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Serial Entrepreneur: Secrets Revealed EP89


You’re listening to the Serial Entrepreneur: Secrets Revealed, and this is actually a live show on that we run every Friday at two o’clock Eastern.

Michele Van Tilborg has just joined us now, and I, I wanted to, Michele, I wanted to mention a few of the really interesting shows that we had last year. Um, there were three particular shows that I was just, um, remembering and I thought they were just, they, they, they were, they were such so good that I’m gonna repeat them here.

One was Power Talking with George Walter, and if you want to go and listen to any of these shows, uh, you simply need to go to your favorite podcast network and search for Serial Entrepreneur’s Secrets Revealed. And we did a show with George Walter on Power Talking, and it was really about changing the way you communicate in business to your investors, to your employees, to your customers.

We did another show in [00:01:00] December with the founder of Reebok, Joe Foster. He’s actually 87 years old, and he’s, uh, he’s got a lot of wisdom that he shared with us in that session, especially around being different. And, and, and it’s a very fascinating story how he caught the big break. He went from 9 million to 900 million in five years.

And the other one I thought was interesting was the one we did a couple weeks ago on chat, G P T. And we had about 30 people from the community come on stage and really share with us, um, all of the, uh, different use cases that a startup can use. Chat, G P T, this is the new AI that’s come out that everybody’s talking about.

Well, we have our moderators today. We have, uh, Jeffrey sas, uh, van Van Tilborg. We have Mimi who does the blogging, uh, for, I dunno if you’ve gone to the website But she’s done a phenomenal job. I’m putting together articles. I know she’s working on the mini ebook for the, uh, chat g p t session that we ran as well.

And [00:02:00] I’m Colin C Campbell and you’re listening to Serial Entrepreneur Secrets Revealed. Today we’re very lucky because we have two branding experts on the show. We have Sharon Con Cognac, and I’ll let you, uh, introduce her in a minute. Um, Michele, but I just wanted to also mention that we have, uh, a cmo.

Uh, I’m, I’m trying to come up with the name. We know we, we have the author of, um, a marketing book, uh, about everything I learned, I learned from The Toxic Avengers. He’s, he’s a movie, he’s been a movie producer. He’s been, uh, a good friend and we’ve worked together now for 10 years on multiple companies.

He’s been cmo and I know he just took another job as cmo, uh, with another company as well. So that’s Jeffrey Sass, and we’re so lucky to have you on stage in New York. Co moderator, Jeff. , what do you think about this topic? Is marketing really important for startups, Jeff? Well, marketing of course, is important for every business, but we’re, we are here to talk about storytelling too.

But of course, [00:03:00] storytelling is inexorably tied to marketing, especially today, which Sharon, uh, I’m sure is, is, is, is even in a better position than I am to share some thoughts on that, cuz that’s really her primary focus is on the storytelling side of building a brand. And, um, this should be a great conversation.

You should have many stories to tell when we’re done with this session.

Excellent. I, I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly, Jeffrey. Like of course, everything needs to be marketed and I would even go a step further in saying branding is, you know, Integral to that. So we’re so, uh, lucky to have Sharon Cognac ki joining us today. Sharon is an amazing talent and she really does possess this unique skillset I find when I listen to her show, and she’s on two regular shows on Clubhouse [00:04:00] every week.

Um, one of ’em is a very, very cool, um, show that she just recently launched, and it also is, uh, now a podcast. So it’s called Built From the Dream Up. I highly recommend that you check it out. Um, Sharon does some fantastic, um, interviews with folks and gets their input, gets their wisdom. You know, straight up from them.

But if you wanna find out more about Sharon, of course you should follow her. I recommend you follow anyone who’s on the stage or who comes up to talk that you find interesting, but you can also find Sharon, you know, I’m so excited to hear you today and, um, I, I’ve just found that you have this amazing way of taking people’s ideas and like building the taglines and building the storylines in such a compelling way.

But I first wanna [00:05:00] read something I saw on your website that I thought was really cool, and then we’ll let you tell us your story and, um, you know, we want people from the audience to then come on and let, let’s like, let’s, uh, Sharon’s wisdom, let’s leverage her while she’s here. She’s amazing at helping people refine their story, whether it’s for a customer or investor or even your own employees.

But I just wanna read this first and then we’ll let you jump right into it. Sharon, she wrote, within every story exists possibility for the audience to see themselves in the narrative, for connection to become engagement where the magic happens. So I, I just love how you put that forth, Sharon, and I’m dying to hear your story and advice that you have for our lovely members here of the Startup Club.

Thank you and welcome to the stage. Hi, Michele. Hi Colin. Hi [00:06:00] Jeff. Hi Mimi. Um, thank you so much for inviting me to come here today. Yes, I feel like I’m an a, um, an old, an OG in the startup club. I’ve been around for a while doing rooms and, um, I’m so happy to be here today. Um, I wanted to go, if I can just give you a little background on myself and tell you my story and, um, I think it might be helpful to sort of understand it so you can understand the idea of why stories are so powerful.

Um, I came from a place where words were often used as weapons, where, you know, I had to be careful what you said, and my voice often had to be quieted. So I always looked for ways to be heard, and I sought out careers that, um, gave me the chance to be heard, to express myself, and to have a level of creativity.

I craved And I’ve spent my life as a storyteller as a result. First, writing for myself, learning the power of words and finding a voice when I often had none. . Um, and those words were meant as a means of expressing [00:07:00] feelings and ideas and musings. And sometimes they were only for myself to see, but they eventually taught me that I had a voice and then I became a journalist and I captured other stories and features, uh, raw, authentic, often uncensored looks into their lives.

And then I transferred those skills to the world of advertising. And that was a very different world where I was manipulating words, really to make others take action. And then interestingly, I took a little bit of a detour and I went into teaching, but I was never far away from stories because that gave me an opportunity to show a whole new generation how to harness the power of their words, how to love characters, how to build a story that others wanted to hear.

