SGA: How it All Began

In celebration of SGA’s 20th Anniversary, SGA presents the first part of a three-part series, detailing the history  of SGA.

“Stephen just landed a large project with the City of Los Angeles and he asked me to help with a project called Kids Ocean Day,” Samantha Concetti, human resources manager at SGA recalled. “It was SGA’s second year and business was growing. My background was in healthcare, but I was interested and wanted to make a difference. The first task was to coordinate a few thousand kids for a beach clean-up.”

SGA came from humble beginnings. In fact, SGA’s first office was a kitchen counter, where Stephen Groner, SGA President, would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday for lunch. After working for nine years as an Environmental Engineer at the County of Los Angeles, Stephen took a chance. He left to launch a one-man marketing firm that aimed at making a difference. It was a decision he has never regretted.

As one of SGA’s first employees, Samantha has seen the growth of SGA; beginning with one man guy with a dream to make a difference to what is now a nationally recognized marketing firm that has  won the coveted Silver Anvil award for best public awareness campaign in the country. SGA now works on projects ranging from environmental issues like stormwater protection and energy conservation to more community-focused issues such as affordable housing and public health. An employee of 18 years, Samantha has seen the transformation from the kitchen counter to what is now a thriving small business with offices in Southern and Northern California.

“SGA’s first contract was with the City of Los Angeles dealing with solid waste issues, then stormwater issues,” Samantha said.

“That’s how it all started. It was just me, Stephen, and lots of Miles Davis,” Samantha continued.

“When we got our first office in Long Beach, we began a monthly lunch tradition to celebrate the work we achieved each month after getting the invoices out.”

All SGAers have come to appreciate the celebration known as the Invoice Lunch. Invoice Lunch continues to this day as a tradition to assemble the in-office team together. Along the way, SGA has adopted other traditions such as book clubs, lunch-hour learning workshops called salons, and monthly potlucks. All these team-building activities are meant to uphold the six founding core values of SGA: Curiosity, Passion, Initiative, Impact, Selflessness, and Fun. These core values are incorporated into all aspects of  SGA’s work, ultimately equipping the SGA team with the tools needed to help clients achieve their goals and to make a difference in their respective communities.

We asked Samantha what’s the one theme that has remained true these past 20 years?

“People who  have worked at SGA have had as much influence in shaping the trajectory of this company as Stephen has had.”

“Every employee that has stepped foot in here has shaped SGA in one way or another,” Samantha said.

Laying the foundation for a positive work environment in the past twenty years has led to a strong foundation to continue making a difference in the world. SGA’s reputation, results-driven work, and two-pronged approach of combining creative ideas with technical marketing research has helped made the company what it is today.

SGA now has clients in various cities, counties, government agencies, non-profits, community organizations and environmental agencies across the state of California and the nation.

Successful campaigns have been launched to develop an umbrella brand with community influencers to deliver anti-littering message to Bay Area residents, promote the recycling of toxic mercury thermostats throughout the state, encourage paint recycling within the Latino Community, get Orange County homeowners to embrace a California Friendly landscape, and incentivize LA residents to capture rainwater.

As Stephen stated, “Teaming with clients, employees and stakeholders to find ways to use marketing to make a difference was a passion.” Stephen continued, “It has been a long and humbling journey from engineering to marketing but having the opportunity to make a difference is pretty amazing.”

Recognizing the SHeroes in Our Lives


This month is International Women’s Month! To celebrate, we wanted to discuss powerful women that have worked to create a better environment or community. From environmental specialists to marketing experts to behavior change professionals to social outreach warriors, women have made a big impact in the world. Many of them are pioneers who have paved the way for other accomplished women. At SGA, we admire women who have been successful in using strategic communication and outreach strategies and tactics to advocate for their cause. We asked our inspiring female staff members which strong female figures have influenced them. What tactics did these women use to communicate their message and how has this motivated our staffs with own work?

Audrey Taylor, Project Specialist

My hero is SIMRAN SETHI. Her work in food, sustainability and social change has reshaped the way many people think about our food system and its resilience, an issue I feel passionate about. Through her career as a journalist, Sethi has educated millions on these issues, but she also stresses the importance of getting people to actually engage with them. She tries to connect with the people she tells stories to at a basic, human level, stressing our similar desires and goals rather than our differences. When we frame our work in the most accessible and relatable way possible, that is when we can create true behavior change.

Cherish Aquino, Outreach Specialist

My hero is Dr. SYLVIA EARL. She is known for leading an incredible amount of aquatic expeditions and for making an open-ocean dive, which set the women’s record for a depth of 1,250 feet and served as a way to shine a light on the importance of protecting our oceans. She is known as “Her Deepness” because of this. My favorite quote from her is “I have lots of heroes: anyone and everyone who does whatever they can to leave the natural world better than they found it.”

Jackie Ayala, Project Specialist

My hero is HILDA LUCIA SOLIS, the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate and who was a strong advocate for environmental justice. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by polluted neighborhoods and Solis authored the first state law in the nation to codify environmental justice as part of the responsibility of state agencies. She has stated, “I believe our families should have clean air to breath, safe drinking water, and affordable energy sources, regardless of color, race, national origin or income. I will continue to fight to improve our environment, protect our health, reduce global warming emissions, and secure our energy supply for future generations.”

Sara Bethel, Project Specialist

My hero is JANE GOODALL. Jane has inspired me in the field of conservation with her passion and determination, even when other people criticize or undermine her work. Jane Goodall lives her life “in a way that matters” and challenges us to do so as well — for each of us to make a difference in our own unique way in our own sphere of influence. She teaches that it’s important for people to realize that the little choices we make each day, and the consequences of those choices, make a difference. This concept guides me in my social marketing work as I try to encourage others in my outreach efforts to make even small choices because those do in fact benefit the environment.
Every one of these women, both SGA staff and otherwise, have and are currently proving that through hard work and diligence, the glass ceiling can be broken! We can confidently answer the age-old question of who runs the world? Girls!