Who we are 2019-07-12T21:37:50+00:00
Brick office building with ColinKurtis banner

We’re a marketing and design firm located in Rockford, Illinois, we’ve been designing and developing authentic strategic branding and communication solutions since 1996.

Our Process


We ask, listen, understand, survey, and analyze.


A creative custom-made plan is crafted to achieve your goals.


Everything is focused and connected through design.


We deliver everything you need on time—and nothing you don’t.


Whether it’s metrics or analytics—we use them all to measure success.

Our Capabilities

  • Research
  • Strategic Planning
  • Brand Strategy & Messaging
  • Brand Identity, Naming
  • Website Design & Programming
  • Media Campaign Strategy & Buying
  • Sales Enablement
  • Public Relations
  • Print & Online Ad Development
  • Packaging and Point of Sale
  • Tradeshow Booth Development & Design
  • Event Planning
  • Literature Development
  • Copywriting
  • Social Media
  • Internet Marketing Campaigns
  • Video Production
  • TV & Radio Commercial Development

Our Clients

Amelia Bay: better tea is brewing logo
BayValley Foods logo
Clasen Quality Coatings, Inc logo
Nellson logo


Smart, Focused, Dedicated, Caring, Creative, and Fun—Just a few words we look for in our teammates at ColinKurtis. We have found over the years that creating a cohesive team of individuals provides our customers with the best results. Every team member wants what you want—long-term success, long-term relationships and oh yeah, to have as much enjoyment in the process as possible.


Colin Kampmier

Founder, Owner

Superpower: Keeping it real! Connecting with our customers and team on a personal level to keep the fun in the work.

Background: With a BA in Marketing and an MA in Sports Marketing, I started ColinKurtis in 1996, out of my home with an old college buddy. Over the years, the one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to delivering great creative based on sound strategy that gets results. I have dedicated myself to finding marketing strategies and campaigns that provide client-driven results, all while working as a team together with our customers.

Diversions: Revolve around my daughter and my girlfriend—if I am not with them, you can find me at work. When I get away from it all, I’m bowling, golfing or playing Texas hold ‘em.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I considered becoming a pro bowler and bowled for the NCAA Championship.

Favorite Food: My own special concoction: a swirl of refreshing ice cream drawn from a Taylor® soft serve freezer, atop a premium Clyde’s Donut, layered with a protein bar—created using trend-forward ingredient solutions from ADM, dietary fiber from Fibersol®, specialty plant-based oils from AAK, made by Nellson Nutraceutical—drizzled with caramel topping from SOKOL Custom Food Ingredients, and topped with a roasted Campfire marshmallow, all served with a refreshing glass of iced tea, courtesy of Amelia Bay.

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Debra Tucker

VP, Creative Director

Superpower: A gift for dealing with unpredictable, maniacal people and talking them off the ledge…not saying who…

Background: I earned my BA in art and design from Illinois State University and have 20+ years of experience in advertising and the creative field, including 15+ years of food industry experience. I’ve been with ColinKurtis since 2006, when I started as a strategist and creative director. In 2012, I became part owner and vice president.

Diversions: HGTV junkie, watching sports (but only the ones my kids play), refereeing two teenage daughters, trying to come up with something for dinner that everyone can agree on. I just realized I need a hobby….

One thing people don’t know about me: I have a swearing problem…wait…everyone knows that.

Favorite Food: Bread and pasta…it is my comfort food

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Brian MacLaren

Creative Director

Superpower: Bulletproof (thick skinned)

Background: BFA in Visual Communications from Southern Illinois University. 20+ years creative experience on both the corporate and agency sides. 13+ of them spent in the food and beverage industries

Diversions: 2 kids with plenty to do and many weekends spent in other towns watching one event or another.  Occasionally, I will sneak off to the gym or go for a run.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I also answer to the nickname BAM

Favorite Food: Crab legs paired with a Schnickelfritz – Bavarian Weissbier

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Leslie Lane

Digital Producer

Superpower: I’m the Fixer. I like a good challenge and I do whatever it takes to tackle the issue at hand.

