Wheelhouse ‘Craziness’ Producing Results

By LeeRoy


Inside this office, three generations of crazy somehow makes sense. They laugh with – and at – each other. They talk over each other too. And somehow they manage to answer the persistently ringing phone.

There’s a guy who wears the tie, and there’s the former attorney-financial- consultant-teacher his colleagues refer to simply as “Striker.”  But not Ted Striker.

There’s the “artist” who is a Wheeling Jesuit graduate; the creative director of the firm has dabbled in everything he loves doing anyway; and the young thinking man who listens a lot, and then lets the ideas fly. There’s also the former-intern-who’s-now-full-time, and unofficially included in her job description is to keep the above-30 staff members of the crew hip. The # is a perfect example. No longer known as the “pound sign,” the “hashtag” is now a slice of communication that delivers a broader message.

She even has the guy with the tie using hashtags on an IPhone 6-plus.

Oh, and yes, there is the one who chooses the tiara.

This is Wheelhouse Creative, LLC., which opened Jan. 5 with a collection of wordsmiths, videographers, web designers, and branding strategists, and in the three weeks they have been gathering on Cypress Avenue in the Dimmeydale section of Wheeling their organization has grown along with the client listing.

The Wheelhouse staff includes the following: the tie-wearing ad-rep veteran Rob Vandine (vice president of account management); the dabbler-for-a-living Joe Jacobs (creative director); the artistic Brandi Richards (graphic design strategist); the thinker Josh Jenkins (Video Production Specialist); the career-re-inventor Kevin Stryker (writer, copy editor, strategist); and hipster Olivia Morgan (social media strategist).

And the one wearing the fake-diamond headgear is Carrie Scanlon, the vice president of brand management, and she’s wearing that crown because she’s living her dream.

The creative crew at Wheelhouse: Rob Vandine (vice president of account management); the artistic Brandi Richards (graphic design strategist); the dabbler-for-a-living Joe Jacobs (creative director); hipster Olivia Morgan (social media strategist); the thinker Josh Jenkins (Video Production Specialist); the dream-living Carrie Scanlon; and the career-re-inventor Kevin Stryker (writer, copy editor, strategist).
The creative crew at Wheelhouse: Rob Vandine (vice president of account management); the artistic Brandi Richards (graphic design strategist); the dabbler-for-a-living Joe Jacobs (creative director); hipster Olivia Morgan (social media strategist); the thinker Josh Jenkins (video production specialist); the dream-living Carrie Scanlon; and the career-re-inventor Kevin Stryker (writer, copy editor, strategist).

Cast of Characters.

Scanlon has worked for marketing agencies, and she has created ad campaigns for companies that had never before advertised. She has taught marketing and communications at Wheeling Jesuit University and also once served as the media relations director for the Ohio Valley Medical Center. She also has left Wheeling for an opportunity in Pittsburgh, but that didn’t last long. She missed her roots, and her fabric didn’t match.

“But that didn’t mean I would ever stop doing a lot of dreaming,” she said. “It was always ‘What if? What if? What if we could create something and what would it look like? What kind of agency would you want to work with as something who has actually worked in the industry?

“We knew we wanted to do original work, and we would want an agency with a diverse population of people working there so we could get lot of ideas. And someone who has a high level of design talent, production talent, new media talent … that was our ‘pie in the sky idea,’” Scanlon explained. “And after we started developing the idea, we realized that it was what we wanted, so that’s when we took those ideas and made them into one realistic entity.”

The Wheelhouse staff possesses employees from several generations, from the Baby Boomers to the Gen-Exers to the Millennials, because that offers a perspective that permits proper client management. Since the Friendly City is one with hundreds of longtime, established businesses as well as many new ventures, Scanlon and her crew believed such staffing to be imperative when first formulating the business plan.

“I have been around sales and marketing my whole career,” Scanlon explained. “However, my ‘Yoda’ – Rob Vandine – is the person who gave me my first job, so I worked with him 18 years ago running an agency and had a great time doing it.

“But between then and now, no matter where I was working, I have always fallen back on Rob’s expertise whenever I was figuring out what I was doing,” she said. “And Brandi was one of my students at Wheeling Jesuit, so we represent three generations of crazy.”

And yes, they have fun although they are working for a living.

“It’s extremely, crazy collaborative, and that’s what makes the process so enjoyable,” she said. “Even though we always end up completely different from where we started the process, that process is always very enjoyable because we have such an eclectic group of people contributing to those ideas.

