In the Driver’s Seat: Borderstan Residents Build Agency from Scratch

by June 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,059 0

"Social Driver"

Thomas Sanchez and Anthony Shop of Social Driver. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Borderstan welcomes new contributor Nick Barron. He will be writing about local entrepreneurs and startup companies. He also writes about ideas and thinking big at serves as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 2F/Logan Circle. Follow him on Twitter @nbarron; email him at nick[AT]

Who said DC is not a town for start-ups? Well, Social Driver, a local social media, mobile app and website development company  has put that theory to the test.

Two years ago, Social Driver wasn’t even a dream.

Back then, Thomas Sanchez was busy consulting in social media and technology, while Anthony Shop was obtaining his MBA at George Washington University. Both Sanchez and Shop were new to DC, and both could count on one hand the number of people they knew in the area.

However, Sanchez networked tirelessly and finally had a Rolodex so large he started helping large public relations agencies fill a niche in the services they offered. Then it hit him: Sanchez realized that he had a budding agency on his hands, and he asked the new MBA graduate, Shop, to be his partner in a new business. Once Sanchez and Shop set-up shop (now formally called Social Driver, a social media, mobile app and website development company), the two District residents established a goal for where the business should be in a year.

Only, they didn’t hit that initial goal; they exceeded it.

Last summer, Sanchez and Shop made their first hire. Since then, the small start-up has hired six additional full-time employees and is setting to leave its Dupont office for a larger space in Chinatown. Social Driver’s growth means Sanchez and Shop are letting employees handle clients so they can focus more on the agency’s culture, an aspect that is important in both producing great work and attracting qualified employees willing to generate a quality product and expand the company.

One way in which Sanchez and Shop are working to achieve a cutting-edge work culture (particularly one that favors a work-life balance) is by instituting an unlimited vacation policy. “When you go on vacation, do not check your email,'” said Shop when describing the ideal work life for his employees.

The two partners plan on keeping the company private (meaning they have no equity in the company to offer employees) and plan to offer alternative promotions. “What people want is more responsibility,” Sanchez said. “They want to be able to learn more and take on new challenges.”

Despite its success, Social Driver’s growth has not been free from trials and tests. “DC is good for some types of businesses, but not good for other types of businesses,” said Sanchez, adding limited office space makes it difficult for large companies, particularly in Borderstan. “You’re at a limit in terms of size in DC,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez and Shop also have tales of bureaucratic snafus of difficulties with DC’s local government. “There’s no consistency,” said Sanchez. “One part of the city doesn’t know what the other part of the city is doing.”

Still, Social Driver is committed to helping the city get it right. After all, the company’s clients and employees live in DC, and both Sanchez and Shop are optimistic about DC being a better host to startups.

“One exciting thing about DC is incentives for tech-based businesses – That makes it better for us to do business in the District,” said Shop.

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