Thomas Sanchez and Anthony Shop are the CEO and Chief Strategy Officer, respectively, of Social Driver, a digital agency based in Washington, DC. Social Driver provides its clients with a range of digital services that include social media strategy, web development, video, and brand design. The company has worked with industry giants such as Honda, Sprint, the Motion Picture Association of America, Computer Sciences Corporation, American Hospital Association, and more. Since starting in 2011, Social Driver has grown at a blistering pace: it’s currently the 7th fastest growing agency in the US. The company has earned the DC Chamber of Commerce’s DC Small Business Champion award, as well as the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts’ Communicator Award of Distinction. Additionally, Thomas has been named an Innovator of the Year (DC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) and Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year (Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce), while Anthony has been listed as one of the Washington Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.
Thomas Sanchez and Anthony Shop spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about starting the company. How have you been able to grow Social Driver into such a prominent industry player in just five years?
THOMAS SANCHEZ: When we started Social Driver in 2011, it was just the two of us. That was the plan, the first year: for the company to be the two of us. We set a goal in terms of finances and the number of clients we were going to bring in, and we knew we wanted to bridge our skills together. My background is in technology and Anthony’s background is in communication, and we knew that social media and web was going to just get bigger and bigger.
So, we went out and we talked to a few friends and convinced them to join in with us and to become our clients and we started growing faster than we thought. By September of that year we had hired our very first employee. Now it’s been five years. We just passed that five year mark from when we hired our first employee, and now we have about 40 employees—all without any debt or outside investment.
ANTHONY SHOP: Our first year is when we hired our first full-time employee and got our first office. I think those are big milestones. That’s when you start to think: “It’s a real company. It’s not just a couple of people working from home.” The next year, in 2012, I think we started getting some more clients that were interesting work—building our first big website for a nonprofit, partnering with a PR firm to do a campaign that was national in scope—and moving offices is one of those milestones you always think about, so we moved into a shared office space. And then, two years ago now—in 2014—we moved into our current space, which is about 8000 square feet. Sometimes we even say it could be seen as a metaphor because we’re a new media company on the 10th floor of a glass building looking down into the pit that used to be the Washington Post. It shows how much the industry’s changed.
Q. How has the company changed since it started?
THOMAS SANCHEZ: Five years ago, when we first started the company, we would go out and try to sell websites and throw social media in for free, because we know we wanted to be working in social media, but nobody was paying for it at that time. Now, today, that is one of the most in demand services we have. We’re working with top companies all around the world: Sprint, Accenture, Cigna—these are clients of ours and we run their social media accounts. So, we’re constantly trying to think about what is next.
One of the things that has recently emerged is Snapchat. How does the large company, a large employer, talk to their employees and their customers through Snapchat? One of the things that we actually did recently in Social Driver was think through how we were going to use Snapchat. We set it up almost like an intranet, so instead of me, the CEO, sending my employees emails, telling them about updates in our company, what we do is we send them a Snapchat. It’s personally from me—I’ll record it in the morning and sent it out and say, “Hey, remember today is team meeting day at Social Driver” or what have you. These are the types of things that we sit down with executives in large companies and help them think about too: How can they have a better relationship with their employees, and how can they have a better relationship with their customers by using modern ways of communicating?