Um, I even wrote two young adult contemporary manuscripts. That’s how I came to be where I am today. The intersection of all those jobs and all those lives and all those skills because I knew that brands were desperate for a way to break through the [00:08:00] clutter of competition. And I knew that stories were the answer.

And so, um, I can talk a little bit more about why I think brand stories are so important, but I kind of wanted to share that little background to give everyone maybe, uh, a little glimpse and hopefully understand the power of stories because it allows you to make an emotional connection, hopefully with me that you may not have, um, just seeing my tiny little avatar on your screen.

That sounds awesome. Um, I’m really looking here forward to hearing Yeah. Your background. That’s something I was not aware of and, you know, kind of like, just get us started, Sharon. Like, how, how do we, you know, we all have these ideas and companies and it’s sometimes very complex products and, you know, maybe we’re not talking to customers enough.

Maybe we have other issues. Like where does one, [00:09:00] where does one actually start? And, and what are the pitfalls? Yeah. So Michele, I think a brand story’s really important because it’s a narrative. It connects the history, the values, the personality of a brand. Really, it helps them, um, differentiate themselves from the competition because the story is one that only they can.

Um, apple can only tell a story. Um, that’s resonates with, with, uh, their background. Uh, Google the same way. All the big brands, right? Uh, Reebok. I know Joe Foster was just a, um, a guest. Reebok can only tell its own story. No one else can tell Reeboks story. So it’s really important to make sure that you are connected to your why and the values missions, um, of your brand, when you start to think about how to tell a story and then to really think about how that story can make an emotional connection with customers.

Because when [00:10:00] you make that emotional connection, when you find a way to, um, have your story resonate with them so that they can see themselves in the narrative, that’s where you’re making, that’s where that little sweet spot is between just having a level of connection with someone and actually having them engaged.

Um, a strong, effective brand makes sure that they don’t stop at connection. They actually move right along to engagement so that the people who are hearing their story want to become involved. They want to become customers, they want to become loyal customers. And hopefully, um, as they go down the, uh, the buyer’s journey, they become loyal evangelists of your brand.

Um, I often talk about Apple. Jeff knows, he and I will often talk, um, in the leave of your story room that we do about Apple because, um, They’re so good at storytelling, but I mean, if you really think about brand [00:11:00] loyalty, they, who else is going to get people to stand in line for a product that’s not vastly different than the product that they already have in their pocket?

I mean, they have the ability to do that like no other. And they do that through the use of storytelling because they’ve always used, um, the idea of whatever pro uh, features and benefits they have. They don’t just tell you they have those features and benefits. They explain to you how they’re gonna make your life better.

They understand, um, what your pain points are, and they’re giving you not just a transaction, but a transformation, which is really, really, I. Yeah. I think the, the key to one of the keys to what Sharon just said too, is that idea of an emotional connection. That’s actually what creates a story. You know, without an emotional connection, you’re just reading facts and figures, you know, or you’re just telling facts and figures.

You’re not telling a story. And, and just to highlight that with the Apple example that, that Sharon [00:12:00] gave, you know, when the first, um, iPod was introduced, it was not the first MP3 player as, as most of you know, there were many MP3 players on the market beforehand, but when they promoted themselves, they didn’t tell a story.

They didn’t have an emotional connection. They told you about facts and figures. They said, This, uh, device has, you know, uh, this many megabytes of storage and this has, you know, transfers files at this speed, and the file formats are MP3 and AAC and wm, blah, blah, blah. You know, there’s no emotional connection there.

When Apple introduced the same product, essentially, uh, and, you know, an MP3 player, they didn’t say anything about the facts and figures. They didn’t say it had a 10 megabyte hard drive inside or anything like that. All Steve Jobs says was, imagine this a thousand songs in your pocket. And that phrase made that emotional connection, that turned the facts and figures into a story.

So when you’re [00:13:00] telling your brand story, um, you really have to do it in a way where you can. What is it that your desired audience is gonna connect to on an emotional level? Cuz that’s gonna make them memor, remember it, that’s gonna make them be interested in it and that’s gonna make them connect to you and your business.

Jeff, you must already have my notes cuz I was just gonna say that the five benefits of leading with the story are differentiation, uh, the sense of community or connection, uh, the third being trust, the fourth being loyalty, and the fifth being memorability. So you and I are, um, as always, all in the same wavelength.

I think I’ve been in too many rooms with you. You’ve worn, you’ve worn off me. I’ll be quiet. I don’t wanna steal any more of your thunder, . No worries. Yeah. Uh, actually, uh, would you like you to sort of, cuz it went by so quickly, maybe talk to those five points and then we’ll open it up to the audience. And by the way, if you’re in the audience and you want to come on stage and tell your story and have Sharon critique it, or [00:14:00] you have a question for Sharon or Jeff, I mean, this is a great opportunity to have some really top experts help you with your business and help you tell your story.

And we’d also, like, if you’re on stage or in the audience and you think this is an important topic, please feel free to share the room. It’s the button right at the bottom of the screen, second to the left. And I’ll do that right now. Click on share and you can share with other members on Clubhouse just by clicking on it or inviting others to the room.

So Sharon, can you talk, uh, a bit about those five things again, just cuz you went by so fast and I just wanna, I don’t, I feel like we are , I missed it. I missed, I got the first one. . Yeah. The first was differentiation. So obviously, you know, with any, uh, product service, uh, app, anything that we’re going to try to market, we wanna differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Um, and you know, sometimes that’s, uh, sometimes, um, products are so similar that only price point [00:15:00] differentiates you, right? There’s, if there’s a lot of, um, proliferation in the market of a particular product. So, but there’s always some way to differentiate yourself and that’s where a story comes in because hopefully you have a unique story.

