Hawks to Watch: Seth Sanchez

Why Seth is a Hawk to Watch:

Have you ever waved goodbye to the borders of Kansas — holding back tears — only to feel at home by finding a Free State beer in another time zone? You might have Seth Sanchez to thank for that. Or, have you ever tried a new Lawrence restaurant after coming across a mouthwatering picture on Instagram? You might have Seth to thank for that, too. Have you ever seen an aerial photo of Massachusetts Street or Jayhawk Boulevard, and stopped to admire the beauty experienced from a bird’s eye view? You might have — never mind, you get the idea.

With a B.G.S. in both Political Science and History, Seth Sanchez has become something of a local celebrity, along with Drone Lawrence co-owner and KU alum Nathan Mize, as their unique photos of Lawrence and the University have gained popularity nation-wide. A testament to the true variability of applications a degree in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences can provide, Seth’s double-majors prepared him for career that, upon graduating, may have been impossible to predict. 

Read about Seth’s journey below, from enrolling at KU as an out-of-state student to graduating and setting roots in the town the Jayhawks call home. See why Seth is a Hawk to Watch.

Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living: 

My main gig is sales and marketing for Free State Brewing Company, where I am responsible for getting our beer distributed far and wide. Additionally, I am the co-owner of Drone Lawrence, an aerial photography and videography company focused on our town. Finally, I run social media accounts for a few restaurants in Lawrence. 

How did you end up doing what you do? Was there a certain moment when things came together, or was it a longer journey?

I started working for Free State as a busboy during my sophomore year at KU, and around that time a burgeoning new social media platform called Twitter was coming to the forefront of the marketing scene. I approached the owner of Free State, Chuck Magerl, and asked if I could open a Twitter account on behalf of the brewery. He said yes, and shortly thereafter I was running our Facebook account too, and a few years later Instagram came around.

Because of this role, I had a direct line of communication to Chuck and we developed a great relationship. As I was closing in on my KU graduation I told him I would love to keep working for the company, but I wanted to do more, and that’s when I was offered the sales position. 

The Drone Lawrence origin story is tied to Free State Brewery. In 2018 I was living in an apartment that had a free coffee machine in the lobby. One bleary-eyed morning I went down for a fresh cup and noticed a video playing on loop, showing off the building and its features. This was not a fancy apartment, and yet the video made it look fantastic! I saw a watermark in the lower corner that said @dronelawrence, so I immediately messaged the account about doing some work for Free State. That’s when I met my future business partner, Nathan Mize (KU class of 2018).

We worked well together on the Free State project, and afterwards I offered to help him grow Drone Lawrence. We just celebrated our 5th anniversary, and it’s transformed from a fun side project into something much bigger. 

How did your KU degree prepare you for your current role? 

Political science and history absolutely helped me in the social media world, particularly the ability to write clearly and concisely. Free State is the original Kansas craft brewery and many of our beers are named after famous Kansans and historic local events. There is a natural tilt towards history in everything we do, and my educational background certainly comes in handy. 

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

Recently a selection of Drone Lawrence photographs were chosen by the Lawrence Sister Cities Program and will be showcased in Hiratsuka, Japan. Lawrence and Hiratsuka are celebrating 30+ years of partnership, and we are honored to have our work represent the city that we love on an international scale. 

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

During the early days of COVID, Drone Lawrence had zero clients and with everything up in the air, we were unsure when or if our business would bounce back. Up to that point, we were only doing client based work — social media promos, aerial surveying, etc. 

With loads of free time on my hands, I started taking the drone out every sunrise and sunset, focusing on the city from a new perspective. Within a couple of days a few of my shots had gone viral, with more than a few comments asking if we sold prints. All of the sudden, we were in the art game, shipping prints of the Campanile, Fraser Hall, the Kaw and more all over the country. A few months after that we had our first art show at Phoenix Gallery in Downtown Lawrence, and our portfolio has continued to grow. 

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

Living in Lawrence with my wife and kid(s) and being the dorky dad who brings his drone to his kids’ soccer games! 

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

I moved to Lawrence from Albuquerque, NM as a freshman, and I didn’t know one person in the whole state. I wish I could tell my 18-year-old self how many formative and long lasting friendships I would make here and the deep affection I would grow to have for this town. 

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Talk to everyone and make as many connections as possible. My life would be totally different if I never approached the owners of Free State and Drone Lawrence — you never know where your next opportunity will come from! 

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

Summertime in Lawrence means one thing in my world: kickball. If you’ve never been a part of the Kaw Valley Kickball League you’re missing out — it’s truly one of the things that makes Lawrence great. A summer night at Hobbs Park under the lights…there’s nothing like it. 

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

My wife and I were married in Porto, Portugal! 

Meet more of our Hawks to Watch. Learn more about Political Science and History in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Kansas. Visit Drone Lawrence to see more of Seth and Nathan’s work.