Inside Sandstorm

About the Author

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Tom Jacobs

Tom, President, uses his keen strategic eye to help clients create groundbreaking creative campaigns. And he's been a thought leader appearing on Bloomberg, WGN, NBC, CMO.com, and Wall Street Journal.  

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Amanda Heberg
Amanda Heberg

As the VP, Business Development, Amanda leads new business development, sales, partnerships and marketing strategy across Sandstorm. Amanda collaborates closely with new clients to build strong, long-lasting partnerships while aligning Sandstorm's capabilities to solve client business problems.

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Eric Savage
Eric Savage

Eric Savage is a JavaScript Developer with expert knowledge and extensive experience in front-end development.

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Jeff Umbricht
Jeff Umbricht

Jeff is an Illinois native with a passion for web development. Making code into great things drives him every day. He’s often busy building awesome experiences for Sandstorm clients, and there’s a high probability that he’s rocking out to metal while he codes.

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Nick Meshes
Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Technology & Analytics. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Emily Kodner
Emily Kodner

Emily is our Senior Director of Client Delivery. She consults with clients, leads projects and works alongside our team of creatives and developers to provide solutions to complex business challenges.

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Nathan Haas
Nathan Haas

Nathan is a User Interface Art Director at Sandstorm. He is a proud alum of The University of Tennessee. His main focus was print design, but he soon realized the potential of pixels. This combination of print and interactive gives him a unique view of design possibilities.

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Andy Cullen
Andy Cullen

Someday I'll need a real bio, but for now I'm busy creating awesomeness for our clients!

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Janna Fiester
Janna Fiester

Sandstorm's VP of UX & Brand Innovation, Janna, is a design-thinker. Showcased in several design publications and exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, she is talented in taking nuggets of good ideas and nurturing them into solutions that are always strategic, engaging and visually delightful.

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Alma Meshes
Alma Meshes

Alma likes to help get things done at Sandstorm. She's worn many hats in her many years here and knows a little bit about everything.

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Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO
Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Inside Sandstorm

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Sandy

We recently had an amazing opportunity to share our story of building a culture of gratitude, fun, and recognition with Marcus Lemonis from CNBC's "The Profit" (who is totally awesome by the way). Like any other small business, we had growing pains. By focusing on defining and building our culture, we absolutely flourished. The results are staggering. We doubled our staff, moved into new digs, grew revenue 250%, and are growing another 30% this year, too. 

Here are 5 things that transformed our culture:

1. "Leading by example" is only half the work. "You are what you tolerate" is the second half. So if you're a CEO or manager, step up and speak up. 

2. We held a company meeting called "The best place I ever worked." Everyone on our team shared what they loved most about past companies they worked for... and why. This was the beginning to our multi-year plan to learn from other successful organizations and implement. I would recommend Tony Hsieh's book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose.

3. We established ground rules. We call these "Sandstorm Expectations" and they show you how to be a Sandstormer. 

4. We defined our core values to work by, to hire by, and to live by. Not core values on a poster, but meaningful, concise, memorable ones (call our office and anyone who answers will be able to tell you what they are).

5. We celebrate successes every month in a company meeting called a "You Rock." CNBC did an amazing job capturing this in their video - thank you!


So, how did CNBC and Marcus Lemonis find us? Through Vistage, a CEO leadership group that I've been a member of for 8 years. They were looking for small businesses with a story to tell. I replied, and many weeks later, Sandstorm was selected as 1 of 12 companies featured. 

We are so grateful for the opportunity to share our story with other business owners and hopefully inspire them to embrace a culture of celebration at work.

We hope you enjoy the show: Check out the video

This blog was posted by Sandy on .
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

We were a little busy last week with prepping for the holiday weekend, and we also had some special guests! Marcus Lemonis, from CNBC’s “The Profit” stopped by our office to interview Sandy. A crew from CNBC spent 2 days getting video of Sandstormers in our natural environment.

We’ll be featured in a web series about small successful businesses. This will showcase what makes Sandstorm unique and how we balance fun with accomplishing good work. We had a You Rock, a little too much buffalo wing popcorn, and a lot of fun. Such a great opportunity to share the Sandstorm story!

We’ll keep you posted on when it’s live.

This blog was posted by on April 25, 2014.
Jason Dabrowski

About the Author

Jason Dabrowski

Jason is one of Sandstorm’s designers and also helps keep the office running smoothly. As a veteran of the theatre—from acting to directing, lighting to set design—he knows the value of hard work and a positive attitude. Look for his unique voice on the blog.

Sandstorm Talks UX at Drupal MidCamp

Learn more about how to better the user experience on your Drupal website. Take some time this weekend and attend the Midwest Drupal Camp 2014 (or Drupal MidCamp). Michael Hartman, our Technology and Usability Director, is giving a presentation that highlights 4 of the best user research approaches. He will walk you through the practices that uncover what your users are looking for, their needs, and areas to improve.

The user experience research methods discussed include:

Michael’s talk is scheduled for Saturday, March 29 from 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. in the River room at the University Center (525 S. State Street, Chicago).

Learn more about his talk or sign up for Drupal MidCamp.