Um, perhaps if you’re a founder, uh, do a lot of work with entrepreneurs of startups and founders, and you’re always looking to tell that specific little, uh, give that little snapshot of your experience and, uh, look into the founders background and find what was that spark that led them to create this. , uh, great product or service, and how can you use that to differentiate yourself in the marketplace?

Because, you know, uh, as Jeff mentioned, you know, Steve Jobs like, Hey, there’s only one Steve Jobs, right? So, um, there’s only one Elon Musk, there’s only one, uh, Jeff Bezos. Um, and I’m just mentioning those because they are sort of the, they’ve become UBI [00:16:00] ubiquitous in the, um, environment where people know who they are and they know a lot, a bit about, a lot about their stories that they created.

You know, sometimes they created their brands in a garage. Uh, they only sold books. Um, so there’s all these little things about you that can allow you differentiate your brand based on who you are. Um, the second one was the sense of community or connection, and that’s, Really important. And the best brands do that.

Um, the best brands allow you to have this level of connection to, um, the product or service that no one else can. Um, a sense of community, we all create a sense of community and probably nothing has been more, um, sort of eye-opening than the last couple of years when that sense of community was pulled from us during the pandemic and we didn’t have the ability to connect, uh, and have community with each [00:17:00] other.

I think. , it became even more so evident that the brands that had done a really good job of creating a sense of community and connection with their customers were the ones that had the staying power. The ones that that didn’t, um, found themselves, uh, you know, g gasping for air and often hoping to, uh, be able to keep their doors open because they hadn’t had that sense of community and that sense of, uh, trust, which is the third thing that I mentioned, um, being able to trust in the brand and being able to feel like that trust, um, is, you know, you’re putting your dollars behind a brand that, um, is going to always deliver for you, not only from a product standpoint, but hopefully from a customer service standpoint and, um, is always gonna be there.

And then that sort of leads me to the number four, which was loyalty. The best brands tell stories that. Have [00:18:00] loyalty at the center. Um, they have this idea that if you are loyal to them, they will be loyal to you. Um, and they will create an opportunity for you to, again, I think I mentioned this before, but you know, you, you kind of have the ability to have, uh, move from transactional to transformational.

Um, pretty much if you stopped anybody on the street and asked them if they needed another phone or another car or another pair of shoes, um, they would say, the one I have is fine. But if you ask them to buy a particular brand, if you ask them about their brand loyalty, they would tell you that the reason that they buy that brand, um, is because they have a sense of loyalty.

There’s a sense of connectedness, there’s a sense of trust, there’s a sense of, um, Community in having that brand. And that’s the reason why they will go out and spend [00:19:00] more money on another phone or, uh, on another pair of shoes or on, uh, another model of car when all the ones they have work perfectly well.

So, um, that’s where your opportunity for story, I think comes in. And then the last thing was memorability and that the most memorable stories are the ones that we remember over and over, obviously. Um, if you remember, even from probably, you know, take it from a, a, a level down from branding to childhood or to your, to your life, the stories, the experiences that you, um, that resonate with you and that sit with you for a long period of time, uh, have that level of memorability and they just become sort of part of your dna.

N and that’s what I love so much about stories is that it’s just really part of our dna. It’s really easy to call it up. everyone understands is it’s universal. If you tell people to tell you a story, they could tell you a story, um, very quickly. And so, uh, the ability to understand the [00:20:00] process of storytelling is not hard.

Uh, it’s just something, it’s a muscle. We have to, as, uh, entrepreneurs and as brands exercise so that we can use it, uh, to the best of our ability. You know, it’s interesting when we’ve done a, a shows on clubhouse around stories like, for instance, lessons from the Edge for startups. And people come in and they tell us these stories and it’s just like heartbreaking and what whatnot.

But they’re very memorable and you pick up on the lessons versus, you know, you’re just sort of told something. Right? And, and I think that’s interesting. The memorability is much higher with stories. Well, we have, uh, our friend again on stage, ghost writer. We gotta get your name again. Ghost Writer and Copywriter.

Even in your, uh, bio, we can’t see your name there, we’d love to, uh, to call you by your name, but do you have a story to tell or a question for [00:21:00] Sharon and Jeff?

Hey, happy New Year. Um, thank you Colin and, um, and van and Jeffrey and Mamie and Jaren for your content. Um, yeah. Um, my story is basically, uh, I’m, I’m getting away from it because it’s, it’s, um, I don’t know if it’s worn thin or it’s cutesy because my goal is to connect so I can have that conversation.

But my story, um, roughly is when I was little. If I saw something I told. . Now I use my storytelling prowess for good on behalf of, of, uh, subject matter experts and consultants, blah, blah, blah, you know? Um, and pre pandemic, you know, it, it worked like a charm. And I just feel like I, I have to take that and, um, [00:22:00] not necessarily take it out to the woodshed, but I do have to, um, grow it up some, because I grew up in a noisy household being the youngest of five.

So, because my goal is to, um, capture and connect, I wanna get away from the convert, but really have, get and, and turn that convert into conversations because conversations are more authentic than hunting for that. Yes. So, um, , I’m just wondering, like, how do you grow up something, how do you grow something up that you’ve gotten so attached to?

And, and I know that you, you know, we have to pivot for change. We have to pivot for the times and so forth. But if it’s still a part of you, then how can you make that change happen? Thanks. Yeah. Ghost writer. I, I would [00:23:00] love to answer that. I mean, so one of the things when I talk to people, when I coach and when I consult about storytelling, I, I use a, a mnemonic device and it’s goals to have goals and G O A L S, you know, the, each letter stands for something and the first letter is to be genuine and grounded.

So what I would suggest to you is that even though you feel like your story may have, um, you know, said, been a little long in the tooth, or you may have like it, you may have outgrown it. It’s still very much a part of who you are and maybe as we are always doing, um, in our lives, you have to just go back and revise your narrative.

