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The Barcode Podcast is presented by Titanium CPG Insurance. Titanium protects forward-thinking consumer brands with a range of commercial insurance products and risk management services designed specifically for natural and organic food and beverage companies. Learn more at titaniumcpg.com

Today on The Barcode Podcast, we welcome guest Lyn Graft, a videographer, entrepreneur, and master of story. Lyn is the author of the book Start With Story: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Using Story to Build Your Business.

Lyn shares the moment that he first learned the power of story, when AOL founder Marc Seriff shared his stories of failure. After seeing Marc’s talk, Lyn was inspired to work harder, create a better pitch, and launch his business. Knowing that a story had changed his life, he went on to harness the power of story to change the lives of others.

As a videographer, Lyn is committed to helping brands tell their stories through video. The most important part of a pitch, Lyn says, is the origin story. Many founders don’t always capitalize on that story, even though the story is the most powerful tool their business possesses. Lyn shares how stories release certain chemicals in the brain and connect with people more powerfully than anything else, and explains that storytelling has existed since the beginning of human history. Throughout this conversation, Lyn provides many relatable accounts of entrepreneurs that learned to tell their stories well and profited from it. He also shares funny anecdotes and helpful analogies to help listeners learn the importance of utilizing their stories.

Continued below…

WATCH THE INTERVIEW:

TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS EPISODE:

Your story can affect someone else. Lyn’s life was completely changed by another entrepreneur’s inspiring story.

Enjoy the learning process. The first few years are the best time for entrepreneurs to gain invaluable experience through their failures and mistakes. 

In the early stage of a brand, it’s important to establish a narrative. Founders don’t always capitalize on their founding stories, but they should be intentional about setting a stage, a scene, a mood, and a feeling at the beginning of their business.

Dive deep to find what makes your brand unique. No matter what your product is, anyone can copy it. Make sure you find out what makes you different, and then evangelize it constantly.

 Always tell your story as if it is the first time. Your story may feel stale or old to you, but it is important that each new audience hears it with the same amount of passion.

Storytelling releases chemicals in the listener’s brain. Stories not only capture people’s attention, but they also release cortisol, oxytocin, and dopamine in the brain and create a human connection.

 Solve your own problem. If your business is founded on the solving of your own problem or the problem of a loved one, you can connect with your audience in a way that is ultimately authentic.

Begin your pitch with a story. You only get a five-minute pitch; use the first 30 seconds to tell your story.

Nobody cares. At the end of the day, nobody cares about you or your product unless you give them a reason to. Use your personal story to bring them to you.

No one has your story, and that is your power. There is something that makes you unique. Harness it, and let people know what it is!

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL TRANSCRIPT

BEN                          Welcome to The Barcode Podcast. My name is Ben Ponder, we’re really glad you’re here today. I’m excited to have our guest Lyn Graft in the studio and we are going to be talking about story and all of its fascinating permutations and its role in human culture and its role in building brands. So, we’re going to dive deep. I want to remind everybody, again that we’re presented by Titanium CPG Insurance. Titanium protects forward thinking consumer brands with a range of insurance products and risk management services that are designed specifically for natural and organic food and beverage brands. You can learn more online at titaniumcpg.com. Lyn, welcome to The Barcode Podcast.

LYN                           Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

BEN                          Awesome. Glad to have you here. Let’s kick off with your best or most formative or favorite meal ever.

LYN                           This was during undergrad. This was a summer I was getting work for an internship. It was going to be in Los Angeles. I was traveling from New Mexico.

BEN                          You’re from New Mexico, right?

LYN                           I grew up in New Mexico was going to get my undergrad in New Mexico state, had a job in Los Angeles for the summer. The day before was our fraternity senior keg and we party probably a little bit too much and woke up very late the next day, so late that it was too late to leave. So, we decided to wait till it got cooler because it was the summer and I drove all night. On the way to California, there’s this place called Blight California. It’s about four miles outside Los Angeles. We’ve been driving on I was tired and passing out the wheel and rolled my car. Lost everything. It was a disaster.

BEN                          That’s terrible.

LYN                           I had buddy of mine that was following me and he saw the whole thing happened and all I remember is waking up I’m upside down the car is rolling and I’m watching all my stuff go flying around. I share that story because by the time we got to Los Angeles, I’d lost everything I had. I didn’t have any money. I was a college student. I had to get a job working at Carl’s Jr. at night and then working at my internship during the day as an engineer.

BEN                          If you’re not from the west coast, Carl’s Jr. is also referred to as Hardee’s. On the other side of the country, same company.

LYN                           Pretty much same thing. They have a Western bacon cheeseburger that’s pretty good. But this is my first time working fast food ever hated it. The polyester outfit is everything. It’s as despicable as it looks.

BEN                          You couldn’t move.

LYN                           Oh man, and you smell like a grill or the broiler. I lasted about three weeks there and I quit. I’m like, “No, this is not going to work.” I remember after that happened, I had to live my mom that summer. She lived in Los Angeles, thank goodness.

BEN                          You had a place to live.

LYN                           To celebrate quitting, we went to this pizza place in Anaheim. It’s Anaheim or Fullerton. I can’t remember exactly where it was. But I remember walking into it, and it was beautiful. A theater from the 1940s or 50s. The ceilings were three stories high. It was just this Italian huge theatrical almost like you’re in Venice or something. It was that wood fire burning stove.

BEN                          Right. The brick oven pizzeria.

LYN                           Exactly, about 1,000 degrees and it’s the first time I ever had that kind of pizza and I love pizza. I love, love pizza. I just remember them coming out and you walk by and you see them cooking the pizzas and they’re just shoving them in. They take about 60 to 100 seconds.

BEN                          Yes, it’s super-fast because it’s 1,000 degrees.

LYN                           Super-fast. 1,000 degrees. I remember some of them were putting eggs on it and things I’d never seen before. I’m like this is going to be amazing and it was every bit as delectable as you would think and imagine Italian wood fire burning stove would be.

BEN                          The perfectly crispy crust.

LYN                           And thick slabs of mozzarella and not the shredded mozzarella, which they put on there anyways. But if you asked him for buffalo mozzarella, that’s right on top big slabs and it was this beautiful pizza. It was amazing. It was so good, at the end there was one slice left and I was stuffed. My friend couldn’t eat it. I couldn’t eat it. But I decided to take it with me and that was the best part of the entire meal because they bring out the leftover one slice and they come and they wrap it in tin foil in the shape of a swan.

BEN                          Oh kind of an origami move.

LYN                           Yeah, totally. I’m like, “What’s going on?” He’s doing this Asian Italian, does it right in front of us.

BEN                          That’s a great experience.

LYN                           Here’s this beautiful swan pizza slice that he’s holding like this for me. I didn’t even eat it. Because it was so awesome. I actually did it a couple days later. But I’ll never forget that experience because it was not only just the taste and the textures of the pizza, but it was the restaurant itself and there’s three story high theater that you’re in and the waiter and a little accents going on. And then there’s that cherry on top of that swan shaped pizza delivery box or take home on box.

BEN                          That’s beautiful and then you’re also coming out of a life altering moment as well, right? Where you very easily could have died. You lost all of your belongings and then you kind of went down what felt like, “Oh, well…hit the bottom now” sort of thing and you’re on the griddle at Carl’s Jr. and all of that stuff and it’s like ahh, it’s just this sense of relief and perfection. It was redeeming in that moment.

LYN                           A beautiful moment. Things I’ll never forget. I can remember, even to this day, I remember being upside down in the car. I didn’t have my seatbelt on. Which was a dumb move, of course. But I just remember that. Literally, just upside down. When I was snapped too, because I’d fallen asleep. And then going, “Wow,” in slow motion. All those series of event. That was a crazy summer. They was earthquake that summer, too.

BEN                          Oh, wow.

LYN                           At the same time. So, it was good L.A. experience. I must say. A lot of stories come from that.

BEN                          You got full L.A. experience. That’s amazing. Okay. You’ve really kind of built a career around, obviously, videography and all this stuff. But really, it’s about story for you. We’ll talk about your book in a minute and things like that. But I want to kind of go back. When did you first find yourself compelled by storytelling or the power of storytelling?

LYN                           Well, for me, it wasn’t as if I knew what storytelling was, in terms of using that as part of my vernacular. I was an engineer and then I was a ski instructor and then I got my MBA and did a high-tech startup and I was on my second one. There was a meeting that happened the first Monday of every month by the Austin Software Council now called the Austin Technology Council. They typically brought in a big-time speaker that had been successful in the technology space.

                                    It was on Monday and specifically remember what was going on because we were having a difficult time raising capital. My business partner and I were just struggling with pitches and presentations and meetings. We weren’t getting much progress and it was getting really frustrating. We gotten told no a lot. I was kind of in my little pigeonhole apartment just stuck there and I just need to stop and get away from all and I remember the meeting was happening.

                                    I’m like, “Okay, cool. I’ll head up there. I’ll make it. It was going to start at 6:00. I got up got there about 6:10. I missed all the introductions. I didn’t know who was speaking, walk in, I sit kind of in the back. And at that moment, they had just introduced the person that was going to speak. I didn’t know who that person was, didn’t recognize them coming on stage. It was kind of a shorter guy kind of balding and he had a duffel bag with him, and glasses and he look like your prototypical nerd. Tech nerd.

                                    He gets up on stage and he puts his duffel bag down and he says, “I want to share the story about the duffel bags and t-shirts.” In those days, it’s still true today. Everybody gave t-shirts away when they started a tech company. It just a thing you did.

BEN                          That’s right. And you have a ping pong table or a foosball table.

LYN                           It was before those. It’s a little bit older in that generation, but you always had t-shirts. So, he starts the speech goes, “I want to share with you some of the companies that I started before I got to where I am now.” So he pulls out this first t-shirts and he goes, “Okay, this was our first company that we started. Great idea. We never got it to work and it folded and collapsed.” So, he puts the t-shirt down and grabs a second t-shirt and goes, “Now this was a great idea. We got it to work. We couldn’t turn it into a product though, just never really kind of launched.”

                                    He dropped that down, pulls out his third t-shirt. He says, “This is our third company, great idea. Got a product that worked. There was no market for it. Nobody cared.” He puts the t-shirt down. At this point I’m start looking around, who is this guy? I didn’t recognize him. I didn’t recognize any of these companies.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Pulls out the fourth t-shirt he says, “Oh, this one great idea. Great product, great market. We made too many mistakes just didn’t work out.” And then he goes on and gets the sixth t-shirt. He pulls the t-shirts out. “Great idea, great technology, great team, great market, great timing raised $20 million. But because some strategic things that happened in the space, that company failed as well.” At this point, the entire audience is going Jesus. How did this guy become successful?