This blog was posted by on March 26, 2014.
Megan Culligan

About the Author

Megan Culligan

Megan knows the importance of picking a winner. With a background in politics and PR, she knows that a successful marketing campaign requires coordination of many moving pieces and a team focused on achieving a great goal. You’ll see her analytical point of view on the blog, providing insight and tactics for success.

Brill Street names Sandstorm among Top 50 Gen Y Employers of 2013

Adding to a long list of all we have to celebrate this month, Sandstorm is so thrilled to announce that we’ve made Brill Street’s list of top 50 Gen Y employers in Chicago for the fifth time running.

Our growing reputation as one of the best places in the city for Gen Y-ers to learn and grow across a multitude of marketing disciplines is a huge source of pride for us, and is one among many reasons why we’ve been able to develop such a tremendously talented team of creative thinkers and life-long learners.

We love our Gen Y A-team!

This blog was posted by on December 17.
Meaghan Glennan

About the Author

Meaghan Glennan

Meaghan is a storyteller. From the Granite State to the City of Broad Shoulders, she's created impactful true-life tales about people, places, businesses and events. As she guides Sandstorm's story by directing our marketing communications, you'll see a lot of her unique perspective and style.

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Cornucopia of thanks from Sandstorm

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and Hanukkah begins this week as well. It’s a time to be grateful for the goodness of life. To mark this festive time, I asked Sandstormers: “What are 3 things for which you are thankful?”

Interestingly enough, I noticed a number of patterns in the responses. (I’m always looking for patterns anyway). So, here are the many thanks of Sandstorm by the numbers:

We all love our families, friends, and Sandstorm. (No one was bribed to say Sandstorm and co-worker related things.) We also are appreciative of our health. Sandstormers also rank food and drink highly, which depending on the food and drink might actually counter our good health.

I also asked what everyone is most anticipating at Thanksgiving dinner. The most common answer was stuffing followed by the chaos of having a big family get together. (I said pie and expect there are more pie lovers out there.)

As much as I hate cliché (which, might I add, is a terrible way to start a paragraph), Sandstorm is a cornucopia. We’re all different but still belong in the same basket. (Someone please explain the cornucopia basket to me, it seems so inefficient). We all have different backgrounds, but still share the same values (and cravings).

Take some time to think about what is important in your life (at work and at home). For what are you thankful?

As a special holiday bonus, I’ve included everyone’s full responses below. Enjoy!

(In no particular order)

Sandy

The one thing I am most anticipating at Thanksgiving dinner is eating carbs with no guilt.

I'm thankful for:

  • My fellow awesome Sandstormers
  • My family
  • My health

Janna

Having dinner at our new house with my family and new friends.

I'm thankful for:

  • My first holiday in our new house
  • Healthy family and friends
  • Good food and beer

Nathan

I am most anticipating seeing my family, playing pool with my grandfather & uncles and celebrating my Mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mom!

I'm thankful for:

  • Friends and Family
  • Freedom to make my own decisions
  • My fantasy football career success

Derek

Anticipating a delicious prepared meal as last years venue was really pretty awful.

I'm thankful for:

  • A continuously interesting workplace and colleagues
  • HBO GO
  • Upstairs neighbor that is never home

Jason

Stuffing!

I'm thankful for:

  • Jon [his husband]
  • Sandstorm
  • comic books

Drew

The thing I am most anticipating at Thanksgiving dinner is finding out where Bree’s chosen to order from.

I'm thankful for:

  • My Wife and Cats
  • My Health
  • My Creative Freedom

Emily K.

Stuffing

I'm thankful for:

  • Cheese
  • Pajamas
  • Family

Mike M.

NOISE! Thanksgiving is at the Marsico’s this year!  We are a bunch of LOUD Italians! You’re welcome, Sandy. ;)

I'm thankful for:

  • My loving family
  • Good health
  • Mexican food

Alma

Chaos. There will be 10 people and 2 dogs, so something is bound to happen!

I'm thankful for:

Andy

Stuffing

I'm thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Football

LLK

Sufganiyot, since its Hanukkah

I'm thankful for:

  • Coffee
  • Sleep
  • Mexican beaches

Kyle

Stuffing. I love it.

I'm thankful for:

  • The Internet
  • Friends
  • Family

Megan

Cranberry wine

I'm thankful for:

  • My family
  • The Clinton family
  • Dogs

Meaghan

A full belly

I'm thankful for:

  • Old Fashioneds
  • Ira Glass
  • Airplanes

Emily Y.

Not a joke, my grandma’s homemade ranch dressing.

I'm thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends (yes, including coworkers)
  • Health

Michael

Staying home.

I'm thankful for:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Food

Jesse

I’m looking forward to seeing all of the family that I haven’t seen since last Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Health

Will

Pie… all of the pie.

I'm thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Cats
This blog was posted by on November 27, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Sandstorm Bowling at Timber Lanes

On November 1, if you called our office in the afternoon, you weren’t able to reach anyone. We all played hooky and went bowling.

