Julie Koester, Founder, Managing Partner & President of Dragon Horse Ad Agency, Top 10 Admired Women Leaders of 2022 Profile

Julie Koester
Founder, Managing Partner & President of Dragon Horse Ad Agency

Julie Koester, Founder, Managing Partner & President of Dragon Horse Ad Agency, Top 10 Admired Women Leaders of 2022

“Bringing Mighty Transformations”

Life experiences are unique and powerful. Julie Koester, Founder, Managing Partner & President of Dragon Horse Ad Agency, likes to think she has used her personal experiences to shape some positive results. She narrates, "I never intended to own an ad agency. I am an academic, a researcher by training. I had planned to become a private practice psychologist. Serendipitously, a few key realignments in the universe placed me in situations that created major shifts in my thinking about what I had to offer, what problems I could solve, and simultaneously, why solving those problems would matter."

One of those moments occurred after Julie already had her master's degree from Columbia University in psychology focusing on pediatric neurodevelopment and opened and ran a children's toy store. The store, named Mr. Toad's Toy Co. after her obsession with classic children's literature, provided only thought-provoking experiential offerings and nothing plastic or that required batteries—nothing that might diminish children's thinking or creative process. "I gravitated toward filigree carved alphabet blocks, award-winning children's literature, puppets, magnets, etc. I had just given birth to my second child; the store was successful and had become a simple management job," she says. "I discovered that routine management was not something that would ever ignite me. My inclination lies more toward front-end start-up, and creative challenges. I thrive on the thrill of finding answers to questions and solving problems. So, I sold the store to my, then general manager, who adored the store and our clients."

The pioneering leader found something lacking in becoming a stay-at-home mom, and two weeks later, she received a phone call from a friend who’d been thinking of building a children's museum in Naples and wanted to pick her brain. "Less than a month later, I was the founding board chair of what would become the Golisano Children's Museum of Naples," Julie said. “Ten years and 25 million dollars later, we opened the doors, and I turned over the board chair to someone better suited to the day-to-to operational maintenance leadership headspace.”

She returned for two more weeks as a stay-at-home mom and took her oldest (Sloan) to her first school day. "I went back to meet her and her new classmates for lunch in the cafeteria,” Julie recalls. “A bell rings for lunch, and BOOM, it was like Lord of the Flies with excruciating volume. I sat at the end of the table. Sloan sat next to me, whipping out her lunchbox containing baked tofu bites, avocado slices, orange slices, a container of beans and rice, and water. The other children started pulling out their own lunches from a full-size bag of Cheetos, coke, bags of single-serve cookies, Gatorade, cold naked hotdogs, potato chips, and so on. I was gob smacked. Since they were only allowed 7.39 minutes to eat, it was over almost as soon as it started. I was in the twilight zone. I walked out to my car in the parking lot and cried for 20 minutes.

What were we doing to our children? I drove straight home and applied for a Ph.D. program in Public Health, knowing I had to do something about the overall wellness of our children."

The focus of Julie's Ph.D. and her thesis had turned to big food companies advertising to children. It all came back to the power of marketing. "My reasoning was, if it could be used successfully to bring this much harm, it could be used just as successfully for something good."

As Julie concentrated on her goal, she was introduced to someone at a film festival, who was also a serial entrepreneur. "We began to talk about new businesses we wanted to start. I had a food-related business, he had a skincare business, and we talked through the challenges of our prior companies," she adds. "The common denominator among them was not having access to a marketing agency that understood the fundamentals of our businesses to promote them effectively, so the next business became Dragon Horse. That person I met is my current business partner and co-Founder, Patrick Blake Renda. We now own a holding company; Veedor Holdings, and three Companies inside that holding company; Dragon Horse Agency, Dragon Horse Publishing, and Moxie Creed, a retail lifestyle company."

This level of understanding and experience regarding how people process information and the ability to influence thinking based on how words are used creates a powerful approach to most any business. Headquartered in Naples, Florida, where they have two offices, and recently opened their first office in Los Angeles, California, Julie and her passion are moving towards unprecedented growth. WL


Dragon Horse Ad Agency


Julie Koester
Founder, Managing Partner & President
Dragon Horse Ad Agency


Multi-award-winning, avant-garde business marketing agency, Dragon Horse. A team of dynamic, creative architects and business strategists, pushing creativity and business strategy to deliver unparalleled ROI to our clients. Integrity, Excellence, Experience, Execution-Dragon Horse.

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