BEN                          Absolutely.

LYN                           He pulls out the seventh t-shirt and he doesn’t show the name. So, at this point, I’m like-

BEN                          What failure is this?

LYN                           Whetting my appetite. Who is this guy? He goes, “Great idea, great technology, great team, great product, great timing, great market, everything’s up. In the same company, we lost $20 million, they backed us in this one as well. I’m like, “Wow.” He flips it around and it’s AOL. It was Marc Seriff one of the three founders of AOL. And everyone’s like, “Ah, this is awesome.” AOL used to be one of the leading technology companies ever.

BEN                          It was ubiquitous. It was in the late 90s.

LYN                           Exactly.

BEN                          That’s how people connected to the internet. If you had a mailbox, they sent you probably CD ROM per week, at some point. They were just everywhere. They were such a huge deal that they bought Time Warner, which was also a huge deal. And again, this was probably the iconic early mega merger.

LYN                           I think it was the biggest merger in tech history at the time.

BEN                          Yeah, we’re in upstart, a technology firm bought this old guard cable company that had all these other media properties and stuff like that. And again, it’s sort of put everyone on notice that “Oh, man, these internet companies, they’re about to become acquirers. They’re about to become kind of the 800-pound gorilla.”

LYN                           Yep. If you haven’t seen the movie with Tom Hanks; it’s called You’ve Got Mail.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           They have a noise and then that statement, “You’ve got mail.” It’s ubiquitous in the technology history realm.

BEN                          Oh, absolutely.

LYN                           So what happened in that moment, I was so inspired by hearing his story and how he had overcome years of failures and just a lot of money loss and emotions and just blood, sweat, and tears.

BEN                          And the panache with which he told the story too.

LYN                           Yeah, I wasn’t necessarily paying attention to that necessarily. I was just inspired. I’m like, “Okay, if he can do it, I can do it.” I went back home, and I worked the rest of the night on our pitch. We ended up raising $50,000 within two weeks. I don’t know if it’s anything specific which I did. I was just motivated and inspired and it was in that moment, I look back now, that I really understood kind of the power of how the story might affect me. And lead me to do something at a point where I was kind of in the ditch, just feeling sorry for myself.

BEN                          Of course.

LYN                           And to see someone as successful as that with that kind of story, t-shirts and duffel bags.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           I’ll never forget that as long as I live. I remember the jacket and he sent me a picture recently. He still has some of the t-shirts and the jacket he was wearing that night.

BEN                          Yeah, because his story of resilience inspired you to be more resilient in the moment. Because the reality is, I’m sure, as he’s going through all of the first six failures, he had his own moments of doubt. He had his own moments of anxiety or frustration and that sort of thing. It’s not that he’s just like, “Oh, well…” You don’t always have the privilege of being above the fray. You’re like, “Oh, well right product, wrong market, next.”

                                    Some people can kind of get over things quickly. But it’s always at minimum. It’s disappointing, right? It can be devastating for folks as well. So, when you kind of transport yourself, you put yourself in their shoes, and you go, “Wow, he felt the way that I feel and somehow he found it within himself to keep going.”

LYN                           Yeah, he described it very objectively. But I’m sure as any entrepreneur who struggles will tell you there’s nothing easy about that process. I’ve been real fortunate to be around a lot of successful founders being a producer for the many years. The one thing that’s consistent about the most successful ones is they’ve all gone through tremendous failures and massive obstacles that most people can’t always get through. I think there’s as a direct correlation with the amount of challenges they face and the successful delivery because it really makes your skin tough.

BEN                          It really does. Yeah. I can speak from my own personal experience having gone through plenty of failures as well. That’s where you learn. Not in a shallow way. Not just like you learn some book smart type information. You’re tested, you come through the crucible in some way and you go, “Okay, that was awful. But I’m still here and I just have to take another step, the next day.” That sort of thing. You have a different perspective on life to whenever things have gone poorly. It forces a sense of, I think self-reflection that isn’t as common when you’re successful, right?

                                    You’re successful because I had a good idea and I’m awesome or something like that, right? The truth is, we all make mistakes, successful people make mistakes all the time. Sometimes we succeed in spite of ourselves. But there’s nothing like, “Wow, that didn’t work. I couldn’t raise the money. I couldn’t get the thing to happen.” To really say, “How can I get better?” You win all the sports games and you think, “Well, I’m better at sports than everyone else.” You lose a game, you’re like, “I thought I was good. I guess I’m not, maybe I should go to the gym and practice more, right? That’s really where you start to form, again, that grit that is so essential to continuing to come back up, take another punch and keep going.

LYN                           Yeah, definitely. I definitely agree with that. Because there’s something to be said of the old saying that you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes because it’s ingrained in you. It distills and it burns at you. But I also share with folks, I’ve just helped two women who decided to hire a producer to do their series for a video for an online course that they’re doing. They hired someone who wasn’t very good. Let’s put it that way. It wasn’t they weren’t bad they just weren’t great.

                                    So there were a lot of mistakes that happened in the production process and someone had sent them to me so I could consult and help them kind of pull themselves and fix it. They were really frustrated with it. I shared to them two things. I said number one, no entrepreneurs ever listened to this. To the founders like “Enjoy the process. This is the best time when you’re starting up, this is the best time so just relax.” I said, “One thing great about what happened to you in that moment, by choosing the wrong person.” Let’s say they had gotten really lucky and chosen someone who did it exactly right for them and they kept going along and built their brand and then they hired somebody wasn’t very good and they didn’t know it.

                                    And they just wasted all this. I said by hiring someone who wasn’t good in the first time, they had to go back and redo a bunch of stuff. They asked me to come in so they could see the difference about my recommendations, and I’ve done this 15 years. So, I have a lot of experience. I said, “You’re going to learn so much from that miserable, in your perspective, miserable, frustrating, you felt you wasted time, energy, and emotion. You’re not going to forget that. It will help you better select vendors. It’ll help you make better choices.” They had to go back and do bunch of stuff on camera. I looked at them, they were a lot better on camera already after just a month or two.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Because they had to redo it over and over. I’m like, “That was free training.”

BEN                          They practice.

LYN                           Exactly. So just pretend you went to school, you got a free education and you got some products along the way and just some minor bumps, because you’re never going to forget those lessons and it’s going to help you make better choices.

BEN                          The mistakes were your tuition. Yeah, they really were, right? Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. I often advise founders and startups, even though it’s tempting that you don’t want to take too many shortcuts, because sometimes going through certain processes is so formative for who you are individually who you are becoming as a brand. You learn some details. Again, if you can outsource everything, right?

                                    If you had unlimited resources and so you don’t have to be involved in the nitty gritty details of anything, then you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities to learn and really figure out, “Oh, how does that work? How do the dots connect in this part of my business? Distribution, how actually does the product go from my manufacturer to the distributor? You’ve never been there, you’ve never seen any of it.

                                    So you don’t realize some of the challenges are obstacles that at scale when you’re in hundreds or thousands or whatever you become, distribution points. You make a mistake then it’s actually much more costly than in those early days. It feels costly. So, you’re like, “Oh, I lost a pallet of product because we made a mistake. Like, “Well, it’s better than losing 10 truckloads of products.”

LYN                           Such a big difference. Such a big difference. The perfect example I give to people from that regard is you know Clayton Christopher, right? One of the local legends of Texas CPG history. I met him years ago when he was probably about seven years into Sweet Leaf.

BEN                          Sweet Leaf Tea.

LYN                           Sweet Leaf Tea.

BEN                          And then Deep Eddy Vodka. Yeah.

LYN                           Right. So, when he was doing Sweet Leaf Tea, which essentially is a Snapple of the Southwest. It took him 15 years to start until he finally exited with Nestle from that process and I did a series of videos for him at both companies. But what so many of the things he learned on that 15 year ago journey and getting to a nine-figure exit and doing really well. He took all of those lessons and poured them into Deep Eddy unintended and was able to do grow something faster and bigger in a totally different market.

BEN                          Much faster, much bigger, much more efficiently.

LYN                           And build a better exit, nine figures again and just did incredibly well. Specifically, I remember this one video, I did a bunch of videos for Sweet Leaf and when they did the launch of Deep Eddy Tea, he wanted to do another video. It wasn’t really a brand video and what we talked about. So, he says, “I want to do this consumer facing video, but I really want a brand-new element but I’ll tell you what it’s for.”

BEN                          It was almost a mood board. I think I saw this video. This is on Town Lake.

LYN                           Yeah. Exactly. So first we talked about the video in general and what we wanted the elements they want to have. They wanted the ethos of Austin with better representative. It was good times. It was football. It was tailgating. It had this great, awesome natural tea mixed with really high-end vodka and that was a Deep Eddy brand.

                                    So, we got towards the end of our first initial meeting I said, “What’s the primary objective of the video?” Which is where I always focus on. That’s where I like to go from, because I want to hit that. I want to nail that. We can do multiple ones, but I want to nail the first one. I said, “You want to speak for consumer?” He goes, “Nope. What this is really for, this is for the liquor store owner. This is for the buyer. This is the decision maker that’s going to decide where it’s going to be on the shelf.” He went on to explain that what he learned at Sweet Leaf is that if you don’t have shelf space, it doesn’t matter. People are not going to can’t buy it.

BEN                          Can’t buy it if it’s not on the shelf.

LYN                           On the shelf space and he wanted something that would articulate the value proposition of the brand and what it is? Why it’s unique and different than the other flavored vodkas? Which there are a lot on the space but there was only one or two Sweet Tea Vodka at the time. Why his was better? It was all natural, wouldn’t give you a hangover, ingredients you could pronounce, same kind of value stuff that he’d done at Sweet Leaf.

                                    He goes, “I want this video to be specifically targeted towards that buyer or that liquor store owner or someone who’s going to make the decision to put us on the shelf. When we’re presenting and or when we leave the room, which is just as important as somebody would say what I want to say as a founder.” I’ll never forget that, because he knew exactly what he wanted. So, we tweaked it. It was a little bit longer than a consumer; it was four minutes or so.

                                    We put more talking points in there because it was meant for kind of a conference room setting and to share with the team. It was because the hard lessons that he learned at Sweet Leaf that he translated over into Deep Eddy. It also just made him grow that much faster and more efficiently and more quality accounts in the initial stages that helped him become very successful in a short period of time.

