By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Satauna Howery, a Clifton Park woman and entrepreneur, was recently awarded $5,000 to put toward her business, Sataunta’s Voiceovers, by The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship.
The Hadley Institute, based in Illinois, is one of the leading distance-learning organizations specifically tailored for those who are blind or otherwise visually impaired. The Institute’s Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship was created in 2011 to help those who are visually impaired thrive in the workplace and create work environments that work for them.
Howery was born with leber congenital amaurosis, a condition which left her blind as a baby. “Blindness is almost viewed as a death sentence,” said Howery. “You lose so many freeing things… but I was born blind. I never lost my sight because I never had it to begin with.”
At the age of two, her parents found her playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on the piano without any inkling of instruction. She began formal piano lessons at age seven and has been writing her own music, singing and playing piano ever since. She served as the Music Director for the Christ Church of the Hills in Rotterdam and has played private gigs in local clubs, as well.
Then, she began dabbling in voiceovers. “I didn’t think I would fall in love with it but I found I really loved it,” she said. “I can work my own hours. There’s so much opportunity,” she added. As a person who is blind, Howery said it’s a huge relief not having to worry about transportation to and from work.
“Part of the fun of this process is discovering what I like and what I’m good at,” she said. While animation may be fun, she said it doesn’t pay as well as corporate gigs. “I love it all,” she said. She noted the best thing about doing voiceovers for animations is “it’s like stress relief.”
Howery said she’s typically working on five to six projects at any given time.
She created Satauna’s Voiceovers three years ago. “This is the year of scaling up for me,” she said. “I would like to delegate some of the marketing, editing and ad work. It’s about bringing other people into it,” she said.
The work Howery does out of her home studio can be heard on the radio, in commercials, in video games, animated cartoons and professional presentations all over the world — she has clients from 20 different countries.
“People tend to think of voiceovers as entertainment, but I think it’s more like a public service,” she said.
Howery grew up in Southern California, attended college in Alaska and spent some time in Seattle where she met her husband, Tom, before moving eastward. Howery said she studied computer science and languages in Fairbanks. “I didn’t graduate but I had a lot of fun,” she laughed. The couple moved to Albany in 2005 where Howery earned a degree in Music Industry from Saint Rose. Then, in 2008, the Howery’s settled down in Clifton Park. Tom works as an information technology consultant to Latham-based Primaloft.
“Having a stable, strong homelife makes moving forward and taking risks with the business easier,” she said. “I think it takes a community to do anything in life,” she added.
The Howerys were drawn to the Capital Region since it’s just a few hours to both Boston and New York City. The Adirondacks were a draw, as well. Reminiscing on their big move east, Howery said “When we moved here we didn’t know anyone. Didn’t have jobs. Looking back, it was a wild idea but we made it work.”
The couple has an 18 year old daughter named Keyra who attends Hudson Valley Community College and sometimes jumps in with her mom on voiceover work.
Howery emphasized the importance of the internet for blind or visually impaired entrepreneurs like herself. “70 to 80 percent of blind people are either un- or underemployed,” she said. “The internet has really knocked down certain barriers. There has never been a better time to be a blind person and start a business.”
Howery doesn’t feel the need to tell her clients she’s blind. “The thing about building a business over the internet is you know you got the job or didn’t get the job based on whether you had the skills.”
“If you can’t imagine me walking up the stairs, how could you imagine me as a contributing part of this team,” she asked.
Now, however, as her business and confidence has grown, she feels like she can be open about her blindness. “Now, I feel like I can say it,” she said.