Meet our team

This is a people business. Ours are connected through their insatiable curiosity and passion for crafting solutions that get brand messages seen and heard by the right audiences.

Josh Stauffer

CEO and President

An optimistic believer in digital’s transformative power on the landscape of B2B marketing, Josh brings over a decade of agency experience to his role as CEO and president of Blue Flame Thinking. He also brings a lifetime spent in the act of artistic creation and expression…and some serious coding skills.

Josh’s journey from artist to coder to creator of enterprise-grade software applications to digital marketing team leader to business owner began with the realization that the act of creating is more important than the medium used.

It’s not that I am less of a ‘maker’ now. I’m just making something that serves other makers: an agency that provides clients and staff members with a better way to express themselves.

Fast Facts:

  • Classically trained oil painter and illustrator.
  • 5:30 a.m. CrossFit junkie.
  • Han shot first. It’s not a debate, though to be clear, Greedo was a slimeball.

Liz Le Sbertoli

Vice President, Client Experience

With an unbridled passion for a holistic approach to marketing, Liz’s specialties include digital marketing, traditional and nontraditional media, brand growth, data-driven research, analytics and omnichannel marketing campaigns. For nearly 15 years, Liz has occupied seats on both sides of the client-agency table, having previously worked for BMO Harris Bank, CMK Companies, Carmichael Lynch and Leo Burnett where she managed brands like Subaru, BMW, St. Regis, and Hyatt Hotels to name a few. Her diverse experience working across industries such as hospitality, CPG, automotive, real estate development and financial has allowed her to bring a fresh perspective to her clients and their business needs.

Experience has taught her that the best account folks possess the heart of a creative and the mind of an analyst.

It’s what enables them to balance strategy, data, consumer insights, business objectives and budgets, all while managing projects and serving as the voice of the brand and creative advocates.

Fast Facts:

  • Three-time Chicago marathoner.
  • Kitchen scientist.
  • For a US$100 you can be a Balinese millionaire!

Recognition

Davey Silver Award, W3 Silver Award (2), Davey Gold Award, Web Marketing Association, Webby People’s Voice Nominee

Tim Todish

Digital Director

As the Digital Director, Tim is focused on refining digital processes and rolling out new organizational tools that improve user experiences for our clients and their customers—and us! Tim is a veteran of the digital industry, having worked in large organizations like Meijer and with several smaller agencies. He has experience building high-fidelity mobile prototypes for brands like Apple and Sony. He’s also done UX work on sales and training apps and for medical devices, including replacement knees and hips. Thanks to this wealth of experience and an innate sense of thoughtfulness and natural curiosity, he helps us navigate constantly shifting industry developments and priorities.

I’ve always enjoyed making things. After a couple “computer classes,” I discovered I enjoyed making geeky digital things, too!

Fast Facts:

  • Woodworker
  • Author
  • Wears his personal history on his sleeve…or rather under it in a tattoo narrative.

Recognition

Davey Silver Award, W3 Silver Award (3), Davey Gold Award, Web Marketing Association, Webby People’s Voice Nominee, Addy Gold Award

Adam Rice

Design Director

For Adam, it starts with branding: creating the visual identity and standards that will provide a client with a recognizable look and set the tone that makes everything that follows uniquely theirs. Adam’s personal appreciation for how art and words work together helps him bring insightful, intelligent and visually impactful design solutions to each project he touches—from product brochures to trade show booth design experiences. Prior to joining BFT 5+ years ago, Adam spent 10 years working for well-known brands across the contract furniture industry (Steelcase, Herman Miller, izzy+ and The HON Company). He’s also helped rebrand and create visual identities for various museums including the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) and Grand Rapid’s ArtPrize. His passion for design developed early; by age 15, he knew he wanted to be a graphic designer.

Good work begets more work.

Fast Facts:

  • Youth sports coach.
  • Known to stalk stray typography in the wild.
  • Loves the crack of the bat, the smell of the grass and hot dogs. Baseball is just the best.

Gayle Ronan

Content Director

As Content Director, Gayle oversees editorial creation across the firm. With a financial background in providing banking and wealth management services—and later covering business, investment and personal finance topics for media outlets like MSNBC and Bloomberg—Gayle is most often attached to our professional service clients’ projects. With an ability to match her writing tone to the client or publication, Gayle writes across all channels, from digital ad campaigns and social media posts to blogs, authored articles and researched papers…with a few brochures and website refreshes thrown in.

