The Owner

Steven Cuculich

It’s hard putting Steve Cuculich in a box. He’s a successful entrepreneur with businesses that range from real estate to car dealerships, a philanthropist who is actively involved in the Tampa community, and has even worked as a teacher in Chicago. But at the end of the day, he’s someone who simply wants to help others and feel at peace with himself. “If you’re in a position to do something for others, you always should,” says Cuculich. “I’d probably be a rich guy if I didn’t, but I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”

Known as someone who more than once has given out free tires to customers who’re facing financial hardships—”I’ll talk to a single mom and see that her car has bad tires; I put new ones for free,” explains Cuculich. “It drives everyone at the office crazy”—one can see how his early years have shaped his outlook for both his personal and professional life. Growing up and getting into daily fights in the South Side of Chicago, he and his brother faced hardships after losing their father at a young age.

They didn’t have much and financial insecurity was a constant—but so were the people ready to help. “Along the way, there’s been so many who were ready to lend a hand. It’s impossible to forget them, it puts a soft spot in your heart,” explains Cuculich. “Working hard for everything I’ve achieved has probably made me appreciate life and what I can do for others a bit more. It’s impossible to forget where you came from.”

This mindset is at the core of his used-car business, Car Credit (sponsor of this article). The challenges he faced at a young age made him realize how important a dependable vehicle is, especially for families. “A car in Florida is a necessity, not a luxury,” says Cuculich. “It’s a simple formula: If your car doesn’t work because somebody sold you a bad car, they made their money on you. You can’t afford to fix it, so you can’t go to work and you’re unable to support your family. That’s something that we really want to avoid.”

This holds especially true for Car Credit’s usual customers: recently arrived immigrants. Seeing up close the many challenges immigrants face, the company decided, with Steve at the helm, that they wanted to do more. “We’re not just selling cars. We’re furthering someone’s education and their ability to go forward in life,” says Cuculich. “We’re in the communities and we’re constantly looking for ways to be there for them.”

They have done so through two programs: Corazones de Car Credit and Nuevo en-US. Created in 2010, every month for more than ten years, Corazones de Car Credit made a donation to a Tampa Bay area charitable organization in recognition of their work helping people who are new to the country. From schools and food banks to women’s empowerment programs and local soccer leagues, the reach of the program was felt for more than a decade across the Tampa community. On the other hand, Nuevo en-US is a  nonprofit organization founded by Cuculich to assist and empower, as its name implies, those who have just moved to the country. By connecting them to a free directory of resources such as schools, churches, hospitals, legal help, and community organizations, Nuevo offers critical information in Spanish to help them get established.

Through these programs, Cuculich hopes to make their new lives a little bit easier. “I really think immigrants are the future of the country,” he says. “They really put themselves out to come here. If you can help them, think about what you’re doing for their future and the country. Hopefully, they’ll remember and will help somebody else.”

His philanthropic work has also permeated into his used-car business. “We’re not dollar motivated, we’re people motivated,” says Cuculich. And it’s not just words: Their diverse team is known for their commitment to the company and the causes they support, and they also have established a profit-sharing program that benefits all employees. In the end for Cuculich, it’s about who you choose to surround yourself with and how you want to make an impact. “Good people attract good people. We take pride in that most people we hire are actual friends or referrals of people who work here.”

Are you thinking of purchasing a used car? Visit www.carcredittampa.com and find a quality vehicle you can trust. With its two-year free maintenance policy, you can depend on your car and the service Car Credit provides even beyond your purchase.

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