As a digital strategist, Ron is focused on creating campaigns and unique communications that drive engagement.
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After more than four years teaching multimedia to high school students, one of the best parts of being at Sandstorm® is getting to focus on creating campaigns full time again.
I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in electronic media and digital communications, I headed west to get my Master’s in Digital Media from DePaul University. While at school, I cut my teeth as a video editor for Onion, Inc., a marketing manager, and operator of my own media company, where I designed logos and websites, coached small businesses through media buying, and developed successful digital and print strategies.
Education is a huge passion of mine, so I became a digital arts teacher to help the next generation understand and utilize the opportunities digital media presents to them. As a teacher, I developed curricula for over 400 students, led workshops, and even managed the school’s online content and social media.
Though rewarding, teaching left me feeling like I was missing something, which is what made Sandstorm such an appealing place to be. Now, I get to help organizations like University of Illinois at Chicago, Crown Holdings, and many more create unique communications that drive engagement.
In my free time—and with a two-year-old daughter, that can be hard to come by—I channel influences such as Malcolm X, Gordon Parks, and Ava Duvernay into projects like a Boondocks Halloween photo series, which I directed and was picked up by Buzzfeed and other online publications.
With a five-year growth rate of 120% and 2016 revenue exceeding $5 million, Sandstorm® once again made the list of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Inner City Companies in America recognized by Fortune and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC).
ICIC’s Inner City 100 list seeks to celebrate and enable urban entrepreneurship. Over the course of nearly 20 years, ICIC has awarded 928 companies whose success illuminates the innovation and business growth happening in our inner cities.
The list of 2017 Inner City 100 companies was revealed at the 19th Annual Awards and Conference in Boston. Sandstorm rocketed up the list more than 30 places from 2016, coming in hot at #66. The full list can be viewed on the Fortune website.
“We are extraordinarily proud of these pioneering entrepreneurs who lead the way in innovation, job creation and the economic revitalization of America’s inner cities,” said Steve Grossman, CEO of ICIC. “In addition to excellence in business, they have also demonstrated a deep commitment to and passion for their communities, which plays a huge role in the wellbeing of their local economies,” he said.
At Sandstorm, we couldn’t be more honored and excited to be among these amazing winners, and we can’t wait for 2018.
Sometimes it feels like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. Until we give back.
University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School recently conducted a study that says, “Giving your time to others can make you feel more ‘time affluent’ and less time-constrained than spending your time otherwise.”
In a rapidly moving, technology-driven, deadline-oriented work environment, it’s easy to feel time deficient. Think about it: Not only do we find ourselves heads down in our day-to-day work, we seldom make time to relish our colleagues and get to know them on a deeper, personal level outside the office.
Cue the volunteer work. Over the past 2 summers, Sandstorm® has been supporting Ravenswood Community Services (RCS) by volunteering at their pantry and distributing food to over 250 families on the north side of Chicago. But the reality is that this opportunity provides us with a much-needed pause and sense of awareness—while giving us a chance to accomplish our mission of doing good work for good people.
The same Wharton School research shows that thinking about the present moment, instead of the future, can make you feel less hurried or rushed because it slows the perceived passage of time. During our volunteer windows, not only are we focused on our tasks and ensuring that the local residents are being assisted properly, we also find ourselves in a relaxed yet spirited environment. In other words, we’re living in the moment.
Through these volunteer experiences, it’s not surprising that the time to bond and serve others has other advantages. According to the Huffington Post, volunteering through the workplace can actually boost employees’ productivity, pride, gratitude, and ethics.
So the next time you or your team get caught up in a hectic work week, live in the moment, polish your sense of purpose, and positively impact others around you by volunteering. You’ll feel like a million bucks.
After a three-year hiatus, the Guac Off has finally, and gloriously, returned to Sandstorm®!
We were a much smaller company when the Guac Off was created; we held the first one at my house on a Saturday and everyone attended with their families. As Sandstorm grew bigger and bigger, it became harder to find a day and time when everyone could attend. Eventually, the event dropped off the calendar, but it was never forgotten.
