Five Questions to Help You Figure Out Your Business Story by @melissatalago

by Melissa Talago | Featured Contributor  

I know a woman whose toddler fell into a swimming pool on a family holiday. Although her child was fine, it gave her the idea to set up a business providing safe holidays for families with babies and toddlers.

girlcampfireseaI know a man who spent his childhood traipsing around book fairs with his father and who now runs a very successful antique bookstore.

I know a woman who had twins and really battled to leave the house as it was so difficult getting two babies into coats and ready to go. So she invented a baby wrap.

What do these people have in common?

They have figured out their story.

Most people who decide to set up their own business have a story behind it. They had kids and needed something flexible. They were made redundant. They had a massive health scare that made them rethink their priorities. They experienced a problem and wanted to create a solution for it.

Whatever it is, if you run your own business you need to think about your story and learn to tell it effectively. Why?

  • It gives you a news hook to get some PR. The press love a good story that inspires their readers
  • It becomes part of your brand, your raison d’etre.
  • It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd and makes you memorable.
  • It helps customers relate to you. People, particularly women, buy people. They want to know who you are, how you got to where you are, why you can do what you do, what you have done for others and how you can help them.

Your story is different from an elevator pitch, where you briefly explain to someone what you do. Your story is about why you do it. It adds context and colour to your business.

So how can you figure out what your story is? Here are five questions to help you:

  1. Why did you start your business? Think beyond simply needing to make a living. Why did you start THIS particular business? What was your motivation?
  2. What was your background? Imagine being at a dinner party and someone asks about your life. What would you tell them? Think beyond business and look at your personal circumstances.
  3. Are there any major personal challenges or tragedies or light bulb moments you’ve experienced to get where you are today?
  4. How have you helped customers? Does it relate to your own story?
  5. How can you succinctly summarise this story into a single sentence or short paragraph? No-one has time to read a full novel about your life. You need to get the key points over swiftly, even if that means skipping some details.

Here’s an example: Last summer I was at a career crossroads and took some time out to go camping with my kids. While sitting around a campfire I had my lightbulb moment – I realised that I love to tell stories. So I created Campfire Communications to help small businesses tell theirs.

Of course there is more to my story than that, but I have condensed it into a soundbite that I can use whenever someone interviews me and asks why I set up my business.

If you still can’t figure it out, it can help to tell someone your story. Talk it out. As you speak, it might suddenly hit you. Practice shaving off the unnecessary details until you have your story in an inspirational bite-sized chunk. Of course you can tell your full story if people ask for it, but being able to deliver a short, compelling anecdote about how you got to where you are today, forms the basis of your message – whether on social media, PR, your website or directly with customers.

It’s fun! So have a go. If you need help figuring out your story, or telling it through PR and copywriting, go to


melissa talagoI am founder and chief fire starter at Campfire Communications. After spending 20 years working as a communications expert for some of the biggest brands in the world and some of the most exciting start ups, I realised that what I love most is helping small businesses figure out what their story is.  I coach my clients to do their own PR, help them define their messaging, write captivating copy and provide ad hoc marketing help when they feel a bit stuck.  I can spot a good story from a mile off. I know how to get a small business into the press and will teach entrepreneurs how to do this for themselves. I can express what other people are trying to achieve with their business even when they can’t succinctly say it themselves. I use words to paint such a compelling story that customers want to engage and buy. And I give good, practical, easy to understand advice on how to get businesses noticed.  Most importantly, I offer a fresh perspective, a sense of adventure and encourage small businesses to think big so that they can live the life they want, doing the things they love. And I would love to work with you too!

P.S. I love the smell of woodsmoke, being outdoors, huddling round a campfire and having a chat with friends. It’s where the best stories are told.

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