The DC Chamber of Commerce recently named local digital agency Social Driver its DC Small Business Champion of 2012, making it the first LGBT-owned business honored by the chamber.
Social Driver, offering website design, mobile applications and social media campaigns, was nominated alongside other D.C.-area companies for the DC Chamber award, one of several awards honoring people and small businesses that help drive the local economy and embody an entrepreneurial spirit.
''It's very humbling to receive this honor from the DC Chamber, such a reputable and successful business organization in our community,'' says Anthony Shop, managing director of Social Driver, who founded the company with his life partner, Thomas Sanchez, three years ago by combining Sanchez's website building company with Shop's communications strategies firm. The company recently opened an office in Bellingham, Wash., and works with a variety of clients, from nonprofits to venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 companies.
Shop says he's grateful to the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC) and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) for the mentorship, assistance and networking connections those bodies provided Social Driver in its formative years.
He adds that the DC Chamber of Commerce has a history of working with minority-owned businesses to help them succeed.
''That history of helping the little guy succeed is part of their DNA,'' Shop says of the DC Chamber.
Eileen Kessler, founder and CEO of OmniStudio, nominated Social Driver for the award.
''Social Driver is one of the most innovative, energetic and competent digital agencies in the region,'' Kessler said in a statement. ''In addition, they give back to the community by bringing other startups together to share knowledge and resources.''
This isn't the first award for the company, which employs seven full-time staffers, as well as a number of part-time employees and independent contractors. In 2010, it won CAGLCC's Emerging Entrepreneur Award.
Mark Guenther, executive director of CAGLCC, has plenty of praise for Social Driver.
''They definitely have done a lot to give back to the community,'' Guenther says of Social Driver. ''We couldn't be more proud of them. I'm also excited that the DC Chamber recognized an openly gay business for their award.''
Shop says he's impressed with how far gay-owned businesses have come in that organizations like the DC Chamber and many Social Driver clients appreciate the diversity and unique perspective brought by LGBT-owned businesses.
''I think it's very important to tell people we're an openly LGBT company,'' He says. ''But that doesn't mean we only know how to market to gay people. … I also like to think we're changing the impression of LGBT-certified businesses and what that designation means.''