From Soul to Start-up—A Total Design Process

From Soul to Start-up—A Total Design Process

Launch date
June 11, 2021
Business Concept Development || Brand Strategy || Brand Identity || Messaging || Website Design

The Mission

Francisco Gonzalez, a lifelong non-profit executive, originally sought my expertise in digital strategy to help him take advantage of a big milestone for his personal brand—the 100th episode of his podcast, Agents of Innovation.

Francisco Gonzalez interviewing Jen Gratz of Fort Myers Brewing Co. for the Agents of Innovation podcast

But as I asked questions and our conversation deepened, Francisco’s true goal materialized—becoming a full-time entrepreneur in the next 12 months. He was no longer interested in simply interviewing or supporting entrepreneurs. He wanted to join their ranks.

Although there was no business concept, no revenue model as of yet, there’s only one place you can ever begin: right where you are.

So I agreed to help Francisco clear out the fog, design his business, and ultimately chart his own course.

The Project

To help Francisco chart his course to sustainable and fulfilling entrepreneurship, I designed a custom strategy framework specifically for this project consisting of a series of virtual coaching sessions, creative exercises, and in-person workshops.

This process allowed us to focus Francisco’s many ideas into a clear vision of an entrepreneurial path that would be financially, mentally, and emotionally fulfilling for him.

By the end of the process, we developed a concept for the business, a brand platform, and a growth strategy for the first 12 months. We named the company (Fearless Journeys), crafted a brand identity and sincere messaging, and built a state of the art website.

The Impact

In the span of 12 months, Francisco went from “content creator with a dream” to “start-up founder living his dream.”

Before the business even officially launched, Francisco enrolled more than 40 leaders and innovators into the Fearless Journeys community—considering I was only anticipating 15-20 at that point, this was a great early sign of success.

As I write this, it’s still early days for Fearless Journeys—the official launch party is only this week—so perhaps it’s best if I let Francisco take over here:

“I know this launch is going to be successful because we've been so intentional and thoughtful in this process. I've gotten a lot out of this experience personally and professionally and it was well-worth the investment. I couldn't have done this without you."
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Begin with the End in Mind


“This was an eye-opening experience because I didn’t even know where to start. All I had were some ideas, plenty of work experience, my network, and relationships with many entrepreneurs. Building a brand defined by my passions, interests, strengths, and experience has been incredible."

Francisco Gonzalez was a man who had found what he was good at in life: communicating vision and making friends. Over nearly 20 years, he’d turned these skills into a very successful career as a non-profit executive specializing in fundraising and development. He made good money, got to travel all over the world, and met fascinating people while doing so.

In 2015, Francisco decided that he wanted to do more. He began working on a side hustle called the Agents of Innovation podcast. Nearly 5 years to the day after his first episode went live, Francisco was approaching a huge milestone: 100 episodes.

Countless hours spent interviewing innovators, editing episodes, writing summary blog posts, and promoting the podcast online—it had all been building to this moment.

At this point in time, I was fresh on Francisco’s mind because I had just recently shared a case study with him from my (at the time) latest project: Building an Artful Brand (and Website) from the Ground Up. He was particularly impressed after seeing their new website:

“Wow, this is a first-rate website. Incredible. And I love the colors and the brand and how everything just slides around. Very cool and easy/user-friendly. I clicked around all the links... Everything looks so impressive. Well done!!”

- Excerpt from an email Francisco sent to me, dated April 2020

And so Francisco decided that it would be a good idea to reach out, seeking insight and ideas about how to make the most of this milestone.

As our conversation progressed, Francisco began to tell me about how he hoped the podcast would help him eventually launch his own business as it continued to grow.

I realized that this opportunity was about far more than just the podcast. It was about growing his personal brand and creating a foundation for business success that would last the rest of Francisco’s life.

Once we drilled down even further, I discovered Francisco’s true goal: to become a full-time entrepreneur in the next 12 months.

To do this, we would have to develop a cohesive, memorable brand—but first we needed to design a business. A business that would accent his strengths, challenge him, fulfill him, and ultimately sustain him.

From Dream to Concept—Building a Business from the Soul


"The strategic process was engaging and fun! Everything fit together so well at the end of each session. At the end of the workshop, a vision had crystalized and we really honed in on actionable next steps to get this off the ground. Of course, plenty of work still lies ahead, but I feel a sense of accomplishment and can't wait to start implementing our strategy and action steps."

