MICHAEL WESTAFER

FOUNDER & CEO OF ROGER WEST CREATIVE& CODE

THOUGHT

Leader

AN INNOVATOR OF INDUSTRY
“ROGER WEST CREATIVE & CODE IS NOT YOUR TYPICAL INNOVATION STORY. WE AREN’T A TECH STARTUP, WE DON’T HAVE PATENTS PENDING, AND OUR GOAL ISN’T TO BE FEATURED IN WIRED. WE ARE A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY, BORN AND RAISED HERE IN TAMPA BAY.”

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I like to think of ourselves as the creative catalysts of innovation. Our own pathway to innovation lies in how we view market disruption through our clients’ eyes.

Don’t get me wrong. We do awesome work. Our people are among the best at what they do. We’re regulars on the Tampa Bay Fast 50 list and broke into 2020’s Inc 5000 list for a reason.

What I mean is, we don’t sit around trying to figure out how to reinvent digital marketing. We’re here for something far more important.

Sometimes that means telling a story about an innovative solution one of our clients developed. Sometimes it means creating a website that delivers a client’s innovative vision to the right audience. Sometimes it means bringing people together from different organizations and helping the magic happen.

It Started on a Card Table with a Home Equity Loan
I like to tell people about how Roger West came to be. It’s a story about unbridled optimism and passion – two traits I believe I share with a lot of my fellow Tampa Bay area lifers.

I grew up in Clearwater. I went away to school to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and knocked around different creative and tech jobs for a while. I’ve been a designer, a programmer, a creative director, and a college instructor.

I worked my way up to vice president of marketing and technology at a health insurance company. When the company lost its VC funding in 2006, I was spared the mass layoff and awarded a one-year contract. It was up to me to figure out what would be next.

“We’re here to help our clients do big things – and to make sure the world knows about it.”

I had no business starting Roger West in 2007. I lacked a large support network, working capital and a business plan. But I took the plunge anyway. I started out with a card table as a desk and a home equity loan, along with my tech-genius friend, Chris Aybar.

Fortunately, I’ve always said this is a big community with a small-town feel, which is one reason connections here have so much potential for growth.

How One Connection Can Spur Innovation
Fast forward 13 years, and Roger West is now a full-fledged digital marketing agency. We have over 20 team members, Chris is still by my side, and we have an impressive portfolio of clients. The thing I’m most proud of is being named a Best Place to Work three years running.

But we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for a handful of friends who introduced me to then-smaller companies in 2007. Those connections led to us landing Roger West’s first clients.

Legendary companies like Bloomin’ Brands, ConnectWise, Tribridge and WellCare took a chance on us. They helped us gain footing, grow our brand in Tampa Bay and attract other clients.

In return, we became a lever for their innovation as they disrupted markets and grew into national brands. We are fortunate that many of those early connections remain.

The great thing about innovation is that it doesn’t have to entail developing software or creating a new product. It often originates from the creativity that helps those inventions come to life. As a creative, marketer and entrepreneur, I feel lucky to call Tampa Bay home. This is a place for all types of innovators.

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