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🦩Exclusive with the "Godfather" of Social

F60 Interview

You can't be part of the DC business and nonprofit scene and not know the power duo behind Social Driver. Anthony Shop and Thomas Sanchez were way ahead of their time when they first started Social Driver over a decade ago. From a bootstrapped business to a leading digital marketing agency, their meteoric rise has been nothing short of remarkable.

Here's a peek into the FLAMAZING world of "Drivers". 

1. Where did you grow up and where did you go to school? 🏫

I grew up in Kansas City, MO, started my career as a journalist but transitioned to public relations and politics. In 2009, I moved back to DC for the long term and attended George Washington University to get my MBA. 

2. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, chatty, hungry.

3. What inspired you to start your business?

The inspiration to start Social Driver came during a road trip after an entrepreneur conference, where we realized the need to merge technology and communication expertise for clients. Thomas' tech background and my marketing background led us to team up and establish the business in 2011, bridging the gap between these two areas of expertise.

4. What is the secret to your partnership success with Thomas? 👥

Someone once said, “I get it — you’re the Social, Thomas is the Driver.” And I’d say that’s accurate. We have to remember that we are a team and have shared values, but we also complement each other and play our own role. We both bring unique backgrounds in technology and marketing that we've combined to grow Social Driver. Our shared vision, mutual respect, and open communication have been key factors in our strong partnership.

5. How have you built your unique company culture at "Drivers"? ⚡

We've been intentional about building a culture that is collaborative and inclusive to attract and retain great people. We live our company values, such as: Feel good at the end of the day, put people before everything else. And it shows. We have several team members who have been with us for more than a decade!

Our mantra: The future is bright, all progress is social, the drivers make history.

6. What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them? 💪🏼

As an entrepreneur, we all face challenges, including navigating new tech, exceeding client expectations, and managing rapid growth. The most important thing — and hardest — is to see the opportunity in the obstacle. I am surrounded by optimistic and talented people who do that way better than me.

7. When was your company ranked the 7th fastest digital agency in the country? 💥

We received that accolade early on, and the turning point was probably that Honda North America hired us to help them become the first automaker to create a government relations account on Twitter. Nowadays, some clients are asking for our help to get off X, so things come full circle!

8. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 💡

If you feel the pull to do something — like start a business — you should listen to that voice and see where it takes you. We’ve even had team members who have gone on to start their own businesses — it’s sad that we don’t get to work with them every day anymore, but we are proud of them and support them in following their dreams.

9. What excites you in the digital marketing space? 📱

I recently had the opportunity to interview the former AI point person for The White House, Camille Stewart Gloster (see recap). Camille talked about the promise and peril of AI, and that regulations should center around values and not technology. Thomas and I have always believed in putting people at the center, and that technology is just a tool to help people create a brighter future. So, while there are obviously concerns about AI, I am pretty excited about the speed of technological innovation, what it means for our clients, and how they are making history in their own ways.

10. Who's a leader you admire?

I admire Alex Orfinger, Publisher of the Washington Business Journal, for his mentorship and friendship. We met you through him, and he’s a friend and mentor of mine. I feel lucky when the people I admire become friends because you can learn so much more from them up close.

11. What book 📚 are you reading, or podcast are you listening to? 🎧

I just finished Brooklyn and its sequel Long Island by Colm Tóibín, and I'm enjoying the Acquired podcast — especially the Costco and Hermès episodes. 

12. What is your favorite restaurant? 🍽️

I’m obsessed with the Detroit-style pizza at Red Light on 14th Street. And the best farm-to-table meal in the region is at Field & Main in Marshall, VA, in my opinion. It's worth the drive!

13. When you think of DC, what comes to mind?

Opportunity. No matter who you are or where you come from, you can find a community that will help you succeed in DC.

14. Who is your favorite music artist? 🎶

Ben Platt — and we just got to see him live for the first time at Wolf Trap.

15. What app, tool, or gadget can't you live without? ⚙️

My Apple AirPods. Even Android users like Thomas admit that they are incredible. 😉

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