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Walker Sands President Mike Santoro Named EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist in the Midwest Region


EY announced Mike Santoro, president of Walker Sands, has been named a finalist for the 2016 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Midwest region. The Chicago-based public relations and digital marketing firm has gained national recognition in recent years for its innovative approach to marketing for high-growth, B2B technology companies.

Santoro was selected, along with 28 other finalists in the Midwest, by a panel of independent judges. His inclusion on the list of finalists for the 30th annual EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award was based on his instrumental role in leading the firm from uncertain beginnings to an award-winning, 75-person agency.

In 2015, Walker Sands earned $7 million in revenue, representing a 177 percent increase over the past three years. The firm’s steep growth curve is largely due to “the Digital Ecosystem,” a comprehensive approach to earned, owned and paid media strategies that Walker Sands developed under Mike’s leadership.

“It’s very humbling to be listed alongside these impressive entrepreneurs,” said Santoro. “We like to think of ourselves as marketing scientists working to develop effective campaigns with creative, integrated programs. To win recognition for doing work you love with people you respect … it’s really amazing.”

The creativity and hardworking mindset of the Walker Sands’ team are the firm’s greatest assets, according to Santoro. The agency has a far higher employee retention rate than the industry average and Santoro works constantly to foster a sense of shared ownership in Walker Sands. To this end, Santoro has spearheaded a number of unique programs, including the $25,000 Challenge (a program that invited employees to propose ideas for investing in agency improvement), an annual Chicago scavenger hunt and one of the most attractive tuition reimbursement plans currently offered by marketing firms.

“Mike’s vision and determination have helped power Walker Sands to become one of the fastest-growing companies in the country,” said Ken Gaebler, founder of Walker Sands. “We have spent a lot of late nights together figuring out the right formula to make Walker Sands one of the best marketing agencies in the nation, and Mike has rallied our team around that vision. Without a doubt, his deep talents as a leader have been a critical driver of our successes to date.”

Santoro also brings a desire to produce positive change beyond the business world. He and his wife, Amanda Santoro, founded the Little Giraffe Foundation in 2011 after losing their newborn daughter. The foundation helps parents and patients in the neonatal intensive care unit and has funded a number of medical research grants. To date they have helped more than 7,000 families and their funded research has led to breakthroughs in preemie brain development, kidney function and respiratory health.

The 2016 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Midwest winners will be announced at the Awards Gala on June 15 in Chicago.

About Walker Sands:
Walker Sands is a public relations and digital marketing agency for business-to-business technology companies. With offices in Chicago and San Francisco, Walker Sands was founded in 2001 to provide data-driven marketing support for a wide array of companies with the business mission of providing best-in-class communications counsel and services. Walker Sands is a three-time Inc. 5000 Honoree and has received several other industry-specific awards, such as PRSA Skylines, Hermes and PR Daily, among others. To learn more, visit