Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund - Case Study

Updated: Feb 5

Discover how a new digital experience helped recast HEF’s position and double leads.


HEF is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), providing business loans to minority and women-owned business enterprises in Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Bronx. They always wanted to have a brand like other CDFIs in the lending space.

The Director knew that having a brand would increase lending, having seen it work for other CDFIs. The Director hired me to create a unified brand presence for its target audience.


As a subsidiary of the Harlem Commonwealth Council, information about HEF was buried under the parent brand. Potential borrowers struggled to identify HEF as the separate brand entity it should have been when created, often leading to confusion between its services and the services of NYC Business Solutions housed in the same building.

Finding that the services and value propositions were lost on most potential borrowers, HEF sought to become a brand while establishing a digital footprint. To accomplish this, HEF needed a brand identity, a website to highlight its core strengths, and content that aligned with shifting business goals, building a clearer, more direct user experience for its target audience.


I began this project with a situational analysis and competitive landscape overview. I also sought better to understand HEF's target market's wants and needs. To do so, I conducted individual interviews using concept statements to determine how key messages were resonating with HEF's target market.

A brand position was then created from brand perceptions that spoke to HEF's ability to provide a personal touch approach to their loan process as they listen to the passion clients have for their businesses.

I defined HEF's brand strategy, created their integrated communications strategy statement, and developed a creative brief for external and internal communications, too. Lastly, a media plan was created outlining logical media strategies for HEF with an evaluation plan.


The new strategy was successful in a few ways, although significant leadership shifts led to challenges implementing everything outlined in HEF's new marketing plan. Leadership revered the new brand identity, and borrowers responded positively to marketing materials with more emotion-based messaging.

I also created a new website for HEF to reflect the lender's new brand identity and strategy. Marketing resulted 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.

Recent Posts

Stay In The Know!

Can you keep a secret? I cannot! Get brand strategy and marketing tips complimentary for professional service firms. Sign up now, and do not miss bi-weekly marketing gold that will change the way you promote your business.


  • YouTube
  • RSS

©2018-2021 VCM Strategies | Brand Strategy Consultant | Email: vanessa@vcmstrategies.com | Phone: (646) 736-4710

All Rights Reserved | Registered, New York State. Privacy Policy