Strategically Creative, Creatively Strategic

  • Photo of Melissa Ballate Melissa Ballate President Close
    • To Blue Daring, a Fearless Founder

      Early in her career, Melissa noticed a consistent lack of communication between business and creative thinkers. It struck her as a missed opportunity and became the inspiration for starting Blue Daring in 2002.

      She’s been dedicated ever since to growing its impact, client base and revenues—with a mission of delivering strategy creatively and creative strategically.

    • To Chicago, a Homegrown Leader

      Outside of Blue Daring, Melissa serves on boards for Junior Achievement of Chicago, Robert Morris University and has been a member of the prestigious Economic Club of Chicago. She served as the Chairman of the State of Illinois’ Residential Mortgage Board and was appointed by then Mayor Richard M. Daley to serve on the Chicago Police Board.

      When she’s not building and serving local businesses, Melissa focuses on the things she cherishes most—traveling and, of course, her family and children, Luka and Lola.

  • Photo of Ashley Kaneko Ashley Kaneko Creative Lead Close
    • A Rock Solid Creative Leader

      From branding, web, print design and packaging to photography, painting and illustration, Ashley has serious cross-media prowess, and it’s displayed and depended on, client after Blue Daring client. It doesn’t stop, though, with creative execution. Ashley manages projects, engages customers, and guides our creative team.

      She holds a B.A. in visual communications from Loyola University Chicago and minors in art history, psychology, marketing, and painting and drawing.

    • Whose Heart is By the Water

      Ashley was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii, so Chicago was a big change. She’s since come to love the people, the food, the art and architecture, and everything (except the winter) that it offers.

      But she always returns “home” to the beach—to relax, refocus and become re-inspired…or to simply walk her pup and gaze out over the water.

  • Photo of Vanessa Mentor Vanessa Mentor Marketing Lead Close
    • An Eye on Culture

      Over nine years with Blue Daring (she was our first hire), Vanessa has honed many skills and worn countless hats: creative ideator, researcher, daily operations manager, media maven and pop culture sage.

      Her two biggest specialties, though, are social media and messaging that sticks. Vanessa’s knowledge of trends, patterns, social media behavior and popular attitudes, is unparalleled and applied to every project here.

      Vanessa attended Harold Washington College in Chicago.

    • And an Eye for What Colors Work

      Outside of Blue Daring, you might say Vanessa is a personality in the makeup world—as in, the videos she shares on her VANEWPC YouTube Channel have been viewed well over 500,000 times all over the world.

      When not giving tips on video, Vanessa is seeing how they’re put to practice on awards shows, reality shows and in New York, her second favorite place on earth—her first favorite place being Chicago’s north side, where she was born and raised.

  • Photo of Shuky Leung Shuky Leung Designer Close
    • Endless Design Exploration…

      When it comes to helping find the most beautiful, strategic design work for Blue Daring’s clients, Shuky exudes natural talent. Shuky does it all, at all points of the creative process—from initial explorations on a sketch pad or onscreen, to ensuring the quality of a physical product.

      She attended Chicago’s Columbia College and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.

    • Meets Effortless Fashion Sense

      Oh, but Shuky’s design skills go way beyond print and web—she also effortlessly raises the Blue Daring fashion bar with her own bold, colorful choices. She’s our resident fashionista (a title she modestly downplays, like most super stylish people).

      Outside of Blue Daring, Shuky follows fashion blogs and trends, creates her own art, savors elevated food experiences, and loves exploring downtown Chicago for hidden design gems and adventures.

  • Photo of John Cockrell John Cockrell Writer Close
    • Word Crafter for Brands

      For over a decade, John has worked as a writer, brand builder and creative idea generator for a combination of clients ranging from international companies to local non-profits. He applies his strategy and concepting experience all across our diverse roster of clients.

    • World Traveler for the Game

      Outside of work, John spends the majority of his time and energy on traveling, soccer watching, and traveling for soccer watching. He joined us right after returning from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. (Go USA!) We photographed him before his old haircut grew back in.

  • Photo of Riley Mackowiak Riley Mackowiak Sales Specialist Close
    • Busy Morning on the Horn

      A seasoned sales expert, Riley joined Blue Daring to focus exclusively on LION TotalCare, increasing sales and awareness, and helping the brand expand throughout Dallas (and soon throughout Boston).

      Years of experience and results in the field of sales have given Riley every tool he needs for the job: focus, perseverance, rapid rapport building, the art of the cold call, and the protection of thick skin.

    • Busy Saturday Around the House

      As busy as Riley is at Blue Daring making sales calls, he’s busier at home. That’s where he tries to keep up with his two young sons, ages one and five.

      A graduate of Michigan State, Riley feels pretty sure his sons will grow up to love watching hoops (both college and pro) as much as he does.