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  • Writer's pictureDenise Powers

Bucket Lists, Near Misses and Venturing Beyond – The Birth of Project Further

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

Ever had this experience? You’re driving. You’re thinking of other things – jobs to do, people to meet, the list of daily tasks . . . then suddenly the hazard. The looming cliff. The old lady crossing. The darting cat.

You just react. Swerve. Stop. Sit breathing for a moment as your heart calms down and the adrenaline works its way out of your system, leaving a tingling in your fingers. “Wow!” you think. “That was a close call! But I’m safe. I’m still going in the right direction.”

This is the experience I’ve been having since I decided to close my digital marketing agency and focus on plans I thought would materialise years into the future. I certainly could have continued to successfully run Fountainhead for another couple of years before I started hunting for a buyer. I have an amazing team and some amazing clients that we are doing excellent work for.

Indeed, I’ve just spent the last year reorganising the company, niching down, reviewing and revamping processes, investing in a new tech stack, taking a hard cold look at strategy and markets, and developing new marketing channels. It was all coming together and starting to bear fruit, but it was becoming clear that it was going to take at least another two years for all the change to settle in and take hold and then the sale of the business could expected to take another three to five years after that. I felt the clock ticking.

Then that darting cat in the road: the idea for Project Further.

Stunning views of northern Cascade mountains
360 degree views from Fire Mountain

Big walk, big reason

Project Further is an initiative to undertake bold fundraising challenges to support the UN’s sustainable development goal (SDG) #5: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. So much work still needs to be done to achieve equality as a fundamental human right and things will only change when people do big and bold things to create that change. I want to do big and bold.

My first challenge will be thru-hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to raise $1million for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC), our local safe house for survivors of domestic violence and their children. It is Cayman’s only safe shelter – a four-bed, one-bath bungalow that often accommodates more than 20 women and children at a time. It is in desperate need of a new, larger home.

The PCT is a Bucket List item for me. I hiked the northern sections of Washington’s PCT in 2016 and 2018, and perhaps the desire to hike the whole thing came from author Cheryl Strayed, who advised me at a Crisis Centre fundraising event in 2016, “Well, you’ll either have the time of your life, or you’ll die”. That’s my kind of option!

The backpacking trail starts an arm’s reach from the Mexican border at Campo, California and traverses the spine of the west coast, north across the desert of SoCal, the high Sierras and the Cascades of Oregon and Washington, culminating in Manning Park, British Columbia, Canada. It takes an average of six months to complete the hike and requires extensive logistical and physical preparation.

New directions, new challenges

A month ago, I plucked up the courage and delivered the news that I was shuttering Fountainhead to my team, to my clients, to my friends and peers. Since that day, I’ve experienced crises of confidence and wondered a couple of times, “What have I done!”

I have mourned the business and personal goals that I’d set out for myself and Fountainhead, and the work that has gone into building the business over the last 10 years. But those momentary thoughts are also becoming more and more infrequent. They are swallowed up by the incredible gratitude I feel for all those people who have been along with me on this journey so far and for the outpouring of support that I have received from every single person I have talked to about this. Even those who have been personally impacted by my decision have been extraordinarily generous to me. I am humbled and grateful.

Now, my new journey begins as I officially announce the launch of Project Further and start the next phase in my life. The trail is there waiting to be hiked. The Crisis Centre is there waiting for a new building. And I have the time, the opportunity and the physical health to take on this challenge.

Life is short. There is no time for putting off your dreams. I hope you’ll follow me on the trail and support this first Project Further endeavour.

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