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Essman, Denise

Published onJul 30, 2021
Essman, Denise

Quick Facts

ISU Alumni Denise Essman is the founder, President, and CEO of Essman/Associates, a marketing research company in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Source: Des Moines Foundation,

Denise Irene Bricker was born on March 31, 1948 in Greenfield, Iowa, to Harold William and Eleanor Irene (Johnson) Bricker. Essman holds a BS in Marketing ‘73 from Iowa State University and a MBA ‘80 from Drake University.

Denise Essman founded her company in 1977 alongside her late spouse, Allen Essman. Essman/Companies includes two divisions, Essman/Associates, which is a marketing communications company, and Essman/Research, which focuses on providing qualitative and quantitative data to national and international clients. Essman/Research was sold in 2017 to State Public Policy Group. Essman stated, "It's been quite an adventure. I'm passionate about marketing and everything we do, but it's time to step back a bit. I've known Tom Slater, former owner and founder of SPPG, and John Norris, a partner at SPPG along with Brad Knott, for decades. I have tremendous respect for them and their company. We're all delighted with the acquisition and prospects for the future."

Essman is described by the Business Record (Des Moines, IA) as a woman who created a successful business with national and international clients. Her skills helped to define the marketing portion of the company. The research and integrated marketing communication programs provided by Essman/Companies help local, regional, national, and international clients in many different sectors and industries including financial services, health care, education, telecommunications, B2B, agriculture, associations, and not-for-profit industries. Essman plays an important role in the company, by directing company operations, overseeing customer service, and leading planning for strategic marketing.

Beyond her professional career, Essman was the President of the Iowa Chapter of the American Marketing Association. She was appointed to the Small Business Advisory Council by Governor Vilsack. She was invited to participate in Leadership Iowa and the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. She served on the ISU Board of Governors, the Communications Advisory Committee, the board of directors at First Bank, and the Leadership Council for Choose Des Moines Communities. Essman has been a board member for the American Marketing Association, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, ABI, the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, the Iowa State University Research Park, the John Stoddard Board, Goodwill Industries, United Way of Central Iowa, the Small Business Development Centers, the Iowa Environmental Council, and the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Essman is also a Rotarian and an ISU Extension Master Gardener.

Essman has won numerous honors and awards including: Woman Business Owner of the Year in 2010, the ISU Alumni Citation of Achievement Award, and the John DeVries Service Award. She was listed in Who’s Who of American Women and the Who’s Who in the Midwest. Essman was also selected as “Up-and-Comer” Business Leader of Iowa in 1987 by the Des Moines Register.

Essman’s other professional experience includes being the manager at Bankers Life, now known as the Principal Financial Group, and the Vice President of Marketing Communications at the Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Federation. She has also been a marketing instructor at Iowa State University and Drake University. Essman has been a consultant for the Small Business Development Centers.

Originally from Newton, Iowa, Essman has three adult sons, Brad (deceased), Brady and Barrett with her late spouse, Allen. Her hobbies are traveling, gardening, reading, and biking.

Essman supports two annual scholarships administered by the Iowa State University Foundation. The first is awarded to a student majoring in advertising, in memory of her late husband, and the second is awarded to a student majoring in finance, in memory of her son Brad – a graduate of ISU’s College of Business.

Selected Sources

Baltes, Sharon. “Passionate about plants: local Master Gardeners' yards reflect their personalities.” Business Record [Des Moines] 3 July 2006: 35+.

Conetzkey, Chris. “2010 Women of Influence: Denise Essman, Woman Business Owner of the Year.” Business Record [Des Moines] 31 Jul. 2010.

“First Bank: Denise Essman.” Business Record [Des Moines] 16 Jan. 2006: 21.

“Iowa Small Business Development Center.” Business Record [Des Moines] 2 Aug. 2004: 24.

Morgan, Jeff. “Putting clients first gives Essman edge.” Business Record [Des Moines] 20 Oct. 2003: SS17.

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