Background: I earned my degree in web design with an emphasis in graphic design graduating from Harding University outside Little Rock, Arkansas in 2006. My career started in the luxury jewelry industry and served a short stint in the farming industry before coming to CK. (From diamonds and Rolex to tractors and tires…I’ve done it all!)

Diversions: Spending time with family, we love to go to flea markets and vintage shops and repurpose old things into new treasures. Traveling also provides creative adventures; whether inside the US or abroad. I love to experience and capture in photographs all of the different environments, landscapes and cultures that exist, and I’ve been fortunate to experience so many!

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I do an amazing Bill Cosby Jell-O Pudding impression.

Favorite Food: Ice cream. “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream, and that’s kinda the same thing.”

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Laura Huff

Web/Social Media Coordinator

Superpower: I am always willing to learn something new!

Background: I graduated from Wartburg College with a BA in Communication Design and Art. Before starting at CK in February 2017, I worked for a small newspaper and for a company which specializes in livestock marketing.

Diversions: My free time is usually spent with my husband, Patrick, and our spoiled dog Ripley. You can also find me outside running or at my desk painting.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I grew up on a farm, but I can’t seem to keep a houseplant alive!

Favorite Food: Strawberry shortcake with plenty of ice cream.

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Kacey Smith

Art Director

Superpower: Staying cool, calm, and collected

Background: I graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in graphic design and general art and have 15 years of experience. I started out working for a Chicago based magazine, designing editorial layouts and promotional materials, then worked for a small marketing agency in Rockford until starting as a graphic designer at CK in January of 2012.

Diversions: Love being a mom and spending time with the fam. Watch a ton of movies and read murder mystery books. Love listening to music and being outdoors. Occasionally paint or do fun craft projects when I have time.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I’m a huge sports fan! Love to play sports and watch them. Love to cheer on the Chicago Bears, Blackhawks and Cubbies.

Favorite Food: Firecracker shrimp, they’re the perfect combination of sweet and spicy


Kate Schupbach

Art Director

Superpower: Organized to the nth degree. My lists have lists.

Background: I earned my BFA in Visual Communication from Northern Illinois University and have been with CK since 2012. Before that I worked in Wisconsin creating promotional materials and custom designs for local and a few well-known brands, freelanced and worked for a small agency in the Chicago-area before starting as a Junior Graphic Designer.

Diversions: Spending time with my growing family, which includes dogs and babies. Making our fixer-upper a home (Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal), antiques, Chicago Cubs and Bears, long walks through Target, and wine.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I used to be a cat person until I owned a dog. Now, I can hardly stand them.

Favorite Food: Pizzaterian, or my mother-in-law's homemade mozzarella sticks...


Aaron Tack

Production Artist

Superpower: Expanding time and space for our designers. I take care of the details, so they can focus on design.

Background: I graduated from School of the Art Institute of Chicago in ‘97 with a BFA in visual communication. I’ve worked in the print industry, package layout and fulfillment, and worldwide direct mail. My first real taste of agency work was with Leo Burnett; ever since then, I have applied that experience to every working environment

Diversions: My wife and our 4 kids are my greatest proponent of joy. I love introducing the world—and how awesome it can be—to them. I’m game for games of any type: board, video and card, and I enjoy creating things out of paper.

One thing people don’t know about me: I took down the top professional paintball player.

Favorite Food: For a special occasion, haggis is my food of choice. Wash it down with warm Guinness, and you’ll remember that day forever.


Juanita Hickerson


Superpower: Ability to embrace, research, then write about a new topic (often developing a bit of a crush on it in the process)

Background: A checkered past including a BFA from Rockford College, a career in visual merchandising (with the scars to prove it), and writing stints with magazines, hair salon companies, a dog-centric website, and finally and best of all, CK!