Whether it’s marketing content or writing under my own byline, the goal is always about making complex concepts and products understandable to those who use them.

Fast Facts:

  • Actually likes walking the dog.
  • A fan of good street art.
  • If forced, would choose clothes over food…and actually has!

Bill Barsanti

Senior Account Director

It’s the blend of the analytical with the creative that still fuels Bill’s ongoing passion for marketing after nearly 30 years in the business. At BFT, Bill is among our financial services SMEs and balances the management of accounts with business development initiatives. He began his career at Ogilvy & Mather, eventually migrating to the client side of the business, where he worked for Zurich Kemper Investments and Scudder Investments. More recently, he provided purely strategic marketing resources to financial services clients at SwanDog Strategic Marketing.

Not a lot of disciplines depend on the blending of science and art the way advertising and marketing do. It’s a good fit with my personality.

Fast Facts:

  • Cycling, cooking and backgammon.
  • Proudly wearing St. Louis Cardinals gear in their archrival’s town.
  • The office go-to for all questions involving amateur roller derby.

Molly Steffens

Senior Account Manager

A strong relationship builder with a creative eye, Molly prides herself on being able to communicate her clients’ business objectives to our creative teams in ways that deliver effective results. Basically, Molly gets things done right and on time. Before BFT, Molly worked on consumer and nonprofit brands at Merkle and telecommunications brands at Digitas. She credits success early in her career to lists, lots of lists.

To-do lists are my weapon of choice. They help me hit the ground running each morning and keep open lines of communication with my amazing team members!

Fast Facts:

  • As at home in the jungles of Costa Rica as in the cornfields of Iowa.
  • Starbucks? Heck yeah!
  • Feels a special bond with Simba…it’s all about the mane.

Recognition

Davey Silver Award, W3 Silver Award (2), Davey Gold Award, Web Marketing Association, Webby People’s Voice Nominee

Samantha Suranne

Senior Account Manager

The promise of nonstop action drew Sam to a career in account management—variety in projects and clients ensures she never has to worry about being bored. From big picture, strategic planning to seeing the tactics she’s shepherded to completion in action, she’s all about getting it done…and maybe learning something new along the way. Sam joined Blue Flame Thinking in 2018 with seven years of experience, mainly in healthcare marketing and advertising, and after spending some time at AbelsonTaylor.

I like the challenge of learning to speak other languages. For instance, Italian: ‘Sì, possiamo compiere quella scadenza.’ [Translation: ‘Why, yes, we can meet that deadline.’]

Fast Facts:

  • Learning to play the guitar.
  • Knows her way around a bow and arrow.
  • Favorite icebreaker: Two Truths and a Lie.

Jill Wolgemuth

Account Director

A self-proclaimed adrenalin junkie, Jill gets her thrills by helping clients get things done efficiently and done right. She uses her energy and resourcefulness as a multitasker to assemble the resources most likely to land on the right creative solution for each campaign’s objectives. With more than 12 years of experience as an account director, Jill joined BFT after spending nearly seven years at AGENT-X, where she met the strategic needs of a diverse group of global brands.

I’m surrounded by some pretty great, hard-working people. They inspire me…just like my dad, who always said, ‘If you’re going to do something, don’t half-ass it!’

Fast Facts:

  • Has a new-found appreciation for sleep.
  • Aspires to spark the kind of change that makes lives better.
  • Would advise her younger self that perfection comes from constant improvement. It rarely appears on the first try.

Recognition

W3 Silver Award

Susan Bray

Director of Strategy

It starts with strategy…and Susan. She oversees the research, discovery and analysis that informs our brand-building and marketing campaign strategies. For Susan, it’s not just about the thinking at the onset of a project. It’s also about connecting the dots throughout, being ready to spot opportunities and helping guide client initiatives to smooth launches.

While Susan has made BFT her work home for more than a decade, she leverages her previous client-side experiences as Director of Marketing at Morningstar Investment Services and Director, Marketing Communications at Business Logic to develop strategies and tactics that will deliver against their campaign objectives. Having spent much of her career working with financial companies, Susan is among the SMEs we rely on when creating solutions for our financial clients.

Strategy is the glue that holds everything together.

Fast Facts:

  • An urban-minded suburbanite.
  • Admits to being a little bit competitive.
  • Never stop asking questions.

