Story by Suzanne Gibson | Dec 28, 2015
Finding a niche in the highly competitive arena of Los Angeles.
Ali Esterly, age 31, has riveted her way to success as a creative director in LA. Not a market that breeds easy success. Her portfolio, not shabby either, is riddled with names such as Google Search, Google Maps and YouTube. Her list of awards, in no short order either, include The Webby’s, Communication Arts, The FWA, CSS Design and W3.
So what’s her secret? Without question, Esterly attributes local roots as the reason for her current achievements.
“In creative advertising, hard work pays off,” Esterly says. “I was fortunate enough to grow up with a Midwest work ethic. I work hard and care about my projects, and I think that has helped to make me successful in my career. I appreciate how the Jefferson City community surrounded me with so many nurturing individuals who helped me grow.”
Esterly first moved to California in 2009, at a time when she claims “getting laid off was more common than getting a job.” After graduating from the University of Missouri, she attended and graduated from Miami Ad School and was anxious to begin working, so she moved to LA and opened her own design shop, Th3Factory and stayed busy for a year.
Then, in 2010, a call from David & Goliath, a nationally recognized advertising agency, invited her to join their creative team. After working on the agency side for two years on big name projects, she “took a break from the grind” and decided to freelance. Then another agency came knocking, and she accepted a job with Hook, a nationally acclaimed digital creative agency.
Still busy and in demand, her current stint is with 360i, ranked among the top 10 agencies by Advertising Age. While California is where Esterly resides, a year doesn’t go by without a return visit to home.
“My loving family has molded me into the person I am today. They have always encouraged me to follow my dreams and have helped me make all of them realities. They believed in me every day and still do. It’s awesome to have such supportive cheerleaders in my corner.”
Fondest childhood memories are many for Esterly, and she recalls one of her earliest mentors, Wynn Riley, youth musical director, “as getting me out of my shell when I was a shy five-year-old who only wanted to hide behind my mom’s leg.”
Others on the list include Coach Zeitz, who taught that dedication and determination in golf and life absolutely pay off, Mrs. Noonan, eleventh-grade creative writing teacher and Lola Rice, “the best nanny ever, is such a carefree and creative spirit. I am blessed that a lot of that rubbed off on me.” Performing and creating always came natural for Esterly as she shares: “My absolute favorite activity in high school was performing in the spring musicals. Being on that Richardson Auditorium stage gave me so many beneficial traits that I still use in my current career. I learned confidence, mastered the art of looking at ease under pressure and, most importantly, I learned to appreciate how it feels to love what you do.”
It was longtime family friend, Tom Durkin, from Jefferson City who helped Esterly make the decision to move west.
“Hearing about how he made the leap to the big city made the possibility of the jump seem more realistic to me.”
And today with stardom as a creative director in the bag, Esterly still loves and knows her roots.
“It’s always nice to come home to warm welcomes from familiar faces,” she says. “Jefferson City people are, hands down, the kindest, most genuine breed I know.”