Is your personal story part of your brand story?
A friend of mine has suffered from anxiety in the past and was even told she'd find it hard to get a job when she was younger.
A few years ago, she started making candles using natural oils to calm her anxiety. It really helped, and she realised she wanted to help others find calm too.
Fast forward 5 years, she and her partner are now the proud owners of a successful self-care business that sells candles, t-shirts, diffusers and runs monthly candle-making workshops.
They have a studio in London and are in the process of building the second down in Somerset.
So much for not holding down a job; now she's running a business and providing jobs for others.
And how did she do all this?
She shared her story and built her brand around her personal journey.
People connected with her and, therefore, the brand.
They now have an extremely engaged Instagram following of over 40k people and a fast-growing business.
As Jonny and I have been working on our brand-building course (launching later this year), we've been digging deep into what makes the most-loved brands in the world, well, the most-loved brands in the world.
It always comes back to one thing — a good founder story.
Building a brand isn't about logos and colour palettes; it's about creating a world people want to be a part of. And how do you create a world people want to be a part of? You tell a great story.
And what’s the most powerful story you can tell?
Why? Because people buy from and want to work with people.
And telling your story helps them connect with you and your brand on an emotional level.
Great brands often come from something that happened in a founder’s life. It could be a moment that sparked an idea, a build-up of realisations that led to solving a specific problem or simply meeting someone else with a similar passion in life.
Building your company around your story is a great way to build a brand that truly matters to you and others.
All that said, there are a few important things to remember...
When I say tell your story, I don’t mean put your full autobiography on your website’s about page. I mean tell the story that led to you wanting to start your brand. Pick out the defining moments that give your brand substance and help people see your authenticity. Tell the story that resonates with your audience and shows them the human behind the product.
For example, if you started a gluten-free cake business, was it because you were diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and couldn’t find good-tasting alternatives? Or did you start an ethical surf clothing company because you grew up in awe of the ocean?
You don’t have to tell us everything, just the bits that matter.
It’s cliche, and it’s not about you, but it’s essential to think about how your story resonates with others. Your customers need to connect with you and see themselves in your story.
Ask yourself, are there others out there who will immediately understand my story? Why will it matter to them?
It’s really easy to overcomplicate your brand story, so remember the message from my last email and keep it simple.
Ask yourself these questions:
Lonely Planet: Maureen & Tony Wheeler [How I Built This]
Yvon Chouinard: the Patagonia climber-surfer who inspires millions “Patagonia's history is somehow a mirror of Yvon Chouinard's life story” [Surfer Today]
How Livia's built a Founder first business [The Copy Club]
Most of the brands we've worked with were built around personal founder/co-founder stories and that's how we know just how important these stories are. Here are a few of our favourite examples to inspire you...
Frahm Jacket: a jacket brand built around its founder's deep and honest conversations about depression, suicide and men's mental health. Discover the brand.
Owl + Lark: the world's first circadian fitness brand founded by Hafiz who was running off of adrenaline and coffee in a high powered career and realised he was cheating sleep and therefore his health. Discover the brand.
The Ethical Butcher: an online butcher bringing the importance of regenerative agriculture to the forefront of environmental discussions, and selling really good meat. The brand is a combination of its co-founders Farshad and Glen, a meat connoisseur and an ex-vegetarian. Discover the brand.
Dryrobe: founder Gideon Bright created his brand around a post surf, cold-water cape his mum made him for getting changed under when he was younger. Discover the brand.
Livia’s: a natural and healthy sweet treat brand built around Livia's food intolerances and the lack of choice on the market. Discover the brand.
Unplugged: lock your phone away in an off-grid cabin so you can completely recharge. A recent brand created by founders Ben and Hector after noticing how little they actually switch off from their devices. Discover the brand.
Remember, ALL founding stories are different, and that's the best thing about them. Lean in to what makes your story unique.
There are a few moments in my story that I'd highlight, but here's a short snippet about why I'm building The Squeeze...
I stumbled about after university for a while, unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I ran off to the outback of Australia for a year or so before moving to London to work in photography. I was convinced photography was what I wanted to do until I discovered the dark art of brand building and how individuals could turn their obsessions into something far bigger than themselves. So I joined a brand agency in London.
Working with lots of founders through my agency work, I've turned my obsession into my career and now my own brand.
Now, I want to help people get more out of life and turn the thing they're truly passionate about into a brand that matters to them and others, and that's exactly why The Squeeze exists.
What's your story?
Keep being an outlier 💪
J + K