Being “DC’s Agency” Is About More than Just Business

Filed under:

How doing right by the community is good for the company.
Brent Lightner 2

Brent Lightner

CEO | Founder
Ready for the longest ‘about page’ bio you’ll ever read?? I’m Brent.  I run this shop.  I started it out of a college dorm room back in the late nineties…

Several months ago, the new director of our marketing and communications practice wrote a blurb entitled “DC’s Agency” into a proposal.

I don’t normally review most of our proposals these days, but this one was a somewhat new format, so the section caught my attention as I was flipping through the pages. While we often think of ourselves as one of DC’s leading creative agencies (because we’re actually in DC, owned by a long-time DC resident, have more than 50% employees in DC, and generate 80% of our business from DC clients), this was the first time I recall using “DC’s Agency” as part of our brand and featuring it a selling point.

My knee-jerk reaction was that “Being a DC-based agency isn’t really something our clients should care about and probably not worth dedicating a page of a proposal to.” But after pondering it for some time, my perspective has evolved. Being DC’s Agency is not just a selling point. It’s become a big part of what makes Taoti what it is. But being DC’s Agency isn’t so much about being based in DC or all the points I just noted. It’s about a community-centric approach to doing business that I feel often gets lost as companies grow.

In light of the upcoming Small Business Saturday, it seemed like an appropriate time to reflect on what it means to be DC’s Agency.

First, it’s important to note that as the founder and sole owner of Taoti, my corporate and personal interests are intrinsically tied—something of a rarity in the agency space that is crowded with once-independent shops who have been gobbled up by global holding companies. Taoti is somewhat unique in that we’re both a growth-stage company while also being a bit of a lifestyle-stage company for its founder, me. I’ve lived in DC, on Capitol Hill, since 2003. I’ve built a business and am raising my family and simply love it here. I have no intention of going anywhere. That’s why when I had the opportunity to buy commercial space on Barracks Row, I jumped at it. And it’s why we chose to expand into an empty parking lot next door when we outgrew our old digs instead of shopping around out in Virginia or Maryland, where space is a lot cheaper. I recognize that it may make more economic sense to relocate my growing agency to someplace with lower costs or other advantages, but I selfishly don’t want to leave Capitol Hill. And since I enjoy mixing work and play, keeping my business where I live has become an important part of what keeps the job so enjoyable and drives me to continue to build relationships within the District. It turns out that’s good for business too!

At Taoti, we enjoy great relationships with our neighbors. We support many of the local schools and other charitable organizations. We host fundraisers on our roof deck. We give our space to non-profits for meetings and such. We host a variety of community events, perhaps our favorite of which is the Barracks Row “Santa’s Workshop”, where we open our doors to the whole community (including dogs, of course) and transform the office into a winter wonderland for all to enjoy. These activities aren’t just about business for us. Granted, since many of the people that work for our would-be clients live and around the Hill, I can’t deny that there are useful business connections to be made while we’re interacting with the community.

But that’s my point: doing right by the community is good business.

We didn’t do it for the connections, but the fact that we can have our cake and eat it too is one of the best parts about being DC’s Agency. We’ll never win business just because we’re so DC-centric, but especially with our clients like DC Lottery, DC Water, and Events DC, we’re sure of being DC’s Agency. Even for our non-quasi-governmental clients within the District, hiring Taoti keeps business local. When people think of supporting their local shops for small business Saturday, they’re usually thinking of local retail. But Taoti is still very much a small business too, and shopping locally for your creative, digital, and technical needs do indeed help support your DC neighbors so that they can support other small businesses in turn. It’s a privilege to be a part of this food chain.

Attaching our name and brand to DC is not something we take lightly, but having thought about it, we truly are a DC agency in every aspect of the term.  And we’re proud of that, so it makes sense to lean into and embrace the notion.  Taoti prides itself on being DC’s Agency, and we welcome all opportunities—be they business or community-oriented—to further weave ourselves into the District’s fabric.