by Kayla Sheely

Launching a brand is always a challenge. Launching a brand during a pandemic is even more daunting, to say the least.

When COVID hit the United States, the creation of the PathForward brand was already well underway. Nicholas Fonteix joined VSE’s team to launch PathForward just as shutdowns were sweeping across the country in March 2020. Since he was intimately involved in PathForward’s creation and launch that summer, we decided to sit down with Nicholas to discuss his experience taking on such a challenging project.

Tell us a little bit about your role and experience at VSE.

My primary roles at VSE are as Brand Champion and Marketing Specialist for the newest VSE brand, PathForward. In those roles, I have a direct hand in planning and producing marketing communications for PathForward, as well as ensuring these communications adhere to PathForward’s brand standards.

I joined VSE in March of 2020, right at the start of what would become a 1+ year period of unprecedent upheaval in the American workplace. As such, my onboarding was almost 100% virtual – I’ve still only set foot in the corporate offices once, and that was for my interview!

Despite this, my onboarding experience was remarkably smooth and intuitive. My roles and expectations were clearly defined, introductions to my fellow co-workers were cordial and comprehensive, and I was made to feel fully equipped to take on the duties of my new job.

What sets PathForward apart from other psychic brands?                             

PathForward is, at its core, a Psychic Service provider – a 24/7 resource connecting practitioners in the Psychic realm with clients seeking their advice and guidance. What sets PathForward apart from other services is our commitment to delivering direct and actionable guidance to help our clients become their best selves. Where other services might be content to simply offer comfort, we pride ourselves in striving to offer solutions to life’s toughest challenges.

What was the process like of launching a new brand entirely virtually?

Some days I was in virtual meetings for a solid 6-8 hours, but they never felt like a drag because the time was used so efficiently. Ideas were shared, proposals were proposed, and through it all we never lost sight of ‘moving the ball forward’. It was a testament to this company that I had just become a part of to see such efficiency and synergy, even if we were all working from our kitchen tables. Despite the challenges, I never felt like one hand didn’t know what the other was doing and through that process we were able to a launch a product that wasn’t just viable but vivacious.               

Since launch we’ve been hard at work expanding on and developing new features for the service, including a blog, daily, weekly and yearly horoscopes, podcasts, a subscription service, and a host of other features and functions.                                 

Did you run into any challenges in the launch process?                                   

The scattering of our workforce was definitely a challenge, but the IT team at VSE moved heaven and earth to ensure we had the infrastructure and equipment in place for every role holder to do their job as effectively as if we were in the office (even more so, some might say).

How did COVID affect your launch strategy? How did you have to rethink your approach?

If anything, it enforced that what we were building was something our clientele wanted – needed, even. Across the brands that VSE services, we saw a substantial uptick in service usage as the cloud of uncertainly belched forth by COVID spread and darkened. People were scared. They were seeking. They needed light. And I’d like to think we provided that.

That responsibility, to meet a need in such a trying time, very much became my ‘north star’ as we worked toward launch, and even as we still continue to develop new features the brand. It forced us to think not in terms of what the company needs, but in terms of what our customers need, and I think that’s the best headspace for any business to be in.

What set PathForward apart from previous launches you have been involved in?

What made PathForward special was the vertical and demographic – much of my past work was geared toward audiences of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers and was largely concerned with the Fine Arts market. To launch a Psychic Service brand aimed at Millennials wasn’t just a change of pace, it was a whole new racing league! But between my hobbyist’s enthusiasm for the metaphysical and the exceptional guidance and education provided by my managers and co-workers, it all went off without a hitch.

What did lessons did you take away from this experience?

I learned how driven and hardworking my co-workers are, even when the peering eyes of management couldn’t possibly see them. I learned how much a top-notch team can accomplish even across vast distances. And I learned, as many of us did, that a centralized office or workforce is not the key ingredient to business success; drive and dedication are.

How did the launch go? Are there any results you can share?

Anytime you launch a new brand, product, or service and it just ‘works’ – even on the most basic level –is a cause to celebrate. But PathForward didn’t just ‘work’; it kicked butt! I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics, but we turned profitable well ahead of schedule and are pulling in nearly twice the revenue of our previous brand, Hollywood Psychics. I think everyone involved gets to feel a swelling of pride at that.

To learn more about PathForward, check out https://www.pathforwardpsychics.com/.