Um, I think there’s still probably power in it. You just have to look for the pieces of, uh, the story that you think or that you have experienced, resonate the most with the people that you serve. So, um, just [00:24:00] I would think that, you know, the benefit there would be to just go back to that story that you tell and then think about the clients that you have or the clients that you wish to have, um, and see what part of that story is going to resonate most with them, and then rewrite the narrative around that.

Is that helpful? It is. Thank you. Because one thing I do well, I used to do, I don’t know if I still do it, , is um, I call myself a reformed tattle tale. And when I say things out of the box, not intentionally, but that’s just my way of speaking that, um, it just ends up sometimes as a sound bite, if you will.

Something that makes someone go, huh. And ask. And, and then, you know, thus, um, begins the lines of questioning, which is what I wanted. But again, it’s natural. It’s never intentional. Yeah. The benefit of having something like [00:25:00] that, um, we often talk about in our other room, colleague with your story, having a really good hook is you’re ha you’re, um, allowing, um, your story to be, uh, a disruptor.

And I mean that, uh, like in a good way, , you’re, you have to find a way. Uh, we all have to find a way in a story to. sort of grab people’s attention, um, shake them out of the thing that they’re doing at that moment. Maybe they’re scrolling their phone, maybe they’re, uh, talking to someone. Um, so if we use something that’s a disruptor, like a hook, like you said, being a reformed tattletale, um, that’s helpful.

The thing is that we have to make sure that we tie that into our message really tightly so that it doesn’t wind up becoming, as you said, like just the sound bite. Instead, um, it’s going to resonate with the person that you’re talking to. So, like saying that you’re a tattletale, there might be a different way to say that, um, because [00:26:00] that might not resonate with somebody who is gonna be your client.

So you might have to like really become a wordsmith and figure out another way to, um, to use that. So that it still has the power of a hook and a great disruptor, but it puts the, um, listener in the, the right mindset, and you’re able to then build a story around that. . I, I love that advice, Sharon. Um, and, and I feel you ghost writer, you know, being a person that tends to be very direct.

You know, I struggled with a little bit of that myself at the beginning of my career. You know, it’s not hard to offend people, especially in a big company environment and trying to talk a way that is not your authentic self. Oh my gosh. It just doesn’t come across well. So personally, what I have found to help me is I’ve really had to train myself on [00:27:00] certain words to not use, because I found it didn’t evoke the kind of response that I meant, and it might have been offensive.

So, I, I feel what you’re saying, and, and I think what Sharon’s saying, like really sitting down and thinking about it and thinking about just, you know, a handful of words and phrases is immensely helpful. So thank you for sharing that. I, I really appreciate it.

All right. We have a few other brave folks who have joined us here on the stage. Um, we have Sarah. Sarah, we’d love to hear your advice on storytelling or questions that you might have for Sharon. Thank you Sarah. Hey Michele. Thank you. Hi everyone. Happy Friday. I just jumped in, but um, [00:28:00] I love this topic and I’m sure you’ve had a great discussion already, but, um, I think, you know, when it comes to storytelling and like getting the message and vibe across for our brand, what I’m kind of transitioning into is, , what can we share that’s relatable?

You know, the more we get to know our consumers, the more we’re able to connect with them through stories. I think when I was first starting out, a lot of my stories were about me, the founder and my experience and like why I started this. And that’s, you know, still interesting I guess to some people. But the more we can make it less about ourselves and more about just connecting, um, and finding that common ground I think is super interesting to people.

Um, And then I guess I don’t really have a question, but I just wanna come up and say [00:29:00] hi. Um, and then like, one thing I’ve been thinking about a lot this week is this idea that people buy from people. And as we’re scaling our brands, how do we maintain that kind of person to person connection? Um, whereas like, you know, the more like, I guess the larger and, you know, more we scale, it’s really difficult to stay directly connected to our consumers.

For example, my products are sold on grocery stores, and so there’s nothing like having. A table in a store and like doing sampling and being able to talk to consumers directly as they come by, but it just doesn’t happen that often. So yesterday I was talking with someone about the beauty of like, so many people start out at farmer’s markets and you know, that, um, there’s almost less of a price sensitivity in that environment.

And we were kind of like, I wonder why, you know, it’s because people are buying from people. There’s a [00:30:00] perceived value that’s so much higher when you go to the farmer’s market. And I mean, if you just think about the price you pay for a product in that environment compared to how sensitive so many of us are in grocery stores, it’s really, really interesting.

So th those are my thoughts right now. Yes, sir. That’s a really, I’m sorry, go ahead. Go ahead Sharon. Um, Sarah, I think that, you know, you said some things that were really important. I, and I always say that, you know, the, the story always begins with you, but it always has to end with the customer because, um, you might create the, you might be the founder and you created the product, but, um, if the product was just for you, then you would just be consuming yourself and you wouldn’t have gone out and tried to find market fit and done all the crazy things that we as entrepreneurs do in order to get our market, our product out into the marketplace.

Right? So it has to make sure that it resonates with the customer. But I think you also were saying, uh, you know, made a, an interesting point about the [00:31:00] price sensitivity and things like that. But I think the reason that reason that people, um, are willing to, you know, step, step into this like artisanal and limited edition and all of that is because it gives.

The customer a feeling that they’re not just buy, they’re not buying a mass marketed, anyone can get their hands on this product. Um, and because of that, and because of that sort of like small farmer’s market mentality as you, you know, said, that’s where the ability to lean into that for a story, um, is really, really powerful.

Because if you can keep that, no matter how large your company gets that small company feel, people are gonna resonate with that. Because people don’t wanna be a number, they don’t wanna be a transaction, they don’t wanna be customer 4,052 of, you know, 7 million. They want to be who they are. They wanna be Sarah, they wanna be Sharon, they [00:32:00] wanna be Mimi, right?

And they want to be, um, they wanna feel like the, the brand understands them. And so I would just suggest to you that there’s probably, um, uh, just. an untapped amount of stories within your customer base. And that would be something that, you know, if we were, say you were working with me, I would suggest that we do some story mining, I call it, and we go look for experiences and we go look for customer, um, opportunities to talk to customers.