Diona Medrano

Account Manager

Having managed accounts for nearly a decade for agencies that have included Fathom Communications, Hill Holliday, Draftfcb and Ogilvy & Mather, Diona has worked on brands in the financial services, gaming, travel, automotive and telecommunications industries. At BFT, she manages the day-to-day activities of our financial services clients with an intense focus on getting them the results they expect. This includes the planning and execution of advertising campaigns and ensuring our deliverables remain aligned with each client’s business objectives.

If you think you can do anything, you’ll amount to something.

Fast Facts:

  • Bleeds Cubbie blue but has a soft spot for her Brooklyn years.
  • HIIT enthusiast.
  • Always up for binging on “Friends” reruns.

Project Involvement

Old Second Bank-Website Update

Recognition

Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts Davey Awards, Web Marketing Association

Rebecca Forrester

Digital Project Manager

For Rebecca, project management is all about the people she works with. It’s also about building connections and digging in to develop a deeper appreciation of the challenges faced. Rebecca brings her previous experience as an account and project manager in the marketing and software development industries to bear in understanding projects from both the client and agency sides of the business. It helps her orchestrate solutions that work for everyone.

It’s my job to form relationships with clients to better understand their business needs and help solve complex problems. How cool is that?

Fast Facts:

  • Habitual prankster.
  • Has shark issues.
  • Best Halloween costume ever was the time she dressed as a table, because anyone can be a ghost or a witch!

Recognition

Davey Silver Award, W3 Silver Award

Amanda Jakubowski

Account Manager

A true skill seeker, Amanda looks for every opportunity to learn from clients, other BFTers and the world around her. As an account manager, she keeps a long list of client projects organized and on track, using her ability to connect with people across disciplines to keep everyone moving toward the same goal. Amanda began her marketing career as an account coordinator at BFT.

I believe in taking every opportunity to share information with others…and listen. It’s how we all grow and make those around us better.

Fast Facts:

  • Rebel baker.
  • Eternal optimist.
  • Has mastered the art of paddleboarding with a dog.

Chris Beaudoin

Senior Content Creator

The truth is Chris has been doing this for a while…and after some 30+ years, he’s just as enthusiastic about embracing new ways to express our manufacturing clients’ messages through their websites, brochures and ads. While he has worn other hats in this business, including those of a traveling photojournalist and account manager, for Chris, it’s all about diving into our clients’ technology, becoming completely immersed in how it works, why it was invented and how it can make the world a better place. Then, he writes about it.

The thing about writing—technical writing included—is that in the end, you get the immense pleasure of having your little experiments with refining words and phrases lead to something that can make a difference.

Fast Facts:

  • A resolute can-doer.
  • Unhealthy attraction to skiing way too fast.
  • May know as much about space travel as traveling through the Upper Peninsula.

Carrie Von Rosen

Digital Business Analyst

As our chief data detective, Carrie’s typical day bears some resemblance to the call to the machines at the end of the Matrix—with a mess of numbers and patterns everywhere. She spends her time reading and interpreting these numbers, with an assist from Google. She looks for opportunities to leverage these behavioral insights into improved results for our clients’ digital campaigns and properties. Carrie took a winding path to her current position. She literally may have done and seen it all!

In my 11+ years with BFT, I’ve worked in accounting, media buying and even HR and administration. Previously, I built a strong foundation in both data wrangling and analyzing and in modifying human behavior as a psychotherapist, elementary science teacher and crime analyst. Suffice it to say, I have skills!

Fast Facts:

  • Driven by unrelenting curiosity.
  • Reiki master and shamanic energy healer.
  • The best mysteries may be the unsolved ones.

Rob Christensen

Sr. Developer

With more 13 years of experience in Web development, Rob finds there are often many technical solutions along the path to building a site. However the best one, coupled with killer creative, is a thing of true beauty. As a developer with a background in illustration and graphic design, Rob uses his personal blend of creativity and expertise to enhance user experiences through collaboration with the design team from the conceptual stage on.

As a long-time fan of one of our client’s products—okay it’s beer—I find working on their account, helping create solutions that enable them to continue building momentum and expand their fan base, is a satisfying challenge.

Fast Facts:

  • Loves the outdoors.
  • Foodie at heart.
  • Honeymooned in Cinque Terre, Italy, quite possibly the most beautiful place on Earth.

