Juror Spotlight

Jodi Eckes
Founder & CEO

"Visuals and messaging that effectively speak to the audience in a compelling way are always crucial...showing insight, understanding—even empathy—for their particular need, problem or end goal."

After honing her skills with acclaimed agencies and some of the world’s biggest brands, Jodi set out with a vision in 2008 and created DRIVE, a small—but mighty—strategic brand agency. She believed there was a smarter, more collaborative way to work with clients who had great products or services they passionately believed in. For more than fifteen years now, she’s been redefining what’s possible for clients in the healthcare, medical device, education, finance, retail and professional services industries.

As a seasoned strategist, acclaimed creative director, and accomplished designer, Jodi’s work has been recognized by the industry’s top organizations, including GRAPHIS, AIGA , HOW, PRINT, Graphic Design USA, The Davey Awards and AVIA, as well as featured in popular books on design and branding. She’s also a two-time judge for the American Marketing Association’s national Collegiate Case Competition.

Jodi has served on the board of AIGA Minnesota and has been a frequent portfolio reviewer for AIGA MN’s notable Portfolio 1-on-1 event. She’s also a three-time Minneapolis MadWomen mentor, co-chair of First Friday Women in Marketing – Twin Cities, and a longtime member of the American Marketing Association (AMA).

What led you to your current role?  
Well, I can tell you I never set out to run my own agency. I spent about 13 years working at ad agencies and design firms and loved every minute of it. I was fortunate to work with so many talented people across the industry. Our teams often worked with Fortune 100 clients and had the opportunity to work on some pretty amazing projects. The experiences were invaluable. And that’s how I planned to spend the rest of my career.

However, in the year after my second child was born, there were months of sickness and daycare struggles. Nothing serious, but the typical colds, repeated fevers, eight rounds of pink eye, two rounds of hand, foot & mouth, etc. all challenged our family — and the 24-hour daycare rule that required one of us to stay home each time one of our kids was “sick.” This was at a time when people rarely worked remotely, so an unplanned need to stay home often meant not having the files you needed. Add to that a self-imposed sense of guilt whenever I had to miss a meeting or presentation, and the stress was compounding. I decided to make the move to work as a freelancer— just until our youngest started school. I freelanced at various ad agencies — including the design firm I had just left — working both on-site and from my home office. When the time came to return to agency life, I had a steady load of projects and enjoyed collaborating with various teams. The flexibility and control over my schedule was amazing, and I realized I didn’t want to give that up. The independence of being your own boss can be quite addicting (as many of my colleagues have since realized).

I continued freelancing, and over time the business evolved from contracting with ad agencies to working directly with clients — and with other independent contractors — pulling together project teams, and eventually becoming DRIVE. It wasn’t part of a master plan, but developed naturally through experiences, realizing my own strengths and what brought me the most joy and fulfillment.