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In her late teens, like many young Jamaicans, Kesi Gardner left and started a life in the United States as a result of an amazing opportunity her mother received working with The United Nations.
From as early as then, she developed a strong sense of self and determination and created a path. From doodling on her father’s old drafting desk to dreaming of conceptualizing large campaigns she soon would be a part of, she always saw herself as a creative. She attended the prestigious private school, The Dwight School on Central Park West but decided against finishing the International Baccalaureate program and instead left after the first year to go to art school.
After receiving a scholarship to attend Howard University to study fine arts, she opted to for the distinguished halls of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York where she received a well-rounded communications design education in areas of illustration, graphic design, art direction and painting.
With walking in the footsteps of alumni like film director Robert Redford, fashion designer Betsey Johnson and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Kesi excelled at the top ranked school, receiving a Freshman Honor to exhibit in the Schafler Gallery on the Brooklyn campus. She also appeared on the Dean’s list and was invited to exhibit at the Roosevelt Island Chase bank branch upon graduation.
After the birth of her daughter, she returned home and found pleasure working as an art director for her brother’s web development company, now-defunct Zanzibar Technologies.
Early in her career, Kesi worked as a graphic designer with several companies, including a multi-national advertising agency, McCann-Erickson Jamaica, where she gained valuable knowledge in conceptualizing the “big idea” and bringing it to life.
Landing a contract to work as one of the first in-house graphic designers at Digicel Jamaica, she enjoyed the thrill of working in a fast-paced environment, managing projects from conception to completion.
During this time, she also ran a t-shirt company called Sprawl Tees and sold online, shipping to countries as far as Germany and Japan. T-shirts were sold locally in stores in Negril and Kingston and became popular because of “influencers” repping the brand on social media.
One late Saturday night traveling home from a wedding, she had a car accident and suffered whiplash and a concussion. After several weeks of physical therapy, she realized she needed a change. The workload and long grueling hours of advertising world had taken its toll.
It was an eye-opener and she knew that in order to make the changes she sought, school was the only avenue. She went to back to school and received a masters of arts degree from Notre Dame of Maryland University in strategic communication with a concentration in social media marketing.
Still while an intern, she received a job offer from an international NGO, called Africare. There, she managed the online component of the marketing communications program, while writing opinion editorials on behalf of the President for news sources like Huffington Post. Her passion for social media and digital marketing grew and she was proud when her efforts garnered 25% increase in donor loyalty for that year. She was even featured on Philanthropy.com.
In 2013, she returned home to be with her family. Continuing her love for advertising but this time on the account management side, where she worked as an account executive for one of the top three agencies in Jamaica, Whistling Frog.
She worked in every stage of accounts management, from liaising with production to meeting with clients and managing budgets. Working on campaigns worth millions of dollars, she thrived in the fast-paced environment. Being a strategist, designer and writer, she was a “triple threat”, and often conceptualized, wrote copy and designed campaigns when she needed to get the job done.
In 2014, she had the privilege of being asked to be judge and presenter at The Caribbean Blog & Social Media awards. There she was reminded of her love for social media and digital marketing.
In the past few years, she’s worked with two of the top advertising agencies in Jamaica, Panmedia and the oldest agency in the region, Advertising and Marketing, otherwise known as AdMark- an agency aligned with Foote, Cone and Belding–one of the world’s oldest agency networks. While there, she worked on several 360 degree campaigns in the finance, insurance and the consumer goods industries.
In 2019, she was nominated as one of Digital Jamaican’s People to Watch in 2019 in the Micro Influencer category because of her willingness to highlight Jamaican marketing trends and influencers in the digital landscape. The nomination motivated her to start The Love Not Likes blogging/influencer network. A network of content creators including bloggers, influencers, videographers and photographers that come together to collab and network.
She’s also worked on media relations and public relations campaigns for personal brands and companies.
All this experience culminated to where she is today, which involves running The Storyteller agency.Co that helps brands tell their story.
SHE’S BEEN FEATURED IN:
Silicon Caribe: My Facebook Success Story: Read here
Philanthropy.com: Non-Profits Aim to Build Success from the 1st Giving Tuesday: Read here
Ketch Caribbean: Top Ten YouTubers You Should Know: Read here
Global Voices. org: In the Social Media Age, How Should Jamaica’s Head of Government Communicate? Read Here
Digital Jamaican’s People to Watch in 2019: Read here
Jamaica Observer: Worthy Park single Reserve launch. Read here
Buzz Caribbean: All things luxury: Meet Kesi Gardner Read here
Gleaner: Kingston Creative Talks film, digital. Read here
Jamaicans.com: YouTubers to Watch in 2020: Read here
CVM TV Sunrise: Love Not Likes Bloggers Trip: Read here.
Caribbean Business Report feature: The launch of the Storyteller Agency: Read Here.
Something Extra: Gleaner Social at Coffee Festival Launch Read here
7th Annual Jamaica Music Conference: Media Matters: Social & Emerging Media for the Reggae Mecca Read here