To help Francisco chart his course to sustainable and fulfilling entrepreneurship, I designed a customized version of my typical strategy framework specifically for this project.

We began with a series of virtual coaching sessions and creative exercises designed to uncover Francisco’s Ikigai. For those who are unfamiliar with the word, Ikigai is a Japanese concept that translates as “a reason for being”.

The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life—one that makes one’s life feel worthwhile and gives them satisfaction as they work toward it.

Snippet from Session 1 of our Ikigai process

Bit by bit, we focused Francisco’s ideas and potentials into a clear vision of what any entrepreneurial path would have to look like in order to be financially, mentally, and emotionally fulfilling for him.

Bringing the quadrants from the above image together, we were able to define his personal Mission, Expertise, Passion. and the Opportunity that was in front of him.

Francisco’s Mission: stronger purpose through broader perspective.

Francisco’s Expertise: facilitating strategic growth.

Francisco’s Passion: seeking to enrich and connect.

Francisco’s Opportunity: to help people find direction.

Screencap from one of our 3 virtual Ikigai Coaching Sessions (May 2020)

With this new-found sense of clarity, intent, and purpose, we were ready to begin designing a business that would check all the boxes.

Designing a Start-up

It was time to design a business that meshed with Francisco’s identity like peanut butter and jelly. We did so throughout a 2 day, hands-on, live Brand Workshop hosted at my offices in Atlanta.

In the Workshop, we navigated my proprietary strategic framework—a collaborative, structured series of exercises in design thinking and creativity that iteratively scaffold into a cohesive authentic brand.

Going into the Workshop, my top objective was to create a tangible plan with actionable next steps as well as establishing a brand identity that felt right.”

- Francisco Gonzalez, June 2020

The framework allowed us to align the essence of his existing personal brand, his business goals, and his audience’s needs. It then allowed us to translate those findings into actionable insights, revenue streams, marketing campaigns, business efficiency systems, and a strategy for all the company’s messaging.

By the end of the Workshop, we’d developed a concept for the business, a brand platform, and a growth strategy for the first 12 months.

We named the company (Fearless Journeys) and crafted sincere messaging for the brand, including a tagline that really tied it all together (Chart Your Course), using the core attribute for the brand’s Voice (emboldened) and its Impact (inspired).

“It was amazing how all our work came together at the end of each session (and at the end of the Workshop) to fit into a larger strategy for the brand. I loved using the foundation we built early in the Workshop to hone in on specific, actionable next steps to build my business at the end.”

- Francisco Gonzalez, June 2020

When we began packing up to leave, Francisco surprised me with a brand new bottle of 1792 Bourbon as an expression of his gratitude for guiding him through this process.

As always, the conclusion of the Brand Workshop was very emotional for me. I get deeply invested in my clients’ dreams and goals, and to hear Francisco singing out his conviction and enthusiasm about the future of his brand was extremely fulfilling.

You can view the complete Fearless Journeys Brand Brief that we developed in the workshop at this link.

About the Fearless Journeys Brand

Fearless Journeys provides curated content, digital community, travel experiences, coaching & mentorship, and a book club program. It seeks to embolden, connect, and inspire entrepreneurial minds as they chart their own course through life.

The brand also provides opportunities to ascending innovators, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs. Opportunities to grow their audience, generate additional revenue streams, and collaborate with like-minded individuals.

At its core, Fearless Journeys exists to “help dreamers do, and help doers dream.”

Fearless Journeys is built on the belief that the world need not be filled with pessimism and nihilism. Our lives can be filled with self-belief and fulfillment. We can fight the feeling of powerlessness that is infecting society and empower people to chart their own course forward. We can build more powerful and supportive communities than ever before using the tools of our digital age.

About the Audience

Broadly, the Fearless Journeys audience can be summed up as “life-long learners”—bright, entrepreneurial, and ambitious.

The Fearless Journeys audience is largely broken into 2 subgroups: aspirational doers (collaborators) and motivated dreamers (members).

User profile from the Fearless Journeys brand brief

The first category, Collaborators, consists of ascending innovators and thought leaders who want to be empowered and connected in an era of new entrepreneurial possibilities. They need new platforms to share their ideas. They need to connect and collaborate with experts of different disciplines. They are looking to “level up” as an entrepreneur or build their own brand.