I really wanted to bring back this fun event, but knew that we had to change it up to make it happen. Every month we have a “You Rock” meeting where the whole company gathers to celebrate our awesomeness, have lunch together, and talk about our growth. Usually we have pizza, but this time we had Chipotle and all of our secret guacamole recipes.
Ten Sandstormers brought their guacamole to the table. Many were delicious, and a few boozy options raised some eyebrows, but in the end, there was one clear winner. Congratulations to Megan Culligan, who was crowned our new “el Champion” on Tuesday! She won in a landslide with her very tasty mango guacamole.
In true Sandstorm fashion, we’ve posted pictures and a quick victory speech from our champion on our Facebook page.
The revival of the Guac Off proves that it’s never too late to come back to a good idea and refresh it. If you need help bringing your ideas back to glory, let us know.
I just got back from a fun conversation with Kristi Ross and Tony Battista at Tastytrade for their show Bootstrapping in America. It was an honor to be asked to share my experience as an entrepreneur with a CEO I admire.
And it’s that passion for new ideas and perspectives that’s helped us find inspiration in the unexpected for our clients. Just one example that came to mind during my talk with Kristi and Tony was how we found inspiration for a community bank in 1871, the Chicago incubator.
Hear more about Sandstorm’s beginnings, how our culture helped differentiate us, and how we differentiate our clients. Check out our episode of Bootstrapping in America.
Hello! I’m Emma, the new Junior Digital Strategist here at Sandstorm®, and I’m thrilled to be working alongside such a dynamic and intelligent team!
My first job out of college, and my first foray into the advertising world, was Condé Nast. Before joining Sandstorm, I worked in the advertising sales department for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Working for these publishing giants showed me the importance of creating strong brand identities and taught me how to market to different audiences. I am so excited to continue honing my knowledge while using my unique expertise to benefit Sandstorm’s clients.
On any given weekend, you can find me at home making bagels and binging on episodes of 30 Rock, or out exploring Chicago’s many hidden gems. If you ever need restaurant recommendations, feel free to reach out as I’m also a ravenous foodie and cook.
I wrote my first song at the age of two; it was called “I Can Do It By Myself.” Unfortunately, that became my mantra for longer than I’d like to admit, and it wasn’t until my twenties that I discovered the profound impact mentoring could have in my career and personal life. Since then, I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet men and women with the passion to guide me through my exploration of the world. And I’m especially grateful to work alongside so many of them every day.
Mentorship is an essential part of our culture at Sandstorm®. As our founder and CEO Sandy Marsico recently shared with ABC News, having a great mentor was essential to her success, which is why learning and sharing is one of our three core values. Our amazing directors not only share their decades of expertise with fellow Sandstormers, they’re active in the community, educating and inspiring the next generation of developers, designers, and strategists, too.
I’ve benefitted immensely from our creative directors’ mentorship—shout out to John and Janna for anything I missed during our company You Rocks. And it got me thinking about how mentorship has helped other Sandstormers in their careers and personal lives.
Learning From the Best
As a budding copywriter, Creative Director John Rausch was fortunate to be mentored by the creative genius who wrote the immortal "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun" jingle for the Big Mac. “In the years I worked for him, I learned a lifetime's worth of insights into developing impactful creative work,” John shared. “But perhaps the most significant thing he taught me was the importance of paying it forward—sharing my own passion and acumen with the creative professionals who would come to work for me.”
Finding Solutions Through Empathy
As a resident assistant at Central Michigan University, Strategist Megan Durst found a mentor in her resident director. “He taught me a lot about understanding people’s motivation,” she said. “It really helped me empathize with my students and help them find solutions to their problems. Not only have those skills been critical in my personal life, they’ve been equally essential in my career as well.”
Teaching the Next Generation
Executive Creative Director Janna Fiester’s undergrad professor has remained a mentor ever since her time at Ball State. Her professor even encouraged Janna to earn an MFA and become a professor herself, which she did. It was during her time as a professor at UIC that Janna began mentoring students of her own. “Now one of my mentees is also a client. She still calls me her mentor and a strong influence to choosing design as a career.”
