Driving Disruption: Zee Cohen-Sanchez Of Sole Strategies On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Investing and creating new organizing technology that will lower our operating costs and give working-class people a real chance to get elected.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Zee Cohen-Sanchez, the Executive Director of Sole Strategies.

Zee Cohen-Sanchez is the Founder and Executive Director of Sole Strategies — a groundbreaking, women-led Democratic political company. Her passion for politics was ignited during her undergraduate years at Wagner College when she witnessed the transformative impact of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which shed light on the pressing issues facing America. Motivated by the belief that better policies had the potential to create a better America and support communities, she created a comprehensive political agency that takes candidates through every step of their campaign. Zee has been featured in several national publications and podcasts for her insights into political, social, and business issues.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I started college in 2010 in NYC it was the beginning of Occupy Wall Street. I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, but I started to realize the disparity between the ultra-wealthy and the working class which inspired me to want to be politically involved at the electoral level. It wasn’t until Bernie announced his run for office in 2015 that I decided to take campaigning from a part-time hobby into a full-time career.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The difference between us and a regular consulting firm is that we are mission driven. Our mission is to get more women involved in politics and train more working-class people to become serious political operatives. The way we do that is by not just providing advice but by providing the hands-on staff that are needed to actually flip seats.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1 . Don’t be afraid to hustle: When I started Sole Strategies, and even now at times, I’d work 16-plus hour days. When you work in campaigning, that can be what it takes to win races. I never tell my staff to do something that I’m not willing to do myself.

2 . Having a team-focused mentality: I truly value and desire to take care of my staff. They are the most important part of our success. If they aren’t happy that’s the fault of leadership. Keeping them happy is the key to our success.

3 . Believing in the underdogs: I take chances on candidates who have an uphill battle. You never know if an underdog candidate will win. You might as well take a calculated risk because the payoff is huge. No one cares if you just work on incumbent races. You need to prove that you can take someone from nothing to something big.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

I often felt like there was one path I was supposed to be on, so it really came down to making decisions that allowed me to stay the path and having the courage to let go of the things that didn’t serve me or serve Sole Strategies.

I’ve had to say no to clients who would have brought us a lot of money because they didn’t fit into our mission or didn’t share the same values as the company. Alignment will always be important to us at Sole because if we’re representing clients we don’t believe in, then we’re doing everyone a disservice.

In the beginning, when you’re starting out and you just need to get clients in the door, it’s enormously hard to say no to anyone. We were always a Democratic firm, but that doesn’t mean that every Democrat aligned with the way we wanted to do things. Learning how to say no and trust that something bigger and better would present itself was a challenge, but it ultimately made me a better leader and has gotten Sole to where it is now.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

Disruption to us is doing the tough work that we know will be successful even if that means ruffling feathers. We run canvassing campaigns and knock doors because we know that is how we get our candidates the wins they’re campaigning for. It isn’t comfortable or even hugely profitable, but our goal is to get MAGA candidates out of office and get working-class Democrats into seats that matter.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

Disruption to us means changing the face of politics as you now know it. We want a diverse government body. Women represent half of this country, but they’re still less than 30% of Congress. Working-class people struggle to get elected because of financial constraints, so many of our representatives come from wealthier backgrounds making it harder for them to relate to the average voter.

Disruption is necessary and we’re spearheading it by helping the underdogs get elected to government. We push canvassing as the best strategy because we know it wins. We’ve created a new campaigning app to help Democratic candidates run successful field operations. We’ve taken consultancy and turned it into a hands-on staff where we implement the advice we give. We choose to work with the candidates who have the hustle and the fresh perspective needed for the future of our government. We do this because we know it’s time for a change and we’ve proven that our strategy for getting these underdog candidates elected works.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

Not always doing something simply because it makes a profit but doing what it takes to win, even if the strategy is more stressful. What I’ve learned in doing this is that it’s a long-term payoff. When we do what requires more hustle and less funding we get candidates elected, and then those candidates come back to us time and time again. Rather than doing something for short-term profit just to benefit in the moment, we want to invest in the long-term. Unfortunately, that’s not how a lot of our industry operates.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

I get pushback every day from candidates and consultants about the power of field and direct voter contact. I use the raw statistics to prove my point. Field campaigns are the most effective way to convert voters, even in 2024. The traditional thought is that you should spend all your money on costly TV ads. These tactics don’t convert voters.

My advice would be, if you want to be successful go with what you know works even if it’s harder and it means you have to play the long-game. A lot of people won’t understand it but trust your intuition and when those results pour in, people will be coming to you for advice.


What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

1 . Pushing field operations over the short-term profits of digital and mail campaigns

2 . Offering free teaching and training for working-class people who want to become great political operatives. We need more great operatives and Sole is contributing to making that a reality.

3 . Investing and creating new organizing technology that will lower our operating costs and give working-class people a real chance to get elected.

4 . Taking on first-time candidates and giving them the infrastructure that they need to be able to take out long-term incumbents.

5 . Leading the way for more women to get involved in the political process in such a heavily male-dominated industry.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

Since I started in politics, I’ve been unconventional. I dropped out of grad school to work on Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Then I was traveling around the country running field operations for different candidates, living out of my 1980s RV. Being willing to take risks and live unconventionally gave me an edge when I saw a need in the political industry and decided to fill the gap.

What I witnessed time and time again were consultants offering advice to candidates on how to run a campaign and where they should spend their money. And most of the time, the money was not well spent, didn’t lead to a successful campaign, and the consultant walked away a richer person. There was a deep need in our industry to have fewer instances of consultants giving basic advice, and instead offer hand-on, people-powered services.

I was willing to disrupt the industry and fill the gap. Sole Strategies, from the time it was created, stood as an example of how consulting and comprehensive services can exist under one roof with the only focus being to win campaigns.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

In general, we work in a male-dominated industry. Being a woman, whether in a personal or a professional setting, means being disruptive if you aren’t going to fall into societal norms. I’ve never been someone who fell into those norms and it’s important to me that I set an example for other women to use their voice and their power in whatever way they choose.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

What keeps me awake at night is thinking about how we are going to expand fast enough to handle larger volumes of candidates, so we can get them elected and change the trajectory of our government.

I think about how fragile our democracy is and how easily it can be taken away from us. We need fresh blood in the government and a more representative body of leaders.

These reflections have made me a more directed leader.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Doing what we are doing now. We aren’t trying to start a movement, we are providing the roadmap and the tools to enable a movement that has already started.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can check out our website SoleStrategies.com or visit my Instagram.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.