For Mighty Oak co-founder and CEO Jess Peterson, succeeding in business is all about surrounding yourself with the right people. “I think a lot of times we want to get into business with someone because we have the same exact ideas,” she says. “We want to do the same thing, but then who’s going to do the thing you don’t want to do?”
Luckily, Jess found complementary skills in creative director Michaela Olsen and production whiz Emily Collins, whom she founded Mighty Oak, the Brooklyn-based animation studio, with back in 2015. What they’ve been able to accomplish since then is nothing short of amazing. Last year alone, they booked more than $1 million in client work; this year, their videos passed the 2-billion view mark and they were named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business.
Through it all, they’ve grown the Mighty Oak team and leveraged their shared creative prowess to make stop-motion magic with a handmade ethos for the likes of Netflix, HBO, Etsy, and The New York Times, to name a few. (Not to mention their recent Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere, “Under Covers.”)
We took a trip to the Mighty Oak studio to learn more about how it all works. Watch our interview with Jess above, or scroll on for excerpts from our conversation.
On why video matters:
“There are studies that say visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. So just think about how much more information you can share in a short video than in a long article. Something we bring to the table is thinking about how people are engaging with video. At a global scale, people are watching without sound. They’re watching in different languages. So how can we share a story completely with visuals? And in the shortest amount of time possible, because people have very short attention spans and they’re being bombarded with content all the time. Video lends itself to being the most effective tool to share a message.”
On animation as a medium:
“Why are we using animation? I think often times it’s best when it’s explaining something that’s hard to share any other way. It works really well when people are trying to explain stories about science, history, or moments you can’t quite replicate as easily. It also works well for clients who are selling products, and to create the most inclusive experience possible. We’ve been able to provide that kind of solve. I think the art form is important, but it’s figuring out the why and the what when we’re at our most creative, because we’re really thinking through how to solve a problem.”
On working with clients:
“When we first hear a client is interested in working with us, the goal and the challenge we need to work through is why they should want to use stop motion to tell their story. It’s so different than live action; I think a lot of people are used to seeing live action. So why are they going to make this leap into a very whimsical and fantastical world? It’s up to us to engage them and know how to tell their story through visuals that make sense for their brand.”
On starting an agency:
“My advice for anyone looking to start a collaboration or a business: One would be to know your own strengths, to understand who can help complement those strengths, and to understand the industry you want to get into. Really understanding that industry and becoming part of the community is probably one of the most important parts of success, because so much of businesses is who you know — and not in the wrong way. It’s because we’re coming together and working together as a creative team that things get bigger and better. That would be my biggest piece of advice. Really get to know your community. Make friends.”
Video by Devon Honeyman.