Our Story

We, Ryan Rigoli & Matthew Sloane, founded Soulful Brand in 2011. Through our background in branding and our personal search for deeper self-awareness, we realized that by bridging the brand strategy and human development worlds, it was possible for business founders to generate a more authentic presence in the marketplace.


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Losing Ourselves in Marketing

While following similar paths, working for large corporations and brand agencies, we both felt a nagging sense that something was missing from the branding process.

building Ryan found that while launching new products, disagreements would often surface about the best-fitting messages for a marketing campaign. Within these conversations, he noticed people coming back to the same question—“what does our brand really stand for?” It was clear that people needed a way to evaluate marketing communications based on a shared understanding of the brand essence. Ryan says, “I wanted myself, and my team, to know the purpose behind our organization, not just as a set of words, but to really feel, and know it, on a deeper level in ourselves. Without that, I found we could waste time and energy on cycles of copywriting and engage in marketing programs that weren’t as effective in the long run.”

To make up for a lack of clarity, Ryan would sometimes use extensive competitive and customer studies to help answer the question “who are we?” Although helpful, this still meant looking outside the organizations for answers, rather than looking inside. Ryan says, “Analyzing competitors gave me a pulse for what was happening in the market, but in the process, I could easily lose touch with the pulse of my organization and why it existed.” He felt there must be a better way to stay connected to the brand’s deeper intentions and develop authentic marketing communications that resonated more powerfully with customers—but he didn’t know what that would look like.

matthew-aloneFrom the brand agency perspective, as a former graphic designer, Matthew observed how he ignored his own voice and instincts during the brand strategy phase and began succumbing to outside pressures based on what others thought would sell or simply look “cool”. He says, “I felt as if my work was mainly about making clients look good on the surface rather than bringing the deeper truth of who they were into the messaging and visuals.”

Much of his creative work came from his own best guesses and whatever strong opinions others had about the client rather than finding out what was actually true for them. “While employed at agencies,” Matthew says, “I never voiced my desire for another way, mainly because I didn’t know what to suggest. I wished my clients knew their brand more deeply for themselves, but didn’t know how to help them get there.”

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Our Search for Resonance

The further we got from what a brand stood for, the less connected we felt to developing communications for the marketplace. We decided to leave the corporate world and follow a calling to reach a deeper level of self-awareness—we wanted to understand how we could be more in alignment with ourselves and others in our work.

Ryan-facilitatingRyan enrolled in a New Ventures West coaching program to develop the capacity to help others through their growth and learning. After graduating, his classmates sought out his advice on branding and marketing for their own businesses. During these conversations, Ryan found that he was blending consulting and coaching—something he had never imagined before. This more personal approach enabled them to navigate towards a deeper purpose and sense of embodied connection to their work. As he experimented with these explorations, he realized that uncovering their brand strategy was not about “figuring out” their brand for them, it was about letting the brand reveal itself from inside.

matthew-treeFrom a slightly different path, Matthew engaged with a men’s group as he transitioned out of graphic design. He noticed the depth of authenticity that showed up between men when the facilitator guided them to voice their more vulnerable truths—such as fears, desires, and tender kinds of joy that allowed others to see who they truly were. This level of realness was a stark contrast to the posturing and image manipulation Matthew had played a part in, while supporting sales and marketing efforts as a designer.

Matthew met Ryan at New Ventures West, while discovering his own ability to hold space for his truth and that of others. As Ryan was developing his “brand coaching” methodology, Matthew licensed the process to use with a client of his own and noticed the powerful combination that Ryan had previously encountered. Matthew says, “I experienced how ‘branding’ could actually be a process of uncovering what was true rather than what might make a company ‘look good’ in the marketplace.”

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Bridging Brand Strategy + Leadership Development

Soon after, we decided to start a brand consultancy together called Soulful Brand, attracting entrepreneurs and organizations who were drawn to our new approach. By bridging brand strategy and leadership development, we helped our clients to access and feel a brand clarity inside themselves—adding a depth that many had never experienced before. As a result of this work, clients have been saying things like:

  • “We’re attracting more of the right customers”
  • “I feel more natural (and confident) when presenting my business”
  • “I’m able to share my vision in a relatable way”
  • “Creating partnerships is now effortless for us”

photo © Lori A CheungBy bringing a deeper practice of self-awareness into the marketplace, both Soulful Brand and our clients are establishing more authentic human connections with customers, partners and teams. We’re uncovering what is true for ourselves and transparently sharing what we stand for with others.

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We invite organizations to join us in building trust through authentic conversations in the marketplace, one step at a time.

Our Approach >>