BEN                          Absolutely. I’m sure it also had a benefit in terms of as they were hiring new, new team members and things like that, it kind of set a certain stage and kind of a brand voice in those early days that can be really useful for, “Okay, hey, what is it that I’m working on?” You can say, “I’m working on a Sweet Tea Vodka. But I don’t know anything about the brand.” The name of it is Deep Eddy vodka. Okay, I know there’s a Deep Eddy Pool here. But what does that mean?

                                    The power of video is, it’s multi-sensory, there’s a narrative component to it and so it draws you in, which is why people like movies so much, right? So it draws you into that and really paints a fuller picture for people of, this is what the brand is, this is what we’re about, and this is what you can be a part of, if you are a partner of the brand in some way.

LYN                           Yeah. And to that extent, I think what was really interesting from a narrative standpoint and this is the way I like to do videos. I’ve been doing video for 15 years and have made about 1,000 videos over that timeframe, is that there are a lot of things that you can say. But in a short period of time, 30 seconds, two minutes, in this particular case, four minutes. You have to be very selective about what you’re saying. So, in your analogy to a mood board, it’s kind of like that, where there’s all these points, talking points and then there’s the primary talking points.

                                    So, you’re trying to take all that information and distill that down to the ones that you are going to select and then you take kind of, in his case, here was a guy that made Sweet Leaf Tea. And then here’s this other guy, Chad, who made this high-end premium vodka and we were doing happy hours and mixing these things and making Vodka Sweet Tea. So that’s kind of the starting point but then you weave that into what makes the brand unique. Why is it differentiated from the other flavored vodkas that are out there and why is it better than the other coupled sweet tea’s because they were using artificial ingredients, whereas Deep Eddy was using Sweet Tea infused vodka. They were using a premium vodka instead of a lowercase vodka. That’s why it didn’t have hangovers. That’s why it tasted better, even looked better than the other ones.

                                    So, it’s all about understanding the messaging, the talking points that this is the blocking and tackling that you need to have in there if you’re going to have a video such as this. But also, how do you make it interesting? How do you cater and pull on those emotional heartstrings and in the case, it’s him wake surfing on Lake Austin. Chad throwing catch in this backyard that literally was his backyard where we shot that, playing football with his son. And then just them having a good time. And then all their friends tailgating, it was just capturing their lifestyle in a video with talking points built from the narrative of these two guys coming together mixing vodka and sweet tea and making that into a compelling way.

BEN                          Now, I think this is a really important point because we’ll use this video as an example. Certainly, Sweet Tea Vodka which was their first product plays an important cameo role in the short film that you made. But it’s not about Sweet Tea Vodka, fundamentally, right? You mentioned the word lifestyle. It’s evocative. It’s about sort of setting a stage and a scene and a mood and all of this sort of thing.

                                    How important do you feel that is? Do you feel this is commonly overlooked from a brand’s perspective that they just sort of assume, oh, not just should I do a video or not. Even if I did a video. If I did a photo shoot, if I have Instagram posts, whatever else, then I need to have my product –

I kind of joke there’s the trope of like, “Here’s my product in front of El Capitan and Yosemite and here’s my product in front of the beach and Florida.” That it’s like, “Okay, that’s fine. It’s not very compelling.” But I think it’s just sort of interesting, especially in the early stages of a brand, really leveraging that narrative. Video is one way that, that kind of gets codified. The role of establishing that narrative really early on in the brand history. Do you feel that was a uniquely strategic move? Have you seen that? Do certain founders get it and certain founders don’t?

LYN                           In Clayton’s case, he gets it. He got it. He lives and breathes it. There’s no question that he has fundamentally a solid perspective of what brand is as it pertains CPG products. A lot is telling me he’s got the golden touch, everything he’s touching does extremely well. If I go back to his original meetings, is that he wanted to capture what made Austin special. Deep Eddy was the pool in of itself. There was a spirit of Deep Eddy. It was a time and the women that shows chose were like pinup dolls. They chose the shots of the latest-

BEN                          In sort of a clean… it’s sexy but not too sexy.

LYN                           Exactly.

BEN                          Not too racy or risqué, right?

LYN                           Kind of ’50s style.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Push the envelope a little bit, but not too much.

BEN                          Just a little bit.

LYN                           Most of the swimsuits were one pieces with a lot of coverage. He always talked about the lifestyle. I want to capture the Deep Eddy lifestyle. So hence, tailgating because this is Austin, home of Texas Longhorns and a lot of people tailgate here. Football’s a number one thing in this in this state. The lake, which is a big part of Austin. Austin’s on the number one list of every magazine in the country for one way or another. Just capturing the spirit of Austin, different places, different things, outdoors, coming together. There’s a lot of young, vibrant, good looking people that we wanted to capture. It wasn’t about sexy, beautiful. It’s a good-looking place. It was good looking scenery.

BEN                          Healthy people.

LYN                           Healthy people. On the lake or hiking, on bike trails, wakeboarding, wake surfing. That part of what he really understood is that I want to capture that ethos in all the touch points of the brand. And then going to your point. I do believe, founders, they may not ignore it, but they don’t really capitalize on it. It takes them a while to get their arms around it. Because we all have these founding stories, these origin stories, and that’s something I harp on, obviously. Because that’s where I think you need differences.

                                    What I really try to help people focus on is that no matter what your product is, I don’t care if it’s a CPG beverage or food snack, anyone can copy it. There’s nothing you can do to protect it because every idea you’ve thought of someone else has the exact same idea.

BEN                          That’s right. If it’s successful enough, somebody out there could reverse engineer it.

LYN                           In China, there’s a high probably it’s already happened.

BEN                          That’s right. In 24 hours.

LYN                           Yeah, really. Super-fast. So, what I try to impress upon them, and this is one of the cornerstones, for me effective and successful storytelling. Is that despite all that, it’s kind of the analogy is that our DNA is 99.9999% exactly the same. But in that point 0.0001% are three million distinctions, the way the DNA scientific breakdown is. So, what you want to do is capitalize on those three million distinctions, which makes you the only person on the planet just like you.

                                    Because nobody has your set of experiences. No one has the knowledge that you’ve gained. And no one has the network of connections that you have, not one single person, even if you have an identical twin, they see the world from a different perspective. So, your individual perspective is truly where your uniqueness and your differentiation lies.

                                    So, I always tell founders that no one has your story and that is your power. So, if you can find a way to tap into what you see that is uniquely different in your product, in your service, in your beverage, and your snack, whatever it is. Weave that into the ethos of your story, then you’ve got something that’s truly unique regardless if someone copies you. Because they’re not going to have all those experiences.

BEN                          It’ll be inauthentic, right? So even if a large, powerful, wealthy firm were to come in and say, “Oh, I like their product, I’m going to knock it off.” Then people respond to those authentic founder stories, but you have to tell it.

LYN                           Yeah, you have to dive deep to understand what it is and what makes you unique. And then you have to evangelize it and evangelize it and evangelize it constantly, all the time. Never stopping. Never stopping. One of my friends that I’ve gotten to film and she was in the book. Her name is Jen Groover and She’s the founder of the Butler Bag. Is a quick story on this

BEN                          Yeah, absolutely.

LYN                           She was at the time of stay at home mom, she had two twins. They were in the young stage where she was carrying still. So, she’s at the grocery store and this is something that any mom with kids can relate to. Yeah, she’s at the grocery store. She’s getting ready to check out and she can’t find her credit card to pay for the groceries and there’s a line behind her and a line in front of her. She gets the point where she’s checking out. She digs in. She’s got one kid screaming and another one in the cart and she’s like, “Oh, my god.”

BEN                          Utter chaos.

LYN                           Chaos. So, she dumps her purse on the conveyor belt at the thing and all her stuff just go whooo. All women know this. I grew up with for sisters. I know exactly what this is like and nobody likes this. This is not good for anybody. In that particular moment, she found her credit card, stuck everything back and just go, “Ugh.” She goes, “There has to be a better way.” So, she spent the next six months trying to think of an idea, some type of invention, some type of approach, a different purse, something where she could find her keys or credit card or whatever it is.

BEN                          To solve her own problem.

LYN                           Exactly solve her problem. Six months later, she’s at home and she’s emptying the dishwasher. She sees the utensil holder in there. And in there, there’s a bunch of utensils so she like, “Oh, my God.” Says like, “Oh.” She just grabs that utensil holder, empties the silverware out on the table, grabs her purse, dumps her purse up, puts utensil holder inside her purse. It starts organizing everything that was in a purse inside utensil holder, inside the purse.

BEN                          That’s right. So, she’s hybridizing two things, which is actually a common source of innovation too, right? You take you see one thing over here, you see another thing over here and it’s not that she invented compartments, it’s that she saw two things that had never naturally gone together. She married them in some way and created a new thing out of it.

LYN                           That new thing that she created what she called the Butler Bag. She took that little prototype and that became a model for her to take to a manufacturer. She filed a patent, took that same utensil thing in her purse to her lawyer to file the patent on that, went on to generate a million dollars her first year $10 million, the second year. And then eventually she got on QVC.

BEN                          That’s a product that is tailor made for QVC.

LYN                           With her she’s blonde and she’s just has these twins and she’s beautiful. I mean, she’s pretty. She just has the look.

BEN                          Telegenic.

LYN                           Telegenic. Yeah. I asked her, “So how many times are you on QVC?” She’s like, “Oh hundreds.” I’m like, “So how many times have you told that story?” Because I know, I’m a television guy. She goes, “Thousands and thousands of time.” I’m like, “Does it vary much?” She goes, “Nope.”

BEN                          No, it’s like a politician stump speech, whether you’re going to Des Moines, Iowa or Charleston, South Carolina. They’re telling the same story, right? You have to get over that because it may feel stale or old to you, but it’s the first time this audience has ever heard your story. You need to tell it in a way that says riveting and compelling as the first time you ever told it.

LYN                           100%. 100%. The other thing I tell people along those lines is that I was listening to Kendra Scott, a local very successful retailer here in Austin. A creator of jewelry here in Austin. She built an incredible brand. She has an inspiring story as well. I got to hear her share it recently at an event and it was the exact same story.

                                    What’s fascinating beyond just new people that are hearing it for the first time is that we all binge watch TV shows. We watch the same movie over and over. We love to hear our favorite entrepreneurs share their story over and over again. You almost feel you’re part of their creation, especially if you bought their product.

