Marketing


The in-house advertising agency provides marketing, public relations and customer relationship management for the Heart of America Group portfolio of brands. This innovative group of marketing and design professionals develop websites, manage social media, assist in brand development and create stunning photography and videos – all while implementing cohesive and fully integrated marketing campaigns.

Michelle Sparkman

Michelle Sparkman - Director of Marketing

Ms. Sparkman joined Heart of America in 2013 as a Brand Manager. Since joining the company she has worked with the Heart of America team to help conceptualize, market and open multiple hotel and restaurant brands. In her current role, she is responsible for the development and direction of the marketing programs, in-house advertising agency, graphic design, public relations and corporate communication. Ms. Sparkman received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing and Art from Augustana College and her Master’s Degree in Communications Research with Honors from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Sparkman also oversees training and development for Heart of America.

Lesley Von Tersch

Lesley Sparkman - Brand Manager
Grammas Kitchen / Checkered Flag / Machine Shed

Ms. Sparkman joined the company in 2016 as a Brand Manager. In this role, she is responsible for the creation of creative content and communication campaigns through traditional and social media for specific brands within the company. She helps to plan events and cultivates public relations opportunities for Machine Shed, The J Bar, Hotel Renovo among other properties at Heart of America Group. She also monitors analytics and customer feedback while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurant and hotel brands. She has experience in customer service and marketing. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Biology.

Jane O'Rourke

Kelsey Sheley - Brand Manager
Thunder Bay Grille / The J Bar

Ms. Sheley joined the company in 2010 working in various operations roles at multiple HOA properties. She was promoted to Brand Manager in 2018. In this role, she is responsible for the creation of creative content and communication campaigns through traditional and social media for specific brands within the company. She helps to plan events and cultivates public relations opportunities for specific brands. She also monitors analytics and customer feedback while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurant and hotel brands. Kelsey graduated from Western Illinois University in 2014 with a Bachelors of Business in Marketing.

Jane O'Rourke

Olivia Cronin - Brand Manager
AC Hotel & The Republic on Grand / Hotel Renovo / Revel Hotel / Wildwood Lodge

Ms. Cronin joined the company in 2018 as a Brand Manager. In this role, she aligns each brand’s vision, mission, goals, and strategies so that each concept provides its guests with a quality and consistent experience. She also serves as the point person for developing, implementing and executing marketing initiatives for traditional and social media marketing campaigns. In addition, she works to improve the customer service experience by engaging with guests and monitoring customer feedback on a variety of different platforms. Olivia graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2013 with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications and Journalism.

Jane O'Rourke

Alex Bauer - Brand Manager
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse

Ms. Bauer joined the company in 2018 as a Brand Manager. In this role, she oversees the process of creative content and communication campaigns through traditional marketing and social media efforts for specific brands within the company. She helps to plan events and cultivates public relations opportunities for specific brands. In addition, she also monitors analytics and enhance the customer experience through various feedback channels while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurants and hotel brands. Alex graduated from DePaul University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton - Senior Graphic Designer

Ms. Sutton joined Heart of America Group in 2011 as a Graphic Designer, bringing her knowledge from 10 years as a designer in the printing industry. She has worked with the Heart of America team on new brand development, setting graphic standards, creating and updating our web presence for multiple sites, content creation and management of internal web portals, print vendor relationships, and layout for print, web and social media marketing materials. Emily is currently working from our Des Moines office in the East Village, taking on some opportunities to be on property for events and assist with photography. Emily received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Design from Wartburg College.

Jeff Lenger

Jeff Lenger - Graphic & Web Designer

Mr. Lenger joined Heart Of America Group in 2016 as a Graphic & Web Designer, carrying over his skills he learned as a freelance Graphic Designer and Web Developer in years prior. He has worked with Heart Of America Group to get the ball rolling on redesigning all the websites under their umbrella as well as helping flesh out new ideas for branding. He also assists with updates for website maintenance, print layout, and digital advertising. Mr. Lenger has a Associate Degree in Visual Communications from the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago.

Jessica Holst

Jessica Holst - Graphic Designer & Photographer

Ms. Holst joined Heart of America Group in 2017 as a Graphic Designer and Photographer. Having a background in the restaurant business since age 9, she also brings 7 years of design experience in the production printing world and casino gaming industry. She has worked with the Heart of America team on new photography for all of our brands along with design for print layout, email campaigns and social media marketing materials. Jessica has an Associate’s Degree in Visual Communications from Black Hawk College – Moline, IL.

Andrea Markowski

Joseph Leaming - Graphic Designer/Media Producer

Mr. Leaming joined Heart of America Group in 2018, as a Graphic Designer/Media Producer, bringing his years of experience and skills of photography, videography, and graphic design. Joseph received his Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from Full Sail University.

Gretchen McLaughlin

Gretchen McLaughlin - Media Buyer

Ms. McLaughlin started with Heart of America in 1993 as the Director of Marketing. After working full time for many years, she transitioned to a part-time position assisting with media buying and planning other various marketing projects. Ms. McLaughlin also assists with talent acquisition for the Heart of America Group properties. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Gretchen McLaughlin

Kate Breidenstein - Marketing Strategist

Mrs. Breidenstein joined Heart of America Group in 2018 as a Marketing Strategist. She works closely with Gretchen in media buying for all properties with a strong focus in the digital realm. She brings over 5 years of experience from the marketing industry with her. Kate received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations/Business from Monmouth College.

Marketing


The in-house advertising agency provides marketing, public relations and customer relationship management for the Heart of America Group portfolio of brands. This innovative group of marketing and design professionals develop websites, manage social media, assist in brand development and create stunning photography and videos – all while implementing cohesive and fully integrated marketing campaigns.

