97 Degrees West’s origin story is one of determination…

It’s 9:30AM on February 6th, 2004 and I’m on a call with my boss… I’m getting laid off while on maternity leave.

I shed a few tears, picked myself up, and started this agency that afternoon. With my daughter in my arms, I cold called every CEO and Marketing VP I knew in the Austin area and had projects lined up that same week.

Fast forward 13 years, and my agency of one is a team made up of thinkers, doers and dreamers. Together, we help SMBs and multimillion-dollar companies solve their branding, marketing, business, and customer support problems to rave reviews, international awards, and positive ROIs.

And we’re still fueled by that same raw determination that was our start. We’re determined to make every client dollar earn more leads and sales than ever before (and to have a little fun together along the way).

Listen to Vera tell her story

Our Philosophy

We define creativity as the art of solving a marketing and business problem. We are an agency which is built around the belief that if you combine creative talent and humanity, you can help companies make their products, services and brands relevant to the life of their customers. We look at technology as a tool and don’t confuse it with an idea.

97 Degrees West At-A-Glance

YEAR FOUNDED:

2004

EMPLOYEES:

10

HEADQUARTERS:

Austin, Texas, United States

KEY RECOGNITION:

Inbound Certified & HubSpot Certified
WBENC Certified
HUB Agency
HubSpot Gold Agency - Partner

OWNERSHIP:

Vera K. Fischer

INDUSTRY FOCUS:

Energy, Finance, Healthcare, Manufacturing & Distribution.

KEY ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

2017 Communicator Award -  Agency Spotter

2017 TOP 20 MARKETING AGENCIES, Agency Spotter

2016 PR NEWS SOCIAL MEDIA AWARDS, Honorable Mention
2016 CUNA AWARDS, Diamond
2016 HERMES CREATIVE AWARDS, Gold
2016 AMERICAN BUSINESS AWARDS, Bronze Stevie
2016 INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AWARDS, Bronze Stevie
6 x DAVEY AWARDS, Silver since 2012
2 x W3 AWARDS, Silver since 2014
3 x Communicator Awards in 2016

Our Team

Vera K. Fischer

CEO / President

Vera K. Fischer

The visionary of 97 Degrees West for more than thirteen years, Vera has served as the CEO and President since 2004. During Vera’s tenure, the agency has achieved steady growth while surviving both economic recessions in Austin, Texas.

Vera began her advertising career at GSD&M where she worked on accounts: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Houston Rockets, Dollar Rent-A-Car, Pearl Vision, SeaWorld and DoubleTree Hotels. Her next stop was the nationally recognized T3 known as “The Think Tank.” While at T3, Vera spearheaded the Dell Computers launch of the Preferred Accounts Division and lead national projects for the ESL and Enterprise Divisions. Other notable accounts included Quintiles Oncology, Austin Lyric Opera and St. David’s Hospital. 

In 2001, Vera left the agency world to embark on the client side as Director of Marketing for Forgent Networks, the software spin-off of VTEL video conferencing. Vera managed an annual multi-million dollar marketing budget, developed online lead generation programs, managed the inside sales team and consistently delivered high-quality MQLs to the sales team. 

In 2004, after a company wide re-org, Vera was laid off while on maternity leave. Within the day, she founded her agency, 97 Degrees West.

Vera’s weekly podcast entitled, “System Execution”, launched in mid-2016 with notable guests like Ari Weinzweig, Jeff Smith, Gary Bizzo, Dr. Alan Pitt, and other business and thought leaders. Vera is the first woman to host a podcast devoted to systems and processes of successful companies. She is quickly becoming one of the country’s leading authorities on the topic of execution

Vera is a member of the Austin University Area Rotary Club, an advisory board member for the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Texas State University and a Mentor at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas. Vera is completing her Master’s in Strategic Communications at Texas State University in May 2018.

Russ LeBlanc

Managing Director

Russ LeBlanc

Russ brings more than 20 years of advertising and marketing experience to 97º West. His impressive background includes national and global consumer brands and business-to-business clients. His expertise includes brand development, strategic planning and account management and leadership.

His career began in Chicago with notable agencies BBDO Chicago and Tatham, Laird & Kudner working with Proctor & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders and Wrigley’s gum. He went client-side as Brand Manager of New Products for Leaf, manufacturer of Milk Duds, Whoppers and many of our other favorite candy brands.

Russ moved to Atlanta with Ogilvy & Mather to work on American Express, The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Bush’s baked beans (yes, Duke the Talking Dog). His experience there includes brands such as Martha White Foods, Bryan Meats and Mitsubishi Wireless.

While holding the position of Senior Vice President, Group Account Director at McCann-Erickson, he was responsible all local and regional advertising in North America for all of The Coca-Cola Company brands.

He moved to Austin TX to work on accounts such as Honeywell Aerospace, 3M, ACVB and Extraco bank and is now Managing Director at 97º West leading the strategic positioning, branding and marketing for all our clients.
Russ has an undergraduate education in Architecture, graduate degree in Finance and studied International Marketing at the London Business School.

Clark Bystrom

Design Director

Clark Bystrom

As Design Director, Clark is charged with leading the creative team in transforming challenging subjects into powerful and easy-to-understand concepts. From consultation to finished product, he works tirelessly to invent new ways to communicate a client's message, and achieves exceptional results for a wide variety of clients.

Over the course of 20 years, Clark has created innovative brands with big and small agencies alike—from the Fortune 500 brands of AT&T, D.R. Horton, and Symantec, to design studios working with BMW, car2go, Cerilliant, Dell, Endeavor, to leading global brands as Sr. UX Designer for DIRECTV. In his years as Designer, Art Director and Design Director he has overseen integrated advertising campaigns across emerging channels, interactive design, TV, and print as well leading rebranding and design efforts for large-scale, corporate brands. In working directly with clients, Clark developed strong relationships to deliver strategic and emotionally-resonant creative that also successfully achieves business goals. 