Diversions: Black and white movies, prefer watching HGTV to actually working on/cleaning my own home.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I have sent my dog text messages. On more than one occasion.

Favorite Food: Red wine


Rimsey Ranken

Director of Project Management

Superpower: Being organized and on top of things (which in part is due to my excellent memory, which my son is going to LOVE-haha) and negotiating (schedules/timelines, compromising, etc… all in a days work!)

Background: Along with a BA in Speech Communication from University of IL-Champaign and an MS in Communication from Indiana State University, I have 10+ years of project management/resource allocation/workflow management experience at advertising agencies (prior to this, all in pharma industry and mainly in Chicago, IL).

Diversions: Playing with my 3 year old, Tate, reading, swimming, watching Bravo, going to movies, hanging out with friends.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I don’t like belly buttons and I 100% believe in ghosts.

Favorite Food: My mom’s broccoli cheese soup. Because getting comfort food that your mom made you is always the best food in the world.


Penny Libby

Internal Sales

Superpower: Organizational skills – keeping everything running smoothly in the CK office

Background: After attending Northern Illinois University and Robert Morris College, I went down a business path that included manufacturing, water treatment, medicine, and a cemetery(!) before I came to work at CK seven years ago.

Diversions: Golf, softball, reading and movies

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: As a small child, I would eat butter. By itself. Perhaps I still do.

Favorite Food: Chocolate, because it just makes you feel better.


Carrie Livingston

Director of
Media Relations

Superpower: Currency manipulation, enhanced visibility, and wish granting: all to get clients exactly where they need to go!

Background: I have been specializing in media/public relations for food industry clients since 1997. Been with CK since 2007.

Diversions: Married, 3 kiddos, lots of furry friends: mutantly large dog, cats, fish, frog. I take care of everyone and bring home the strays of all kinds: people, pets, etc.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” is my favorite song. I cry every time I hear it.

Favorite Food: Blackened chicken—many spices fused together. Creates a taste sensation with a spicy burn, but you dip each bite in lemon butter sauce and mellow out that burn. Leaves your mouth tingling. The recipe was originally created by Louisana Chef Paul Prudhomme, one of my favorite chefs.


Valette Piper-Bledsoe

Account Director

Superpower: Putting pieces together in ways no one else does—making order out of chaos.

Background: With CK since August 2014. Majored in Psych/Soc at Trinity University-Washington, because knowing why people do what they do is important for any career. Been working in marketing for more than 20 years, including for nonprofit organizations, corporations and advertising agencies. My not-so-secret passion is for integrating interactive media into traditional marketing; I don't focus on trends, but on strategy—and results.

Diversions: With three kids, a dog, and a cat, most of my time not at work is spent with my family. I love to cook, garden, make furniture and I'm a voracious reader, particularly of my husband's novels.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I am a complete and utter geek and totally rule in Star Trek trivia.

Favorite Food: Cheese. Any kind, any way.


Lorraine McGill

Key Account Strategist

Superpower: Love marketing/building brands and I can't think of anything I’d rather be doing

Background: I have a deep background and passion for marketing that started when I was a 12-year-old kid who went to a TV shoot. Intrigued by all things related to marketing, I got an advertising degree at the University of Illinois. (GO ILLINIZ!) I have worked in account management at Leo Burnett, DDB, Ogilvy and Grey NY, and have had international stints in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Diversions: I love hanging out with her family and friends, running (on the treadmill in the winter) and cooking big meals on Sunday for the entire week.


Eri Haycraft

Account Coordinator

Superpower: Rolling with the punches—pushing forward to get to a resolution and get the job done

Background: I’m a University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana alum who studied biology, but was drawn into the world of advertising after taking my first job at Draft Worldwide in Chicago. Since then, I’ve been at agencies big and small with both B2B and B2C experience.

