Fast Company has named her one of the most creative people in business in 2019. Companies such as Etsy, Airbnb, and Netflix have her on speed dial. And last year alone, her studio pulled in over $1 million in sales.
Jess Peterson, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Mighty Oak, a creative agency based in Brooklyn, New York, has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. After dominating the stop-motion animation scene online, the Northeastern graduate is setting her sights on the next frontier: television.
“I think we’re starting to connect more with TV networks,” she says. “We’ve done some work for a couple of HBO shows including ‘Random Acts of Flyness,’ and will hopefully work on more of our own original content.”
Similar to the tree from which it took its name, Mighty Oak has grown by leaps and bounds since Peterson enlisted business partners Emily Collins and Michaela Olsen to launch the company in 2015. Today, the studio, which specializes in handmade animation and design, boasts an impressive and eclectic portfolio.
“We primarily work with a medium called stop-motion animation, but we also do 2D animation, meaning that we are crafting all the video assets and the videos by hand, animating them in camera, and then using post-visual effects to bring it all together and put the magic in,” says Peterson.
The ability to “create small, magical worlds” across a diverse range of mediums, Peterson says, is what distinguishes her company from others in the stop-motion animation space. Mighty Oak has drawn praise from diverse audiences for its work, including digital shorts for Nick Jr., promos for Adult Swim, and an original film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
“We’re doing everything from animating with paper to food, clay puppets, life-sized animated dorm rooms in the Bronx, and tiny miniatures for Coca-Cola and Netflix,” Peterson says.
As the head of Mighty Oak, Peterson finds the problem-solving skills she learned at Northeastern critical to her day-to-day work. While pursuing a music industry degree, she completed two co-ops that figured largely in the trajectory of her career and personal life—both of her bosses were invited to her wedding five years ago, she says.
“That’s helped me to run my own company—having an understanding of how to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “I worked at small companies and so I knew how to wear a lot of hats right out of the gate. I got to learn what I liked and didn’t like and what direction I should pursue when I got out of school, and I think all of that was incredibly valuable.”
After graduating in 2007, Peterson moved to New York City and worked as a tour logistics manager for acts such as Florence And The Machine and the Black Keys before pursuing a master’s degree in media and museum studies at The New School. She then worked for three years at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City while brainstorming a business plan for Mighty Oak. And while building her company, she found time to get an MBA from New York University.
She credits her success to a handful of factors. She says it’s helped to work in an environment where it was possible to collaborate with other creative people.
“It has definitely been a long journey to figure out my own natural strengths, what made sense for me, how to be a good team player, and connect with others,” she says. “I’m grateful to have grown from all of my experiences, and thankful that it started at Northeastern.”
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