Like so many entrepreneurial ventures, my company – toth shop – started before I even knew it was toth shop. I was working for Lululemon Aathletica at the time here in Charlotte; I was also three-fourths of my way through business school. I was working and going to school (on the full-time-graduate -in-two-years schedule, mind you) at the same time; not sleeping, working constantly, and then feeling guilty for not working in every odd, quiet moment I experienced was all normal.
Also deeply ingrained in the daily modus operandi at the time – or perhaps, just my personality – is my inability to say no.
So, when a friend came to me asking for help writing his emerging brand’s story, marketing collateral and investor pitch deck, I said ‘yes’ – no questions asked.
What he knew about me is what would become the hallmark of the business I run today – I know how to write and I know how to think like a businessperson. English major MBAs are a unique bunch. But I love when the two cross-pollinate. It’s weird, I know. It’s also my competitive edge in that not all English majors love business; and not all business thinkers can write the creative, sexy, copy people fall in love with.
So, I started with this friend’s project. Then another – and another – until I had a full-time side hustle. I named it toth shop (‘toth’ is my middle name – my great-grandmother’s maiden name she used at Ellis Island in the early 20th c.). I took it full-time in 2015.
With all that said, that first project wasn’t just a project – it was this beautiful, fun process of carving out a new cavern in my brain. An undiscovered cavern that opened me up to the possibility of partnering with business owners and entrepreneurs to dig in, carve out, strategize, create, design, and write their stories, websites, investor pitch decks, marketing collateral, press releases in a way that was fun, smart, and well-written – but also in a way that made people pick up the phone, click through, engage.
And – funny thing – it also allowed me to do the very opposite, too – take the creative side of any startup venture or established business and sharpen, tune, refine it to market, sell, succeed.
Both scenarios share a through line. And that’s storytelling – not only the art, but also the logistics. And we’re not talking about the traditional definition of storytelling – but, the really personal, intimate, precise brand of storytelling that nails a brand’s identity and captures someone immediately.
All that can be a big process. Fortunately, there are three ways I start that storytelling process; and, quite honestly, three things you can do, too.
Ask why. Then, ask why again.
With all due respect, I ask why I’m here a lot of times when I’m in a new meeting. Then, I ask why again; I find that the more I ask why, the deeper we go into the story of why – without you even knowing it. I can find out very quickly why you need to re-write your story, why need to re-examine your core values that drive your story, or why that drip campaign copy just ain’t working in the customer’s digital journey.
Set a timer; do a brain dump; look for middle paths.
This tends to be a rather emotional and cathartic process for entrepreneurs or business owners. Set a timer, and then write (or type) like your hands are on fire – write out anything and everything about your business. This is what I call a brain dump. Then, let’s talk about it – in those moments, I’m looking for repeat words, middle paths, ideas that support each other that can go into your brand’s story.
Do an audit of your stories out in the world.
Instagram has changed the word ‘stories’ for us. Shake that off for a second. In this context, when I’m talking about stories, I mean – where is your brand out in the world, and where is the story you’ve been telling. Are you telling the same story on your website as you are on all your social media platforms? And then is that the same story in your marketing collateral, drip campaigns, e-books? A lot of times – I see multiple stories across multiple platforms which is my marketing 101 lesson of the day – every day – you need to tell the same great story, consistently.
Ironically enough, I was in L.A. a couple of years ago when I had a professional epiphany – I wasn’t having fun. And I wanted to work in a way that was fun, fresh, exploratory – a total adventure. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I’m getting that kind of experience hand-over-foot now. I know you get it.
The good news is that the adventure continues – toth shop is launching a test concept in L.A. and we couldn’t think of a better crowd to partner with than L.A.Startups. Mention L.A. Startups and you’ll have exclusive access to a discount on our services forever. Let’s tell a great story.