BEN                          Absolutely.

LYN                           You want to hear it and you can see people smile in the audience, especially women when they’re hearing their story because they can relate to it so much. If it’s a good story. They want to in turn share it with people they know or people they brought to the event. It just becomes this contagion if you will. If it’s a good story, people want to share it and you want to hear more of it in the same way that you watch the same movie over and over again, even though we can recite line by line.

BEN                          Absolutely. Yeah. So, you see that and there’s a comfort in it to. One of my youngest sons could probably quote, this is maybe an indictment of me as a parent, but he can quote, almost every episode of Star Wars Clone Wars verbatim. It’s a little bit uncanny. But it’s comforting to him. He’s seen these episodes before, but he loves them so much. So, and I think there’s a really interesting evolutionary aspect to this too, which is, historically, long before there was the written word, long, long before there were digital recordings of human faces and these sorts of things.

                                    When the sun went down, we sat around with our families and our tribes and we connected with one another over usually around the campfire and we told stories. There’s something that’s so fundamental to the human experience about the building of community and the relational connection. The passing on of information that happens in the form of story and storytelling that I think certainly spans across millennia, right? So, we may feel like, “I’m telling a story who would want to hear it?” Well, I would say that based on the data of all humans and even pre-humans who ever lived, everybody wants to hear a really good story. That’s what we’re kind of wired to do.

LYN                           Yeah. It took me a long time to write my book, six years. I had the unique opportunity to talk to some scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, physiologist psychologists, psychiatrists and I just asked them questions about this and it’s inspiring.

BEN                          People assume that writing a book, “Oh, isn’t that fun.” People who actually have done it, it’s like bleeding onto the page is very, very challenging.

LYN                           Sometimes I felt I was in an emergency room bleeding so much. But at the same time, I learned so much. There are three things I typically tell people why story work so well and you’ve hit on the first one. Is that scientists have discovered evidence of storytelling in every culture on the planet. Doesn’t matter what culture, how advanced they were, there’s always some form of storytelling that they found. That’s from a cave writing, engravings, different pieces that are not just tools. They told stories. They recently found one the oldest in the world is now 40,000 years, they found a painting in a hidden cave.

                                    It’s also the reason why we’re the most advanced living species on the planet is because our ability initially to pass on knowledge was through stories. So, we were able to learn something and package that into an envelope, if you will. That envelope is the story itself. Because you can share it with somebody, and they could pass it on long before we had the ability to physically pass it on.

BEN                          Absolutely.

LYN                           These zip files. They were like zip files.

BEN                          That’s right. Yeah. So, stories are since making devices that we use because we experience life as a series of disconnected momentary events, right? A thing happens you ate, whatever for lunch today. They’re discrete moments and events in it. Story helps us look back on the day you come home to your loved ones or whatever and you go, “Well, tell me about your day?” It’s probably the first time that you thought, “How was my day?” Did anything connect here and did anything that happened today have any relation to what happened yesterday. We make sense of our world in the form of, and then let me tell you what happened after that. It’s very powerful even for us to understand ourselves and those around us.

LYN                           Part of it too is that the science has pointed this direction, but we’ve all experienced this to your point is that from the time you were conceived as a living being. When you’re in the womb, there’s a good chance you will read stories by your mother or father. Once you’re born, your parents, your grandparents, your babysitter, all the way up until the end they’re reading stories, too. It’s just how we are raised as a species. And then in the education system, especially United States and most other countries. Stories are part of the learning culture from preschool to kindergarten and from first grade to grad school. There are stories that are permeating how we consume information.

                                    I still remember in grad school a long time ago here in Austin at the University of Texas MBA program. “Hook ‘em!” I remember one book specifically from grad school, the name and the author. It’s called The Goal. It’s a story about operations of all things. Goldratt wrote it. I think that’s how you say it. They tell you or teach you about operations in a manufacturing plant, essentially, through the story of this father and his son.

                                    There’s this one point where he took his kid on a boy scout troop thing and he’s leading them through the forest or something. This heavy-set guy Herbie was disrupting the entire path because wherever he was, that was as fast as the line could go. So, he kept getting stranded out like this back and forth.

BEN                          The weakest link in the chain.

LYN                           Yeah, and he kept getting frustrated because he’d have to stop and wait. He was going to lose kids. So, he didn’t have a choice, right? So, he’s thinking about this from an operations perspective. He decides to put Herbie at the front of the line, so that the entire troop could only go as fast as Herbie would because Herbie was his last.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           You couldn’t put him at the end, we’ll lose him. This light bulb goes off in his head. It’s an operations story, whatever.

BEN                          Of course. Yeah.

LYN                           I still remember that today. I can’t remember hardly anything I learned from grad school.

BEN                          That’s right. If somebody had given you data on throughput in a manufacturing facility, you would not remember it today.

LYN                           Yeah. Not at all.

BEN                          But you remember this sort of metaphor for what was actually trying to be communicated.

LYN                           Yeah. 100%. In talking with a lot of scientists I was trying to get a handle on why this is so. They basically had said, exactly what you said, is that we interpret the world through stories. It’s how we learn, how we consume, it’s also how we communicate. I started to understand why this is so and then it’s really in the last 10 to 15 years that we’ve gotten technology to actually see what’s happening in the brain using MFRI machines and related tools to see what’s fake.

                                    So, there’s this neuroscientist by the name of Uri Hasson who’s got a lab in New Jersey. And what he does is study how stories impact the brain and what his job in life is. He’s got this one particular experiment where he brings a group of people into a room. And then he has a storyteller. So, it’s an audience and a storyteller. He puts MFRI, machines on both the teller and the audience and to see what happens.

                                    So when they enter the room and nobody’s saying anything, there is no relationship in their brain patterns whatsoever. They’re all over the place. Somebody’s doing nothing. Everybody’s thinking over here, but there’s no relationship whatsoever. But the minute that person starts telling the story, their brains they start listening. And then all sudden, you can see this on the brain blinks, the waves start linking up like this. Their brains become in sync and it’s called the mirror effect.

                                    It’s very much because we’re interpreting and learning when it’s a compelling story. We’ve all experienced this. If you’ve ever been in a movie and you’re watching an action movie and you feel your blood rushing. It’s pumping. It’s is exciting. You’re feeling what’s happening I the movie. Or you’re at home and you’re watching a sad movie and you start tearing up or just crying. Or maybe you’re reading a funny book, and you just bust out laughing when you’re reading it.

                                    That’s the mirror effect happening because our brain is emulating what you’re hearing. I asked the scientist, what’s going on? Essentially, there is points in the brain that are triggering. If there’s anything I’ve learned in all this year of studying, it comes back to chemicals. The reason that stories work so well, is chemicals and emotions.

                                    So there are three chemicals that I tried to zero in on when I was learning about this and one is cortisol. Cortisol is kind of the attention getter. It’s what kept us alive when we are roaming the earth. You look for danger or opportunity and you need to react. Cortisol is a good thing. People don’t always like it, but it’s a good thing. What’s kept us alive in the early stages. That’s attention, right?

                                    Second chemical is dopamine. I mean, I’m going to start out with oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love chemical. I talked to the scientist who invented this. Discovered it and they named it the love chemical. He was telling me that oxytocin was the chemical that kept us alive as well. It’s because whenever you hug somebody and you feel good, that’s the oxytocin kicking in. It makes you want to be part of something. So, the reason that kept us alive is that in the early days of man, if you were ostracized from the tribe, you would die.

BEN                          Absolutely.

LYN                           You cannot survive as an individual. So, oxytocin made you want to be with the tribe. So, this is the one that kept us alive. And then the third chemical is dopamine. Dopamine is that reward chemical, makes you feel and want more of something that’s good. Give me, give me. So, these chemicals are chemicals get released when you’re having sex, eating chocolate or doing mainline drugs, right? Same type of chemicals.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           When you’re telling stories, these chemicals get released and effectively all of these chemicals represent an emotion in us. That’s why stories work so well. At the end of the day, comes down to that. I’m trying to trigger emotion in your brain, so that you feel about something as much as I do. Or you understand how I feel, why I’m so passionate about that? Because emotions are how I can influence you. How I can persuade you to do something along those lines.

BEN                          Absolutely.

BEN                          Yeah, no, that’s brilliant. I feel one of the… I think very powerful things about story or good story. I think the best stories are stories that connect with us on such a deep human level. That in some way, we read ourselves into the story, right? So, you identify with a particular character or I think a very common experience for people is they can watch all kinds of movies and maybe something bad happens. A child dies or something bad happens to a kid.

                                    Once you’re a parent you can’t take it, right? You can’t even say, “Oh yeah, well, there’s this part of the movie.” It’s a big setup for the plot and the kid dies. You’re like, “No, I can’t do this,” right? You just can’t even process it anymore. Because you can’t help but read your own experience, your own relationship with your child into that movie and it’s too much right. That’s on the negative side.

                                    On the positive side, you watch, Avengers in Endgame and one of the reasons why people I think love comic book heroes and superheroes and that sort of stuff is because we aspire to certain things and we see which Avenger are you more like, right? Or in your personality or whatever, that sort of thing and you’re like, “Oh, I’m kind of an awkward, insecure teenager in my inner self.” So, “Oh, you’re a little bit more like Spiderman, right?

                                    Whatever the thing is in you. They reflect aspects of our experience, our identity, what we aspire to be in ways that are very profound. It’s not just, “Oh, that was an interesting story.” Next, “It’s, man that really moved me. That inspired me in some meaningful way. It made me reimagine myself or some aspect of my relationships in a different way.”

LYN                           There’s an example I share with a lot of entrepreneurs as it pertains to the ability to articulate an emotion in an emotional way. It has to do with Carley Roney. She’s the founder of The Knot. So, Carley Roney when she came with the idea for this company. She was living in New York with her husband and two people who were friends from grad school or art school or something.

                                    They were trying to come up with an idea. They had an ad agency. This is right when the internet was taken off. They want to come up with something unique and different. Carly and her husband had just gotten married in New York and he’s Asian. She was white. So, they had a mixed-race wedding and it was in the middle of summer. She didn’t have a big budget and didn’t know anybody in town and none of the magazines told you how to have a mixed-race wedding in New York City on a budget.

BEN                          Yeah. Culture differences, expectations, heritage. Yeah. All of that stuff.