Our core values rolled into one event

Sandstormers have three core values, and our experience on Friday tied together all three:

  • Warrior Spirit: Things got competitive, and we fought through our bowling shortcomings to, for the most part, stay out of the gutter.
  • Learning and Sharing: Some of us were re-learning how to bowl and learning how to score by pencil. Others were sharing technique, pointers, and math skills.
  • Have Fun: We were bowling! Some pizzas, some beers, a few laughs. Plus, we had a jukebox playing tunes such as the Gipsy Kings rendition of Hotel California.

Strike? Spare? Turkeys!?

Our expedition started with a good (and thorough) presentation on scoring by our in-house bowling aficionado Derek. It was a good refresher for everyone. This is bowling. There are rules.

Rolling the Lanes

We headed to Timber Lanes, swapped our shoes and got to business. It got competitive, but everyone was perfectly calm, dude. No one entered a world of pain. (Though, I’m pretty sure I went over the line on one occasion.)

All right! Way to go, Sandy!

Thanks for a great time. I can’t wait to share our next adventure. You can see more of our bowling shenanigans on Facebook and Instagram.

This blog was posted by on November 19, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Sandstorm culture: You Rock!

Want the scoop about our culture? Check out this super-secret take on our recent ‘You Rock’ celebration from the chronicles of our newest Sandstormer, Meaghan Glennan. (Don’t worry, she won’t mind if we share.)

Dear Diary:

Remember when I wrote to you on Valentine’s Day when I was nine and told you that Josh Jeffries gave me a pack of heart-shaped SweetTarts and a tiny paper card with the Land Before Time dinosaurs holding up a sign that said “You’re great!”?

I started my new job at Sandstorm Design last week, and as it turns out, THEY STILL DO THAT (but no dinosaurs, though). They call it “You Rock,” and it’s basically a chance for Sandstormers to hang out and celebrate one another. They have lunch together, and Sandy, the Principal, reads and gives-out hand-written notes of thanks and encouragement that team members have penned for each other. There were so many sweet messages, like “Thanks for all your help on the new project last week,” and “Thanks! It’s wonderful to work with you!”

I KNOW! Isn’t that fantastic?! Hearing how much appreciation and respect the group has for one another totally killed my new-girl jitters. Any team that takes time out of their day to give props to each other like that is obviously one where I am going to be very comfortable and welcome.

It was such a great introduction to the super fun and cohesive culture here. I’ve only just started, but already there’s been an in-office pizza party in which everyone ate at the table together (isn’t that the best?) and plenty of laughs around the office.

I’m having a lot of fun so far. And the best part? There’s another ‘You Rock’ next month!

Think I’m gonna like it here.

This blog was posted by on November 14.
Meaghan Glennan

About the Author

Meaghan Glennan

Meaghan is a storyteller. From the Granite State to the City of Broad Shoulders, she's created impactful true-life tales about people, places, businesses and events. As she guides Sandstorm's story by directing our marketing communications, you'll see a lot of her unique perspective and style.

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Happy Halloween from Sandstorm

Sandstorm is full of creative minds. We’re dreamers most of the time, and we can’t wait for Halloween to stretch our legs as tricksters. Halloween is always festive at Sandstorm (check out 2011 and 2012).

Annually, you tend to see the scary, the fun and the odd. This year, our costumes ranged from the fun (a larger than life penguin) to the terrifying (fitness guru Richard Simmons). It’s always fun for everyone to have fun while expressing themselves in a different way. Plus, Sandy sweetens the deal by closing the office early.

For the past 3 Halloweens we have had a costume contest. In 2011, a clown won. In 2012, the prize went to a chilling Cenobite (It’s from the Hellraiser films), and this year went to…well, modesty prevents me.

You can see more of our costumed adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

This blog was posted by on November 7, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Can we stop saying "click here"?

You’re going to click here. Of course you’re going to click here. How could you not? The link says “Click here”!!

  • Click here to register
  • Click here for a list of services
  • Click here to learn more
  • Click here to go find that thing that should be right here where we’ve placed the words click here

The web is all about clicking. Users know what a link is and how to click on it (or press it if they are on a touch device). I think it’s safe to abandon this tired phrase and just get to the point. Why not just say:

  • Register
  • Our services
  • Learn more
  • [put that thing that should be right here]

I think this would make the world a better place or at least a place with better online user experiences.

This blog was posted by on November 6, 2013.
Michael Hartman

About the Author

Michael Hartman

As Sandstorm's Technology and Usability Director, Michael leads our developers and usability researchers in creating web sites and applications—both desktop and mobile—that embody our favorite blend: intuitive user experience and dynamic Drupal development.

Scarestorm at Sandstorm

While developing new web sites, repositioning businesses and creating great collateral for our global clients; we’ve taken a little time to get into the Halloween spirit. No, we haven’t been wearing our costumes, but we will. (Sadly, Jason has not been wearing a ski mask every day.) Don’t be scared, we’re still working every day to bring innovative campaigns and technology to you.

Peek inside the agency to see what horrors can be found. (More photos are on theSandstorm Facebook page).

See what past Halloweens have brought to Sandstorm in 2012 and 2011.

This blog was posted by on October 11, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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