And we, and we look for, um, particular experiences that we can highlight that are going to, you know, do the types of things that I mentioned before about those five benefits. You know, you might wanna say, what can I do for my company? Uh, what can I do in my stories or my narratives that’s going to differentiate me from the other people in my or the other companies in my market space?

Or, um, where is there opportunities for [00:33:00] me to capitalize on the level of trust that I’ve created with my customer base? Or where are there particularly memorable stories? Um, , you know, there’s, there’s stories all the time of, um, uh, during the pandemic, there was that one story of that, that homeless man that was, um, skateboarding, drinking ocean spray and singing a Fleetwood Max song,

And he like had nothing. He, he really had nothing and he just sort of like, put his phone up and he started, um, vibing to this particular music. And then Ocean Spray sent him all kinds of, um, cranberry juice and he started getting offers for, uh, other opportunities. And it’s just like, there’s, so each, it seems, you know, kind of crazy that Cranberry Juice could have created this opportunity for this person.

But it happens all the time. There’s all these interesting stories about people who interact with the brand and it made it, it just, [00:34:00] it vibed with them in some way, and then it resonates with the greater public. And that’s where the opportunities are.

Thank you Sharon. I think it was really interesting, Sarah, what you mentioned about the farmer’s market and, and I think part of why we do that is I think that’s an environment where as a consumer we actually are imagining the story even if it’s not being told to us. In other words, when you see, you know, fruits in a stand, in a farmer’s market, Without even being conscious of it, we’re probably thinking, oh, this must be locally grown.

Oh, I can imagine that it came in, you know, in the back of a pickup truck from this farm a few miles away from here, versus picking up something in a processed package with plastic, you know, wrapped over in a sticker label, stuck on it. Um, we’re not inclined to think there’s much of a story behind that product, so we’re not filling in [00:35:00] those gaps.

And I think even when we fill in those gaps unconsciously and create that story, it’s more satisfying and fulfilling than not having a story. So I think that was a great example with the, with the fruit stand. And to take that one step further, Jeffrey, I, there’s um, a couple of, uh, companies right now are doing something with something called ugly fruit.

Um, and that’s the kind of thing that, you know, Uh, from a, from a Bram standpoint, you’re scratching your head and saying like, why would anybody want to sell a tomato that, you know, looks like it’s two or three tomatoes together, or, or, um, a piece of, uh, you know, a piece of lettuce that, that’s grew differently.

Um, but building the story behind them and making you think that even ugly fruit deserves a place on your table right. Um, is the benefit of storytelling. And so it allows us to take [00:36:00] things that are, that might not resonate with people, uh, initially, you know, you might have, you’re so used to going to the, to the grocery store and seeing all the really nicely waxed apples that you might not wanna buy that one apple that has, um, an extra bump, or it has, but that’s exact story is interesting, is finding that differentiation, that different piece.

of the story and being able to tell that. And so that’s, you know, that that ugly fruit story, um, I think resonates with people who are, who are thinking that, um, do, we don’t wanna be just like everyone else. We wanna be different. We wanna be able to be accepted for who we are. And so there’s probably a huge market based on that.

Well, I can validate, um, that as I grew up on a farm and we had, uh, often would have these organic, we didn’t call it organic back then, we couldn’t, didn’t wanna spend the money on the chemicals, but, um, that was the [00:37:00] truth. But that they would come out not as pretty, you know, they weren’t perfect tomatoes.

They had these extra brown spots on them and this and that and the other. And yet they were organic in, in, you know, just lear learning. Now, later in life, had we told the story better, we might have been able to twist what was a negative when we went to the farmer’s market to sell these, this fruit or these um, vegetables.

I don’t know, was it a tomato of food or vegetable? I can’t remember, whatever. But when we go to the market, it’s a, it’s a fruit, is it? Okay. So we go to the market to sell these things. If we had the right signage and the right messaging that, you know, these were handpicked organic tomatoes. And I like that.

It’s, it’s, it’s really interesting how you can take what could be almost a negative and turn it into a positive.

So I, I have a challenge for you, Sharon. Um, obviously, you know, startup Club very well. You’re, you’re one of our esteemed [00:38:00] leaders and you have all kinds of shows. What would you say is a good tagline for Startup Club? Wow, Michele, that’s really putting me on the spot, . All right. We can, we can come back to it if you want.

Sorry about that. But we, yeah, I thought it might be fun. Yeah, I mean, I, you know, if I were to build a, I’ll just tell you, when I go through the process of building a tagline, if I, you know, if I’m working with a client, the way I build a tagline is I ask, you know, to, we, we sort of put a whiteboard together of what are the things that, um, that you think differentiate your, you from the other, um, products or services or, you know, um, apps in the marketplace.

You know, how do you see yourself and how do you wanna be seen by your customer? And then we throw up all those words and then we start sort of playing with those words to see how they [00:39:00] resonate with, um, other members of the team. And, um, whether or not those are words that we can, other to make, you know, a meaningful tagline out of.

So, um, you know, that would take me a, a, a little bit more than a second to come up with something . I had sort of a pivot on that question. Uh, cause I just went to chat, G p T and I typed in, uh, uh, write five good taglines for Startup Club and they’re pretty good. Someone like Connect, collaborate, and succeed with Startup Club.

Fuel your startup journey at Startup Club. Uh, find your place in the startup world at startup. They had some pretty good stuff there. Um, but I know you, you, I think you know about Chat G P T and it really can help you with your story. Is there any advice that you can give startups that, you know, by, you know, creating your story and then maybe using chat [00:40:00] G p T to help you with that story?

