by Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed
Distill Ventures is the first business accelerator in the distilled spirits industry. FamilyFarmed in 2014 created the Good Food Accelerator, first business accelerator in the United States focused specifically on food produced locally and sustainably.
So when the Independent Spirits Expo held Oct. 3 in Chicago featured a lecture by Gonzalo De La Pezuela — Distill Ventures’ North America Managing Director — we attended with the expectation, proven correct, that the lessons for startups in the liquor trade would apply to our food-focused Fellows as well.
Gonzalo’s lecture focused on the entrepreneur’s founder’s story. He made a strong case for how telling the story of how your business came about and what passions drive you help you make the connection with a customer base… or as he frequently described it, your “tribe.”
The following are the five takeaways that Gonzalo provided for crafting and sharing an entrepreneurial founder’s story, with his verbatim comments.
Rule #1: Take People On A Journey
“Look back at the moment that you took the leap, what inspired you and what’s been driving you ever since. Chances are it’s likely to get other people inspired as well.”
“But it’s not just about why you started. Your journey is continuous. Talk about what gets you out of bed every day, the bigger purpose and the beliefs that drive you.”
“Think hard about why you started and avoid defaulting back into some business jargon or business-metric-oriented approaches that really don’t resonate with people. Identifying a capital market, it might be okay to talk with a business person, but it’s really nothing that’s going to resonate with a broader audience on social media.”
“First you have to be in there for the right reason… It’s because you love it, you want to bring something new to the marketplace, and regardless of what happens, this is what you do. That’s really what becomes compelling.”
Rule #2: Make People Care
“People only follow your story if you give a damn about what you do and the journey you are on, and take them there. You can find your own ways to make people care… Irrational people taking on challenges bigger than themselves. There are a lot of misfits and eccentrics in our industry who turn into heroes.”
“It’s okay not to connect with everyone. It’s probably better. So a polarizing character, which this industry has quite a few of, can be much more interesting that someone who is trying to please the crowd. You can create a strong connection with a selected group of people.”
“It’s about understanding the group you want to appeal to, what they’re interested in, what inspires them and what makes them tick. Then quickly find common ground. When you’ve decided who you want to appeal to, find strong words and images to quickly make a connection between you and your tribe.”
“If you want people to follow you on your journey they need to care. Find your tribe, find a strong way to connect with them.”
Rule #3: Don’t Follow A Straight Line
“Elementary to a great founder’s story is how it doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t follow a straight line. This does not mean offering failures for the sake of telling them. It’s a matter of facing challenges that enabled you to become a better entrepreneur and further your overall story.”
“Several of you in the audience are on that roller coaster right now. This is difficult at times, but it can also be a great thing. The point is, there’s no need to hide it.”
“People don’t sympathize with those for whom everything is easy or with businesses that achieve early success and everything goes as planned. It’s quite the opposite. Your magic comes from the more messy, imperfect human parts of your story. The highs, the lows, the happy accidents. It adds to the surprise and the intrigue, but also makes you a bit more human and interesting to your audience.”
“Not following a straight line is all about sharing the passion, the challenges, the happy accidents, the why-the-hell-not moments, because your story is happening all the time… It gives founders an advantage over impersonal companies that may not have a personal way to connect with people.”
Rule #4: Invite People Into Your Story
“The fourth element of telling your founder’s story is to invite people into it… You’re living your story, so tell it and tell it well. Because people can join you on this journey, building a community around a brand creates a real sense of movement.
“One way is celebrating the people who have been with you since Day 1 and continue to be part of your community. For instance, who comes to your distillery and knows your staff on a first-name basis. Which bars first featured you on a drinks menu. Which journalist first wrote an article about you and your product. Those things helped you a lot, those things made people recognize that they were part of something new and want to be kept involved as you evolve, and you have to give them the opportunity to do so. As your journey continues, invite these people to the next chapters with you. It will help you create a more compelling narrative.”
Rule #5: Make It Memorable
“There are many stories out there, so you have to work hard to make yours stand out… The best storytellers identify a powerful image… What’s the one thing that captures both the emotion and the idea of the story in one fell swoop. A singular, elegant moment of clarity, of literal representation of the truth that is inherent within every story.”
“What words do you want people to pick up and pass on? The one sentence that truly captures the magic of your story… Think of it as a hook to capture what’s exciting about your journey, not a summary of everything you do.”
“Simple phrases easily captured and passed on… people will copy and paste and tell your story for you… Another way to make your brand memorable is to have a killer image… A killer image that immediately conveys the layers of your story.”
Gonzalo concluded, “The job of telling your story is never done… This is an ongoing process… It’s a never-ending journey, and people love to be part of it. Continue to work on your story-telling craft. It takes hours of practice and repetition to get the story right for your tribe. Continue to live your story, it’s an ongoing narrative, so keep telling it as it unfolds.”