Denise Monnier spends her day guiding children to interact, experience, and discover—equipping them for higher learning and life. As the Head of School at Fox Valley Montessori, she knows the power of following one’s curiosity and passion. She sees it day after day.
But one thing she didn’t see day after day was the local community children seated at the school’s tables. As someone dedicated to making the Montessori program accessible to every child, Denise knew she needed to shake things up and figure out a way to make that happen.
Fox Valley Montessori School (FVMS) is nestled in a residential area of Aurora, Illinois. It’s been open since 1969, but Denise recognized that many in the community didn’t really understand who they were and what the Montessori method is all about.
Though Montessori education was established over 100 years ago, most people have a general idea, at best, of what it really means, and that was a hurdle that Denise knew they had to jump if they were to be better understood by the community and prospective school families.
Along with needing a clearer identity, Denise knew that the school lacked a cohesive marketing plan, and she was eager to do something about it. When Bureau Gravity’s founder Jimi Allen toured the school as a prospective parent, Denise wondered if the answer to her problems may have just walked through the door. After speaking with Jimi, she decided to hire Bureau Gravity to help her create the solutions she needed.
Denise began to work with Bureau Gravity in order to tell the school’s story. She brought the BG team to FVMS and let the school speak for itself. Watching the children interact with one another or explore on their own, the team members saw the beauty of learning unleashed.
Once the work was underway, a new identity was created through the design foundation of a bold new logo and a clear core message. What was once a well-meaning but muddy “first touch” for prospective student families now had a contemporary look with a strong and straightforward message. The school’s website was completely redeveloped, promotional items designed, email templates created, and a video was launched and warmly received at FVMS’s yearly banquet.
“The video completely spoke to who we are,” Denise says. “It was such a relief to see all of the communication come together and tell our story. It so eloquently stated who we are.”
Implementation of the marketing strategy was in full swing when an extraordinary opportunity arose. Denise had earlier applied for a grant from the Dunham Fund as a way to make progress in her goal of serving more families in the school’s immediate surroundings. Dunham agreed to fully fund Denise’s proposal for 20 at-risk children to attend FVMS for three years as an outreach program. The grant was the exciting first step in making the program accessible to every child. There was just one problem: the state was changing its criteria in a matter of days, and the program needed to be filled before that or the funding couldn’t happen.
Initially, Denise had envisioned the program filling up over the course of two years, but now they were in a major time crunch. Bureau Gravity came up with a multi-platform plan in an effort to accomplish much in little time. They shot a video and posted it in a Facebook campaign, encouraging people who might qualify for the program to register for an open house.
The response to the video was overwhelming, receiving 35,000 views in 48 hours. The open house took place the following evening, and among the attendees were 20 families who met the criteria. Who needed two years? The entire program was filled that night.
Along with the Dunham project, the work of rebranding Fox Valley Montessori School ranged from the new logo all the way to the art direction in the painting of their building. And Denise sees the remarkable difference. “Bureau Gravity has given us a public face. We no longer feel like a secret,” Denise says. “People now recognize us, and it’s in a positive way. The word-of-mouth ‘buzz’ has really increased. Our message is cemented, and we hope to grow our outreach and provide access to all.”