Clark is that unique creative talent who has mastered the ability to excite the left brain, impassion the right brain and control them both simultaneously, inspiring confidence in clients and staff alike.

When not at work, Clark spends time with his gorgeous wife Maureen, his two daughters Madeline and Meredith, and their two dogs. You can find him volunteering as Game Day Administrator for high school ladies lacrosse, and Starter for the Capital City Summer League.

Brooke Hummel

Account Supervisor

Brooke Hummel

Brooke brings over 10 years of marketing and advertising experience to 97º West. Her experience leading both national and global brands brings a wealth of knowledge to her clients’businesses. Brooke has lead and managed accounts in virtually every segment, both B2B and B2C.

Before moving to Austin, Brooke worked as an Account Director at a greater Boston ad agency with clients such as Bose, Tyco, Staples and Deloitte. Brooke’s unique combination of business strategy, creative skills and leadership have helped to expand new business opportunities and organic growth for her agencies. She is extremely client focused and is committed to surpassing clients’ expectations.

Brooke brings that same passion to the things she does away from the agency. Her free time is spent traveling and playing/enjoying live music...and of course spending time with her greyhound Pickles.

Emma Casey

Senior Digital Manager

Emma Casey

Emma brings 8 years of combined experience in marketing, events, sales, and account management for both products (SaaS, Apps) and creative design.

She has worked across variety of companies and organizations, including: higher education; law; consulting for small and franchise businesses; tech conglomerates, ticket and lottery software, services and mobile applications, all before going agency-side to 97 Degrees West.

In whatever capacity or position, Emma excels in bringing ideas to life and seeing projects from its infancy to completion. From website management, software and apps design, to content strategy and program optimization – she helps bridge the gap between clients and technology to provide solutions and meet business goals.

Emma has undergraduate degrees in Strategic Communication - Public Relations and Spanish from University of Minnesota. She also studied language and literature, and culture in Cusco, Peru.

In her spare time, she volunteers with Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCAN) for PurpleStride Event and is the Treasurer for Girlnomics – a 501(c)(3) organization, with a mission to provide young women the means to learn entrepreneurial, leadership, and professional skills in order to achieve economic success and leadership positions with their selected profession or entrepreneurial endeavor.

Kim Castelluccio

Digital Media Supervisor

Kim Castelluccio

Kim is experienced in digital media planning and traditional media planning. Before joining the 97 Degrees West team as a Digital Media Supervisor, she was at LatinWorks were she was vital in planning an launching media campaigns for Texas Lottery, Visit Austin, and Jamba Juice. 

She brings on board an in-depth knowledge on the ins and outs of planning and executing digital, social out of home , print and broadcast media buys. Fascinated by the ever-changing industry, she is constantly on the look out for innovative and efficient ways for clients to engage with their audiences. 

She graduated with honors from Texas State University in San Marcos with a BA in Mass Communications - Public Relations and a minor in English and is happy to still call central Texas home. 

When not strategizing in the office, you can find Kim volunteering for the Make-A-Wish foundation, reading, practicing yoga, hiking with friends, or trying out new places to eat around town.

Cory Shaw

Visual Designer

Cory Shaw

Cory has been a Visual Designer at 97 Degrees West since October 2015, assisting the fast-paced creative team with a variety of innovative client solutions. Before his time here, he held multiple design internships for small and mid-sized advertising agencies in Austin, Texas and his home state of Georgia.

Cory prides himself on being a lover of learning. He graduated from the University of Georgia – Go Dawgs! – receiving his B.A. in Advertising with honors. In addition, he has taken several courses on Graphic and User Experience Design at The Creative Circus and General Assembly, among other esteemed schools.

In addition to his work as a designer, Cory loves listening to podcasts, running, travelling, volunteering with Austin Animal Center, and enjoying the wonderful things Austin has to offer – most importantly the incredible food and beautiful outdoors.

Z Szaday

Consulting Assistant Controller

Z Szaday

Z joined 97 Degrees in 2016 as a Consulting Assistant Controller from vcfo. She has more than 25 years of business administration and bookkeeping experience. With strong organizational skills and expertise in a broad range of accounting practices, she helps manage the day to day financial operations.

Z has industry experience ranging from consumer goods to professional services and everything in between. She has helped small businesses flourish and large businesses stay on track. Currently she is employed by vcfo and proudly works on behalf of a great diverse group of clients – with 97 Degrees being at the top of the list! Prior to consulting, Z has held long positions with Meridian Solar, PBS&J Engineering and Guiltless Gourmet as well as many others over the years.

After attending college at both Michigan State and Indiana University, Z moved to Austin in 1985. Having a great appreciation of art and music, Austin is the perfect place to be. When not playing with numbers, creativity rules!

Candice Brusuelas

Marketing Intern

Candice Brusuelas

Candice is a writer and life-long learner. She began her career in journalism in high school and has worked as a writer and editor for several publications before segueing into graduate school, and developing an interest for PR and marketing.

Candice has been published by the Associated Press and won several writing awards from her alma mater, Eastern New Mexico University. She currently teaches an introductory media writing course at Texas State University.

During her study at TXST, she has completed the mass communication program’s unique South By Texas State graduate course, studied abroad in London and Paris (and visited CNN and Weber Shandwick, among other notable communication organizations), and presented in TXST’s International Research Conference.

Her hobbies include reading, writing, photography, fitness training, exploring the great outdoors, and trying new eateries in the ATX area.

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