Founder, CD Communications
American-born Cathy Desaunois, is a Global Business Brand Strategist, Fortune 500 Communications Expert Consultant, Startup Visionary and Impassioned Philanthropist. She is the daughter of a decorated US Air Force Ofﬁcer and an asset to NASA, and to a schoolteacher who opened her mind and eyes to the world. Ms.Desaunois was exposed to extensive travel and cultural learning at an early age. As a young child, Cathy rode horses, played with her animals and explored the forest surrounding her home. She would often glean through National Geographic magazines imagining where her family would move next. They traveled throughout the United States and Europe and eventually settled in England. She later moved to California where she studied Sport Physical Therapy at California State University.
“I was in love with the ocean and was also an athlete, so it was only natural that I became a certiﬁed lifeguard and swim instructor. I got that fearless drive from my father and the desire to teach from my mother.” This experience is something that has stayed with Ms. Desaunois throughout her professional career; saving troubled businesses and /or watching vigilantly over startups as they swim in shark-infested waters.
Cathy traveled to Holland where she interned for handicap children and the Dutch Olympic Team. It was there where she started her ﬁrst company; The Health and Fitness Network brought American ﬁtness instructors to Europe during the Fitness craze of the early Nineties.
As a certiﬁed aerobics and personal trainer with a penchant for marketing, she caught the eye of Reebok through her successful events. While at Reebok she garnered two additional degrees in Marketing Communications and Public Relations. She then worked her way up through the ranks from Technical Rep to Category Women’s Brand Manager. From Advertising and PR, to Athlete Management and Television programming, it was Ms. Desaunois’ leadership that helped transform the brand into a global powerhouse. She wrote ﬁfty TV ﬁtness shows produced by John de Mol and also wrote the book “The Total Workout”. “The experience gave me my ﬁrst multinational experience and taught me that to launch a company successfully in a new market, you need to understand the culture not only the language.”
It was during this time that Ms. Desaunois married and had two children, and being a mother motivated her even more. Feeling that it was time for a change after eight years with the company and her dozens of accomplishments, Cathy was headhunted by Fitness First Health Clubs. She was hired in 1999 as International Brand and Marketing Manager. She exercised effective leadership skills leading the international team to roll out the company in thirteen different countries. Hence creating a great impact in the growth of the company. Under Ms. Desaunois, Fitness First became the largest health club chain in the world with a presence throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East. She also was instrumental in the alliance between Technogym and Fitness First. Cathy developed the International brand manual, communications and training, while managing the marketing in ﬁve European countries.
While in Italy, she caught the attention of Richard Branson who hired Desaunois for the expansion of Virgin Active throughout Europe as Brand/ Marketing Director. She went on to launch, operate and consult for Virgin (Active) Spa, Virgin Café, Virgin Radio, Virgin Games, Virgin M o n e y, Vi r g i n G r e e n F u n d , Vi r g i n Poker.it and organized fundraising events for the charitable arm of the Virgin Group: Virgin Unite. Branson said that, “Cathy is one of our best brand directors and Virgin Active in Italy was the best brand launch The Virgin Group has done in Europe.”
Ms. Desaunois has always had her eye on the horizon much like her days staring across the ocean, so in 2006 she launched her own strategic brand, communications and partnerships ﬁrm: CD Communications. Cathy’s clients run a gamma of industries including: Sports, Fashion, Luxury Brands, Travel, Entertainment and Celebrities while remaining a consultant in Europe for the Virgin Group. Her clients and collaborations have included: Adidas Italy, Clarence Seerdorf/AC Milan, Eco Art International, Formula One: Amber Lounge International, Fiat Group, George Lucas Giugiaro Architecture, Goal For Africa, HRH Princess Charlene of Monaco, His Highness Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan Foundation La Perla Lingerie, Nelsen Mandela Day Foundation, Nike International, Phillip Plein, Producer/Director Ron Howard, The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. The Special Olympics and The Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation.
“My mother always taught me to give back so I use my business and personal experience to further humanitarian causes that I believe in.”
But it’s Cathy’s love for open water has brought her the most challenges and the most joy. Her clients and collaborations include: Russell Coutts, RC44 Dubai World Cup, The Louis Vuitton Paciﬁc Series, The Rolex Cup, Yacht Club Milano, and The World Yacht Racing Forum. “Sailing to me is the true epitome of teamwork, as a lifeguard is was just me out there but when you’re working together against the elements with a common goal there is an overwhelming feeling of beauty, harmony and achievement. This is what I also strive for in business.”
Ms. Desaunois greatest accomplishments are her daughter, Taylor and son, Ryan. She spends her time now between Amsterdam and London but never strays too far from the sea.