Similar to other digital success stories, it started in a garage.
Fathom Creative president and CEO Drew Mitchell discovered the art of visual communication at a young age. While eight-year-old contemporaries worked lemonade stands on the suburban Silicon Valley sidewalks of his childhood, he hosted gallery-like showings of his youthful drawings inside the family car space.
“Always creative,” Mitchell spent summers at art school instead of soccer camp. Another athletic activity, however, had Mitchell devoting five hours training daily with his high school swim team. He enjoyed “excelling in a sport where you’re primarily competing with yourself and striving for self-improvement.” It would later inspire his firm’s moniker.
In 1994, following several years first as graphic designer and soon creative director at high-profile D.C. public relations firms, including an art director stint at News Corp., he “decided to go out on my own” at the age of 29. “I always knew I wanted to start my own business before I was 30,” Mitchell notes.
Setting up shop in 1994 as sole proprietor behind an oversized plate glass window visible along Connecticut Avenue north of Dupont Circle, Mitchell would recall his days in the water when naming the soon-to-expand firm. “As soon as I thought it I knew it was right,” he says, noting its relevance to public communication.
Adopting the slogan “Think Deeper,” Mitchell’s penchant for presentation would lead him to install an oversized video monitor in the studio’s second floor window with images running day-and-night. It was an attention-getter similar to those he would employ when relocating five years ago to a storefront at 1333 14th St., N.W., in the Logan Circle area.
In the fall of 2009, when Mitchell’s original office lease expired, he and his life partner Bill Fischer decided to invest in a property suitable for both living and working. Purchasing an expansive 7,500-square-foot three-level historic commercial property, they reserved the top floor for their residence. Fischer, having coordinated the building renovation and subsequently handling business infrastructure and operations, recently returned to a career in business intelligence technology systems management.
Those among Fathom Creative’s 20 staffers working on-site are located on the ground level, currently undergoing renovation. The company has maintained a satellite office in New York City since 2003 and is preparing to open a similar San Francisco outpost late this summer.
A retail-style “showroom space” that has featured eye-catching company branding installations will soon become an independent coffee shop launched by a third party. The firm also operates Fathom Gallery on the second level, and an adjoining 1,500-square-foot outdoor deck. Each accommodates 100 guests for gatherings and approximately 100 annual event rentals – including corporate retreats and board meetings, tech industry “meet-ups,” gay and “mixed-gender” weddings, cocktail receptions, dinners and other gatherings. Fathom often invites clients and associates for grilling parties and to sample a signature beer of homegrown hops.
Specializing in all aspects of business branding, strategic communications and social/digital messaging for national and local-based clients, Fathom serves as an off-site creative department for some and project fulfillment agency for others. GSA-certified for federal contracts alongside handling association and advocacy accounts, Fathom is also one of only five U.S. firms with recognized expertise in Prezi – a sophisticated alternative to PowerPoint presentations.
“Our work is often complex but always exhilarating,” Mitchell modestly offers in light of 20 years of proven results for a diverse client base.
Mitchell adopted the title “fearless leader” along the way, with whimsical job descriptors for staff. “It’s a reminder to me and a promise to clients,” he says, “reflecting our attitude when taking on new challenges.”