Chris ’99 and Amie ’98 Sanborn

Chris ’99 and Amie ’98 Sanborn

Chris ’99 and Amie ’98 Sanborn

DEGREES: B.A. in American studies (Chris and Amie)

JOB TITLES: Co-founders and partners, Sanborn Media Factory

FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORIES: When I had to defend my senior thesis in front of the American studies department. For some (stupid) reason I told myself that I didn’t really need to prepare. I had spent a year on this stuff! I had a notecard into which I scribbled something like “intro, guts, conclusion.” When I was called up to go, I was hit with a deep and powerful panic attack–drew a complete blank. I looked down at my single notecard and saw the drops of sweat dripping onto it, obscuring the meager notes I had scribbled. I eventually got ahold of myself and the professors in the room served up softball questions, no doubt feeling that I’d suffered enough. I learned a lot that day! (Chris)

My most sentimental memory from the Trinitones was at my graduation when I led the Tones in my final concert as a student. I remember in that moment appreciating the impact my time with the Trinitones had on my time at Trinity. (Amie)

REPORTER: What does Sanborn Media Factory do?
CHRIS SANBORN: We are an interactive creative agency, and we do five things: we build
Web sites, we build mobile apps, we engineer social media campaigns, we do video production, and we do something called “live,” which involves building digital things at live events. We have 35 employees in two offices (New York City and Los Angeles). We named it a “factory” because we always liked the idea of a raw physical space dedicated to the making of something.

REPORTER: What prompted you to start the company?
AMIE SANBORN: It was an accident.

CHRIS: Like the first guy who accidentally spilled chocolate syrup into his milk and discovered chocolate milk. We had both worked for large companies and small companies, and we decided at a fairly young age that smaller was better … for a lot of reasons. So we quit our “real jobs” and worked out of our 300-square-foot studio apartment in New York doing our own thing (I did freelance Web design and some copywriting, and Amie did voice-over gigs and musical theater).

One day we noticed we had more work than we could handle on our own, and we were either going to turn it away or start hiring other freelancers to help. Managing the work of others let us do more and create things that extended well beyond our own limited skill set. So we just kind of followed that wave until we had incorporated the business, opened an office, hired a couple full-time employees, and pretended to know how to run a business.

REPORTER: How has the business evolved since it began?
CHRIS: When we first started, it was just the two of us. Then we had a very small team of people in a small office working very closely together. When we hit 20 people … something happened. You can’t yell across a room and get things done by the seat of your pants when you reach that size. When you hit 30 people, it really starts to get different. So we grabbed the leaders of the company and locked ourselves in a room at this mountain resort in upstate New York for our first real off-site retreat. We made a list of things we (as a company) were good at and things we were bad at, and, sure enough, the same thing was at the top of BOTH lists: cowboying. By “cowboying” we meant doing things quickly and aggressively and without a lot of standing around. Just going right at it. We ultimately needed to find a way to still cowboy and keep that spirit alive but also have some rules and some process to keep us from killing each other or our clients.

AMIE: And that’s not easy. You go from being small and agile and scrappy to suddenly you need … some structure to keep the wheels on the wagon but still retain your soul. It was a difficult thing to accept and to execute, but I think we’ve cracked that code.

REPORTER: To what do you attribute your company’s success?
AMIE: It’s a little hokey, but more than anything, it would be honesty. Chris and I decided at the very beginning that we would make honesty the most core value of the company, and I think we can draw a straight line from that decision to the fact that we still exist and are growing today. Being honest with yourself, your employees, your customers … it’s just good business.

REPORTER: What do you think the future of interactive media will look like?
CHRIS: If you’ve seen the movie Minority Report, you have a good idea. We’ll continue to head down the path of mobile and touch-based interactions. More and more of the things we use on a daily basis (mirrors, refrigerators, cars, elevators, etc.) will be equipped with touch-based interfaces, and our mobile devices will continue to evolve into our “universal remote” to the world.

REPORTER: What experiences at Trinity prepared you for the work you do today?
AMIE: We both received a lot of encouragement to study the things that interested us from people both at Trinity and in our lives at the time, and I think Trinity gives you a lot of support and freedom to pursue that approach. Your last couple years of school, I think, the real world starts to come over the horizon and you freak out and start to wonder what you’ll do with that American studies major when you start applying for jobs. But keeping calm and carrying on with the things that in your heart feel right is the best approach for the long term. And Trinity is a great incubator for that in ways that other schools are not.