Or, or is this sort of like, just, it’s just not applicable? No, I think AI is something that people are leaning into heavily. You know, I mean, I would have to say as, um, as a creative. Um, and I think probably Jeff would hopefully fall in line with this too. I mean, you know, you, you see AI and all these different chatbots and things like that, and you think, sure, they can create something for you, but that it, that’s not the same, it doesn’t have the same connect connection and connectiveness, um, as if you have someone, um, really like digging deep into who you are, what you represent, and how you want to position yourself, um, to resonate in the, in the marketplace.

So, um, you know, it makes creatives like, uh, a little nervous that people think they can just put a bunch of stuff in chat G B T, and they’re gonna get something great out, which often you do get [00:41:00] something good and then you just have to noodle it and work on it. And that’s, , um, you know, the creative profession comes in that, I mean, that it’s the same thing that we do really, it’s just, um, AI oriented.

But I know even chat, G p t, you know, it doesn’t take it, it will take the idea of startup, but it’s really not talking about the startup club that you and Michele. Um, and, you know, your other, um, founders have sort of like the DNA of startup club, right. Only you know that. And so you can put in, um, a general idea and get a general idea back out, but it, it, I’m wonder if it’s gonna have that same emotional connection that, um, if, you know, we were really working on it, you would.

No, and and I agree. I I do agree. Although I do like fuel your startup journey. I thought that was pretty cool. All right, let’s move down to Chris. He’s been very patient here as well, and I know, Chris, do you have a question for, um, either Sharon or Jeff, [00:42:00] or do you want to share your story in. And, and have Sharon critique it.

Ah, thank you so much Colin. It’s good to see you and van and Jeffrey and I, um, really just have a comment. I’m just learning about storytelling to tell you the truth. But one thing that’s fascinating for me is the theory of narrative identity, which says the individuals form an identity by integrating their experiences into an eternal, internalized, evolving story of the self.

And so for startup, the story would also be, you know, indicative of the genesis and the DNA and the identity of the startup. Um, saying all this, cuz I was recently hit by a Mack truck called The difference between how I see myself and how other people see me. And so to tell your story authentically and for it to be received by people, you’re gonna have to know yourself better than I [00:43:00] did.

You have to know yourself. So you’re not just telling a story, but you’re living a story. And what I didn’t know when I was running my, uh, luxury transportation business in Seattle, I got to drive CEOs and founders and celebrities and all kinds of amazing people that I had amazing conversations with, um, for the 20, 30, 40 minutes or whatever, that they were in the car.

Just mind blowing times. And I had a couple of people tell me that I was too smart to be driving. And my story in my mind is, yeah, you’re right, I should be doing something greater. But I didn’t realize that I was raised with a story, that I’m not good enough, that I’m broken or something’s wrong with me.

And so even though people said, , you’re too smart to be driving for a living, they never offered me a job because I wasn’t living out the truth of my story. I wasn’t seeing the [00:44:00] difference between. , you know, that deep, deep internal story and, and the story that I consciously know, that I am worthy, that I am powerful, that I do great things and I can do greater things.

So it’s just like you may think you know yourself, but dig deep. Like we all have treasures. We all think we all probably have things that we’re kind of hiding from. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself. Don’t be afraid to look at your company when you tell the story. It doesn’t mean you have to tell everything, but just be aware, is what I’m saying.

Just, just know what you’re talking about. Know that your behavior and your composure is also telling the story in alignment to the words. And that’s all I’m gonna say. Thanks. and Chris, I would suggest that, and you know, when, and I, [00:45:00] um, appreciate you coming up to the stage and telling. , you know, um, giving us that glimpse into your soul, that raw bit, bit of, of narrative that you gave us.

Um, but I would also suggest to you and anyone else listening that, you know, those scars are the things that made us who they, who we are. Those little weaknesses that we say, you know, those things that we look in the mirror and say that’s not right, or those things from our past that, that maybe, um, that we weren’t, that we either aren’t proud of or wanna run away from.

Um, whether you’re a founder or whether you’re just, um, you know, a person hanging out on the stage here and listening. Um, those are the things that make us who they are, who we are. They differentiate us, differentiate us, and they are, they are sha snapshots into our, um, experiences that no one else has had.

And they give us an opportunity to maybe shine a light on those things. Uh, uh, and um, , you know, there’s other people maybe that are going through the same [00:46:00] experiences that think they’re alone. And so there’s always opportunities to look at those, you know, quote unquote negatives and turn them into positives.

Um, and I think that, um, you know, uh, for you, I’m not going to answer for you, but maybe, you know, if someone said, I’m not, you’re too smart to be driving, um, maybe that’s, but that might be your choice. You may decide that, um, I actually had someone drive me home from the airport. I was in Austin and I had, um, someone drive me home and he told me that he was, he had quit his corporate job because he was sick of the corporate.

And, um, he liked being an Uber driver because it gave him an opportunity to just sort of commune with people and just sort of get a feel for what was going on in the marketplace and, and how people were. Especially cuz Austin is an up and coming and he was driving a lot of people to the airports for um, you [00:47:00] know, who were executives and he said he actually got four or five job offers and he isn’t even looking for a job just because he just wanted to talk to people and just get a pulse of what it was like to be out from behind a desk and to be back into the community and back into where, try to just get a pulse for what people were doing in life.

Um, and it gave him some really valuable insight. And um, you know, he said he was in, he got three or four job offers, none of which he was interested in taking cuz. Not, that’s not part of his journey right now. He’s still looking for where he wants to land. Um, but it gave him some really good experiences and um, obviously it’s some great stories to tell.

Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you Sharon. It’s, um, yeah, no, I enjoyed driving actually. You know, being stuck in a car with somebody that’s super intelligent or um, has incredible concepts is, is a great thing. But, um, [00:48:00] it kind of ties back to the produce thing a little bit , because the better looking produce, the more engineered and the worse looking produce could be healthier.

