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Driving Impact Through Strong Branding: A Case Study of VCM Strategies’ Partnership with the Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund

About Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund: Supporting Economic Growth in Underserved Communities

The Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund (HEF) is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides business loans to minority and women-owned businesses in Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Bronx. HEF plays a critical role in supporting economic growth and job creation in historically underserved communities.

The Challenge: Rebranding Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund to Stand Out in a Crowded Market

When HEF approached VCM Strategies, they faced a significant challenge - how to stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Despite its importance and impact, HEF struggled to attract leads and was overshadowed by a local competitor with a stronger brand identity. To address this challenge, HEF sought a complete branding overhaul, including a visual identity, marketing copy, and a branded website.

Branding the Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund: How VCM Strategies Helped with Brand Building

VCM Strategies partnered with HEF to develop a comprehensive branding strategy to differentiate the organization from its competitors and attract new borrowers. VCM Strategies began with a deep dive into HEF’s target market, conducting individual interviews to understand their wants and needs. From there, a brand strategy was developed that spoke to the personal touch approach of HEF’s loan officers as thoughtful listeners.

To ensure a cohesive message across all communications, an integrated communications strategy statement, and creative brief were created for external and internal communications. A media plan was also developed, outlining logical media strategies for HEF with an evaluation plan.

Process Components: Brand research (audience and competitors), audience insights, brand strategy (values, positioning, persona), messaging and voice, content (website, social, and email marketing content), and creative (website, visual identity, color scheme, and fonts).

Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund website design images
Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund design concept
Impactful Rebranding: HEF’s New Branding Strategy Results in Increased Loans and Job Creation

Although HEF faced significant leadership shifts that led to challenges in implementing everything outlined in its new marketing plan, the new strategy was successful in several critical ways. Leadership praised the new brand identity, content, and website design, which helped to attract more borrowers to HEF. The shift to more emotion-based messaging resonated with borrowers, resulting in over 2,000 local entrepreneurs receiving business assistance, 400 jobs created, over $1 million in business loans dispersed, a 25% increase in loans in less than six months, and a 76% increase in lending clients.

At VCM Strategies, we are proud to have helped HEF achieve its branding and communication goals and have a positive impact on underserved communities. If your organization is facing similar challenges, we would love to help you develop a comprehensive branding and communication strategy that will differentiate your organization and drive results. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your organization reach its full potential.


“Vanessa is a masterful marketer and strategist whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on multiple occasions. She was instrumental in developing the marketing and brand communication strategy for my division at the Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund (HEF), a Community Development Financial Institution in Harlem. She truly is one of the best and completely irreplaceable in her expertise. To say that Vanessa exceeded all expectations is an understatement. She is a true professional who listens carefully to her clients’ needs and delivers exceptional work every time. I’m confident anyone who works with Vanessa will be thrilled to have her on their team. Her expertise and dedication to her clients are unparalleled.”


— Lloyd Doaman, Director of Lending, Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund

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