It might be strange to think of television production, with its big budgets and expensive equipment, as a mom and pop business. But for the Lesante family of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that is exactly what it has become.
Launched in 1984, the video production company, which creates everything from talk shows and commercials to hyper local news programming for local cable, has done it all. Yet, Sam-Son Productions is still a small business. It is owned and operated by Sam Lesante Sr., his wife Deborah Lesante, their daughter Jeannine Lesante-Mazurkiwecz and son Sam Lesante Jr.
The family’s first ever broadcast was a local talent show called “Spotlight Talent Showcase,” which featured a variety of talented people in Northeast Pennsylvania and was hosted by Lesante Sr. The family’s initial interest in show business stemmed from Lesante Sr.’s friendship with Oscar-winning actor Jack Palance, as well as his ownership of some local music stores.
But Lesante Sr. also had the desire to provide some hyper local news content to his community. He said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends:
“Local towns like Hazleton don’t usually have their own local TV news. They usually have to rely on the news from a nearby city. And that news might be about someone getting shot or a fire or other incidents in the city. But we have a lot of happenings in our smaller communities as well. And those aren’t usually covered on city news. We cover good news, too.”
So he started “FYI News 13” in 1994. And the next year, the family started producing other local programs and commercials for the Hazleton community. They even created a nationally syndicated show. It was called “On the Road with Sammy & Elaine.” And it featured Lesante Sr. and Elaine Palance (wife of actor Jack Palance) traveling the country to interview interesting people.
The Lesante family still gets in front of the camera with their own shows including “The Sam Lesante Show,” where Lesante Sr. interviews various community members, entertainers and even national celebrities. Another show, “The Girls,” was created by and stars Deborah Lesante and Lesante-Mazurkiwecz.
Behind the scenes, the members of the Lesante family also have their own roles. Lesante Sr. serves as CEO while his wife serves as president of the company. Lesante-Mazurkiwecz is the vice president in charge of marketing and Lesante Jr. is vice president in charge of production.
Though running a family business can pose challenges, such as the temptation to constantly talk about work even during family vacations and holidays, Lesante Sr. insists that the benefits greatly outweigh the negatives. In particular, he loves the family friendly atmosphere at Sam-Son Productions.
The company mixes its own content with production work for clients from across the country. Even though the company is a small operation in a small town, Lesante Sr. says its high tech equipment allows productions that are just as high in quality as those by larger companies. But the small town setting and lower overhead costs allow production on a much lower budget.
Lesante also insists at the heart of the business is simply his family’s desire to serve its community. The Lesante family has been heavily involved in the Hazleton community for years and aims to provide quality content to inform and entertain their fellow residents. Lesante says this dedication to local community is the key not just to his company’s success, but the success of similar local broadcasting in communities across the country. Lesante Sr. explains:
“These days, broadcast viewership is declining and network cable shows are declining. But the only thing that seems to be increasing are things like our production company that are producing very local shows.”
Images: Sam-Son Productions