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Meet Jeff Cantagallo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Cantagallo.

Hi Jeff, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
As an automotive enthusiast, anything on wheels has always been my passion. I would say it started with car audio in the early 90s with a good friend of mine Arnie installed custom stereos. There were a few friends in high school with nice-sounding stereo systems, and it was pretty much downhill from there. I joined the U.S. Navy out of high school and my first duty station was in Japan. The custom vehicles in Japan are next level. Their creativity, engineering, and attention to detail gave me the bug to get back stateside to build a custom vehicle for myself.

Fast-forwarding a bit, I purchased ’03 Corolla S, nothing fancy, but something that I could build to where it would be unique enough since not too many people were building Corolla’s in the states. The goal was to build a well-rounded showpiece to include custom audio (of course), performance, custom paint and interior. I enjoyed attending car shows in the region and a highlight of my car show career was being featured in Car Audio & Electronics magazine. When attending shows, the old school way of learning about local shows was getting a stack of event flyers piled onto your seat while parked at an event. Back then, you either paid attention to online forums/blogs or you got a hard copy printed event flyer handed to you. I then came up with the idea to publish

In early 2009, was born. It started out with me publishing automotive events for the Maryland area. I then expanded the event calendar to the region / mid-Atlantic area and then it grew to be nationwide. Before we knew it, we had several event listings for the U.S. My goal was to always serve the mom-and-pop type of events, the local businesses and church-type of shows that needed the extra exposure to help promote their event. We have gone through several variations of redesigning the website all while following the simple design elements such as search engine optimization (SEO), usability (site navigation) and to just simply keep the website simple to use. I have been asked throughout my CarShowz career why do it this way, why do you do that, simply because my goal was to always keep the website simple. We absolutely can create a more robust, automated design, but to be honest, that takes a lot of work. This is a hobby gone mad and not my full-time job. Keeping it simple and cost-effective was always my goal.

So, while automotive event listings were our primary bread and butter for the website, we dove into the aspects of photography. Event coverage became a huge hit with the locals, especially those who attended an event with their vehicle. So, the next challenge was to create a photo gallery, display it nicely to our site visitors all while keeping the website optimized for navigation, i.e., not sucking up all of the bandwidth to the point where navigating through photos was unbearable.

As time went, social media became more and more popular. While MySpace was still somewhat popular, Facebook started to take off and continue to add features year after year. Photo galleries, event listings, etc. all started to take over the internet. While we did see a dip in website traffic, we used the platform to our advantage. We quickly set-up a Facebook page for car shows and used that to promote events, businesses, etc. growing the page to close to 500K. Although looking back now, I wonder how many of those 500K users were bots. We did use the social media platform to promote posts for local events, etc. and we did see a spike to our website traffic. We occasionally use social media to share a few things out here and there, but boots on the ground, meeting people face-to-face is the way to go.

While the photography/event coverage was a nice addition to our website, we began to create blog articles to review events, products, etc. We have built a reputation and have networked with some of the greatest shows in the world. We were recognized by the SPEED Channel, Barret Jackson and have teamed up with large shows and businesses such as SEMA, Lone Star Throwdown, Import Faceoff, Pep Boys, Chemical Guys, Carlisle Events, American Muscle, Motor Trend and a ton more. The greatest accomplishment out of all of this is meeting the people and establishing the friendships we have over the past few years. Granite, it is not all unicorns and rainbows, we have lost friendships as well, but those relationships is what has helped carve us into who we are today,

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The biggest struggle is learning the technology for developing a website. I do have my degree in information technology, and I do work in the IT field, so that helps a ton. However, technology evolves and oh does it evolve quickly. When you have an idea, it sounds easy when you put it down on paper. When it comes to implementing is where the challenges come in. Not only do you need to figure out the backend technology of hosting a website, you also need to learn how search engine optimization works, website optimization, usability and the ins and outs of hosting on a shared host, versus a dedicated server, etc. Initially, you want all of the bells and whistles for the website to be implemented. However, you learn very quickly that the more widgets you publish, the high-resolution photos you publish the less optimized your website becomes. The last thing you want is someone surfing your website and page loads are taking a few seconds.

Not only do you need to focus on the design and optimization, but you also then need to focus on the marketing aspect for promoting your website and product. The ins and outs of Google, who practically owns the market space when it comes to search engines. Not only is there the technical side of the website, you also need to learn and understand the automotive community. The different genres, the styles, the personalities to build the network and relationships. That is probably the biggest struggle is the people. Car people are moody (LOL). Losing friendships is the biggest struggle out of them all. The website/technology is the easy part. They do not talk back or have feelings.

Finding the time to ensure the website stays updated, rolling out new widget updates, the backend database is squared away, the better you keep up with that, your website will run more efficiently. Lastly, staying relevant is just as important as everything I have mentioned above. It is exceedingly difficult having a family, a full-time job and running CarShowz. It is important to keep those relationships going and that has been a challenge the past couple of years trying to balance family.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school in 1996. I served in the Navy for just under six years and had an outstanding career. While I served, I received a Joint Service Commendation Medal and 2 Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medals, which I am most proud of. The Navy has shaped me into the man I am today. The attention to detail, respect for others, discipline and the list goes on. I am very prompt, dependable and just simply get things done.

My Naval career expanded into the IT industry that I am in today. I have been in the industry for over 25 years now and that has helped me carry over into the website and everything that I do today. The willingness to explore different technologies and the motivation and confidence to try something new. Some of the relationships that were lost in the past were simply because those folks could not keep up. I have always had the mentality to help others, stay humble and keep marching forward.

I have learned the technology, learned photography, videography and am willing to learn the next thing that keeps CarShowz going. A combination of the things I have learned in the Navy and while building the website as to what it is known for today has also translated into my everyday job.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Determination and the ability to never give up. When times get tough, you quickly learn who has your back and is willing to help you get through the toughest times. Life throws us many curve balls; you must be willing to step up and take a swing.

Accept the fact that you are going to fail, pick up the pieces and keep going. Those challenging times is what make us into the people we are today. Without failures, you are never going to have the opportunity to correct the mistake and perfect yourself.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Image credits are attributed to the CarShowz team, Jennifer Cantagallo and Mark Pantalone.

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1 Comment

  1. Jeff C.

    August 7, 2021 at 11:13 am

    Thank you for the opportunity!

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