Daniel Saynt is a leader in millennial marketing and the rise of the ‘social influencer.’ A great innovator, he has developed award-winning campaigns for brands such as Lord & Taylor, Coach, Estée Lauder, and Condé Nast and has been featured in publications like WWD, Forbes, and The New York Times.
For over a decade Saynt has been revered as a blogging pioneer, first as the New York Observer proclaimed “Perez Hilton of Fashion” for his snarky industry skewing blog FashionIndie and later as a marketing wunderkind for his work as CMO for designer Rebecca Minkoff. Subsequently he Saynt launched Socialyte, an influencer casting agency that manages the careers of globally recognized talents such as BryanBoy and Adam Galla, while also providing services to over 250 clients which include Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Burberry.
Destination Luxury has the chance to chat with Saynt, who provided valuable insight on how to increase your following and his philosophies on business, as well as some key commentary on his background.
Destination Luxury: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Daniel Saynt: I’m a product of New York. Born in the Bronx, I found myself in a pretty poor yet religious Puerto Rican family. Lots of love. Constant fear of gangs and drugs.
Destination Luxury: Did you face any major adversity as a child or teen?
Daniel Saynt: I was born in crutches and walked with a cane until 1st grade. I bit my tongue off as a toddler so spent 10 years in speech therapy after doctors told me I wouldn’t speak again. There were weekly shootings in our neighborhood. I’d pass a whore house everyday on my way to middle school. Got pulled out cause I was being recruited by a gang that pushed me down a flight of stairs because I refused to sell for them.
Eventually my parents saved enough to get a low prime mortgage so we moved upstate. I got arrested twice in high school, but also happened to be an A student with a full scholarship so I skipped jail time for college and haven’t looked back since.
Destination Luxury: Can you tell us about the trajectory of your career?
Daniel Saynt: I’ve always been an entrepreneur. My first company ended up getting purchased while I was still in school. After I interned at some early fashion tech start-ups and launched FashionIndie.com, a fashion media site that quickly grew in popularity. I sold that company and then became the CMO of Rebecca Minkoff.
Through my time there, I helped build the brand into a major player in the social media game, leading innovation in the fashion field and helping them become a multi-million dollar fashion label. In 2009 I launched Socialyte with my partner Beca Alexander and began helping brands navigate the influencer marketing space taking on some major clients like Vogue, Burberry, and IMG.
Destination Luxury: What is your mission and vision of company?
Daniel Saynt: Our mission is to simplify influencer marketing through innovation in technology.
Our vision is to become the world’s casting agency, connecting brands to thousands of international digital and traditional celebrities for marketing campaigns.
Destination Luxury: Did you have start-up capital in the beginning?
Daniel Saynt: We boot strapped. We started with one customer and grew. After three years we were acquired and merged with NYLON magazine. I traded my company for a chunk of the newly formed NYLON Media. We’ve grown massively since the merger and continue to grow the company in this competitive field.
Destination Luxury: What is your leadership style and business philosophies?
Daniel Saynt: I believe that a flat organization offers the best structure for scale, so we’ve begun breaking down hierarchy to allow our employees to be empowered to take ownership of their projects and structure teams to solve problems. I trust our team leaders and we’ve seen an increase in productivity and sales as a result of moving to a flat structure.
As for business philosophies, I believe the best organizations are the ones with two strong leaders who compliment each other. My partner Beca is great at managing day to day operations and putting out fires, focused on the numbers and dedicated to immediate solutions. My focus is on technology and marketing, building relationships with larger clients and new business development. We complement each other and I think having an equal who compliments your faults is the strongest way to fuel growth.
Destination Luxury: What are some of the seminal moments and achievements in company’s history? What are some of your biggest setbacks & challenges?
Daniel Saynt: When the New York Times did a story on us 3 months into our agency launch I knew we were on the right path. Merging with NYLON was pretty major, but also getting Vogue as a client was amazing and lots of work which paid off.
Setbacks have always been on speed to market. We are constantly trying to evolve and build on our platform, perfecting our technology and be ready for the needs of the influencer space.
Destination Luxury: What are key traits for a successful entrepreneur?
Daniel Saynt: Accepting failure and moving beyond it. You constantly fail as an entrepreneur, the faster you move past it, the faster you pivot, the quicker you’ll reach success.
Destination Luxury: What have you overcome? What did you learn from setbacks?
Daniel Saynt: My first company was a media brand focused on snarky commentary on the fashion industry and through that I made a lot of enemies. People assumed I was an asshole and I became known as the “Perez Hilton of fashion.” It took a long time for people to recognize me as a serious business leader in the industry because of my attitude. I made a change in my approach, adjusted my commentary, and continued to innovate in the field.
Destination Luxury: What drives you?
Daniel Saynt: Currently I’m driven by competition. Being better than our competitors is a major driver. I love to win.
Destination Luxury: What is your personal highlight/proudest moment?
Daniel Saynt: Whenever we close a major client. There’s always a celebration.
Destination Luxury: Give some advice for those who dream of starting their own company.
Daniel Saynt: It takes time to succeed. You need to be dedicated to yourself. It’s not easy, most people will tell you to get a job. You’ll suffer before you succeed and most start-ups fail. Accept that it might take a long time before you succeed.
Destination Luxury: What are ways for a business to increase their social media following?
Daniel Saynt: Quality and consistent content is important. Share a story with your readers that they want to follow. Edit your photos and regularly market your account with giveaways.
Destination Luxury: What is your favorite platform and how do you utilize it?
Daniel Saynt: Instagram is definitely my personal favorite. With NYLON, our Youtube content is my favorite. At Socialyte we consistently post stories which work across LinkedIn and Facebook
Destination Luxury: What’s next for you? What goals and dreams remain for you?
Daniel Saynt: I want to continue to build Socialyte, expanding internationally. My goal is to eventually launch a new company, something I don’t sell and continue to build. Something I fully control. I miss being fully in control of my company and it’s destiny and want to eventually go back to running my own thing.
Destination Luxury: What is your most memorable experience?
Daniel Saynt: I once showed Ron Howard how to tweet to Tom Hanks and took a selfie with Francis Ford Coppola. I also crashed a Marc Jacobs fashion show by pretending to be Russell Simmons assistant.
Destination Luxury: What is the most interesting fact about yourself?
Daniel Saynt: I occasionally dress like a pirate bunny. I have custom ears, a kilt and a whole get up that I wear to parties and Burning Man.
Destination Luxury: Looking back on your career, does the path make sense to you? Do the dots connect?
Daniel Saynt: Who knows for sure? Hoping in the end it all makes sense, but I guess we’ll see. So far the journey has been amazing.
You can follow Daniel @DanielSaynt