LYN                           So they had recently gotten married. Their two friends that were sitting around Adam, at this table in New York City it was a diner and they said, “Why don’t we do an online company based on weddings?” She’s like, “Hell no, I’m not doing that. My wedding was a disaster.” Because of everything that just happened. She happened to get married on the hottest day in 10 years, on top of a building, with no air conditioning and they didn’t have any backup stuff. It was just a miserable wedding.

BEN                          New York City in the summer, when it’s hot and muggy. It can be ugly.

LYN                           She’s like, “No way, no way.” So, they’ve started iterating on different ideas, but she thought about it and went home that night. And then a day or two later, she goes back to all them. She goes, “You know what? I think I want to do this idea.” She goes, “I don’t want brides to be, to ever go through that disastrous experience and nightmare of a wedding day that I had.” This is a heartfelt sentiment that she shares, because inevitably, this is something that was hard for her. Your wedding is supposed to be one of the most memorable days of your life especially for women.

BEN                          Biggest best day. Yeah, absolutely.

LYN                           It’s supposed to be and hers was the opposite. And yet, that became the kernel for The Knot. She goes, “I’m going to create an online resource. So that brides to be have all the resources they need to plan their wedding, to think all the moving parts of budgets and options for mixed race weddings or gay weddings. Whatever it’s going to be. I want The Knot to be that.” Now she’s got 100-million-dollar company. Its international. It’s based on that simple premise. It’s to help people that want to get married, plan their wedding, so it’s not a disaster like hers was. So, she used something that was a very personal moment in her life and speaks from an emotional place, in order to connect with people so they can relate to her. You share that with any bride to be like, “Oh, I’m tapping on it right now. Let me go check it out right now.”

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           So things like that when you’re vulnerable and you share your emotions and how you really felt I mean; a lot of women say no way I’m not going to talk about my bad wedding.

BEN                          Absolutely.

LYN                           She embraced it, she goes the Brene Brown approach. I want to be vulnerable so that I can help a bride to be not experience what I did and so they can have successful wedding when I did not.

BEN                          Yeah, that’s really profound. It reminds me, there’s a famous author named Henri Nouwen and who has a book and an idea around The Wounded Healer. I’ve heard it described is there’s a Thornton Wilder play. That is a short play and it’s the angel that troubled the waters and there’s this doctor and he wants to go down. It’s set in the pool of Bethesda sort of this biblical setting and people would go down to this pool to be healed. The doctor tried to go down.

                                    He was sick and depressed and had all these things going wrong in his life. This angel sort of comes out of the water however, that works and says, “No, no, you can’t go in there.” He’s like, “What do you mean I can’t go in there and get healed?” He said, “No, it’s actually your pain and your wounds that best enable you and equip you to heal others.”

BEN                          So it’s that premise and that’s tremendously courageous to say, “I’m going to open myself up. I’m going to expose my own vulnerability.” But as humans man, we respond to that so, so profoundly and it builds trust. That’s so fundamental in terms of having a relationship. Oh, how do I know if I can trust The Knot? That’s an early hurdle that you’ve overcome there. You’re like, “Well, I don’t think she’s selling me on stuff.”

                                    Because otherwise, I don’t feel I’m going to get bamboozled here because she’s been so real and raw about it, right? Then you’re solving a problem, again, it kind of gets back to that thing. You’re solving your own problem. You’re just solving it on behalf of. It turns out that you’re not the only one who had that problem. Lots and lots of other people have that problem.

LYN                           What’s fascinating about that is this is probably one of the hardest things for founders to do. That’s what I focus on as entrepreneur of storytelling. Not just founders, everybody has a difficult time being vulnerable, because you’re opening your kimono to your biggest mistakes, your colossal failures, your most embarrassing moments.

BEN                          Your insecurities.

LYN                           Your insecurities. It’s not natural. It’s hard. You have to practice; you have to actually pour yourself into it. And even though it’s one of the hardest things to do, it is one of the most effective and important things to do and I always tell people, it’s a fast track to someone’s heart. If you want to connect with someone on an emotional level, there’s no better way than being vulnerable. That doesn’t mean that someone in the audience will have gone through what you have to, but at least they’re seeing from a transparent perspective, your authenticity, as you mentioned earlier, and they’re like, “Wow, holy cow.”

                                    You’re just like, trust is immediate. The barriers come down. It’s just instantly, like, “Wow, I feel like I know you.” Then inevitably, what you want to focus on is there’s going to be someone in that audience that has been through what you have been. Or they know someone who has. I do a lot of work with people in the health space.

                                    Help them through the Paleo f(x) Conference here in Austin, the show and keeping the rest from that. I get to meet a lot of these CPG founders who have health type products, beverages, or foods and snacks and different things. The great thing about that space is almost all of them have, not all of them, but a good majority have a health scare from themselves or someone they know in their family. They have this powerful tool.

BEN                          It is the best genesis of your CPG company when you’re solving your own problem or the problem of a loved one around you, because you are your own focus group and you are able to connect with your core consumer in a way that is ultimately authentic.

LYN                           Yeah, and you see it if you ever walk the floor at this event and you see people come up to those folks like, “Oh my God, I’ve been looking for a product like this.” Or they’re thinking of thank you so much. I mean, I’ve seen people walk up to their booth and just thank them so much because now I can have tortillas again.

BEN                          Ironically saying, you changed my life. We would get that all the time.

LYN                           I see that and this is a crazy story. I’ve totally forgot about this. Last year, I had a family member that was going through a very serious situation that they were in the hospital for and this was life threatening. I found out about this on Saturday morning. So, the three-day conference and Saturday morning or Sunday. Saturday morning, I didn’t know what to do. Just kind of caught me off guard and I didn’t know what to do. Then I woke up, I went home that night and like, “Oh my God, I’m at Paleo f(x)” There’s some experts here. So, I went in early that Sunday and I started asking one of the women who manage it, Diana, she helps manages the event. Asked her, “This is the problem my family member’s going through. Who can I talk to?” She goes, “Oh, I know somebody.”

BEN                          Just like top 12 experts here. Yeah.

LYN                           She starts giving me phone numbers and text messages and everything else and I ask, “Okay, great. Thank you so much.” I started texting to my family member sharing it and she goes, “Oh, there’s someone on the floor. They’ve got a product that works with this particular issue for this type of chronic disease.” I’m like, “Where?” She goes, “Booth number 47.” So, I walked down 47 and I’m like, “I don’t even know what this disease is, I don’t know who you are. But I was told to come over here to talk about your product.” This guy’s looking at me going, “Yeah, okay.” He’s a doctor.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           He didn’t even work for that company. He was brought down as a representative of that particular brand because he’s a doctor and they’re making the CPG product. He goes, “Well, tell me what’s happened.” I explained the situation to him. He goes, “Well, that’s pretty tough. What are they recommending to her?” It’s like, “Well, the hospital wants to get her this kind of food, this kind of drink.” He says, “Oh.” That’s when I say, “Yeah, me too. That’s what I said. They shouldn’t be drinking that or eating that.” He goes, “Well, I can’t see him until they’re stabilized.” He happened to live in the same city that, that person was. That my family member was.

BEN                          That’s cool.

LYN                           I’m like, “Okay, this is “ahhh message.”

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           I’m like, “Okay, what should he do?” He goes, “Well, here’s what I’d recommend.” And proceeded to give me some instructions, some information and some references in that city. Lo and behold, that led to this thread being pulled and experts being recognized, and he had the traditional procedures the hospital is recommending, and you had these alternative methods. These weren’t crazy. These were research backed proven methodologies that these doctors in the hospital had no knowledge of. These are experts in their field, but they just weren’t exposed to this type of thing.

BEN                          Which is very common, Yeah.

LYN                           You’re going to believe she’s doing great now. A large part of it was because I shared that with him. Then they pursued it and went saw that doctor. It was one of the best experiences they had in seeing that particular doctor at that moment. What I love about that is that it all stems back from these stories in the health space, that this genesis of where your story can come from. If you have a product that truly changes lives.

BEN                          Tell the story.

LYN                           Get it out there. It’s one of the most important things you can do, because I’ve been filming a lot of different industries for the last 15 years. I decided in the last five years, four years before I knew what CPG was, I just bought their products right now.

BEN                          That’s right. You’re in the club now.

LYN                           I feel I stay in a holiday Inn Express and I’m an expert now on it. Almost every CPG product has a great origin story to it. One-way shape or form. Because it didn’t taste good, or they got sick, or this wasn’t working for me, or I’m doing this type of diet or whatever it is. Or I just wanted to throw two things together. From a storytelling standpoint, a video guy.

BEN                          That’s right, they’re really interesting.

LYN                           There’s a physical product that you have to show. I’ve done a lot of technology products. There’s only so many ways that you can show a security software tool.

BEN                          That’s right. That’s right.

LYN                           You saw someone tapping on laptop.

BEN                          Icons.

LYN                           Icons. X in front of it and crossbones. But with CPG products, you’d have this physical prop almost 99% of the time. There’s a story behind it.

BEN                          You can show somebody pouring it and it feels more tangible, more tactile.

LYN                           Part of what makes that special from a storytelling standpoint as a video guy, obviously. Is that not only visual, not only do we have a prop, whether it’s eating, pouring the ingredients and all those things, it’s just relatable.

BEN                          Everybody eats. Everybody drinks.

LYN                           Everybody drinks. That’s what makes it so powerful. A lot of CPG founders don’t take advantage of that.

BEN                          They don’t.

LYN                           There’s good prop, that story, that relatable aspect of whatever it is they’re doing. Because almost everyone’s going to know what you’re talking about. Because they’re thirsty, they’re hungry, they want to be satiated, they want a better tasting, they can eat this, they can eat that.

BEN                          Whether you’re rich, poor, black, white, it doesn’t matter. East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, it’s a common human experience. It actually bridges many of our divides culturally and other things.

LYN                           Yeah, I just love it from a storytelling standpoint.

BEN                          It’s fabulous.

LYN                           It’s a powerful asset that we can all take a moment to figure out what can we leverage from that standpoint.

BEN                          Absolutely. One thing that I’ve told people for years. Because, imagine you’re at a Thanksgiving meal or something like that. You get into some heated political argument with a family member or something like that. The reality of debates where I have one position, you have another position. The truth is, when we debate something, if you’re a high school debater or whatever it is, debates almost never change your mind. In fact, they do the opposite, they retrench your opinion you double down on your position even if somebody just annihilates your position. It’s like “Well, that’s really what I believe now.” That sort of thing.