Diversions: I love traveling and spending my free time with friends and family. My weekends are filled with sports activities and shuttling my two boys around to birthday parties and play dates. My husband is a middle school math teacher, which will come in handy as our kids’ math homework becomes more complex year over year. I play tennis and golf, weather permitting, and when it doesn’t, I play in a recreational bowling league.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: If I’m driving (alone), you’ll find me singing along to the radio.

Favorite Food: French Fries, of course!


Mitch Robinson

New Account
Development Manager

Superpower: Conversationalist! I have the ability to talk with anyone on any subject, especially about ColinKurtis and my family.

Background: I have a BS In Sports Communications from Ithaca College and have known Colin since 1990, when I started working on local television. When I made a career change in 2011, Colin asked me to develop new accounts for CK, since we’ve collaborated successfully in the past.

Diversions: My twin girls. I coach them in soccer and watch them in every other sport. I also like watching professional and college sports, and playing video games. Yes, I admit I am a bit of a gamer geek. As an NJ native, I’m a Springsteen fan.

One thing people don’t know about me: I do not like clowns. Editor’s note: Does anyone?

Favorite Food: Steamed whole Maine lobster. Spent my summers in camp there and would get it fresh from the ocean to the table. Nothing better in the world, no butter needed.

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Corrie Ainsworth

Account Manager

Superpower: Happiness. I like to ensure the client is happy with the end result—and is kept in the loop during the process

Background: While working and going to school full-time, I earned my BA in Communications Management 2012. I have worked in the marketing field for over five years and taught marketing to adult learners for the past two years.

Diversions: I enjoy baking and reading, but not at the same time. It’s always nice to take our dog, Norah Jade, for a walk. When weather permits you can find my boyfriend Al and I boating, hanging out with family or friends, and perhaps enjoying a nice glass of bourbon or wine

One thing people don’t know about me: My family dog Max thought my beloved pet hamster—Chewy—was a squeaky play toy that needed to be silenced. And in the end, he did

Favorite Food: Breakfast food! Eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, hash browns (crispy), Swedish pancakes, regular pancakes...you name it

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Wendy Arntzen

Project Coordinator

Superpower: I’m a quick learner. Like that one time when Peter Pan taught me to think happy thoughts and fly away to Neverland to mother the lost boys.

Background: Before joining ColinKurtis in May 2017, I attended Rock Valley College while interning at GiGi’s Playhouse in Rockford, where I helped with their marketing and literacy.

Diversions: If I’m not at work, I am desperately trying to find time to be out on the water. I could live on a boat! With my dogs, of course. I need them to maintain my Crazy Dog Lady status.

One thing people don’t know about me: I was accidentally hit in the head with a hockey stick when I was 1. The video is on YouTube for those of you who are interested…

Favorite Food: Ham loaf. Don’t knock it till you try it. With a side of wine of course...and cheese. I love cheese...and chocolate...

Wendy Artzen

Michael Hopkins

Lead Developer

Superpower: Synthesizing: I love combining multiple ideas into a new one, and ideally, turning it into code for clients.

Background: After majoring in Marketing and Business Management at Judson University, I started my career in securities analysis (2008 was interesting). Since I couldn't stop writing software to do my work, I switched to programming fulltime. I've been developing for the web for the last several years, leading up to joining CK in 2018.

Diversions: You asked, so here’s my list: books, new programming languages, games and game design, podcasting, music, movies, teaching new things to my children, eating buffalo chicken.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I can wrap my arm around my head while holding a buffalo chicken sandwich.

Favorite Food: Pizza, going strictly by volume, but my favorite is Greek pastitsio. And buffalo chicken.

Kristen Mattingly

Sales Enablement Director

Superpower: Bringing marketing and sales together so customers get just the right info at just the right time.

Background: I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Graphic Design. Since then, I’ve worked with both in-house and agency marketing teams doing exactly what I love.