Steve Van Wyk

Developer

If you think Steve stares at a black screen all day with hundreds of lines of code on it, you’d be mostly right. Between those lines of code, however, is where the decision-making that allows a client’s website or app to come to life occurs. Those decisions lead to writing code that not only matches the designer’s mockup, they allow the design to display beautifully on a modern browser and degrade gracefully on an antiquated device. For Steve, who has been working for BFT for more than 17 years, perhaps the most important aspect of coding, comes from anticipating future updates and uses.

“Let’s face it: Change is a constant. We try to make it easier for everyone to adapt to it with clean semantic html and a content management system.”

Fast Facts:

  • Life goal already realized: building a timber-frame cabin.
  • Knows his way around West Africa.
  • Coffee or tea? Coffee! Preferably beside a morning campfire.

Jason Wagner

Developer

Jason’s path to becoming a Web developer actually began in retailing. His early start in a service-centric industry gives him a unique perspective into the work he does at Blue Flame Thinking. Recognizing what a client wants to accomplish and the challenges they face is his key to helping them get to where they need to be. But, the best part for Jason comes from knowing that, more often than not, the detours and bumps along the way often reveal opportunities for improving the user’s journey. It’s how he helps unlock better solutions for our clients.

I don’t subscribe to the quick fix in learning. The journey is really how you learn.

Fast Facts:

  • Would medal in Alpine Downhill Skiing if he could.
  • Favorite city yet to visit: Tokyo.
  • Cooking wins over cleaning.

Addie Whelan

Social Media Specialist

Social media is truly where Addie lives, simultaneously managing our clients’ social strategy across channels and target audiences. Understandably, Addie and her phone are rarely apart as she scrolls for inspiration, trends and tactics that we can adapt for use by our clients. While she joined BFT out of college, Addie has been running an online music publication in her spare time since she was 19. Her photographs of touring bands are as captivating and her concert attendance is mind-boggling.

Boosting posts and creating custom-image Facebook ads are just the beginning of what I can do!

Fast Facts:

  • Has too many photos of other people’s dogs.
  • Playlist making master.
  • Radiohead is the best concert I’ve never seen. Really, what do you have to do to get tickets?

Recognition

Davey Gold Award, W3 Silver Award, Web Marketing Association, Webby People’s Voice Nominee

Tyler Wayner

Designer

With the ability to occupy both the design and development worlds, Tyler’s love for making things that are both beautiful and functional is what drives him to maintain this dual citizenship. He also enjoys the variety of challenges it creates for him—from building custom animations for social posts and designing apps for trade shows to digging into CSS with the Dev team. In the end, it’s about taking ideas and crafting them into something tangible that people want to interact with. And, that’s exactly what he’s been doing for our clients for most of his 10+ years as a designer.

It’s all about being happy about where you are but never stopping long enough to be complacent. It’s looking at your failures as steps toward your next success.

Fast Facts:

  • Carves, makes furniture and does pyrography.
  • Appears to prefer dogs to cats.
  • Began his career with BFT at the age of 10 as a swimsuit model in a client photo shoot.

Julie Helgesen

Sr. Designer

With a knack for interpreting and translating complicated data into compelling and creative visual stories and interactive charts, Julie’s work can be found enhancing many of our clients’ websites and social posts. With more than 30 years of experience in design, she has spent most of them with BFT, working across our firm’s capabilities. From website design to creating hand-drawn illustrations, she excels at turning strategic insight into art.

It’s easy to master the tools, but experimentation, creativity, the ability to embrace mistakes and push beyond your comfort zone are where big ideas come from.

Fast Facts:

  • Watercolor illustrator..
  • Kayaking.
  • Never stops looking for inspiration…even the panic of a looming deadline can inspire great work when you are open to it.

Natalie Suttorp

Designer

For someone who describes herself as “super laid back,” Natalie’s niche and work style often fit the demands for fast and flawless execution. She also has a love and appreciation for the colors, harmony and effortless network of communication found in nature—and how its beauty perseveres, especially under the pressures of the elements. This perspective gives Natalie inspiration when working under tight deadlines to create something not only beautiful but also functional. She’s brought her pep and dependability to delivering solutions for our clients for more than 12 years with a consistent show of empathy and clarity in creative messaging.

I habitually looks on the bright side.

Fast Facts:

  • Used to grade gemstones.
  • Likes the vibe of a black crop moto jacket.
  • Would probably rather be riding her horse.