                                    So, I feel as humans we want to say that I have a reason for all the things that I believe and why I did this and that sort of thing. So, debating any kind of statistical information et cetera. I feel like it’s trying to kick in the front door. But that front door has all the deadbolt locks and the chains and the bar and this sort of thing on it that’s preventing anybody from coming in. If your brain, if your mind is a house and this information is trying to attack that front door.

                                    Whereas stories, I feel they enter through the unlocked back door and they just sort of meander and before you know it, they’re sitting on the couch, sitting right beside you saying, “Hey, how’s it going?” Right? You have a different perspective because your defenses are not raised. All the alarms are, “Oh, Lyn is trying to change my mind now, don’t change, don’t change, put up all of the defenses, excuses, rationalizations,” and that sort of thing. Then you go, “No I’m not trying to change your mind. Let me just tell you a story.” Then you go, “Oh, a story. That’s so interesting.”

                                    You don’t think for a minute because we love stories so much. It has anything to do with your particular situation until at some point You’re like, “Oh, I’m laughing, I’m crying, I’m connecting with it.” Then you say, “Oh, that really touched me, that really motivated me in some way.” It actually got in there in a way that it’s a huge hack for getting inside of our minds and our brains and being able to persuade people.

                                    In this case, you have a product, you’re fundamentally attempting to persuade people who’ve never tried your product to try it, to shell out their hard earned money to purchase it for whatever you’re hoping to get at the farmers market or at the retailer, or wherever it is. Hopefully, if they love it enough to actually tell their friends and other people in their life about it, right? So, you’re attempting to persuade people to do that. If you’re not using the most effective tool to do so, then you’re kind of wasting your energy a lot of the time.

LYN                           I love that perspective. One more thing, I’ve been to Barcode events in the past and we always start out every event typically with a story. I always say start with story hence name of my book Start With Story.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Peter Guber, who wrote a book called Tell to Win. Peter Guber is the owner of the Golden State Warriors, he’s the owner of a soccer team, he’s got about 150 movies. He’s done really successful.

BEN                          He does okay.

LYN                           He does okay. He has this analogy. They use it in his book that I love. He tells stories are the Trojan horse. Because you’re wheeling in this horse as a gift and when people see a gift coming, they open the doors.

BEN                          They do.

LYN                           The guards are let down. Then you wheel it in right there. Then eventually it unwraps itself and it becomes this Trojan horse because the real message is embedded within your story. Which is the gift.

BEN                          Which in and of itself, the reason we know what a Trojan horse is, is because it was part of a great story. Right? Yeah, like the Iliad, which was transferred by oral tradition for centuries. Then eventually written down. The reason we even know the concept of a Trojan horse is because that story is so powerful, right?

LYN                           That’s another level. That’s metta.

BEN                          That’s a super metta. That’s right.

LYN                           What I like to tell folks even when they’re pitching, for instance, I work with a lot of folks that are raising capital, with accelerators, queue here in town. I always recommend if you can start with a story, it’s not always the best way, but it’s the majority of time you want to start with a story. What I’m trying to get them to do is help let that guard down. It’s the difference between pitching and storytelling or sales and storytelling. If I start selling you something, you’re already on the defensive, you’re like, “I don’t know.”

BEN                          Nobody wants to get sold to.

LYN                           Nobody likes being sold to.

BEN                          No.

LYN                           It’s just because and it’s psychologically and you can see this now with brain scans. If I start telling you there, these guards are up, but when I start sharing a compelling story that gets your attention, makes a connection with you engage it reaches the emotional level. It’s like you’re opening the door. You’re sneaking your message in.

BEN                          You’re letting down the drawbridge in front of the castle walls and just letting people traipse in.

LYN                           Traipse in and of their own volition. The analogy I give to folks is that your story is like a mousetrap. It’s the cheese in the mousetrap. So, let’s say the analogy is you’re trying to get rid of a mouse out of your house, and you go buy a mousetrap. He puts the mousetrap down, he put some cheese in the mousetrap. Now, you don’t tell the mouse to go eat the cheese. That is the trap.

BEN                          The mouse wants cheese.

LYN                           The mouse chooses the cheese and goes after the cheese on its own volition. If your product is any good, you’re going to capture the mouse within your trap, and I love that analogy.

BEN                          Hopefully in a less lethal manner. But nonetheless, the metaphor works.

LYN                           But it’s one of those things that I tell folks is that the objective of a story is not for the ask, your objective for the story is to set them in a place, to implant a feeling within them so that they understand how you feel. I mean, to me that is the primary goal of a story. Is I’m trying to implant a feeling with you that I want you to have. It could be something like emotional, it could be something where envy, it could be scared, it could be excitement, anticipation, scarcity.

BEN                          With investors, it’s fear of missing out.

LYN                           Yes, FOMO 100% because and that’s what you’re trying to do is you’re giving them a story that this is the opportunity you don’t want to miss on.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           And I’m the only person that knows how to make this particular product. I’m going to do it better than anybody else does. Because I’ve got the connections, I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the knowledge, and I’m already right here and you’re going to bet on me because I’m going to make it happen.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           It’s almost that both because ultimately investors are betting on the horse, especially in early stages, they’re not betting on your product they’re betting on you. So, what you want to do is not only tell them there’s an opportunity they’re going to miss out on, but you’re the jockey that’s going to make it happen 100% of the time.

BEN                          I think it’s a really fitting analogy and it’s so true. The longer I’ve been in the entrepreneurial world, the more I see it. If you have a large venture capital firm that’s writing you a very large cheque, they’re not going to write that cheque based on the idea that you could possibly be a good jockey on a good horse. In general, they’re writing that check when you’re six lengths ahead, in the final turn, right? They’re investing, they’re betting on winners. The more mature your company is, the bigger your company gets, the more you see that with the later stage VC and private equity stuff.

                                    It is called risk capital but it’s a very highly managed risk, right? So, this is not like, “Oh, I wonder if he’s going to be able to ride that horse.” You’re like, “No, he’s been riding it, he’s beating everybody else and he’s pretty much sure thing.” I was thinking, “How can I invest in your racehorse?” Right. So, you ultimately have to be able to tell a story that your race horse is winning the race. Right?

LYN                           What I found in my first tech company that I did, I talked about 200 investors and mostly no’s.

BEN                          That’s super fatiguing.

LYN                           Oh my god, it was devastating. It took us five years but eventually raised $7 million through group of about 12. So do the math, just over 6% success rate on that. But one of the things I learned in that process and today I’ve raised about 10 million total through all my companies and talk to 250, 300 investors over the years. I learned very early on and mostly on the angel stage. Venture capitalists are learning on but VCs especially. But angel investors as well, they don’t like risk.

BEN                          It’s completely different than what people actually think. They’re the most risk averse people you would ever meet. It’s pretty crazy. Yeah.

LYN                           What they’re looking for. They’re looking for reasons to say no.

BEN                          Absolutely.

LYN                           Because they’re getting pitched so much. The average venture capitalists get pitched 1000 times, an angel investor about 200 times a year. So, they’re looking for no, no, no. They just want a way to filter out.

BEN                          The defaulters is no.

LYN                           They’re just looking for a reason. So, your job is to craft a story, a narrative that you’re addressing all their potential objectives. So, they get to the point where they want to say, “Oh, interesting, interesting, more, more.” You kind of give it that standpoint. It became even more so in the venture capital thing. Your analogy is so true that these folks are looking for the horse. It’s already proven that’s way ahead, sure thing it’s going to win. It’s not this risky wild west tech day. I mean from an investment standpoint maybe compared to Wall Street it is.

BEN                          Right. Compared to the standard index fund, yes. But compared compared to the risk that you took as an entrepreneur, it’s not that risky.

LYN                           Yeah, I mean most entrepreneurs are going to fail.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           There waiting to the point where you’re not going to fail anymore.

BEN                          That’s right. No, that’s awesome. So, I had cut you off before, you said there are three basic things that you talk to entrepreneurs about when it comes to story. So, there’s the fact that stories are deeply wired into how we interact with each other and there’s a chemical basis to it. Really, you’re using language, you’re using images to activate these chemicals, right?

LYN                           Yeah.

BEN                          How many did we get into? Yeah.

LYN                           So let me back up a little bit. The analogy I gave is it’s in our DNA, every culture on the planet. It’s just part of how we learn in terms of the world. The second part is the mind. Stories directly impact the mind. There are studies that show and actual tools that we can look at the brain. If I share you a fact or piece of information, two parts of the brain are going to become more active. But if I share a compelling story and embed that piece of information six to seven parts of the brain are going to become more active.

                                    The brain is an integral part of just hearing a story, you’re going to trigger more parts of the brain. What does that do? That means you’re more likely to get a reaction out of them. It’s more likely to be remembered. Number three, the most important part is, what’s happening in the brain, these electrical impulses, they trigger these chemicals that get released. The chemicals are effectively emotions.

                                    So, the reason there is this famous study that was done by Dr. Antonio Damasio. He had a patient by the name of Elliot. Elliot was a successful business guy and he had a wife, two kids and a business in his town, well known in the community. He discovers that he had a tumor in his head, and he needed to get operated on. It was in a part of the brain that was responsible for emotions. So, Dr. Antonio Damasio operated on him and remove the tumor successfully. And for all intents and purposes, this operation was a success.

                                    In fact, he scored on the 97th percentile on aptitude tests when he was done. But unfortunately, his life fell apart. He didn’t have access to emotional aspects of his brain as he used to, and he couldn’t make decisions anymore. He couldn’t decide what to wear in the morning, where to go for lunch, what color pen to sign documents with? He couldn’t make any more business decisions.

                                    It was that discovery that was made, I don’t know, 60, 70 years ago, that led the scientific community understanding that the reason we make decisions is based on emotions, not on the analytical side of the brain.

BEN                          Even though we tell ourselves a story that, “Oh, I’m being very logical in all these cases.” Oftentimes, those are post hoc rationalizations of why you actually did the thing, which usually has a significant emotional component.

LYN                           I’m an ex-engineer.

BEN                          That’s right. It’s hard to accept that. I’m super rational.

LYN                           But when I think about it, I’m justifying it to myself. So, it’s those three things. It’s in our DNA as a species, it’s in our brain, it influences technically, physically what’s happening. Physiologically, there are things happening in our brain and those trigger chemicals. Those chemicals are the emotions and the reason we make decisions. So, it all comes down to that. Storytelling is our way to get… for me if I’m telling you the story, I want chemicals to release in your brain that are going to impact your emotions. So, I can influence you and tell you that storytelling is the greatest thing on the planet.