Amanda, our Director of Business Integration, found an amazing mentor in her volleyball coach—even getting the opportunity to coach alongside him when her daughter reached high school. “He gave me great advice throughout my entire life: in business, coaching, and in my personal life. He truly cared about me and making sure I was successful. He's had such a profound impact on my life and always went out of his way to help me, even without asking.”
Friends in High Places
Front-End Developer Joe Ruel was fresh out of college when he met one of his mentors. As Joe recalls, “My mentor guided me through many aspects of development and helped me find my passion in front-end development.” Though his mentor moved onto another company, they kept in touch. Over the next year, Joe heard so much about his mentor’s new company that he applied for a position there. Sandstorm Senior Front-End Developer Jeff Umbricht continues to be a guiding influence in Joe’s life, and was quick to note that Joe got the job on the strength of his considerable skills alone.
How has mentorship impacted your life? We’d love to hear your story in the comments.
I really enjoyed attending .orgCommunity’s Disruption + Innovation conference this month! The .orgCommunity is an amazing resource for senior executives to lead their associations through innovation, and the event certainly delivered on that mission. Speakers and facilitators from across a wide variety of industries shared their insights on redefining digital publishing, generating new streams of revenue, and much more. These were my biggest takeaways:
- Adopt a disruption mindset. Act like a digital disrupter.
- Rethink the entire business, not just the technology.
- Get inspired outside your industry. Did you know: Ugg boots were created by surfers.
- Your goal is to create value—for every association.
- The membership subscription model is over. You need to think about other ways to earn revenue.
- Collaborate more, collaborate differently. Consider strategic partnerships and mergers.
So it’s with great pleasure that I can finally announce my position as a part of .orgCommunity’s advisory board! With almost two decades of experience working with associations of all sizes—including the National Association of REALTORS, American Medical Association, Rotary, and more—it’s an honor to share my experience with executives and help them utilize emerging technologies and techniques.
I look forward to sharing my expertise with the .orgCommunity while continuing to help our many association clients prepare for their future success.
We are in a sixth grade math classroom. I am speeding through all my assignments in order to solve logic problems.
I blew through hundreds of them that year. Silly as it was, I even dedicated an entire presentation to detailing how to solve Who Owns the Zebra. Thinking back, I’m not so sure if it was the best choice to keep my classmates engaged, but I was pretty proud of my work. Perhaps it was my knack for problem solving combined with my fascination in people that led me to the user experience field.
I hail from the great state of Michigan and spent six beautiful years working on my BA and MSI degrees from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!). Upon graduating, I worked as an experience designer at a digital agency for over two years before taking off to travel and volunteer with fifty strangers in eleven countries in eleven months. From sitting with the forgotten elderly in remote villages in Eastern Europe to tutoring English to Vietnamese college students, that year changed the course of how I live my life. Upon returning, I worked with that nonprofit organization to redesign one of their internal systems.
Now here at Sandstorm, I am most excited to do meaningful work in a place that values people and culture, as well as user research. Understanding the context of a problem is key!
Outside of my work at Sandstorm, you can find me at a rock climbing gym, randomly singing in public, attempting to build community, blogging, thinking of and laughing at terrible puns, playing board games with friends, talking to the homeless, volunteering with children, taking photos, baking, exploring new places, and so much more.
I’m thrilled to join the Sandstorm® team. One of the many things that attracted me to Sandstorm was the focus on doing good work for good people. I’m really looking forward to making a difference in the lives of our clients and their users alongside my new teammates.
My career started in the airline industry, where I worked as a computer programmer. I eventually moved on to a global consulting firm where I worked diligently as a software quality engineer before becoming a software engineer. While I took some time off to raise my kids, I’m delighted to be back in development and quality assurance.
When starting on a new project, I believe it’s imperative for a QA analyst to start with a full understanding of the scope and timelines on a project. It allows me to get a clear mental picture of everything that needs to be accomplished and drive toward that goal.
Speaking of driving toward goals: When I’m not at Sandstorm, I’m usually watching my kids at Taekwondo, cross country and track meets, band performances, or helping the band at football and basketball games. There’s nothing better than cheering them on—and snapping a few photos—while they work to achieve their dreams.