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Origin Stories

Are you struggling to stand out from the competition? Worried that your brand isn’t memorable or valued highly enough? Is something preventing customers from emotionally connecting to you and your products and services?

Origin stories can help.

Origin stories are stories about how your company got its start. These stories might be spread by PR people or the media. They might be on the About page on your company website. Or they might be printed on your packaging. A compelling, well-crafted origin stories can do wonders for your bottom line.

Do you know how CLIF Bars got its start? Thirty years ago, right here in the Bay Area, Gary Erickson and a buddy were out on a little outing—a 175-mile bike ride, that is. They were chowing down on energy bars. And Gary got to the point where he just couldn’t stomach one more bite. And he had what he now calls “the epiphany.” He vowed to come up with his own, better brand of energy bar. In 1992, after two years of working on the recipe in his mother’s kitchen, CLIF Bars was born. That former bicycle mechanic who was living in a garage at the time is now worth $850 million. Any fans of CLIF Bars out there? Have you noticed this little saga, the story of how CLIF Bars came to be, printed on the wrapper of every CLIF Bar? Think it has inspired you to reach for CLIF Bars over some other protein bar? Think it might be one reason CLIF Bars enjoys about one third of the American energy bar market? Maybe.

Maybe? Definitely. And here’s the key: Get to the heart, by sharing your start. Sharing the story of your humble beginnings helps to make that emotional connection with your audience. Here’s Airbnb’s origin story:

Back in 2007, two San Francisco roommates, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, were struggling to pay their rent. They knew a design conference was taking place nearby and that hotel rooms were hard to come by. They were like, “Hm, maybe some of those out-of-towners might be willing to rent a bed from us.” Like many twenty-somethings, they didn’t have much furniture—so they put out a couple air mattresses for their guests. And just like that Airbnb was born. Now you know how the company got its start—and where the “air” comes from in the company name: the air mattresses the first guests stayed on. And by the way, those two broke roommates? They’re each worth over $3 billion now.

I’ve got another story for you. This one’s about the origins of the company that gave us one of my favorite snacks: Stacy’s Pita Chips.

Back in 1996, Stacy and her then-husband Mark ran a sandwich cart in Boston’s Quincy Market. Their pita sandwiches were hugely popular, and at lunchtime people lined up for them. You could expect to wait in line for upwards of half an hour. Sometimes people would complain about the wait or leave the line and grab lunch elsewhere. That was a problem. How did Stacy and Mark solve it? One night they took home the leftover loaves of pita bread, cut them into bite-size chunks, and baked them in the oven. They started handing out pita chips to customers while they waited in line. And guess what? The chips were a hit. People wanted to order them along with their sandwiches. In 1998, Stacy and her husband started wholesaling pita chips. By 2006 it was a $65 million business. Which Pepsi Co. purchased for $250 million.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Think about the start of CLIF Bars, Airbnb, and Stacy’s Pita Chips. It can be broken down to a formula composed of Three S’s. These entrepreneurs SAW a problem, they SOLVED the problem, and they STARTED a company to share their solution with others. Gary Erickson solved the problem of energy bars that didn’t taste very good. Airbnb solved the problem of a shortage of hotel rooms—and their own need to pay the rent. And Stacy solved the problem of disgruntled customers—and the public’s insatiable appetite for snacks.

Pretty simple, huh? The process of coming up with a new product or service isn’t simple, of course. But the formula is. Three S’s. They’re the building blocks of a compelling, well-crafted origin story. Can you identify the Three S’s in your own origin story?

You don’t have to have started a company on the order of CLIF Bars or Airbnb or Stacy’s Pita Chips. But maybe you started a task force or a committee or served on a board. What about all the volunteer work you’ve done? Your accomplishment could be an initiative you launched at work, at your kids’ elementary school, or on behalf of a Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce. At some point in your career or before you entered a new one, did you have an epiphany? Did you identify a problem that needed solving and figure out how to solve it? I bet you did.


Eager to get started on crafting your own origin story? The Delivery Specialist, can help. For more information about integrating origin stories into your speeches, presentations, or marketing materials or to schedule a time to chat about bringing me into your organization to lead a workshop, please Contact Me.

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