meet the people behind
When you spend 40+ hours a week surrounded by the same group of people, they start to become like family. We’ve struck the perfect balance of celebrating successes while hitting client deadlines and working to exceed client expectations in an environment centered around trust, accountability, collaboration, respect and an unrelenting spirit. We believe the input from others leads to greater success, diversity of thought, and more impactful results for our clients.
melea mcraefounder, ceo
When you’ve been in your client’s shoes, knowing what makes them tick and what it takes to move the needle comes naturally. Along with her unique perspective, clients have counted on the straightforward, “tell it like it is” approach. With more than 20 years of marketing experience ranging from leading internal marketing teams to building brands, her knowledge of marketing communications is anything but one-dimensional.
Melea has extensive experience leading client-facing marketing departments where she earned the reputation of an insightful brand strategist. Whether she’s strengthening an existing brand or building a brand from the ground up, her ability to get to the heart of a client’s business and establish a smart, strategic, fully integrated plan and push it forward is truly an asset. (read more…)
Prior to founding Crux, Melea was the senior vice president of growth for Trozzolo. She also served as the chief marketing and membership officer at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. She led the sales and marketing efforts, representing more than 2,500 business in the Greater Kansas City region. Under her leadership, the team also spearheaded the Chamber’s rebrand and helped create an image for the region’s business community that’s admired and respected in Missouri, Kansas and beyond.
In 2010, Melea was named a KC Business Influential Woman. She currently serves on the boards of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Junior Achievement of Greater KC, the board of trustees for the National MS Society Mid-America Chapter, the marketing committee for United Way of Greater Kansas City and the patrons committee for the Women’s Foundation of Greater KC.
Melea holds a bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in marketing from Webster University in Kansas City, Mo., and has recently embarked on the Rockhurst Helzberg Executive MBA program, class of 2020.
matt smithmiervp, content
It all comes down to storytelling, after all. Matt has spent his entire career doing just that, as a reporter and magazine writer, a public relations executive and a marketing professional. Because when the story is told the right way, the message can be extremely powerful and incredibly effective.
With a background in journalism, he’s spent a number of years leading internal p.r. and marketing teams, working with outside vendors to build brands. He’s also worn the agency hat and helped guide clients down the path to better communication. (read more…)
Prior to joining Crux, Matt led a digital editorial team at Creelio, assisting executives with building their personal brand – and, by extension, their company brand – in the online space. Before that, he served as managing editor for a publishing company, leading writers, editors and designers in the creation of nationally distributed magazine titles and online content.
He also has more than 13 years of experience guiding internal marketing teams in the health care and financial industries at various organizations. Media relations, marketing strategies, brand management—all tools he’s used to tell powerful stories that make a difference.
Matt earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri.
ryan hembreevp, creative
Ryan is passionate about building brands and helping clients solve their creative and business challenges. With more than 20 years of professional experience, he leverages his strategic, creative and design thinking skills to provide unique solutions for clients’ business needs—whether in brand, marketing, or product and service development.
Prior to joining the Crux team, Ryan built, operated and sold a successful brand and marketing firm of 16 years, working with more than a hundred clients throughout the Kansas City region and beyond. (read more…)
His work has been recognized by the Advertising Club of Kansas City, the American Graphic Design Awards, the Austin Advertising Federation and has also appeared in several design annuals and publications, including: Print Magazine, Logo Lounge: 2,000 International Identities by Leading Designers, Logo Lounge 2, and American Corporate Identity. Additionally, his firm’s work had been recognized by the AIGA of Kansas City, How Magazine, and Typography 26 by the Type Director’s Club.
In 2006, Ryan wrote and published The Complete Graphic Designer, distributed by Rockport Publishers, in over a dozen languages. He is an educator and speaker on the topic of design and branding, having taught at the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of Missouri–Kansas City, and is a frequent guest speaker at Johnson County Community College. Ryan has also served on the Board of Directors for the Advertising Club of Kansas City (the Ad2 and the Art+Copy Clubs), and has judged several design competitions, including the Northwest Missouri Regional Scholastic Art Competition, the Topeka Ad Federation Addies and the Mid-Missouri Ad Federation Addies.
