Ah, the business origin story. What a moment, right? The STORY of a founder’s original struggle against something and their ultimate success as a result of that struggle.
Are you feeling the problematic vibes already? Uh-huh. Me too.
Most humans love a good origin story because we are hard-wired to enjoy listening to someone on a stage or around a campfire tell us how they overcame a challenge, who or what they fought and what they learned along the way.
Storytelling should DEFINITELY be part of your branding because our ideal customers are far better at remembering tales than facts. HOWEVER. I want to caution you in a couple specific ways about Origin Stories because they could
1. Limit your brand growth in the long-term or
2. Limit your ability to connect in the short-term.
And I want to share some better (in my opinion) story prompts.
Origin Stories Might Limit Your Ability To Connect
Many famous origin stories feature men creating billion-dollar companies in their garages from nothing but their own belief in their idea and HARD WORK. Jeff Bezos in his garage. Bill Gates in his garage. Steve Jobs in his garage.
May I point out the obvious? Thank you: THEY HAD GARAGES. That was the privilege of property ownership. May I point out other obvious things? BOOTSTRAPPING IS BULLSHIT. They had access to funding because they were white men. They had access to other resources because they were white men. Also? What kind of human being were they while working in their garages? How did they treat others?
Telling your origin story without awareness about systems of oppression and the realities experienced by marginalized communities is–at the least–tone-deaf and insensitive and–at worst–racist assholery.
If you benefit from systems of oppression: consider the systems you benefited from before telling your origin story. And make those systems part of your story.
Regardless: instead of an origin story, tell us your ‘why’ story instead. Why (see what I did there)? Because your ‘why’ story will inevitably include your brand values and your unique approach to a problem, which will connect clients to your journey.
Origin Stories Don’t Evolve But Your Business Will.
I love origin stories of folks from marginalized communities developing products and services because FUCK YOU HIERARCHICAL SYSTEMS. But even those can be not great for your brand if they are the classic and well-loved ‘David vs. Goliath’ story.
Many origin stories from small or new companies define themselves in relation to a competitor. That means your identity is now tethered to theirs. Yuck! Build your own brand by signaling that those other players don’t even register on your radar.
Also? How do you know how big you’ll grow? If your origin story is a vital part of your brand, everything after your origin story (basically everything about your business) is a series of second acts. Like,10,000 second acts. And each act is an evolution. A course correction. A shift in your offer or services or staff.
You should be telling stories about THOSE moments. So my gentle advice to you is: If you want to tell your origin story, get good at telling stories in general first and then tell them ALL THE TIME so your brand identity doesn’t get stuck in the past.
Want help building a bank of stories? We do that in Brand Camp!