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Our Team

The EarlyWorks team is made up of seasoned communicators, strategists and organizers who’ve held leadership positions at large national foundations, global public relations agencies, national and state policy change campaigns and local and regional advocacy and resource organizations. We also draw on a vast network of creative doers, from web developers to designers to writers, to deliver what our clients need. 

Our approach is individualized, anticipatory, visionary and helps clients win big.

Our Leadership Team


Nicole de Beaufort
Founder & Principal

Nicole is an architect of imagination. She designs blueprints for social change that transform the way people consider an issue or make decisions that affect the public good. She is relentlessly attracted to making a difference. And… you can count on her showing up on time. Early, even.

Nicole named her third company EarlyWorks because it describes her approach to the world so well: show up early or on time, do good work, rinse and repeat. Every day. Nicole is a leader in strategic communications ranging from global affairs to block-level outreach and engagement. If you can do it, she’s done it. And she can tell you what works and how to do it even better. A continuous improver and perpetual optimizer, Nicole has committed over 20 years to facilitating social change through broad experiences, recently including vice president of Excellent Schools Detroit, the director of communications at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the co-founder of Cadre, where she counseled foundations and social impact organizations on program planning and development.


Melissa Vander Laan
Vice President - Strategic Communications

Melissa can see miles ahead of a project without losing sight of every step it takes to get there. She’s a strategist. Project manager. And all-around doer.

Melissa has nearly 20 years of experience in designing and implementing strategic media and community relations campaigns. Before joining EarlyWorks, she led Weber Shandwick Detroit’s Social Impact practice, working with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the William Davidson Foundation and Excellent Schools Detroit. She also supported media and grassroots efforts for the U.S. Army throughout the Midwest. Earlier in her career, she provided marketing communications support to The Villages, Indiana’s then-largest nonprofit child and family services agency. Her first job was working in motorsports publicity, honing her skills for messaging, media and planning for continuous, fast deadlines.


Kristin Gimbel
Vice President - Strategy and Impact

Kristin is a possibility thinker driven to amplify good and deliver lasting impact. She thrives in the complex messiness that accompanies change. She believes that communities hold the keys to solving some of the world’s most intractable challenges. Big-picture strategist. Path-paver. Equity advocate.

Kristin has nearly 15 years experience leading strategic communication, fundraising, and partnership development with community organizations, foundations and the public sector. Frequently at the intersection of partners spanning sectors and issues, she threads the needle. Kristin most recently led policy development, community engagement and communications strategy for the Governor of Oregon’s education team, developing impact and investment strategies for issues spanning birth to career.


Serene Arena
Director of Visual Communication

Serene helps clients discover their own story and why that story matters. As a visual strategist with 15 years of experience building political, nonprofit and institutional design materials, she has helped raise brand awareness and enhance community relationships. Her combination of theory, facilitation and attention to detail has successfully delivered award-winning content that helped organizations raise thousands of dollars. She has developed material and brand campaigns for the Detroit Institute of Arts, political consulting firms in Washington, D.C., Chevrolet and other regional agencies committed to enhancing quality of life and social engagement.

Our Favorite Collaborators

These are some of the talented pros we love to work with:


Bernita Bradley

Parent & Community Engagement


ellell & co.

Web Design & Development


Good Done Daily

Visual Design


Christina Guzman

Parent & Community Engagement


Hay There Social Media

Social Media Strategy


Chuk Nowak



Becca Rueble

Communications Strategist & Designer


Jeseekia Vaughn

Web Development