Ryan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Design, with an emphasis in Graphic Design, as well as a Master of Arts in Design Management degree from the University of Kansas.
becky schieberaccount director & senior writer
A card-carrying grammar nerd, Becky has spent much of her life as a crusader for accurate and awesome communication. A natural dot-connector with bottomless curiosity, she is relentlessly resourceful in connecting ideas, people and words in unexpected ways to build lasting relationships and achieve strategic outcomes for her clients. Becky is a practiced listener and distiller of complex information into conversational messaging.
Becky started her more than 20-year career as a television news producer in some of the country’s biggest markets before putting down roots in Kansas City, where her 10 p.m. newscast consistently earned top ratings—after spending decades in second place. Following a cancer diagnosis close to home, she pursued a career in donor development. (read more…)
Working with many of KC’s influential business leaders, she raised millions of dollars to support leading-edge cancer research and advocacy efforts. As a development director, she created an award-winning integrated advancement campaign that helped The University of Kansas Cancer Center earn National Cancer Institute designation. She ran the corporate charitable foundation for a global engineering firm, overhauling its strategic focus and crafting the associated communications strategies.
Before finding her tribe at Crux, she honed her experience as a freelance writer, editor and campaign strategist in the engineering, nonprofit, health care and biomedical research industries. She presents to nonprofit professionals on CSR best practices and volunteers her fundraising strategy and communication expertise to fledgling nonprofits.
Becky is a 2013 graduate of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Centurions Leadership Program and former member of the Friendship Inn board of directors. She served on the Corporate Leadership Council for Engineers Without Borders USA, the March of Dimes Greater Kansas Chapter communications committee and as a coach and mentor for FIRST LEGO League. Aside from her family, her favorite things in this world are Springsteen, giant LEGO sets and the stack of soon-to-be-read books on her nightstand.
Becky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in communication studies at Northwestern University with a concentration in Slavic Studies.
jessica tomsaccount director & senior writer
Thanks to a career working across multiple major industries and in countless capacities, including a designer, copywriter, media buyer and an entrepreneur (to name a few) Jessica approaches marketing from a business perspective. She makes it her mission to prove the value and ROI of her marketing efforts, going beyond meeting communications and promotional needs, to supporting or directly meeting business goals and driving growth.
Across Jessica’s 13-year career, she’s worked to support national sales teams, build comprehensive campaigns for some of the nation’s largest brand names, managed consumer brands, written for and directed award-winning videos and commercials, and implemented executive and corporate communications plans for industry leaders. She’s worked in retail, PR, TV, online, tourism, real estate, health care IT and health and wellness full time, while freelancing for clients in several other industries over the years. (read more…)
Jessica is relentless in her pursuit of the best solutions to fit her clients’ needs and is extremely passionate for the work she does. She has a special knack for identifying gaps in the marketing life cycle and aligning the appropriate activities and programs to achieve success, however defined. She prides herself on being a critical thinker who looks at marketing challenges from a business perspective and sees the “big picture.” She prides herself on customer service, professionalism, versatility, resourcefulness and collaboration. And above all, she lives, breathes and worships the brand.
Prior to joining Crux, Jessica worked as the Director of Marketing for Woodside, a comprehensive health club in Westwood, KS. There, she oversaw all marketing, communications, PR, advertising, brand and social efforts for the Club, working to create value for its members while driving brand equity across internal and external audiences.
Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications (advertising major) from Kansas State University.
sarah champaccount director & writer
A champ-of-all trades, master of some (namely storytelling, brand strategy, and content marketing), Sarah brings her creativity, attention to detail and general enthusiasm for just about everything to Crux as an Account Director & Writer.
