Female Leaders at Schifino Lee Create Game-Changing Results

Tampa advertising professionals


Staying true to its long-time mantra of “Innovate or Die”, Tampa-based ad agency Schifino Lee Advertising + Branding is challenging societal norms with a majority female management team. These leading ladies are changing the game, managing a 20-person powerhouse of full-time employees to improve processes, grow business, increase revenues, improve client relations and foster a positive corporate culture.

Paola Schifino is a Principal and owner of the agency. She has won many awards for her business efforts, including Business Woman of the Year for 2017 by Tampa Bay Business Journal. She and Ben Lee built Schifino Lee from the ground up 25 years ago this year, and both strongly believe in the future of women in business.

“In achieving our goals, I truly believe women are resilient. In the past, we were like water in a creek, softly flowing around obstacles in our path. Now we’re more like a class-five rapid, crushing it,” said Schifino.

Schifino Lee is made up of six primary departments; four of which are led by women. Kerry O’Keef manages finance and administration, Amanda Koenn heads up account management, Jennifer Ruyle leads the agency in brand strategy and new business, and Bri Wagner manages social media and public relations.

Not only have these women contributed to diversity in gender, but also in age. The group includes leaders in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

Kerry O’Keef

O’Keef was recently promoted to Vice President and Director of Finance and Administration. With a degree in business management, she brings over 25 years of corporate experience to ensure the financial and operational success of the agency. Among her responsibilities is overseeing the financial, organizational and functional operations including IT and HR. She encourages and promotes our staff to expand their skills and knowledge; assists our management team with training, mentoring and tracking productivity of their departments; and continually works with the agency principals to determine ways to make our agency more profitable.

“Since promoting more women into management roles, we’ve achieved a more nurturing environment to work and grow in. People support each other, mistakes are forgiven, voices are heard, self-expression is encouraged and learning opportunities are virtually endless,” said O’Keef. “We are empowering the young women at Schifino Lee to recognize their strength in femininity.”

Amanda Koenn

Koenn was recently promoted to Account Director where she oversees the all-female account management team. She not only assures that everything runs efficiently, but also works hard to improve culture and comradery.

“We’re focused on ensuring our employees know they are valued. Several new initiatives have been implemented since this new leadership team has been in place including a calendar of team bonding events, monthly team meetings for collaboration and idea sharing, and an employee recognition program,” said Koenn.

Jennifer Ruyle

From 2003 to 2010, Ruyle served as a copywriter and creative director at Schifino Lee, and then returned to the agency in 2018 as Director of Brand Strategy and Senior Account Manager. She serves the agency in account management, brand strategy and building new business.

“Having watched the agency change over the last 15 years, I can attest to the way it has evolved through having women in leadership. Teams are working together and collaborating more efficiently than ever before. People are listening to each other, teaching each other and growing together. It’s been amazing to see it all unfold,” said Ruyle

Bri Wagner

Wagner joined Schifino Lee at the beginning of 2018 as Social Media and Public Relations Manager. Part brand strategy and part creative direction, she oversees both internal and client-related initiatives in the public communications sphere.

“Giving women a voice at the table results in better outcomes for our clients. Advertising professionals need to consider how segments of a diverse audience will perceive the same message. By adding diversity to our team in both gender and age, we are able to incorporate different perspectives and produce campaign ideas that resonate with a broader audience. It’s our value added to our clients,” said Wagner.


Photo (left to right): Amanda Koenn, Kerry O’Keef, Paola Schifino, Jennifer Ruyle, and Bri Wagner.

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