Michelle Sparkman

Michelle Sparkman - Director of Marketing

Ms. Sparkman joined Heart of America in 2013 as a Brand Manager. Since joining the company she has worked with the Heart of America team to help conceptualize, market and open multiple hotel and restaurant brands. In her current role, she is responsible for the development and direction of the marketing programs, in-house advertising agency, graphic design, public relations and corporate communication. Ms. Sparkman received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing and Art from Augustana College and her Master’s Degree in Communications Research with Honors from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Sparkman also oversees training and development for Heart of America.

Lesley Von Tersch

Lesley Von Tersch - Brand Manager
Grammas Kitchen / Checkered Flag / Hotel Renovo / Machine Shed / The J Bar

Ms. Von Tersch joined the company in 2016 as a Brand Manager. In this role, she is responsible for the creation of creative content and communication campaigns through traditional and social media for specific brands within the company. She helps to plan events and cultivates public relations opportunities for Machine Shed, The J Bar, Hotel Renovo among other properties at Heart of America Group. She also monitors analytics and customer feedback while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurant and hotel brands. She has experience in customer service and marketing. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Biology.

Jane O'Rourke

Kelsey Sheley - Brand Manager
Thunder Bay Grille / The J Bar

Ms. Sheley joined the company in 2010 working in various operations roles at multiple HOA properties. She was promoted to Brand Manager in 2018. In this role, she is responsible for the creation of creative content and communication campaigns through traditional and social media for specific brands within the company. She helps to plan events and cultivates public relations opportunities for specific brands. She also monitors analytics and customer feedback while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurant and hotel brands. Kelsey graduated from Western Illinois University in 2014 with a Bachelors of Business in Marketing.

Jane O'Rourke

Olivia Cronin - Brand Manager
AC Hotel & The Republic on Grand / Hotel Renovo / Revel Hotel / Wildwood Lodge

Ms. Cronin joined the company in 2018 as a Brand Manager. In this role, she aligns each brand’s vision, mission, goals, and strategies so that each concept provides its guests with a quality and consistent experience. She also serves as the point person for developing, implementing and executing marketing initiatives for traditional and social media marketing campaigns. In addition, she works to improve the customer service experience by engaging with guests and monitoring customer feedback on a variety of different platforms. Olivia graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2013 with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications and Journalism.

Jane O'Rourke

Alex Bauer - Brand Manager
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse

Ms. Bauer joined the company in 2018 as a Brand Manager. In this role, she oversees the process of creative content and communication campaigns through traditional marketing and social media efforts for specific brands within the company. She helps to plan events and cultivates public relations opportunities for specific brands. In addition, she also monitors analytics and enhance the customer experience through various feedback channels while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurants and hotel brands. Alex graduated from DePaul University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton - Senior Graphic Designer

Ms. Sutton joined Heart of America Group in 2011 as a Graphic Designer, bringing her knowledge from 10 years as a designer in the printing industry. She has worked with the Heart of America team on new brand development, setting graphic standards, creating and updating our web presence for multiple sites, content creation and management of internal web portals, print vendor relationships, and layout for print, web and social media marketing materials. Emily is currently working from our Des Moines office in the East Village, taking on some opportunities to be on property for events and assist with photography. Emily received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Design from Wartburg College.

Jeff Lenger

Jeff Lenger - Graphic & Web Designer

Mr. Lenger joined Heart Of America Group in 2016 as a Graphic & Web Designer, carrying over his skills he learned as a freelance Graphic Designer and Web Developer in years prior. He has worked with Heart Of America Group to get the ball rolling on redesigning all the websites under their umbrella as well as helping flesh out new ideas for branding. He also assists with updates for website maintenance, print layout, and digital advertising. Mr. Lenger has a Associate Degree in Visual Communications from the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago.

Jessica Holst

Jessica Holst - Graphic Designer & Photographer

Ms. Holst joined Heart of America Group in 2017 as a Graphic Designer and Photographer. Having a background in the restaurant business since age 9, she also brings 7 years of design experience in the production printing world and casino gaming industry. She has worked with the Heart of America team on new photography for all of our brands along with design for print layout, email campaigns and social media marketing materials. Jessica has an Associate’s Degree in Visual Communications from Black Hawk College – Moline, IL.

Andrea Markowski

Joseph Leaming - Graphic Designer/Media Producer

Mr. Leaming joined Heart of America Group in 2018, as a Graphic Designer/Media Producer, bringing his years of experience and skills of photography, videography, and graphic design. Joseph received his Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from Full Sail University.

Gretchen McLaughlin

Gretchen McLaughlin - Media Buyer

Ms. McLaughlin started with Heart of America in 1993 as the Director of Marketing. After working full time for many years, she transitioned to a part-time position assisting with media buying and planning other various marketing projects. Ms. McLaughlin also assists with talent acquisition for the Heart of America Group properties. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Gretchen McLaughlin

Kate Breidenstein - Marketing Strategist

Mrs. Breidenstein joined Heart of America Group in 2018 as a Marketing Strategist. She works closely with Gretchen in media buying for all properties with a strong focus in the digital realm. She brings over 5 years of experience from the marketing industry with her. Kate received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations/Business from Monmouth College.

Heart of America Group is a consortium of independent companies whose successes are in fields of development, restaurant hospitality, lodging hospitality, franchising, design, architecture, construction, operational management and support, marketing, retail & office centers, residential development, civic involvement and philanthropy. The companies often work together, and draw upon the members’ unique array of expertise, to vision and create cutting-edge world-class projects. The skill and speed with which Heart of America Group’s members can combine and focus their resources is unmatched by any other organization.