She’s a journalist turned marketer, hybrid thinker and creator, who has spent the past several years as a marketing strategist and writer at brands like United Way, The Atlantic, Condé Nast and the U.S. Tennis Association. (read more…)
Sarah appreciates key takeaways in business and in life, so here’s the skinny: she is an all-around information sponge who’s comfortable in the proverbial weeds, but knows her way out; wordsmith at her core; loves data storytelling (but nowhere near as much she loves Kansas City); still believes in the Royals as well as the notion of there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet; and finds nearly everything in life relates back to Seinfeld.
kara brooksdirector of pr, social and digital marketing
Kara has always relished the written word. Prior to joining Crux, she worked as a freelance copywriter, serving clients in the nonprofit, legal and human resources fields. As a self-proclaimed recovering journalist, Kara’s experience in the news business comprises everything from breaking news and crime to development and education. She has been published in USA Today, The Washington Post, The Sentinel newspapers and The Gazette.
As Director of PR, Social and Digital Marketing, Kara specializes in crafting compelling press releases and social media content that increases engagement for clients. She’s committed to telling the stories that matter, executing effective marketing plans and implementing best practices that lead to results for her clients. (read more…)
Though the form of her writing has changed shape throughout the last decade, Kara has an unwavering dedication to her craft and capturing the unique voices of her clients.
Hailing from the great state of Maryland, Kara is passionate about both crab cakes and football. When she isn’t crafting content or assessing analytics for her clients, Kara can be found coffee crawling through Kansas City or at the park with her dog, Roscoe.
Kara earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park with a certificate in LGBT studies.
rachel wurzerdigital marketing coordinator
A summer intern-turned-full-time-employee, Rachel re-joined the Crux team following her graduation from Miami University in May 2019. After earning three (!) Bachelor’s of Science degrees in biology, psychology and Spanish, Rachel chose a more creative route and utilizes her unique background, perspective, and skillsets to help Crux operate more efficiently and achieve our clients’ wide range of Sales and Marketing goals. She even serves as our own in-house PowerPoint whisperer, which is just one of her many valuable superpowers. (read more…)
Born and raised in Kansas City, Rachel loves all things KC – especially Royals baseball.
kathryn antonopoulossenior graphic designer
Kathryn is a Kansas City native with a passion for creating brand systems to help ensure a cohesive and connected brand experience. Prior to joining Crux, she worked in-house for an architecture firm designing and working with clients to translate their brand into the built environment.
Outside of designing, Kathryn spends her time coaching gymnastics and playing with her puppy, Biscuit.
Kathryn is a graduate from The University of Kansas my with Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual communications with a minor in Art History.
lucy beschgraphic designer
A lover of all things design, Lucy especially enjoys creating patterns, illustrations and logos. Prior to starting at Crux, Lucy was a recent grad from Iowa State University (Go Cyclones!). She was one of ten from her class honored with the Janice Peterson Anderson Excellence Award nomination in 2019. While at Iowa State, she was a crucial member of her sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma as a designer. While in school, she worked as a print lab monitor, a painting class teacher and also completed two internships, one of those being at Meredith Corporation as a designer for Allrecipes magazine. (read more…)
Moving from a town of 1,600 in Iowa was a big leap but she found her home away from home in KC. Working with clients to better their websites, emails, social media and anything else creative has been extremely exciting and a new learning opportunity for Lucy. Outside of work, her passion for design has led her to many freelance opportunities and even her own side gig as a dog portrait artist. Her love of animals also extends to volunteering her time to rescues as a freelance graphic designer. She recently designed and created illustrations for the ARL of Iowa 2020 Calendar.
Lucy hopes to make an impact as a designer at Crux and also in Kansas City. She is excited to start working with the local animal shelters and to also learn about her new city with her pug, Jorja.
allison dotsonoffice manager
New to Kansas City, Allison has spent the past five years in Los Angeles, but is native to Asheville, North Carolina where she attended UNC-Asheville for International Studies.
Before landing at Crux she was in the entertainment industry supporting Hollywood music/audio facilities and composers with operations management. Most recently, she supported Dutch producer and film composer Tom Holkenborg, who has created music for films such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Alita: Battle Angel, and Terminator: Dark Fate.(read more…)
She enjoys streamlining processes and problem solving. Her experience in the fast-paced world of entertainment makes her transition into marketing a natural fit.
In her spare time, Allison enjoys hiking, camping, and spending time with her two dogs Ferris and Sampson. She also enjoys reading, as well as teaching and learning yoga.