The FORT Podcast: Isaac French- Founder of Live Oak Lake – Developing World-Class Experiential Hospitality Properties

Isaac French designed and built Live Oak Lake, a breathtaking 7-unit nature-immersive retreat located just outside Waco, Texas. In its first year, the property grossed $1 million, with a net profit of $550,000. Thanks to his cultivation of the brand’s social media following of 150K, over 80% of all bookings are direct. Isaac thrives on continuously expanding his repertoire of skills and sharing candidly from his experiences.

On this episode, Chris and Isaac discuss:

  • The process of designing and building Live Oak Lake
  • Experiential hospitality
  • Automated cost savings & touchpoint details
  • Building out a social media engine & course

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts


(00:02:21) Isaac’s background & career

(00:07:24) The love of design

(00:09:55) The experiential hospitality model

(00:13:32) The process of building Live Oak Lake

(00:27:44) What does experiential hospitality mean?

(00:32:17) Automated cost savings & touchpoint details that matter

(00:41:56) What has changed about the property since you opened?

(00:46:11) Can you fake an end-to-end experiential property?

(00:48:12) How do you make sure labor is in check in a rural area?

(00:53:28) Is there a number of units where you lose out on the magic?

(01:00:25) Building a social media engine & course


Episode Summary

Recognized for seamlessly merging design aesthetics with practical real estate solutions, French’s insights stem from both his professional endeavors and personal experiences, especially from his formative years assisting his family’s construction enterprise.

French’s personal journey in real estate is intricately woven with his passion for design. His philosophy hinges on the belief that design is not just an aesthetic choice but the very soul of a property. To him, designing a property is akin to sculpting marble, where one chisels away the excess to reveal the masterpiece within. This perspective is evident in his affinity for modern minimalist cabins, characterized by their Scandinavian-inspired designs. These properties, designed to bring the outdoors inside, focus on natural light and cohesiveness with their environment, creating a harmonious blend of nature and architecture.

Transitioning to the business side of things, the importance of understanding a property’s essence emerges as a recurring theme. French underscores the significance of spending time on the property, understanding its nuances, and ensuring that every design choice resonates with the property’s innate character. This approach, as he posits, is the key to preserving and enhancing the property’s unique appeal.

Operations, particularly in rural settings, present their own set of challenges. French touches upon these, emphasizing the importance of managing expectations and ensuring that the property remains an experience, rather than just another destination. The conversation delves into the potential pitfalls associated with property size and density, suggesting that the distance between accommodations is pivotal in maintaining a property’s allure.

Marketing strategies, especially for unique properties, form a crucial segment of the dialogue. French champions the potency of organic marketing, driven by the property’s intrinsic appeal. While he acknowledges the importance of various marketing modalities, including email marketing, he reiterates that the most potent marketing tool remains the experiences of past guests. This word-of-mouth marketing, backed by genuine guest experiences, can propel a property to the forefront of potential patrons’ minds.

Further emphasizing his commitment to the realm of real estate, French highlights his foray into the educational sector with the launch of a specialized course. This course, dedicated to the art of designing, building, and marketing iconic properties, seeks to arm participants with the tools, skills, and insights necessary to create and promote standout properties.

The FORT is produced by Johnny Podcasts

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