And yet when I go to the produce section, I’m looking for the most flawless produce. So intellectually, I know that’s stupid, but that’s what my body goes and does. So if I’m a piece of produce, you know, it’s like how much of the flaws do I show? How much do I hide? . You know what I’m saying? Absolutely. And I would, I would, if I had one thing to wish, uh, for the world really right now, I mean, obviously instead of the, the big things like ending world hunger and, and finding peace and everything, which are the top of everyone’s list, the next thing that would be, um, would be to press a reset on this idea that everyone has to be perfect.

Everyone has to be beautiful, everybody has to be thin, and everyone has to be smart. Um, it’s great if [00:49:00] you have all those things, but you are no more valuable than the person who only has two or only has one of those things. And I would love to have a big mindset reset on corporate, uh, America, that you know that the, that only the best ideas come from.

Only the best advertising ideas come from Madison Avenue. Only the best tech ideas come from Silicon Valley. Um, , you know, only the best financial ideas come from New York. Um, there’s great things happening everywhere. There’s smart capable people everywhere who have amazing stories to tell and, um, let’s shine a spotlight on them and let them be told.

And we should be more like the fruit too, because when you think about, when you hear someone telling them, telling a story, it’s much more authentic and feels much more authentic when that person reveal. some of their imperfections too. Um, because again, that’s what [00:50:00] makes it relatable because we know that nobody is perfect.

That all of us have our flaws and our imperfections, our strengths and our weaknesses. And so when we’re listening to someone share their story or their brand story, uh, and they are perfect and they give a story of a perfect world, it doesn’t feel authentic. And just like Chris, as you said, that perfect tomato, you know, is probably, you know, um, filled with, uh, insecticides and other things to keep it looking perfect and not the best tomato for you.

Uh, same thing. When someone tells a story and everything is perfect and they are perfect, it doesn’t feel as good for you as when you show a few of those lumps. So, um, we are like the fruit.

Absolutely. Thank you, Jeffrey.

Yeah. I, I, I think that’s wise advice. Um, and it’s interesting that when you say that, Jeff, [00:51:00] more often not, when you hear a speaker and they talk a, they, what is it? It’s, um, humility. They demonstrate humility, um, and they share and vulnerability, sorry, vulnerability was the word I was looking for, um, that they share their vulnerabilities.

You start to lean forward and you’re listening very closely and you’re, you really sort of connect better with that story. Um, gom, not maybe pivot a little bit here, but in Sharon, you know, I, I remember Listerine when they said, it tastes so bad it works. Uh, Buckley’s was something similar to do to that as well.

This idea of being vulnerable in your story or. Sort of stating a negative in order to endear trust to get them to trust you. Um, have you seen that tactic used at all? I’m calling it tactic, but in some ways it could just be an authentic way of describing your, your startup or your story. [00:52:00] Yeah, absolutely.

Uh, I, I mentioned before that the g in my goals is, is being genuine or grounded. And that is making sure that the story that you’re telling is, is actually your story. It’s not the story you think your customer wants to hear. It’s not the story that you think is going to, um, make you stand out from the competition.

Because, um, if there’s one thing that, um, you know, this, this environment where doxing and, and, and all these things are available to us now, where we can go on and fact check anything, um, you’ll be sniffed out in a second. and there’s nothing worse. That’s a giant PR nightmare if you have created a story or a narrative that is not, um, genuine and is not grounded in what your company values and goals should be and the product that you offer and where you wanna sit in the marketplace.

And so, um, I think [00:53:00] it’s really important to even look at things, like you said, taking a negative and turning it into a positive. That’s a great way to differentiate yourself in the market and to create an opportunity for you where there might not have been one when Listerine leans into the idea and they’ve leaned heavily into it.

Pretty much. I think older marketing right now is based on cuz they have the, the, um, the, the ads where people are, um, garling, Listerine and they’re making all kinds of terrible faces. Um, it’s not, it’s the idea that, um, if, if it’s. bad for you. Not if it’s bad for you, but if it tastes bad, it’s gotta probably be doing its job.

And sure, we could make it taste great, but is it gonna do the job that it has to do? Is it gonna disinfect, is it gonna protect you from, uh, viruses or, or, um, you know, gingivitis and all those other things, all those other buzzwords that are in the mouthwash industry. Um, you know, so leaning [00:54:00] into those negatives to, to make sure that you differentiate yourself in a way that’s going to, um, instill trust in your customer is really important.

I know everyone likes to hear startup stories, um, about, you know, just you, I was on your show the other day with this one, but, um, I was on the name game and, uh, the name of the company was Poem ai. And literally, I, I did not have a present, I forgot the presence, um, in Florida. I flew to Toronto. I was going to meet a friend.

And so I went into the chat, G B T, and I wrote a poem and I printed it out and um, I handed it to her and she was like, almost tearing up. And it was just, you know, it was just a, a moment in time that I realized that, you know, this is something that, you know, a lot of people might want to do is provide a poem.

And now we’re adding the, um, the AI image as well from, from Dolly, uh, [00:55:00] into it as well. And so the whole idea of the business started because of a real world experience. And can you talk a little bit about how important it’s for a founder to tell that story as part of the overall story? I’m not saying that’s the company story, right?

But people do like those founder stories. People love founder stories because people generally wanna root for an underdo. It’s just the way it’s, um, the best stories are about underdogs. It’s about the guy. You know, the story of Jeff Bezos starting out in his, uh, in his garage was really powerful at the time.

Now he’s got billions of dollars, and that story doesn’t really, it doesn’t really resonate with people as much anymore, right? Because you’re like, how big is your garage? It’s probably as big as everyone else’s house right now. But, but when he was originally telling, when that story was originally being told about who he was, [00:56:00] it was very powerful.

So if you can find, um, the opportunity in your story to talk about your origin story as what I call it, and, and have a, a hero’s journey there where you’re talking about being an underdog, how you may have created, um, , you may have created an app that went up against some of the biggest, um, in the business at the time.

