Lifelong Learner Chad Moreno Has Carved Out Several Niches In The Computer Design Business
By Brad Goins
A Lake Charles native, Chad Moreno was a “’70s and ‘80s kid.’” That means he grew up in the time of Atari, The Commodores and 360 PCs.
His love of computer games eventually evolved into attempts to put computers together. He built them by consulting with friends and looking for parts in the massive computer parts magazines published at the time. (Some of these he got from his father, who was, Moreno says, “a super computer guy.”)
Although he did get some computer instruction in school, Moreno was largely self-taught in the knowledge that enabled him to become the Lake Area’s killer web designer.
His computer-oriented businesses whose names begin with the word “Killer” began in the early 1990s, when Moreno started charging for his computer repairs. This was the era of Dell and Gateway, and the demand “was keeping me fairly busy,” says Moreno. What he couldn’t pay for with his repair work, Moreno funded with jobs at KPLC-TV and Players Casino.
In his early years of computer work, Moreno recalls, “everything was done by modem.” Everything was “trial and error — figuring it out.”
He knew he wanted to go into a computer business for himself, but determined not to do so until he was able to pay for health insurance for himself and his wife Kim. When he reached that threshold, he started his business in his trailer near Nelson Street and created the website shopswla.com. He was assisted by Kim, who has worked with him to this day.
Moreno decided to go with the design end of the computer business. It was, he says, “less research-intensive.” He could do it anywhere. And he didn’t have to drive all over town looking for parts.
But for many in the Lake Area, website design was unknown terrain in the 1990s. “The internet was so new, no one knew what a website was … People “weren’t sure how to use” a website. “It wasn’t a necessity for them …
“Everything was static web pages … Back then, everything [on a website] was built on one page … There wasn’t a lot of commerce [on websites] …”
Learning about websites and how to design them “was also an educational process for us. I think that’s why I loved it so much.”
Showing People What They’re Missing
He and Kim were “basically selling websites” — first to friends, then to clients. Moreno hoped that shopswla.com would function as an “online mall” where potential clients would look to see what websites others had and, as a result, decide they wanted one for themselves.
“[I thought], ‘I’ve got to sell something to someone who doesn’t know what it is,’” says Moreno. “Shopswla was to show people what they were missing.”
At this time, Moreno was working from 10 pm to 6 am at Players. When he got off, he went home and saw what he needed to do for his business. He usually turned in at 2 or 3 pm.
Although marketing would eventually become a feature of Moreno’s business, his marketing of his business at the time was strictly DIY. He saturated the area with posters for his business that he stapled onto telephone poles. “We were just hitting the pavement.” He says that even up to the present, “our business has always been a word of mouth type of thing.”
The Moreno family moved to a house in Oak Park and business was good. Perhaps a little too good. When the couple’s second daughter came along, Kim pointed out how many clients and employees were going through and hanging around the house. It was time to move the business out of the home.
In 2001, the Moreno’s business — now nearly a decade old — moved to the Common Street office it still occupies. It was incorporated under the name of Datasys, another feature that remains intact in 2017.
One day, when Moreno was looking though PC magazines at Books-A-Million, he saw the headline “Creating Killer Websites.” With that, he had the name of this first Datasys enterprise — Killer Websites.
‘We Didn’t Have Any Idea What We Were Doing’
As the business grew, it became clear it would have to branch out in new directions. Clients were demanding promotional materials that bore their company’s logo. But when Moreno asked for a copy of the logo, too often he was given a shoddy looking image that had been faxed or repeatedly photocopied. Moreno was obliged to remake the logo on a computer, often using skills he’d learned from his mother, who’d long used the computer design program CorelDRAW to create the designs she used in her cake decorating business.
As this design work went on, Moreno eventually obtained a full-color printer. Soon he was applying his regenerated logos to clients’ business cards and brochures and giving them the pop of full color.
But clients also wanted T-shirts. Once again, Moreno was faced with the process of learning about a facet of design from the ground up.
“We didn’t have any idea what we were doing,” he recalls. The acquisition of a direct-to-garment printer that used full color; textile ink; and digital printing was a great help. “We weren’t limited by colors.”
Because his printer enabled him to print one shirt at a time, Moreno promoted his business as print on order. A client could order a shirt one day; on the next day, Moreno would print and mail it.
Moreno studied the pre-treatment process for various shirt materials. He went through three direct-to-garment printers. He also obtained a direct-to-vinyl printer, which enabled him to print sports shirts and similar items.
He thought, “I’m ready for this to be right.” And indeed, he says, “Things have gotten better. We made it work.”
It wound up becoming Moreno’s next big business — Killer Dye.
Today Killer Dye often creates “spirit store sites” for schools. “Schools love that,” says Moreno. Teachers can ask for a shirt one day; the next day, Moreno can give the number of shirts requested to the teacher, who takes it from there.
With his versatile printers, Moreno made other promotional products, such as banners and bottle labels. His printers are versatile and state-of-the art. But they aren’t huge. Moreno doesn’t want to run the gamut of promotional products.
“We’re not a sign shop,” he says. “I didn’t want to become a full sign shop.” What he did want to do was become knowledgeable enough in the field to be able to give his clients good, solid advice about T-shirts.
As the years passed, more Datasys projects developed. One was lakecharles.com.
Moreno was familiar with the internet domain. It was owned by a friend who’d once lived in Sulphur, where he’d been a “domain hoarder” in the 1990s, buying internet domains then selling them — at greatly increased prices — to those who wanted to use them.
Moreno already owned the domain Overclocking.com. (“Overclocking” is a term that means increasing the speed at which one’s computer runs.) Moreno proposed that the two friends swap domains. Lakecharles.com was now Moreno’s to do with as he pleased.
What Moreno wanted to do was make the site a source of information about the Lake Area.
Lakecharles.com has never become very “monetized.” Moreno thinks that the right person could generate a lot of revenue with the site. But as happy as he is to learn about new facets of design, Moreno has no desire whatsoever to learn about the world of sales. He won’t be the one to make a bundle off lakecharles.com. At present, lakecharles.com remains what it has always been — an informational site about things local.
There was one more Datasys project to come — Killer Photography. It grew out of Moreno’s desire to get more material for lakecharles.com. Moreno, who’s spent
much of life playing in bands, thought it might be a good idea to post photographs of bands playing in local venues.
He bought a camera and put out some feelers to Golden Nugget. Soon he was in the front row of the casino’s venues during performers’ first three songs, and taking pictures to his heart’s content.
Moreno, who’s “always taken pictures of all sorts of people,” says that his photography is still a hobby, “but [now] I can do it and get paid for it.”
Of his recent photographic work, Moreno says, “I’ve got a different style. I’m an urban, outdoors, events person.” It may be quite a while before you see a wedding or high school graduation shot with Moreno’s name on it.
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Moreno loves learning for the sake of learning.
“You don’t know what you know until you have to know it,” he says. The process of self-education has never lost its appeal for him. “I like it. There’s always something new.”
Fortunately, in this case, the long process of learning has paid off in material terms. “Because we got in so early, and we’ve done the amount of work we’ve done, people know who we are. We’ve outlived a lot of companies.”
Has all this self-education in a variety of fields made Moreno into some sort of tech guru? That’s not quite how he sees it.
“I’ve done this so long. I wouldn’t say I’m great at any one thing. I’ve had to do all sorts of things.” But, he is careful to emphasize, “I do know some stuff.”