“The process. It’s all about the process,” Scanlon admitted. “There’s nothing boring about what we do every day. We may come to the end of the day, but that’s only the end of the day in the office. The work, the texts back and forth – that all continues until we finish what we started for one of our clients.

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“If you go to work, and you love what you do, and you have a blast doing it, success will happen,” Scanlon said. “The key to what we do is to have fun because that’s when the best ideas start to flow.”

Local photographer Don Feenerty is one of many vendors to be hired by the Wheelhouse Creative crew, but he has noticed differences between those he has worked with during the past two decades and Scanlon and her staff.

“I think one thing that makes this place different from most is the simple fact that I have heard ‘I’ve got your back’ or ‘I got ya covered’ or ‘Don’t worry about that – I got ya,’ more than I have ever heard before,” he said. “It’s a nice thing to know that you have a whole team supporting you in any situation.”

Creative Director Joe Jacobs works with clients on a commercial shoot soon after Wheelhouse Creative launched one Wheeling's newest business on Jan. 5.
Creative Director Joe Jacobs works with clients on a commercial shoot soon after Wheelhouse Creative launched one of Wheeling’s newest businesses on Jan. 5.

Why in Wheeling?

“For me, it’s kind of a personal thing because I love Wheeling,” Jacobs said. “I grew up in Yorkville during the days when your parents let you do pretty much anything you wanted just as long as you were home by dinner time, so at the age of 12, my friends and I would jump on the bus and go to downtown Wheeling.

“We would hang out in Wheeling all day long until we had to get on the bus to go home. And there was a lot to do. There were a lot of different places to eat, to shop in, and it’s good to see that starting to happen again,” he said. “We feel we can be a part of that resurgence. We can help those new businesses thrive.”

Jacobs claimed the ad package that is offered by Wheelhouse Creative is more extensive than what he has worked on while with other ad agencies.

“What we do is much more than offering a package that’s going to get the bullet points of a business on the air,” he said. “What we do is really try to think it through so we can get that cash register really rolling for our clients. That’s why I really like the group of people that we have here because everyone is always thinking, and it’s always about working together.

“And I don’t want another agency’s client. I want to see who the competition is and get them so we can make them so much better,” Jacobs said. “That’s an opportunity that no one realized was here, but it’s always been here, and we want everyone to be successful. We’re not here to take away. We are here to build.”

In Wheeling? Who’s building another in Wheeling?

“Oh, we will, and why not? We’re in Wheeling because we choose to be in Wheeling,” Scanlon said. “We’re not stifled because we’re in Wheeling. We’re here because Wheeling is a part of the fabric of who we are. We can have clients from anywhere and stay right here in a city we all love.

“And the people who are going to make this work are from this area,” she said. “There are so many talented people in this area, and I think it’s time those people started getting credit for what they do. That is our plan.”

Big or small, new or established – none of that matters to Wheelhouse’s creative director, and that’s because he knows his roots.

“I had a small business for about 10 years so I have a soft spot in my heart for those kinds of businesses,” Jacobs said. “I enjoy working on the accounts for our bigger clients, but I do love all of the smaller businesses that have been getting started lately.”


Olivia Morgan discusses social media strategy with potential client Jenna Heaston.
Olivia Morgan discusses social media strategy with Jenna Heaston.

The Measuring Stick.

Wheelhouse Creative’s first client signed on the first day, and several more were added the first week. The phone continued ringing during the second and third weeks, and far better is the fact the payments have started rolling in already.

But the formula as to how to measure the success of the new firm travels far beyond the client base and the generated income, and that’s because the staff members need to be satisfied with the work too.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t produce what we say we can produce, then the plug will get pulled. It’s always that simple in the professional world, and we all know it,” Feenerty said. “Many of the folks in this room said that we are going to do great things, and now we don’t have the choice. I have been waiting for an opportunity to work with a group like this one.

“And it’s ego free, which is refreshing,” he said. “If anyone has an ego, it’s about their car, and that’s it.”

Every orchestra needs a conductor, but with the Wheelhouse Creative staff it is obvious the baton gets handed around the room depending on the client and the requested services.

“The way it has started has been a, ‘Build it and they will come,’ situation,” Scanlon said. “We have so many ideas over and above traditional advertising. There are going to be so many big things – I hope, I think, I really believe – that we haven’t even thought of yet. It’s an awesome feeling.

“Calling us crazy is a huge compliment to us, and that’s because of what the craziness produces,” she said. “And yes, this is a dream come true for me – without question,” Scanlon said. “This is what I was put on Earth to do.”


photos provided by Wheelhouse Creative