up. As you're building the business, find ways to save money. You'll have good times, but they can disappear as quickly as they come."