Diversions:My husband and I have two boys who keep us on our toes, as well as three dogs who are always underfoot. When I’m not working, you’ll most likely find me watching my boys play baseball, at the gym or binge watching an old tv series on Netflix. I’m a newcomer to country music—who is now completely hooked.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I love to lift weights, definitely not a Zumba girl here!

Favorite Food: Candy! Hot Tamales, Now & Laters and gummy bears are my top faves.

Kevin O’Driscoll

Senior Copywriter

Superpower: Getting to the point.

Background:I spent my formative years in England (a small island somewhere in the North Atlantic). After moving stateside, I graduated from the University of Illinois and have been writing copy ever since. Over the past 20 years, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some of the world’s biggest food brands and everything from speed boats to cat litter.

Diversions:When I’m not feverishly crafting the world’s next great ad, you can usually find me either playing soccer, watching soccer or talking about soccer. I also love fishing, camping, cooking, trying new things and making strangers laugh.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I have never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Favorite Food: Hamburgers for breakfast. But isn’t that everyone?

Timothy Strawbridge

Web Programmer

Superpower: Translating expressions into just the right form of digital media.

Background:I like to make things better and constantly learn knew things. That’s why I was a Continuous Improvement Coordinator in my previous job. And because for me, learning never stops, I am currently studying Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, having earned my Associate of Science degree in Software Application Development from Rasmussen College.

Diversions:When I’m not working or studying, I like to have fun, which to me means snowmobiling, playing basketball and football with my kids, and hanging out with my wife and family.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You:I am secretly training for American Ninja Warrior.

Favorite Food: Ice cream, of course!

Jennifer Tragas-Molander

Account Manager

Superpower: Balancing work and family, making sure that calendars are set, and everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be there. Behold, the weekly family meeting! The same principle applies to work scheduling, where I make sure everyone is on the same page—so things are done when they need to be.

Background: I've been in the media business for the last 25 years with agency experience, sales experience, broadcast, cable and digital marketing.

Diversions: Most days, you will find me outside taking care of our critters: horses, rabbits, chickens, dogs and cats. And oh yeah, two kids.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: My high school was the real “Breakfast Club.” Guess who I was...

Favorite Food: Sushi! I’m lucky to be working right down the street now from Marc's Fusion, some of the best sushi in Rockford.

Haylee O’Sullivan

Project Coordinator

Superpower: I am very good at adapting to change quickly, which is key to successful project management. Communication (chatting) is also my strong suit.

Background:I attended Rock Valley College, and before ColinKurtis, I was in project management at a local construction company, helping them bring complex projects to completion.

Diversions:Besides being a taxi driver for my daughter, I love finding new podcasts to listen to, working out, Target runs, and binging Netflix documentaries.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: As of now I can still do back hand springs, and I know all 50 states in alphabetical order.

Favorite Food:SOUP. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life!

Linda Decker

Senior Copywriter

Superpower: Ability to provide the key tool at the right time (dubbed THE Swiss Army Knife of Writing Marketing by a client).

Background:A colorful past including a BFA from University of Minnesota, with a career in radio, a stint naming paint collections, and adventures writing for digital teams, health and beauty products, an educational toy company, and “Chicago’s Best Italian.” I looks forward to connecting all the dots to help my CK team and clients look good.

Diversions:Leisure sailing and learning how to skipper; enjoying Chicago’s fantastic food and rooftop scenes.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You:I’ve volunteered with The Who/Eddie Vedder's charity, Teen Cancer America for several years; their benefit concerts recently funded 2 teen cancer units in Chicago, and 1 in Minneapolis. I’m in training for the next private concert held in a stunning backyard in Los Angeles.

Favorite Food:Authentic Italian. My “Chicago’s Best Italian” client sold their place, so watch this space for my new favorite

Matt Hensler

Social Media Manager

Superpower:Connecter—probably because I played a lot of Connect Four as a kid. I can quickly see how clients can maximize potential by integrating social into other areas and knowing the industry to find other solutions to increase ROI.