BEN                          Absolutely. It’s working. I can tell. Yeah, if you could just scan my brain right now. So, let’s kind of shift to brass tacks. You’ve now over the last few years, you’ve worked with a number of different consumer packaged goods, founders and companies to tell stories. What are the primary kind of pieces of advice or even learnings that you’ve come away with? Or what are the common bits of wisdom that you find? Oh, I say this again and again and it feels revolutionary to some of these early stage founders.

LYN                           There’s no question that differentiation and uniqueness is the biggest hurdle that almost every startup faces.

BEN                          Of the story and the product.

LYN                           Story, product, business. There’s so much noise in the CPG space and there’s a lot of successes now, but that’s attracted a lot more competitors, big pockets, deep pockets, little pockets.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Everyone is playing. The barriers are so low to get a product out. A lot of times founders have really not dissected what makes them distinct. And you have to do a lot of tough personal analysis. I mean, think about your business here. We get so excited. We get these blinders on. We’re like, “Yeah, don’t you love what I’m doing? Don’t you love what I’m doing?” The reality is. nobody cares.

BEN                          Nobody cares.

LYN                           Our mutual friend Tucker Max-

BEN                          Tucker says it beautifully. He’ll intersperse with a lot more F bombs, to really get the point across. But fundamentally, we all care about our own stories, our own situations, our own things that immediately impact us and your product, your business, whatever else. I mean, people will be polite. They’ll be nice. But the truth is, they don’t really care.

LYN                           They don’t. I mean, when it comes down to it. It’s not necessary because they’re mean. It’s just that we have so much coming at us. We have so many to do lists. We have so many needs and wants and desires in our own life. We don’t need something else. We really don’t need another sparkling water, or we don’t need another energy ball or bar, whatever that is.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           We just got so much going on. You really have to figure out not only what makes you distinct, you got to break through the noise first. And then you have to make that connection and articulate what makes your product special. What makes you the right person bring this product to market? How are you going to do it in such a way that you’re going to succeed when the odds are highly stacked against you?

                                    It’s this combination of not really understanding what makes your product unique. What’s your positioning in there? There’s an analogy that I like to use is, you’re trying to find that white space in the market. Traditional business schools, they call it the blue ocean strategy is a great book that was written about that. I like to use the simple analogy of the white space.

                                    Here in Austin white space is famous because of Kendra Scott, she shares that story all the time and does it exceptionally well, it’s relatable.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           But you’re looking for an opportunity in the market where no one’s going after it. That’s one way to do it. Another is you’re totally disrupting it because you’ve got a unique and novel approach or product in a way that nobody has done it before. The third is your personal story is so powerful. Not everybody can do this. It’s difficult. If you’re coming out with a new sparkling water. I mean, it didn’t save anybody’s life necessarily.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Let’s say you’ve got a product that’s for the AIP diet.

BEN                          Yeah, autoimmune protocol. Yeah.

LYN                           There’s one company I’m consulting with and helping them, they’ve got a particular product that is specifically made for the AIP diet. What’s happening you go to a functional medicine or you go to your nutritionist or you go to a BC doctors that you need to get on this particular diet. You got to follow the AIP and they’re like, “The who? ABC diet.” Like, “You need to eat foods around the AIP.” He’s got a product that is an AIP certified that ubiquitous across the space.

Whoa, wait a second. Now you’ve got something unique and different along these lines. So, what you’re trying to do is and this is the way I describe it, and this is on deep in this right now, because I’m helping a lot of people with pitches. They’re developing five-minute pitches; they plan to showcase.

I’m like, “Okay, what you want to do is you want to lead with your story. Really nail that down. You got about 30 seconds in a five-minute pitch. That’s not a lot of time. I don’t care. Get it down to 30 seconds.”

BEN                          Yeah. And by the way, you can think of this, it’s almost like if you’re a musical artist, and you’re trying to make the next great hit pop song or something like that. But nobody’s heard your hit pop song before and you’re not a known quantity. There’d better be a hook in the first few seconds of that song, because I’m not going to sit around with your unproven band. I don’t know you. That sort of thing. I’m not going to listen to five or six minutes of your song. You’re like, “No, I skipped ahead already. You got to grab me quick,” right? If it’s new and unproven.

LYN                           Great analogy because that hook, that sound that you hear is what producers are looking for. I mean, they’re like, “We like that.”

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           You grab their attention as they come out of their chair. I’ve seen that happen in presentations, people start jotting notes, they start paying more attention. You need that hook. It’s got to happen fast. I mean, 30 seconds in five-minute pitch, that is not a lot of time to get your story out. The second thing you want to do, after you get that story, you get that hook going. Is that now you want to say that not only have I got a great product, but I’m coming with this product out at the just the right time.

                                    There’s this explosion in the AIP diet or there’s this explosion in paleo or there’s this explosion in organic foods, we all know organic is hot. You’re coming together at the convergence of these three trends. You going to have these diagrams and you’re going to use the vector diagrams.

You’re going to show on those things and then that becomes a second part. What founders are saying instead that it’s a billion-dollar market, if we capture 1% of it, we’re going to be 100 million company.

BEN                          That’s right. Every person who’s been in the business for a long time rolls their eyes and that sort of thing.

LYN                           You can’t do that.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           You’ve got to say what’s your addressable market that you’re going after. And within that, who is your core target audience, you got to fundamentally understand them. There’s a reason you understand them. So, what you’re doing is, you’re telling your story, but that narrative permeates the rest of your five-minute pitch, whether that’s five minutes, or 15, or 30, you want to have that consistent narrative going through.

That’s what a lot of founders are not doing. They don’t fundamentally do a really good job of telling their initial story. And then they weave that narrative through there, because you have to get their attention with the hook, like you said. And then you’ve got to show where that white space, where that opportunity is, where the convergence of these trends and you are just the right person to take advantage of it.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           That’s part of what I believe is powerful in the story I went back to, no one has your story and that is your power. So, what can you say, articulate show, demonstrate from your credibility, your experience, the people that you know, the connections that you have, or the patent that you might have or the trades, whatever that is. You’re trying to weave that in there. So, you’re planning, great product, perfect timing. I’m the right person to do this, with this network behind me or these advocates behind me. All of a sudden, they’re like, “Oh, everybody’s paying a little bit more attention.”

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Oh, yeah. Can I talk to you? They’re asking you instead of you pitching?

BEN                          That’s right. Well, and I think in a former life I taught college and I used to teach public speaking courses and things like that.

LYN                           That explains so much about, now I get it.

BEN                          It’s funny, because public speaking in a lot of colleges is sort of a blow off course. But it’s also a course that a lot of people get really anxious about, right? It’s a deep phobia for some people. So, what I would try to do with my students is to kind of chill them out, right? So, instead of giving a few major speeches where all your whole grade is on the line here, we give lots of little short speeches. So, you’re getting lots of repetitions.

                                    But the most important thing that we tried to do was, it was really aligned with the advice that you give around storytelling. And that is, you’re the expert at your story. Right? So, nobody knows your story better than you do. Right? Maybe your mom does. But in general, you’re the expert there. It’s not like you’re standing up in front of all these people and it’s a pop quiz and you have to share lots of facts about quantum physics. That you’re like, “I’m kind of shaky on that, I’m not sure if I really know it as well.”

                                    No, you know what you know you, you know your journey and you can tell it, and you can be confident that you can tell it in a way that is authentic to you. So just get comfortable and know that you’re an expert at you and your experience. You’re an expert at your company, your brand. Nobody knows your company and brand better than you do because you’re the founder of it. So, you’re just sharing your experience and so don’t overthink it.

                                    Don’t get in your head so much and say, “Oh, I have to be a flawless presenter. I need to be Tony Robbins,” or somebody like that. Nobody is like that. That’s not a realistic expectation. But actually, watch Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream Speech. Watch the whole thing. It’s riveting. It’s great. And guess what? He messes up. The most famous speech in all of American history, has a couple of, they’re minor, little flubs, right?

LYN                           I haven’t paid attention, I’m going to see it.

BEN                          To me, it’s tremendously comforting. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have always had just the perfect word and the exact momentary pause here and there. Just do you and when you’re authentic and you’re coming from that real place and you’re sharing your heart with people. Even if it’s raw, people connect with it and they can overlook all kinds of ums and ahs and ticks that you may have here and there because as humans, we long to connect with one another. When you share that story, we kind of don’t trust it if it’s too perfect, right? So, it’s actually okay for you to not give a perfect presentation. But tell your story that you’ve been in, your whole life has led up to this point. Just share that with us and you’ll be fine.

LYN                           There’s one thing I will say about that perspective sometimes and I’ve been guilty of this as well. We get so caught up in our own business, we’re right here. We can’t see the forest amongst the trees, and you do need someone to help you and there’s one area that I have noticed, that I’ve consistently almost everyone I’ve worked with mentor, coached, clients, whatever. Even some of the videos I’m making, they don’t really look at some of the numbers in their business.

What I mean by this there’s this principle numeracy that I teach, is that If you go back and quantify your life or your business or your experience or something that has to do with your product, you can find some gems in there. So, for me, numbers are like spices are to food. Numbers are the flavors to your story, the spices to your story and sometimes you’re just looking for one or two.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           It’s all it is. One of our common friends Peter Rushford, founder of shār. When we were going through his story and I was looking at his LinkedIn profile, it wasn’t really done well. I’m like, “Peter, let’s sit down.”

BEN                          He has a really fascinating, super relevant experience. Yeah.

LYN                           He’s worked for Keen. He’s worked for Merrill, UGG, all these big brands. I’m like, “So tell me about your experience.” We just started for a couple hours and started writing things down. It turned out he’s got 37 years’ experience working in the outdoor specialty retail space. I’m like, “Holy crap, that’s a lot of years.”

BEN                          I know. Yeah.

LYN                           That one number 37 has been a powerful number in everything that we’re doing now. In fact, he’s also got nine siblings. He has nine ingredients in his product he had never put those two things together. It’s kind of a fun catchy thing.

BEN                          Sure. Yeah. It’s memorable.

LYN                           Memorable. I said, “Did you come up with nine ingredients because of your siblings?” He’s like, “Maybe.”

BEN                          Unconsciously? Yeah, that’s right.

LYN                           So what you can do you get someone to help you be a mirror about your own biz to find those little gems. So, you can tell your story and then you sprinkle in these powerful gems, these elements that make it memorable, that make it catchy, relevant, whatever. Such that you now stand out a little bit more and then a little bit more. Pulling this thread, storytelling is hard.

