Local Web Developer Breaks the Mold

This is the story of a hometown venture in high technology. Starting in a spare bedroom converted to a home office, it continues today as a growing 20+ person digital marketing and software development company with national reach and an award-winning portfolio.

It’s an adventure unfolding right here in Westmoreland County.

In January, 2018, CME Websites, a Jeannette, PA based web developer, announced their rebranding as “Chroma Studios,” a full-service digital marketing and software development agency with two divisions:

  • Chroma Marketing Essentials, offering comprehensive digital marketing services, and
  • Chroma Technology Solutions, providing agile software engineering and systems integrations.

The story of Chroma begins 1999, when founder Jane Noel decided to leave her job as a Project Manager of Computer Game Development at DreamForge Intertainment to start a business of her own, then called Computers Made Easy.

CME’s Original Mission

Jane and Scot Noel

At first, CME focused on helping people become more comfortable and productive with their computers. Achieving certification as a Microsoft Office User Specialist, Jane offered training in Word, Excel, Outlook, and other Office software to both home and business users.

Within a year, Jane called on her husband Scot, also a Manager of Game Development, to join her at CME.

Together, Jane and Scot Noel served the community in venues as diverse as computer classes for seniors at Norwin Library to factory settings where managers learned how to analyze production data using PivotTables in Excel.

Then a funny thing happened: they made their first website.

CME becomes a Web Developer

By the early 2000’s, having a website was a sign of legitimacy, just like hanging out a shingle in days of old. Calling on their technical and artistic backgrounds, there was no need to hire an outside firm. Jane and Scot launched the first online presence for CME in the spring of 2001.

Almost immediately, they received a request to make another website, this time for a friend.

Completing the second site lead to another request, which led to word-of-mouth, which quickly resulted in a backlog of web projects.

Soon there was little doubt web development would be the future of the company, and training quickly took a backseat to online design.

In 2004, CME welcomed its first employee, Andrea Straka, whose skills in customer service and office management have helped keep the business on course ever since.

Working together from a small home office in Grapeville, PA, Jane, Scot, and Andrea settled in for a quiet but challenging 8 years of web development. Along the way, they added hosting and email services, search optimization, and content development. Even so, there were no dreams of expansion, and “keeping it small” was a stated company goal.

Then the team met Chrissy.

First Website, circa 2000

CME’s Million Dollar Employee

By 2012, CME was struggling to meet demand and finding more help became an inevitable next step. At the time, Jane and Scot knew of a capable young woman who was proving her value in part-time work for friends and networking acquaintances, someone with an interest in web design.

Contributing freelance at first, Chrissy Giagnocavo soon joined the CME team full-time.

Quiet and attentive to her work, it took time to bring Chrissy out of her shell and to realize the potential she would bring to the future of the company.

At first it was business as usual, but dramatic changes were coming for the Grapeville based web developer.

CME’s First Name Change

In 2014, CME celebrated its 15th year in business with a name change.

Computers Made Easy, Inc. became CME Websites {Code Media Essentials}. It was an acknowledgement that CME had left computer training far behind and had become an accomplished web development agency, with hundreds of customers locally, regionally, and internationally.

Though the team kept telling themselves to “keep it small,” they had begun to take on more employees, and the Noel’s home driveway soon resembled a parking lot. Though there were efforts to turn the basement into a second office, the situation was getting out of hand.

It was time to have a serious talk with Chrissy about the future of CME.

With Jane and Scot now middle-aged, succession planning was in order. In her first two years with CME, Chrissy had demonstrated the skills, drive, and leadership qualities necessary to run an agency. Did she want the opportunity to do so, building on the foundation laid 15 years before?

When the answer was “yes,” it was time to leave the home office behind.

Momentum Builds

CME Websites Grows

Now a share holding partner, Chrissy sat down with Jane and Scot to plot the commercial expansion of CME. There were plans to make, investments to consider, and office space to find.

By 2015 the team was working with Dave Cochran (of Cochran Heating & Cooling) on a custom build-out of office space in Lowry Commons, Dave’s newly acquired property at 516 Lowery Avenue in Jeannette, PA.

One small suite, sufficient for 6 to 8 employees, was equipped and occupied shortly after the start of the new year. The plan was to stabilize growth and strengthen core company offerings over the course of CME’s first 3-year lease.

Then the unexpected happened.

Between 2014 and 2016, revenues increased by 76%. New hires followed. Coming at an unexpected pace, they forced CME to build out a second suite in Lowry Commons, this one twice as big as the first.

Project pace increased beyond the team’s ability to manage, and on her own initiative, Chrissy sought out workflow development tools to help put the company back on course. Chrissy both recommended and pioneered the adoption of a Citrix Systems’ solution called Podio, a relational database which helps manage complex project and customer information in intuitive ways.

To the team’s surprise, déjà vu occurred. In a reflection of CME’s experience with web development a decade earlier, word-of-mouth about the company’s workflow expertise began to spread. The web company that was once a training company was now being called upon to provide web-based workflow management solutions.

At the time, no one saw what was coming. They barely heard the roar in the rapids just ahead.

CME Hits Whitewater

Database systems like Podio work better when they share information with other software, like QuickBooks, DropBox, Constant Contact, and other popular services.

With the help of Cartia Consulting, a local expert in database development, CME began to explore the possibilities.

In the year to come:

  • CME established a new software engineering division, known as CME Integrations and later rebranded as Chroma Technology Solutions.
  • CME won national attention for its work with the Center for the Study of Occupational Regulations at Saint Francis University, winning an Award of Distinction in the 2017 CORE Technology Web Awards.
  • CME won a Standard of Excellence Award from the Web Marketing Association and earned an All-Star Award from email marketing giant Constant Contact.
  • CME became a Google Partner company through the efforts of Aaron Giagnocavo, Chrissy’s husband and now an accomplished CME Project Manager.
  • CME staffers Dan Falk and Jim Dalby earned coveted Magento e-Commerce certifications.
  • CME founded DEVS, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ethics in the development of software and online business solutions.
Pittsburgh Digital Marketing Agency

Chroma Studios

Chroma Studios Logo

Finally, in 2018, CME shed its “website” persona to take on a new identity as Chroma Studios. The name Chroma evokes an intensity and saturation of colors. It is a fitting marque for company able to provide everything from Corporate Branding and Graphic Design services to Social Media and Digital Marketing campaigns, from Search Engine Marketing and Web Development to Workflow solutions and custom Software Engineering.

It’s accurate to say Chroma Studios has no limits and a full spectrum of possibilities to play with.

In fact, one story yet to be told is of CME’s amazingly effective hiring practices. As the company enters its 19th year, there are number of budding “million-dollar employees” among its staff, attracted by the opportunity to join an almost 20-year-old start-up that is reinventing what it means to offer online marketing services and business solutions, nationwide.

“At Chroma, we work with growing businesses and organizations that are experiencing the challenges of growth and leveraging technology to achieve success.” - the team at Chroma Technology Solutions.