Background:I have a BA in Public Relations + Advertising from DePaul University and an MA in PR from Full Sail University. I owned a boutique social media + PR agency, worked in-house at Wells Fargo, USA Today and Toshiba. I led integrated marketing communication at a well-respected Chicago agency, partnering with fantastic brands including Walmart, Hershey’s, Del Monte, StarKist, American Flatbread, Famous Dave’s BBQ, Chicago Cubs and PAC-MAN. I won 3 City of Chicago's Social Media Awards and was named a PR News 30 & Under Award Winner.

Diversions:I love playing with my dog, Braxton. Also, I enjoy dining and traveling—I judged at the World Food Championship, and I’m a KCBS (Kansas City Barbeque Society) certified judge.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You:I was part of Oprah’s flashmob on Michigan Avenue.

Favorite Food:Fried chicken. I’m on the hunt for America’s Best Fried Chicken—the current winner is Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans.

Julie Bliss


Superpower:Super Receptionist: faster than a laser printer, more organized than a spreadsheet, able to conquer mountains of paper in a single day.

Background:After 25+ years in banking as a branch manager/loan officer/business development officer, I’ve been a sales/office manager/accounting assistant.

Diversions:I love hiking, biking, kayaking, gardening, my book club, and doing service projects.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You:I am a covert curb consultant, secretly judging people’s lame landscaping and lack of curb appeal. I really should have my own HGTV show.

Favorite Food:A totally tricked out salad.

Matthew Silverman

Digital Optimization Director

Superpower:Discovering a problem on a client’s website and figuring out how to solve it, with elegance and a smile.

Background:I have an International Baccalaureate diploma, BS in MIS from University of South Florida and an MBA in marketing from Hofstra University. I have been practicing the mystical art of digital marketing for over 15 years, working on a variety of clients. Most recently, I worked for Edelman as a Director of SEO for some key clients.

Diversions:My hobbies include swimming, wood working/doing stuff around the house, cooking, biking and hiking with the family.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You:I wanted to be an astronaut when I was in elementary school. It looked like so much fun to float—even better than floating underwater with a scuba tank on since it would last longer.

Favorite Food:I am a chocolate lover and can't say no to a great piece of chocolate.

Stacy Keijo

Account Executive/Quality Control

Superpower:A sharp eye for detail. If there’s a typo, I’ll find it!

Background: I earned my BA in Organizational Communication from North Central College and have 10+ years of experience in marketing, communications and branding for both B2C and B2B organizations. Prior to joining ColinKurtis, I’ve worked in the tourism and publishing industries, and served as a freelance marketing professional for several small business owners.

Diversions:My husband, Stan, and our toy poodle, Holly. I love playing board games, cheering for the Chicago White Sox, and geeking out over all things Disney, Star Trek and Doctor Who.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You:I started dance lessons at age two and continued with them all the way through college, graduating with a minor in dance. Tap is my favorite and Gene Kelly is my idol.

Favorite Food:Pineapple Dole Whip. Never heard of it before? Look it up...you’ll thank me later!


Tory Merritt

Account Director

Superpower: Having a "Plan B" (and C, and D)—just in case!

Background: I've worked for agencies big and small, including Factory Detroit, FCB, McCann, and Umault. I've worked on brands across industries including ALDI, MilkPEP (Milk Processor Education Program - the "got milk?" people), Deloitte, KitchenAid, MassMutual, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and First Citizens Bank. I earned my Master's degree in Public Relations and my Bachelor's degree in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy as an all-time top 10 swimmer at Michigan State University.

Diversions: I enjoy reading, writing, working out, being outdoors, and eating.

One Thing People Don’t Know About You: I won a Kellogg's writing contest in third grade and earned a year's supply of Little Debbie and other junk food snacks (my parents were thrilled).

Favorite Food: Captain Crunch cereal (unfortunately not a Kellogg's brand, so I did not receive a year's supply of it)

Fun Facts