SPN interviews Mary Ann O’Brien-Elkjer of OBI CreativeFebruary 9, 2009 by Danny Schreiber
When Mary Ann O’Brien’s father suggested she apply to an up and coming PC company in North Sioux City, S.D. after her college graduation, she was skeptical. “I’m not into computers, this is highly unlikely it’s going to be a fit,” she recalled telling her father. “But, low and behold, I landed a job at Gateway Computers.”
Her position, manager of integrated marketing programs, put her University of Iowa marketing degree to use, while one of the company’s founders, Ted Waitt, put her entrepreneurial spirit in overdrive.
After three years at Gateway, in which she was a part of its relocation to San Diego, she left the company to quench her entrepreneurial thirst, co-founding Hotpaper.com in 1998, in San Francisco. After a year in business, the company, which developed stream-lined data repository applications, was acquired by GoAmerica Communications. O’Brien found herself a part of the contract as the VP of business development and sales for GoAmerica.
Two years later, she began her next entrepreneurial venture, founding O’Brien Industries, Inc. in 2002, a marketing ideation firm that has grown into a full-service brand strategy and advertising agency. Originally located in San Diego, O’Brien gained momentum in the high-tech industry by rekindling her business relationship with Gateway. In 2006, OBI Creative was credited in part for growing Gateway’s fourth quarter sales figures by 7 percent, a result of the “Ask, Listen and Deliver” national brand campaign it directed. That same year, O’Brien decided to re-establish her roots in the Midwest and officially open shop in Omaha.
Today, OBI Creative Collective has about 20 employees working on accounts locally and world-wide. Its mantra, “Be Brave,” sums up both its owner’s work history and its employees approach to ad campaigns. It also sums up her expectations of Omaha, and her excitement about what she’s seeing happening around her.
Check out my interview with Mary Ann, in which she details her journey from a cow spot branded PC company to a pirate-themed ad agency and ideation firm.
A tour of the OBI Creative office…