The second category, Members, consists of aspirational professionals and creatives who are unfulfilled by their work and feel that they have a lot more to offer the world than they are giving. They need role models who have successfully navigated this segment of their life already. They need to be inspired, motivated, and provoked by the stories of others. They also need actionable insights on how to build their new path to tie it all together.

Turning a Concept into Reality


"Building a brand around my passion, interests, and experience has been incredible. It feels great to finally have this brand ready for launch. Sometimes it's hard to really know what to expect from creatives, but this process delivered on everything we talked about."

Now it was time for the fun part—taking Fearless Journeys from a concept to a living, breathing community of innovators and travel enthusiasts.

Everything we were to design would be created with the brand’s core attributes in mind. Developing these attributes is at the heart of the Brand Workshop. They provide a guiding light to us as we navigate the countless decisions, both big and small, made throughout the design process.

We began by assembling a Brand Stylescape, including colors and typography, that evoked the core attributes of the brand.

We then designed a custom brandmark to provide a visual core to the Fearless Journeys brand. The brandmark included a versatile little avatar that is used throughout Fearless Journeys’ brand atmosphere, including website and printed materials.

Finally, it was time to get to work on the website.

The Website

The website process was slow but consistent, in part because Francisco was still innovating and tweaking the specifics of his product as he received user feedback. The budget was lean, but there were plans to continue to invest in growing the website over the next few years—meaning we needed to design the website with the intention of scaling it out over time.

Thus, every decision was made with the future in mind. We didn’t want to have to unnecessarily repeat anything later on, so everything we did build must create a platform to scale into more advanced features and functionality.

Every detail on the website, from copy to image selection, user experience to design themes, was meticulously considered.

As with every web project I take on, each page was designed individually, from-scratch, to create desired outcomes. The decisions about what each page should include were based on the answers to 5 questions, which I always answer for every single page on a website before designing ANYTHING:

  • What are our goals?
  • What are the user’s goals?
  • What questions will the user want answered?
  • What emotions should we focus on invoking?
  • What content do we need to acquire?

Planning one of the website's core pages

The website is absolutely essential to this company, and I incorporated the meaning of the Fearless Journeys brand into everything—including the site’s navigation. I wanted the brand’s tagline, “Chart Your Course”, to be more than empty words. I wanted it to be inherent to the user experience on the site. So we created a four-way, multi-panel navigation system that allowed visitors to be in charge of their own journey through the site through tactile direction.

Screencap of the website homepage. View the live version here.

We wanted to create the feeling of someone navigating through a grand adventure—the concept of a compass was something that really stuck with me as I began developing the site concept. But I didn’t want to just plaster a compass on the homepage, I wanted people to feel like they were using a compass. I wanted to imply a compass.

“I'm very proud of the end product—as I kept reviewing it a day or so after it was completed, I was  amazed. I think we effectively tell the story of what Fearless Journeys is all about and why people should be a part of it. The kinds of testimonials, the featured innovators involved, and how we laid everything out looks impressive.”

- Francisco Gonzalez, June 2021

We finalized the website one week before the big Fearless Journeys launch party in Palm Beach, FL on June 16h.

A New Chapter for Francisco's Fearless Journey


"Carter's process has been amazing. He created conversation points to start from and the insightful brainstorming and strategy sessions led me to re-discover my REASON FOR BEING all the way to coming up with a company name, brand stylescape, a company logo, mission, and even an incredible website. I couldn't have done this without him."

This experience was intensive and extremely rewarding. When Francisco came to me, he had a goal and a vision—publish a book and try to become an entrepreneur. When we finished, he had a business unlike any other, designed specifically to support the lifestyle of his dreams.

This business is a reflection of his identity as a human being. Of who he really is in his core. It exists to serve the purpose that he feels deeply within his heart. It magnifies his strengths, fills him with enthusiasm, and intrigues everyone who hears about it.

Before the business even officially launched, Francisco enrolled more than 40 leaders and innovators into the Fearless Journeys community—considering I was only anticipating 15-20 at that point, this was a great early sign of success.

As I write this, Francisco is preparing for the official Fearless Journeys Launch Party in Palm Beach, FL. A moment to be proud of, without a doubt.

This Case Study will be updated with additional Impact Metrics as the Fearless Journeys brand continues to grow throughout the year.

If you enjoyed reading about the design and strategy process of this project and would like to talk about how I can help take YOUR brand to the next level, feel free to reach out to me here.


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