Throughout her years working on political campaigns across the U.S., Zee Cohen Sanchez saw firsthand the inequities that plague the electoral process. “The voices leading our country and making important decisions” are primarily “white, older men who have very different lived experiences than the people they are making decisions for,” she says. Sanchez decided that she wanted to help individuals in the political space with the potential to uplift their communities – but who are not traditionally heard from. So, in 2020, she started Boulder City, Nevada-based Sole Strategies to work with candidates on organizing, staffing and running their campaigns. And while Sanchez has had to battle misogyny nearly every step of the way, she now counts over 400 campaigns in her portfolio – many of them, wins.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
Sole Strategies was the first of its kind when we started out. Prior to that, political consulting consisted of consultants simply telling candidates what to do – not offering help, or real strategies on how to emerge victorious. We didn’t want to be the consultants who took money and directed from afar. We are a hands-on team of experts with knowledge in digital, fundraising, public relations, social media management and field operations.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Being able to work with so many influential candidates. It makes the work we do worth the effort. Having worked on over 400 campaigns is another massive success, especially considering we’ve only been doing this work since late 2020. We have grown the company in size and revenue significantly since we began. As we head into a presidential election year, I’m excited to see what’s next.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The biggest struggle is misogyny. Sometimes – particularly when I’m on sales calls with men – I will look back and realize I spent half of my time trying to justify why, as a women-owned company, we are qualified to do this work. That’s before we even touch on the process of what it would be like to work together. I’ve gotten a lot better at being the person to start, lead and end the conversation. Some of the best advice I got was from another woman business owner, who told me that you should always be the last person to sit at the table, to always sit at the head of the table, and to always get up first to end the meeting. Those gestures show the men in the room that you are there to lead the conversation.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I started Sole Strategies from my 1984 RV that I lived in full-time with my husband in a trailer park in Portland, Oregon. We were working minimum-wage jobs and barely scraping by. In fact, the hyphen in our site URL is there today because back when I started the company I couldn’t afford $100 to buy SoleStrategies.com. Instead, I bought the $10 website URL I could afford with the hyphen!
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. People will doubt you, and make you doubt yourself. But if you want to go for something, just start. You’ll learn along the way, and success will come if you keep going. As a young woman in politics, I’ve been overlooked, doubted and criticized – which is how I learned that the only person who can truly stand in my way is myself.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I look at where I started, and where I am now. And, I try to see dark days as an opportunity. I believe everything happens for a reason – and sometimes, life needs to jerk you around to teach you a lesson.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder.
Who is your most important role model?
I don’t want to say their name for privacy reasons. But back in the day, I worked under a Republican political operative at a nonpartisan firm who taught me so much about how to run a great campaign. We didn’t agree on anything politically, but he took me under his wing and taught me that it’s possible to win elections with any candidate if you have the right strategy and team behind you. ◼