                                    At the end of the day telling a medium or good story is not hard. I can sit with an hour we can come with a good story. But having a great story, that takes introspection, it takes blood, sweat, and tears, thinking of your life, your experience, your products, everything else. It’s just one of those things that consistently I’m helping someone with a number here. They’re almost every other week now, because I’m seeing how powerful it is.

BEN                          You’re not overwhelming your audience with superfluous numbers or tiny fonts in your slide deck with Excel spreadsheets. It’s very key powerful numbers that represents something bigger than just that, here’s some metrics. I think it’s important for people to know, as you’re telling your story, you may be pitching, you may be standing up on stage. But really, I’m sure this has happened somewhere, but almost never will a wealthy person who’s in that audience, walk up to you, after you give this grand speech on the stage about your startup pull out their checkbook and say, “How can I write you a check right now?” That almost never happens.

                                    In fact, what will happen is, you will open a door, right? They’ll go, “Oh, that was really intriguing. I want to learn more.” Most of the time, that will mean, “Hey, let’s get coffee.” So, then you’re in a more intimate setting, you’re not on a stage with a microphone and you don’t have a PowerPoint and that sort of thing. Ultimately, that investor wants to know, can you talk about your business? Yes, there are numbers involved in that in a way that gives them more confidence that you actually are the person who can run that business.

BEN                          So really, there are different layers of that storytelling. There’s the storytelling in the presentation that happens up on stage, but then you also need to be prepared in a more intimate setting to say, “Yeah, let me tell you about what we did here and what we learned from that and how that’s impacted the way that we run our business and how our brand has evolved and grown.”

LYN                           It’s such a good point. Because ultimately, when you’re pitching people in an audience such as that it’s the chances of you getting a yes or a check are minuscule. Is just not going to happen.

BEN                          It’s not just a unicorn, it’s a flying unicorn.

LYN                           It is. Flying unicorn. All you’re doing is trying to get that next meeting. You’re trying to overcome their objections and have them want to work with you. I would contend that, when it comes to what I preach from this perspective is coming up with a foundational story. The foundational story can be long as you want. Because you’re going to have opportunities to sit down with someone for an hour, two hours, especially if they’re doing due diligence on a venture capital for months. You’re going to have many touch points within the partners or with the firm. And even with angel, same type of thing.

                                    This is the hard way to approach it, is that you come up with a long, really good foundational story and then you truncate that down depending on whatever medium, time, or audience you have. You really can’t tell a 30 second or minute story with any meat to it, you still have to have them, but there’s not a lot you can do. You still got to be ready to incorporate that in your pitch.

BEN                          It’s a movie trailer. Yeah.

LYN                           You’re doing it, so you need to have all those as if you’re going to have, what they call in the speaking business, the signature speech, which is 45 to 50 minutes, that’s your speech that you’re going to give. That may not be your foundation but think of it like that. You’ve got something super long and then you’ve got a half 30-minute version, 20 minutes and go either way, 10 minutes.

BEN                          You can think of it in minutes. Because if you’re trying to really craft the language around that, it’s also useful to write some of this stuff, too. So, you can think, “What’s the story of our business in two pages or three pages.” What’s the story of our business in one page? What’s the story of our business, or what our product or company in a paragraph or in a sentence?

                                    You can begin to actually sort of really hone in that messaging in a way that I think certainly from a storytelling perspective. You’re not trying to get it skeletal. You’re not trying to have it be one sentence yet, but there is such a thing as an elevator pitch, right? That how do you get it concise, but you need to really tell the full story first and really get all those details. Because when you open it up and begin to do some of that. I think of it as archeology work, that I know you do with your clients as well. It’s where you’re really uncovering stuff like, “Oh, that’s really interesting. I’d never told that part of the story before.” You want all of that out there. And then you can begin to say, “Oh, I think there’s a diamond over there. Let’s pluck that here.”

LYN                           I call it the story asset inventory. So, you’ve got one long story and then he’s got derivatives of that story and then you got other stories. You’ve got customer stories, product stories, origin stories, different links of different things. One client I helped they wanted three versions to do demo stories with. It wasn’t just for them, it’s because they’re hiring people now.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           They needed to have stories that worked for them in different situations, different stores, are you in a natural grocery store? Or are you in a retail outlet store or clothing store? Different stories might work. It’s one of those things where you really need to have a pretty good asset library of these stories and different link to these things.

BEN                          Particularly in a video context as well, too, right?

LYN                           Yeah.

BEN                          Because they’re different settings. If you say, “Hey, everybody, I’ve got this Ken Burns documentary of our thing, and it only takes 45 minutes. You’re walking into a meeting with a retailer, they don’t have that kind of time.

LYN                           Exactly.

BEN                          Now, they may if your 90 second version is so compelling. You say, “Hey, if you want to learn more afterwards on your commute home, I’ll send you a link.” Or whatever the thing is, right? That’s awesome. They may do the deeper dive and really get invested in it.

LYN                           Part of what happens, I’ve seen this happened to me. One of the first times when I was pitching is, we planned for a 30-minute pitch. Meetings went late the VC says, “You got five minutes.” I failed. I didn’t have a five-minute version. I wanted to give my 30-minute version and it showed. It was a catastrophe.

BEN                          You had a 30-slide deck and you didn’t even know how to process your way through any of it. Which sometimes you have to close the PowerPoint and say, “I’m going to connect with you as a human.”

LYN                           That’s what I should have done, and I failed. I basically tried to rip through my presentation and didn’t do any good job on any slide, anything.

BEN                          It’s like watching a movie on fast forward.

LYN                           I still remember that meeting. I remember how deflated I felt. But I’ll tell you one thing that came out of that, it’s really interesting. So that took three months to get that VC meeting. This was a point in time where we had gotten some early success raising capital, we’d had about $100,000. We’re about a year into the business and we were trying to go for this round and didn’t work. Had that meeting. And then the next three, four, five weeks, same exact thing, couldn’t get raise in the capital.

                                    So, my friends asked me, “Hey, there’s this conference in San Antonio. It’s a leadership conference. Why don’t we go down there? We’ll check it out just for the day.” I’m like, “Nah, I got to work on the pitch.” Like, “No, no. Just come. Just one day, we’ll be there. There’s a Spurs game that night, we’ll catch that, get some cheap tickets and go.” So, I’m like, “All right. Fine.”

                                    So, we drove down there, it’s about 90 minutes and I felt good going down there and get in there. Started at 9 o’clock we pull in and it was kind of this new age spiritual conference. It was Abraham Hicks is what they call it and I get in there and she starts talking in the third person. I’m like, “What the hell am I doing here?” She’s talking about a third person and there’s this wood chuck. She’s speaking. I’m like, “Oh, my god.” They were so into it. They’re really spiritual in tuned. I’m much more spiritual now, but it wasn’t then.

                                    I’m in the back and I just want to get out of there. I’m looking at my clock. This guy next to me looks the same way, a little bit older than me, dress nicely. I could tell same deal. Someone roped him into coming to that.

So, I went to talk to him during the break. I was mad at my friend. We just kind of chit chatted everything else and saw him at lunch again, chit chatted again. The third break before the end of that day. We both found out we were both going to the game. We said, “Why don’t we share a cab?” So, we did. When the session ended, we shared a cab together. It’s a 10-minute ride. We get in the cab. We have not talked business all day.

BEN                          Yeah, you just connected.

LYN                           We just connected, and he asked me, “So what do you do?” I said, “Well…” I told him a story. I don’t know if it was a story pitch, whatever. But my guard, I was relaxed. I didn’t care. We’re going to the game. I was ready for a beer  and a Spurs game.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           I just said, “This is what we’re doing. This is our vision that we have. These are some of the investors that we currently have. Here’s the idea. This is totals we have.” And then we get out of the cab, he goes, “That’s a great idea. I think I might invest in that idea. Yeah.” I’m like, “What.” I just kind of walked away.

BEN                          That’s right.

LYN                           Exchange business cards and two days later, he calls me up says, “Hey, Lyn. I’m coming to Austin,” from Houston where he lives and he goes, “Let’s have dinner.” I come to dinner with him. We’re sitting there 10 minutes into dinner, he pulls out a check, slides it across the table, it’s for $400,000. He goes, “I really liked what you had to say. I believe in you. I think you’ve got a great story. A great technology. I like the people backing it.” I raised $100,000 without even trying.

BEN                          Boom. Out of failure and out of telling stories out of authentically connecting with somebody without an agenda and all the things that we’ve been talking about really kind of summed up in that moment. That’s awesome.

LYN                           It was my $100,000 cab ride.

BEN                          I love it. Well, so Lyn Graft, it has been a delight. I think you and I could probably talk about story for eight to nine hours and we’d have to get catheters and that sort of thing. But we keep plowing through. You’re a fascinating guy. You’ve been helping a lot of early stage folks around Austin and beyond for a long time. I appreciate how you have mentored and guided so many people to really help them understand the power of their story. So, you’ve written a book and I want to make sure that our listeners and viewers know about it.

BEN                          So, Lyn’s book, Start with Story: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Using Story to Grow Your Business. recommend that you pick it up and aggressively mark it up. Really don’t just have an academic analysis of it but think about how it could apply to your situation, to your personal journey, to your brand, to your company, whatever stage you’re at.

                                    I hope you’ve gotten a lot out of this. I know I have. Selfishly, one of the reasons why I do The Barcode Podcast is I’m super interested in all of this stuff. I’m interested in talking with really amazing people and bright people like Lyn about their expertise and how it impacts the way that we can think about our businesses and our startups. And become better leaders, become better entrepreneurs.

                                    If you’re getting a lot out of that please tell your friends. Certainly, subscribe, share, whatever way you best connect with your friends and your colleagues. To just tell them, “Hey, if you’re having some questions around scaling up your CPG business,” or honestly scaling up whatever type of business it is. This is really cool resource and it’s here for you and you can get a lot out of it.

                                    So, if you would tell people, we’d sure appreciate it. Certainly, you can always go to barcodestartup.com. We have all of the podcasts, we have transcripts, we’ve made it easy. If you’re not a listener, you can read it. If you’re not a reader, you can watch it on YouTube. There’s a lot of different ways for you to really kind of process this content. Really, what we do here is we’re focused very exclusively on equipping emerging consumer brands. So hopefully this conversation has continued that for you. So, until next time, thanks for watching and listening.

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