The Game Changer
By Stephanie Overton
The culture of a business is central to its success. Shay Onorio ’99, president and partner at a Washington, D.C. metro-based branding and digital marketing agency, lives by this philosophy and has a thriving business that is leaving a big footprint.
Onorio leveraged 20 years of marketing and leadership experience and joined forces with another creative mind to establish their company, Red Thinking. The name is a nod to the two redheads leading the charge. Their clients span a variety of sectors, including real estate, finance, health, retail, hospitality, travel and nonprofits. It is a boutique-style agency with no centralized office. The talented team makes an impact, especially for the nonprofit organizations across the nation that are selected to participate in the agency’s annual Brand Jam, a pro bono event that brings their team and other creatives together to produce high-quality branded materials and websites over the course of 24 hours.
“Giving back to nonprofits and charities is part of the Red Thinking DNA. Many of us volunteer and sit on the boards of several organizations that advocate for children, at-risk families and the arts. And, we love the chance to use our professional talents to give back,” said Onorio.
“Nonprofits often don’t have a budget, but they need branding. Other companies take them on pro bono, but their projects often take a back seat to paying clients.”
The benefits to the organizations selected through the Brand Jam competitive application process are game-changing.
Representatives from nonprofits travel to Washington, D.C., where they kick off the event at a donated location with their Red Thinking team, along with freelance designers and writers who have joined Red Thinking for a day of creative genius. They spend 24 hours focused exclusively on charitable organizations without any distractions. Nonprofit clients are selected based on their nonprofit status, impact, location and budget. Brand Jam has garnered great support and inspires others to participate by donating food and hotel rooms for the event.
It is a long day that culminates with presenting a full suite of branded collateral materials to the nonprofit clients.
“The exhaustion is worth it every year,” said Onorio. “Our clients are so happy, often with tears in their eyes.”
She has always had mentors that have supported her and wanted to push her forward. Onorio is compelled to give back in the same fashion. She credits her Radford University experience for putting her on her career path and developing her love for what she does.
“Radford was my game changer,” shared Onorio. Growing up in northern New Jersey, she did not know much about Virginia schools when she began her college search. Onorio and her father were on the college tour journey when she discovered Radford University. She knew it was the institution of choice for her and came to Radford despite not knowing anyone. It was not long before the Radford community became central to her college experience.
“Radford is different. We are a united team of like-minded individuals, who want to promote our experience. Twenty years later, my very best friends are from my Tri-Sigma life and those I met my freshman year in the dorms,” she said. “Faculty were eager to work with students, and once in my major — media studies — I really thrived academically. I like to show off Radford as much as I can.”
Onorio is passionate about being a Highlander and her special group of lifelong Radford friends. She is proud of their beginnings at Radford University and what they have each achieved as professionals. “I have a lot of very successful friends with thriving careers,” she said.
Onorio’s career has been jam-packed with opportunities to empower companies. She heads up business development and client services at Red Thinking and is the “secret sauce” that enables the team to deliver “thought-provoking and effective strategy and creative thinking” for their clients. She is intentional about carrying the Highlander spirit forward and having an impact that is game-changing.
Visit redthinkingllc.com to see more of Red Thinking’s work.
Strong family ties: Onorio, with her husband, Gary, and daughter, Georgia (left), is also devoted to the group of lifelong friends who make up her
Radford family (right).