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Meet Travis Harrup of Social Starfish in Mission Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Travis Harrup.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Travis. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was working for an internet retailer in the mid aughts. We were looking for inexpensive advertising avenues and decided to try social media. It was such a new platform for marketing and advertising that there wasn’t much to be found in the way of training or classes, but we knew with the volume of people that were active on these sites on a daily basis that it was an untapped resource. I spent literally THOUSANDS of hours testing different strategies to find what worked best. We began to see tangible results from the efforts within months, and they only continued to grow with time. I also developed a ravenous appetite for learning about what others were doing – attending hundreds of webinars, conferences, meet-ups, etc. Eventually, social media became our #1 resource for new business.

I realized there was a market for this and at the time was in a relationship with a serial entrepreneur who encouraged me to pursue it. For someone like me, who had ALWAYS worked for someone else, the idea of bing my own boss was exciting, but also very scary. With her help, we launched Social Starfish in 2010. In the years since, I’ve bought out my original partner, and am proud to say Social Starfish is one of the leading social media-specific agencies in California. We work with hundreds of clients across the nation in over 50 different industries. We offer outsourced management of social profiles, consulting, and platform speaking at events and conferences. Our goal is to provide top-level agency service at a price even smaller companies can afford (often less than $1,000/month). We want to ensure that social media PR and marketing is something every company can afford.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
During the first two years of starting Social Starfish, there were some very long days. Because we accepted no venture capital or other outside investors, I couldn’t afford to quit my old job until the new company was self-sustainable. This meant a weekday schedule of being up at 5am, and being at the Social Starfish offices before 6am, then leaving at 8:45 to be at my regular job until 5pm, when I returned to Social Starfish to work until 10pm (or sometimes later). On Saturdays, I typically put in a 8-12 hour day at Social Starfish, and would even work on Sundays for at least a half day. 90-100 hour workweeks were the norm. I lost some personal relationships with friends, endured a (certainly) unhealthy amount of stress, and had a myriad of other issues that were related to my work schedule.

In the end, I feel it was worth it as I now really enjoy the freedom and flexibility of owning my own business. We also employ a FANTASTIC team that I absolutely love spending time with – both in the office and out. It seems like we’re always doing some kind of great relationship & team-building, we have annual company parties, and also organize events like volleyball tournaments, nature hikes, team dinners, etc. I also get a very high level of satisfaction from many of my oldest clients who I keep regular face-to-face interactions with and know how much Social Starfish has truly helped them and their businesses.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Social Starfish – what should we know?
Social Starfish is a full-service social media PR and marketing agency. From outsourced service, to consulting, to speaking at events and conferences – we do it all. Our agency was designed with the idea that social media help should be available for small and mid-sized businesses at a cost that is reasonable. Unlike most agencies, we don’t lock clients into long-term contracts. While we have an extremely diverse client-base, the bulk of our business is with small and mid-sized companies looking to establish or enhance a social media presence. We’re a perfect fit with restaurants, nightclubs, or anything else in hospitality or travel/tourism. Have a different need? We also have clients in biotech, pharmaceutical, law, medical, dental, insurance, real estate, and other industries. While our most popular offering is outsourced service/maintenance of various social profiles, we also offer consulting packages, as well as speakers for conferences and events. Whatever your social media needs – Social Starfish can help (at a price you may think is too good to be true)!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the help and support of a wide network of people. First and foremost, I would thank my parents. They raised me with a strong moral grounding that is the basis of what Social Starfish is all about – helping people comes first, and profits come after. I’d also have to give a big thanks to Christine McDannell, co-founder of Social Starfish, and the person who gave me the support and “push” necessary to take the gamble on starting my own business.

A massive ‘thanks’ to the team at Social Starfish past and present – these people were handpicked by me personally and I couldn’t think of a better group to work with, or trust the future of my business to. There’s almost nothing more fun that getting out with this group – whether it’s a company party, a planned hike, a volleyball match down at the beach, or even just a dinner out together. I’d also like to thank the close friends who stood with me through those years when I was so often absent and unsupportive myself during the time I was investing literally EVERYTHING I had into getting Social Starfish off the ground. Last, and most importantly, I’d thank my beautiful wife Christine who has been there with me through many ups and downs and always been the most loving and supporting partner I could ask for.


  • Most of our management services are $600/month or less for top-level agency service
  • Platform speaking fees begin at $1000
  • Consulting from $200/hour

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Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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