Alumni-Led Marketing Firm Recognized for Nonprofit Work

TrailBlaze Creative, an Allegheny College alumni-led Pittsburgh marketing and communications agency, has clinched four prestigious awards at the 19th Annual Davey Awards, as well as two Public Relations Society of America awards for their work with affordable homeownership, creative advocacy, and residential development media relations.

Founded in 2015 by Tim Hindes ‘00, who later recruited his college friend Erin Hartong Sogal ‘00 to the role of Vice President, Trailblaze Creative is dedicated to making a positive impact through innovative communication. The company specializes in crafting content and developing strategic campaigns that drive meaningful change.

“What makes working with nonprofits, small businesses, and communities or municipalities so rewarding for us is the profound impact we can create,” says Hindes, who majored in communication and media, with a minor in art, science, and innovation. “Our motivation stems from the ability to effect substantial change, not only within the organizations themselves, but also through the broader influence these entities exert in their respective communities and regions. Witnessing tangible transformations in people’s lives and communities is incredibly fulfilling.”

The Davey Awards are sanctioned and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), comprising top professionals from brand, media, interactive, advertising, and marketing firms. The Awards recognize outstanding creative work from small teams and independent creators. TrailBlaze’s dedication to creative excellence has been recognized with three Silver Awards and one coveted Gold Award in diverse categories.

“Winning the Davey Awards holds a special significance for TrailBlaze. It represents not just an acknowledgment of our work, but a validation from our industry peers that the efforts we put into our projects are meaningful and impactful,” Hindes says. “What makes these awards even more significant to us is the context in which we receive them. Our projects often go head-to-head with corporate campaigns that have substantial budgets, far exceeding what our nonprofit clients can allocate. So, when our work competes on an equal footing with these well-resourced campaigns and emerges victorious, it fills us with immense pride.”

Hindes and Sogal’s journey together traces back to their college days, where they were both part of the tight-knit Communication and Media community, often found burning the midnight oil in the editing bays of Arter Hall. Their paths consistently converged as they navigated similar courses, collaborated on various projects, and shared a deep admiration for their mentor, Mike Keeley.

“Tim and I also shared the same passion for communications, which led us to work together on various group projects and at ACTV,” says Sogal, who also majored in communication and media with a minor in political science and creative writing. “One of my favorite projects we worked on together was a children’s show for Professor Mike Keeley’s production class. Launching ACTV was also so fun because we had the opportunity to build something that left a legacy at the College. Professor Keeley’s leadership in the ACTV launch, production projects, and my Comp taught me so much, including how to lead and teach others with compassion and intentionality.”

Aside from a shared vision for collaborative communications, Sogal also chose to attend Allegheny to play on the women’s lacrosse team, an experience that continues to shape her professional and personal life.

“I love the sport and also loved being part of a team, and having that experience in college was also a formative experience,” Sogal says. “As a student-athlete, I learned how to manage my time effectively, balancing rigorous academics with practice and game schedules.”

The marketing duo’s connection goes beyond college camaraderie; it’s also a tribute to a shared friend and Allegheny alumna, Adriane Aul ’00.

Sogal and Aul were roommates and close friends during their time at Allegheny, and their friendship remained strong post-graduation. Aul went on to become a leader in Pittsburgh’s economic development ecosystem, championing causes like vacant lot revitalization, affordable housing, and community improvements. Seven years after graduating, Aul sadly lost her battle with brain cancer. Sogal and Hindes now see their work together at TrailBlaze as a way of honoring Aul’s legacy, carrying forward her mission of building vibrant, thriving communities, and intersecting with many of the same topics and partners that were a driving passion for Aul.

“The most rewarding moments come when we see smiles on the faces of residents going through challenging times and witness the renewal of hope and pride in their communities,” Hindes says. “We firmly believe that such work is absolutely critical for communities to offer opportunity, civic discourse, and a sense of obligation that contributes to the vibrancy of the places we all call home.”