Pulling in Focus

AWE’s pivot called for a strategic brand realignment


Have you ever worked with someone, known there was a tool they could leverage better, and then be given the opportunity to help them do so?

We got that opportunity when the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) approached us to reevaluate their brand and help them develop a new website in conjunction with a major pivot. It was exciting, to say the least.

For AWE, their challenges stemmed predominantly from their website, and those challenges existed prior to the organization’s pivot. “We had determined that the website needed to be replaced, but we hadn’t found the right time to make such a big change,” said executive director, Vicki Burkhart. “The pivot was a perfect time to reevaluate and make changes accordingly.”

I understood that while the look of the site was important, it was the functional needs that would take priority. The backbone of the organization – and the core of its pivot – was its membership.

The leadership wanted to simplify and streamline their existing system, while better leveraging automation, mobile responsiveness, and content creation.

It was time to pivot the brand, and its systems.

The Collaboration

During its 20th anniversary year, AWE took a step back to analyze where it had been, and where it was going. It became clear to the leadership that the organization had become overgrown, and that it needed to reclaim its original focus: women founders of high-growth businesses.

The board and executive director worked to pivot the organization, including sponsorship, membership, programs, and leadership. The goal was to ensure that the organization was, in its entirety, serving its target member.

As part of this process, the board knew they needed to realign their brand to match the pivot. That included their content, voice, visuals, outreach strategy, and website.

I took the lead on the project in conjunction with Eileen Smith-Dallabrida, our content writer, and Dan Raquel, our web developer. We looked forward to supporting the next level of growth for a client with whom we’ve collaborated for many years.

After a careful process to realign their brand and visuals, we began to work on their tech.


Putting the Pieces Together

Our challenge with this project lied in understanding the functional needs and wants of the organization, as well as the management team that supported it. We started by asking “What causes you regular problems, and what do you and your members complain about?”

While we did ultimately ask questions about what they wanted, starting with this question instead allowed us to both understand fully what just wasn’t working in their current system, and keep all options open to find the right solution.

We realized quickly that one of the biggest irritants was the lack of integration and automation. “Literally, we keep moving data around, two, sometimes three times. It is not a good use of resources and leaves us open for errors and in a constant state of being not up to date,” said Vicki.

We also saw that email was a big piece of the organization’s communication strategy, and we turned to MailChimp to provide them with more capability, flexibility and automation.

We also recommended adding a blog, as they also indicated that being out of date content-wise had been a recurring problem, despite having stories they wanted to share.

Now, it was time to build the solution.

Completing the Puzzle

After spending time working closely with the board via communications chair Christine Martey-Ochala, we settled on important functionality decisions.

First, we eliminated the user system. It had been a historic pain point for members and a barrier to entry for prospects and event registrations.

Because of the move to MailChimp, we worked to create a built-in strategy for onboarding members, reminding them to renew, and following up after events, three very important contact points for the organization.

Being able to move to an automated process was as exciting to the client as it was to us. “I’m always interested in how I can help clients better leverage technology to streamline their workflows and eliminate repetitive tasks,” said Dan. “Often, smaller organizations do things by hand because they don’t know how to make technology work for them or they’re stuck on an out of the box system that doesn’t do what they need, and they’re working around it.”

We took advantage of Stripe to handle payments so that it would be entirely integrated from a user’s point of view. Additionally, the organization would not have to handle or store credit card information, but on renewal, the system would remember the card.


Last, but certainly not least, I redesigned the website. I knew from the get-go that I would feature images of their members. We have had the pleasure of covering their major events for a number of years, and have thus helped to build a strong library of authentic images.


The next decision was to feature a strong angle throughout the site via the images, call out boxes, footers and even the menu. The goal was to focus on AWE’s boldness, as well as the advanced, cutting edge nature of its target member. Additionally, the angle rises left to right to highlight AWE’s focus on growth.

In messaging and design, I wanted to get to the heart of AWE: the members’ stories. The unique community AWE has established and continues to grow includes many remarkable women founders. I included quotes pulled out in the highlight color throughout the site, and we are also launching the Cover Stories series, which is meant to profile women founders of scaling companies to counteract the constant flow of cover stories that only focus on the next Zuckerberg (20 year old male, in a hoodie, who’s usually white).


We also created a Gazelle icon. The target member can be defined as a founder of a Gazelle company, and the icon is used to indicate Gazelle board members as well as Gazelle-only programs. In conjunction, we helped to brand and position the GazelleWire, a new member benefit specifically for the target member.  


Along the same lines, we worked with Vicki to help reposition and rebrand the major programs, including launching the new Vertex Award (shh, TBA!). While most think that brand is limited to marketing messages and visuals, good branding lives at the heart of all that your ventures does. In the case of non-profits, that includes their member benefits and programs

AWE has just announced that applications are being accepted for The Pitch, they’ve nailed down new Partners and they’ve already written four Cover Stories. How’s that for growth?

“It’s an extremely exciting time for this organization. We’ve made it to this level, and are looking ahead to the next,” Vicki said as we finalized their announcement.

If you’re in Philadelphia in November, don’t miss The Intersection. I know we’ll be there! 

Stationery Mockup - Free Version.png

Project Deliverables

We created a brand guidebook; designed an icon, stationary, collateral, website and slide deck; and executed content writing and photography. We are pleased to have an ongoing, strategic relationship with AWE.