Hannah Schrotenboer

Jr. Designer

A fan and creator of both static design and animation, Hannah especially enjoys the challenge and complexity of producing animated art. Negotiating the many factors involved in creating a work that can move and interact with the space around it is what makes it fun to design for her. Being able to do both static and animation was a key reason behind her joining BFT. Prior to coming to work for us, Hannah was a graphic designer at Restaurant Partners, Grand Apps and Otterbase. To keep the creative juices flowing, she uses color theory on herself by making sure she is surrounded by bright colors and sunshine while she is creating.

There are few things in design that are more subjective—or more important—than the use of color. Color influences everything around us, including our moods, thoughts and creativity.

Fast Facts:

  • Photographer
  • Bartending
  • Can’t really beat the classic simplicity of pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce.

Recognition

Davey Silver Award, W3 Silver Award, Addy Gold Award

Ruth Rich

Senior Copy Editor

Ruth brings a passion for new word order to our content. Hers is the final say when it comes to comma placement, the judicious use of an exclamation point and the adherence to consistency and following each client’s tone and editorial style. Whether it’s Web content, an ad, a blog article or a social post, Ruth wields her knowledge and enthusiasm for getting messages understood in the service of clarity and effectiveness. With more than 18 years of experience—the majority of them spent at Fitch Ratings and BFT—Ruth’s skills in editing, writing and project management help us maintain the quality of the content we produce.

Today, copy literally has only a few seconds to make its impact. Within those seconds it needs to be concise, informative and, above all, engaging.

Fast Facts:

  • Curator of the office radio playlist.
  • Heart of a Chicagoan, product of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Knows her skater slang.

Scott Pretzer

Production Manager

For the more than 25 years Scott has been with BFT, he has worn many hats, including art director and traffic manager. Today, he preps our digital files for print production to ensure they are properly built for final execution. He also handles the routing of projects, obtaining any necessary approvals, and secures licenses to any required stock images. Scott began his career as a graphic designer and still occasionally contributes his skills in this area as well.

What drives me each day is having coworkers counting on me to get things done to meet deadlines and do whatever it takes to come through for them and our clients.

Fast Facts:

  • When it comes to music, leans toward head-banger.
  • Can survive in the wilderness.
  • In the age-old debate, takes Batman over fairy-tale superheroes from other planets.

 

Tim Phiscator

Accounting Assistant

Suffice it to say, Tim knows his way around a spreadsheet. As chief timesheet wrangler and a balancer of debits and credits, he not only accounts for all of us while keeping track for our clients, he helps keep us in business.

If you push yourself to continuously produce your best work with a positive attitude, it can inspire those around you to do the same, raising everyone up in the process.

Fast Facts:

  • May see more movies than you do.
  • Not a fan of hipster culture.
  • Secretly wishes late timesheets came with more interesting excuses than “I’m too busy.”

Sherry Kas

Traffic/Production Manager

Sherry has been with BFT for more than 30 years. Starting as production artist intern, Sherry was involved in the transition of the firm into the era of digital design and development, spearheaded training as new applications were adopted and set up the preflight department. Today, she helps maintain relationships with vendors and juggles each project’s moving parts as they pass among the Content, Design, Account and Digital teams.

It’s all about the relationship and being open and honest…deadlines are critical, but you have to remain calm in order to meet them.

Fast Facts:

  • “We are Family” by Sister Sledge is her karaoke fallback.
  • Aspires to be the Betty White of the agency biz.
  • Start each day with a smile.

Recognition

Davey Silver Award, W3 Silver Award (3), Addy Award Winner, Davey Gold Award (2), Web Marketing Association, Webby People’s Voice Nominee, Addy Gold Award, Addy Judges Choice Award

Maria Halper

Bookkeeper

Keeping the books and files organized really isn’t the half of it when it comes to Maria’s role at BFT. A consummate multitasker, she makes sure our vendors are paid, our lights are on and our clients are happy, but she also answers our computer questions, fixes our glitches, handles HR responsibilities, plans parties, keeps us well-supplied and still finds time to be there for her office family.

The thing about my days is that they rarely go according to plan, which means they are never boring, and that’s okay with me!

Fast Facts:

  • Quilt maker, generous holiday cookie baker.
  • Not a city girl.
  • Knows a thing or two about where to go and what to do on Maui.