In the beginning: The value of an origin story for your business

  • Rebecca Hoffman

    Rebecca Hoffman

 
Updated 8/3/2022 1:55 PM

It's commonly said that Steve Jobs tinkered in a garage and devised early Apple computers and he was an exacting boss to his team at Apple.

Another popular story speaks of Jeff Bezos wishing to sell books directly to consumers, he wanted to build a big company and he presciently named it Amazon.

 

Facebook began as "The Facebook" and was designed by Mark Zuckerberg as a practical tool that allowed university students to electronically meet each other. The platform quickly grew to other schools and the next thing people knew, there was an entirely new way of connecting person to person and sharing information.

What do these origin stories have in common?

Nearly any consumer who uses these products can recite these stories or pieces of these stories.

The stories are memorable, and they speak of the beginnings of these companies.

Origin stories have enormous value to businesses of any size.

Consumers relate to origin stories. A good story is easy to read, easy to remember and ideally inspiring. People relate to good origin stories; they feel a sense of pride in knowing them, and origin stories help make abstract or complex companies feel accessible to the average consumer. Origin stories also point to the humanness of the founder and the struggle to create a great product.

Consumers emotionally like knowing there are real, hardworking humans at the helm of whatever product or service they are presently admiring. In short, a compelling origin story can greatly aid sales.

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So how can you, a local business owner craft a great origin story? I'll share a few straightforward guidelines to help you tell your business story with flourish and excitement.

1. Think about how you came to begin the business? Or if you bought an existing business, you can tell the early part of the founding and add your role in developing it into the enterprise it is today.

2. Give thought to unique aspects of the early years. Did you operate out of an interesting location? Did you incubate your business from your house and then need commercial space? Did you begin with family members or a pet who were your sole champions or employees? How did that evolve for you?

3. Have there been specific interesting moments along the way that inspired you or caused you to persevere? These are what I refer to as "cocktail party vignettes." These are the moments you would tell anyone who really wants to hear how you got your business to where it is today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

4. Begin by just writing your thoughts -- don't try to organize them too much.

5. Once you have the start of a story, work on shaping it until it has a beginning, a middle and a perspective on where you are today.

Once you have a draft origin story, start telling it to people and ask them for feedback. The story will be honed quickly. Take that draft and publish it to your website. Work with it. Allow it to evolve over time.

You might even style it into branded marketing materials or publish it on social media. Think about how you might tell this story before a camera in an authentic way and give thought to creating a short, very watchable video celebrating your company's origin story.

We don't always know what we are building at the beginning but with time and perspective the story of a business is often compelling. Tell your origin story and enjoy the benefits bringing your customers closer.

• Rebecca Hoffman is the founder and principal of Good Egg Concepts, a strategic communications and brand marketing consulting practice serving clients around Chicagoland and nationally.

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