In our 2021 issue, we’re shining the light on several amazing Leading Ladies.
V.P. Group Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi X
Born in Neosho, Missouri, Mauriahh Esquivel is an only child from a small but mighty family. She grew up in the small town of Vinita, Oklahoma. After graduating from her high school class of about 80 people, she couldn’t wait to get out and experience the world. That feeling landed Mauriahh in Los Angeles after college, only to find herself drawn back to Northwest Arkansas to work for Saatchi & Saatchi X. This is where she fell in love with the area’s charm, its friendly people and its outdoorsy vibe. Once she discovered this hidden gem bustling with opportunity, she decided to put down roots here. Mauriahh bought a home in Springdale seven years ago, where she lives with her husband and their “fur fam” (two pups and a kitty). “Over my 16 years here, it’s been fun to watch Fayetteville stay funky, experience the Bentonville boom and be a part of Springdale springin’ to life,” she said. “Seeing the metamorphosis of the area has kept me intrigued enough to want to stay and grow with it.”
Associate Degree in Applied Science, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I didn’t always know what I wanted to do. My mom is the most talented artist I’ve ever known, and I grew up wishing I had her hand skills. My dad is an empathetic creative thinker who applied that to his career as a family therapist. I did well in school, took art classes and even won some art shows when I was young, but I never saw art as a career path. Just knowing I wanted to help people, I assumed the best way to do that was by becoming a doctor, so I put art aside and went to pre-med thanks to scholarships. But instead of staying up all night cramming for chemistry tests, I’d find myself daydreaming and doodling. I did a 180 and changed paths to graphic design. Graphic design led me to art direction and then into creative leadership.
First big break:
It all started with a leap of faith (in myself). After graduating college, I packed up my bags and left my small hometown behind without a job in place, just a dream to work for an agency in the big city. I landed my first gig in Los Angeles, where I learned so much about the world and myself. However, the biggest break would come a couple of years later when I give that all up to move to NWA to work for Saatchi & Saatchi X as a graphic designer. Almost 16 years later, I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn here from the bottom-up. It’s been a fun ride and an invaluable experience.
Best part of your job:
It’s the two-fold C’s. 1) Culture. I have a work family of Xers who make me better. They bring so much joy to my day and getting to help them reach their potential and use creativity to grow is the biggest reward. Saatchi & Saatchi X is known for its culture. We work hard and enjoy our time together (even if we are physically apart). 2) Creating conversion. When I can get my hands on a client brief with a super juicy problem to solve, then I get to collaborate with some of the smartest people I know to unlock an idea that creates conversion and grows our clients’ business. It is so satisfying.
One thing you’d love to master in business:
There are so many aspects to using creativity in business to solve problems that I’ll always be a student. If I could master anything, though, it would be the art of the sell. If I could find a way to bottle up the magic that happens when we get to a transformational idea that changes a behavior and sell that in a given moment, I would feel like I’ve mastered something pretty special in business. To me, selling isn’t about the “pitch” as much as it is unveiling all the thoughtfulness, passion and energy behind an idea and telling a story that connects with the audience.
One thing you’d love to master in your personal life:
Funny, because my personal and professional lives often collide. It’s probably part of what has helped me be happy and successful along the way. I love dabbling with photography/videography and the ability to capture something beautiful that I can share with others. I plan to keep creating content with my husband and two pups and share our overlanding journey through the Instagram account called 4RunningTheOzarks. I’m hopeful that it will help others see the beauty that exists in the world that they can only get if they get off their devices and out of their houses. I’ve never been one to show off my personal creations, but this has been a way for me to fail, learn, improve, and keep creating and sharing.
Quality you admire most in women:
Strength. I see so many women who are capable of doing so much that even they don’t realize or acknowledge just how strong they are. I’m fortunate enough to be around artists who have a point of view that makes me think differently. There’s something so powerful, yet often understated, about the strength women have and I admire them for that.
What changes have you seen within your workplace in regard to empowering women?
When I started 16 years ago, most of the top leadership positions were held by men. The advertising industry as a whole was predominantly male dominated. I’ve seen Saatchi & Saatchi X make it a priority to employ, support and grow women over the years. Our President and CEO, Jessica Hendrix, as well as several other women in key leadership roles, empower women to have a voice in the industry and to break glass ceiling facades.
Advice you’d give to other working women/moms:
Determine what your personal values are, then use your values and goals to define your personal brand. Working women and moms often try to be everything to everybody, which isn’t sustainable or healthy. Once you define your personal brand (as a woman, professional, mom, wife, etc.), you can set boundaries to protect what matters most and say “no” to the things and people that don’t serve you.
In what ways have you personally had to pivot during the current pandemic?
I’ve had to find ways to make sure I’m taking care of myself. From cooking good food, taking time to do yoga and breathe when things get tough, to finding ways to unplug and spend time outdoors in nature with my husband and two pups. We turned overlanding into a hobby and now get off the grid on the weekends every chance we get in the Ozark National Forest. We’ve created a brand called @4RunningTheOzarks and share the content we’re creating on this Instagram account. It’s been a passion project that has made 2020 a wonderful year despite all the craziness.
In what ways have you professionally had to pivot during the current pandemic?
Learning how to work and lead from home has been a big mindset shift. We’re such a collaborative team that not being together and drafting off each other’s creative energy has been quite challenging. But we have found ways to make it work and our business has even grown through the pandemic. We’ve been very fortunate.
What nonprofits are you involved with and why?
We recently had the opportunity to help create a branding piece for a Dress for Success NWA charity art auction event, where we used creativity to help raise money in order for Dress for Success to empower women in Northwest Arkansas toward economic independence. Saatchi & Saatchi X also supports the Walton Arts Center and the Walmart AMP to support learning and education programs that ensure that the arts remain an essential part of the lives of students, teachers and families in Northwest Arkansas. Saatchi & Saatchi X also has The C.A.R.E. Initiative (Children, Awareness, Responsibility, and Encouragement) that raises money and volunteers time for Northwest Arkansas organizations that help children — children who are the victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
What do you do for fun?
Overlanding, camping, cooking, yoga and photography
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I have always been inspired by Elon Musk. His seemingly impossible vision, creativity, and most of all, his failures and rejections remind me of what being a creative is all about. The fact that all those failures and rejections haven’t stopped or slowed him down from innovating beyond what most would only dream of fuels me to want to try harder.
This may be more of a personal reminder than mantra, but it’s stuck with me over the years. It’s a little cheesy, but it was my high school motto my graduating year and I’ve always believed it: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”