And, you know, you just sort of like eked out your downloads one at a time, one at a time, one at a time. And now you’ve become the biggest app, um, in the app store, and you have the most downloads because you just plugged away, right? And you were just like, well, I see that there’s an opportunity in the marketplace and I see that the competition is not solving this one particular problem, but my app solves that problem.

And so then you tell that story and if you can tell it effectively, you’re going to get customers, um, jumping over from the competition and they’re gonna be then [00:57:00] downloading your app and, and, um, instead of other apps, um, with your poem idea. Yeah. It’s a clear, um, need people, well, people want. . People want something that’s personalized and they want creative, um, options, and they also want emotional connections.

And so this poem, uh, AI gives you an opportunity to sort of like wrap all those things into one and make sure that people are feeling seen, especially in this environment now where people are, um, you know, we’re getting higher and higher levels of, of, uh, the newest generation saying that they’re depressed or feeling that they’re unseen.

Um, we wanna have people always feel like they’re connected and they wanna be seen. And so this gives an opportunity for them to, to be just that by just, you know, putting some words into, uh, an AI generator that talk about how I feel about you. And, um, I get a personalized poem. And how great is that?[00:58:00] 

Yeah, it is. Um, I know we’re coming to the, uh, end of the hour, uh, Sharon or Jeff, did you wanna. Share with us. Any last tidbits, any last, uh, tips or tricks for getting started here on, on creating the story?

Well, I would just invite people to join Sharon and I on Monday nights at 6:00 PM Eastern Time here in Startup Club for Lead With Your Story. Sharon leads the room and I help out as the official timer. Um, but at that room it’s all about storytelling and people come up on stage and they’re given three minutes, exactly three minutes to share their brand’s story.

And at the end of three minutes, a timer goes off and people have to stop even if they’re mid-sentence. Cuz part of the goal is to be able to complete your story within that timeframe. And then Sharon gives some great tips and feedback on, um, the story that [00:59:00] was told. And we’ve had many people come back and repeat, you know, tell a, a new and improved version of their story or share a different story.

Um, so it’s a really great, uh, room. And that’s Monday nights at 6:00 PM here in Startup Club and Clubhouse. It’s called Lead With Your Story.

And, uh, as well, I was would like to invite you to come join us for the name game as well. We do that on Wednesday evenings where we, we can’t sort of gamify the idea of domain names and business names. Um, but, you know, I would encourage anyone hanging out in the audience or who’s listening might be listening to the replay to think about the opportunities that you have to tell a great story.

Um, we all have a story to tell and there’s someone who needs to hear it. And if you lean into your story, um, and tell it in an authentic way, um, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of people that, um, gravitate [01:00:00] towards you and allow you to become. , um, or, or invite you to, uh, become part of their narrative.

And so I think that’s a really important, um, sort of thing to, to leave, uh, this room with. And also, if you check out my bio, um, Michele, I think, um, alluded to the fact that I have a podcast and it’s called Built From the Dream Up Founder stories, where I actually talked to founders about their entrepreneurial journey.

And we sort of dig deep in this whole idea of market and mindset and money and mentorship, um, and all the things that sort of plague an entrepreneur as there were going through their journey. And there’s been some really awesome stories of, uh, perseverance where, you know, they, um, my, one of my guests, he came on board with a company and his, uh, uh, he brought, sorry, a c e o on board with this company.[01:01:00] 

And they had done a huge raise and they had 10 million and that, um, he was giving some of the, the work over to the c e o to try to grow the business. And that CEO E o went through 10 million in six months and they pretty much lost everything. They had to then go back and do another raise and, and revamp their whole business.

And, um, it’s a valuable piece of experience. And, you know, you probably wouldn’t know that unless I had had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff and hear his story, Jeff Koser, that is from Zebra pfi. Um, but you know, you would think, oh, he’s just got this great business. Um, and so there’s so many of those great stories and it’s sort of like taking that negative and turning it into a positive.

And he went and created this great business and, and, um, he’s, you know, been doing, um, a. a lot of business ever since. But he learned of a bunch of valuable lessons as a result. And [01:02:00] so as entrepreneurs we’re always learning lessons. So, um, maybe I’ll just leave you with that. Well, what a great show. Uh, thank you for everyone who came on stage.

Uh, I just wanna let everyone know that we have some phenomenal speakers coming on this show over the next month or two. We’ve booked, I think we’re about two months out for booking and you’re not gonna know about who they are unless you’re really connect with us on We have an email list where we announce, um, speakers, uh, like, uh, Joe Foster from Reebok.

Um, we announced the, I think the chat g p T section session and I know we’re trying to get some speakers around G P T as well and Dolly around this ai cause we know it’s a real hot topic for startups. We’re trying to get some experts, uh, on the show. So if you’re interested in really knowing in advance about who the speakers are, check out [01:03:00] and sign up to that email list.

Well, Sharon and Jeff, like, I mean, what a show. What a great show. I mean, I learned so much today, Michele. I just wanted to let you know that I

come up with connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed. Awesome. I love it. I knew it. You’re brilliant. . Thank you Sharon. Absolutely. For all those that miss, I had challenge Sharon, and, and of course, as always, she, she rose to the occasion to give us a tagline for startup clubs. So thank you for that, Sharon.

And, um, I’m sure Mimi and I will be looking at the transcripts and, and, um, We’re gonna use some of that. Thank you. Absolutely. Thank you again for having me on, and I look forward to, uh, another, um, addition of the startup club’s, serial entrepreneurs, and also [01:04:00] being part of, um, lead With Your Story and the name game and all the other great things that we do here at Startup Club.

Thanks so much. Hey, you’re absolutely amazing and I think every, everyone here really appreciates all the effort you put into this and all the, absolutely the free time, all the time you put in to help startups. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. And we’ll have to meet you in person hopefully soon.

Everyone have a wonderful weekend. And don’t forget, go to if you wanna look at hundreds of past sessions, blogs, as well as join the email list or link over to our podcast. Thank you and have a wonderful rest of your day.



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