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 & Training

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.

Alejandra Salaverria

Alejandra Salaverria - Creative Director & Photographer

Ms. Salaverria joined Heart of America Group in 2013 as a Graphic Designer. Since becoming part of the marketing team she has deployed countless projects for hotels and restaurants. In her current role as a creative director she assists in developing marketing strategies by examining brand objectives to further the success of our brands. She also provides creative direction and conceptualization of new brands. Ms. Salaverria has worked in diverse fields, ranging from Museum Technician at Figge Art Museum,to working with Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, Michelin and John Deere. Ms. Salaverria has earned a BA in Graphic Design with a minor in Marketing, as well as a BA in Fine Art with a minor in Art History from St. Ambrose University.

Anne Coffman

Anne Coffman - Brand Manager
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse & Wildwood Lodge

Ms. Coffman joined Heart of America Group in 1996 as the Director of Graphic Design.  In 2011, Mrs. Coffman was transitioned to the Brand Manager position. Currently, Anne is the Brand Manager for Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse and Wildwood Lodge. As Brand Manager, AMs. oversees all external marketing as well as works directly with restaurant managers to increase guest satisfaction, uphold brand standards and improve profitability. Prior to joining Heart of America Group, Anne worked in the graphic design industry as well as in art gallery management. Ms. Coffman has her Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Communication from Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, IA.

Lesley Von Tersch

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

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

Jane O'Rourke - Brand Manager
Thunder Bay Grille & The J Bar

Mrs. O’Rourke 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 specific brands. She also monitors analytics and customer feedback while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurant and hotel brands. She has in depth experience in digital marketing, communications, branding and public relations across many industries. She graduated from Augustana College in 2013 with her Bachelor in Arts degree for English and Communication Studies.

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.

Andrea Markowski

Andrea Markowski - Graphic Designer & Videographer

Ms. Markowski joined Heart of America Group in 2017 as Graphic Designer and Videographer. In her role, Ms. Markowski assists with graphic design and photography. She is the resident videographer and video producer for Heart of America Group. Ms. Markowski has an extensive background in creative marketing and art direction, including graphic and digital and web design, photography, video production, and digital marketing. Most recently, Andrea worked as a Multimedia Video Producer for Register Media and The Des Moines Register, a part of the USA Today Network, in which she oversaw and trained production assistants, and worked directly with advertising clients to produce, shoot, edit, and create motion graphics for several video marketing campaigns. She has a Bachelor’s degree in both Theatre Arts and Secondary Education from Simpson College. She also earned an AAS in Commercial Art and a Video Production Certificate from Des Moines Area Community College.

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.

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 & Training

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.

Alejandra Salaverria

Alejandra Salaverria - Creative Director & Photographer

Ms. Salaverria joined Heart of America Group in 2013 as a Graphic Designer. Since becoming part of the marketing team she has deployed countless projects for hotels and restaurants. In her current role as a creative director she assists in developing marketing strategies by examining brand objectives to further the success of our brands. She also provides creative direction and conceptualization of new brands. Ms. Salaverria has worked in diverse fields, ranging from Museum Technician at Figge Art Museum,to working with Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, Michelin and John Deere. Ms. Salaverria has earned a BA in Graphic Design with a minor in Marketing, as well as a BA in Fine Art with a minor in Art History from St. Ambrose University.

Anne Coffman

Anne Coffman - Brand Manager
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse & Wildwood Lodge

Ms. Coffman joined Heart of America Group in 1996 as the Director of Graphic Design.  In 2011, Mrs. Coffman was transitioned to the Brand Manager position. Currently, Anne is the Brand Manager for Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse and Wildwood Lodge. As Brand Manager, AMs. oversees all external marketing as well as works directly with restaurant managers to increase guest satisfaction, uphold brand standards and improve profitability. Prior to joining Heart of America Group, Anne worked in the graphic design industry as well as in art gallery management. Ms. Coffman has her Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Communication from Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, IA.

Lesley Von Tersch

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

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

Jane O'Rourke - Brand Manager
Thunder Bay Grille & The J Bar

Mrs. O’Rourke 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 specific brands. She also monitors analytics and customer feedback while maintaining brand identity for the company’s restaurant and hotel brands. She has in depth experience in digital marketing, communications, branding and public relations across many industries. She graduated from Augustana College in 2013 with her Bachelor in Arts degree for English and Communication Studies.

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.

Andrea Markowski

Andrea Markowski - Graphic Designer & Videographer

Ms. Markowski joined Heart of America Group in 2017 as Graphic Designer and Videographer. In her role, Ms. Markowski assists with graphic design and photography. She is the resident videographer and video producer for Heart of America Group. Ms. Markowski has an extensive background in creative marketing and art direction, including graphic and digital and web design, photography, video production, and digital marketing. Most recently, Andrea worked as a Multimedia Video Producer for Register Media and The Des Moines Register, a part of the USA Today Network, in which she oversaw and trained production assistants, and worked directly with advertising clients to produce, shoot, edit, and create motion graphics for several video marketing campaigns. She has a Bachelor’s degree in both Theatre Arts and Secondary Education from Simpson College. She also earned an AAS in Commercial Art and a Video Production Certificate from Des Moines Area Community College.

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.

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.