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5 Stories: The Art of Owning Your Origin Story

Full disclaimer: Originality doesn’t exist.

But the good news is… YOU do. 

At Make Us Care, we consider your Origin Story to be your realest, most relatable story of all. It’s the birth of your ambition and your humble beginnings. It’s the story that can only be owned by you because it’s your real, personal experience. It’s that emotion – that unmistakable, unavoidable emotion – that you felt back in the early days. The one that inspired you into action, because you knew that only you could really do something about it.

Your Origin Story is the story that brings everything right back down to earth and reminds you of just how far you’ve come. 

From a single sketchbook to shelves all over the world. From a vision for one small bottle to a brand that’s funded the collection of 30 million plastic bottles that would still be in our oceans right now. These are the kind of Origin stories we help bring to life every day.

And today? We’d love to help you create yours. 

Step 1: Take inspiration from the stories you already know and love

Let’s kick things off with a quick game.

How did Richard Branson start Virgin? Do you remember what Oprah had to overcome in her childhood? Can you name the tech giant that started in a garage?

Ok, that last one is a trick question (because so many of them did… Apple, Google, Amazon, the list goes on). But our point remains the same: 

Stories? They stay with us. 

As humans, we love, crave and NEED narrative. Our curiosity means we cling on to a story we can get behind and, above all, relate to.

After all, there’s a reason we love an underdog and feel moved by a humble beginning. 

Take any good superhero story, for example. Do you think Superman would have been as popular if it’d been a straight-up success story? No, sir. The fact he was raised by two normal parents on a farm, and that Clark Kent is treated like a geek makes the story all the more compelling. 

Put simply, every good story needs a moral. And the moral of every good story is meaning.

Step 2: Know that you don’t have to save the world – you just have to solve a problem in your world

An Origin Story example we rate is Buffer’s, courtesy of founder Joel Gascogne. 

Why exactly? Because, within it, he doesn’t claim to be saving the world. He’s just solving a problem in his world – the world of social media scheduling. 

In 5 Stories workshops we run, we often hear founders enthused about the idea of nailing their Origin Story with one caveat: “…but I’m not a hero”. 

Oftentimes, they feel like what they’re doing isn’t grand enough or worthy enough or BIG enough. But the thing is: it is. It really, really is. And every time, with no exception, founders are sitting on brilliant stories they consider to be same-old. 

Our advice is to retrain your mind to know that your story, of solving a specific problem for a specific audience, is deserving of being told, worthy of being heard and meant to be shared.

Step 3: Don’t be afraid to answer the tough questions

Ok, so now you’re getting a better understanding of the alchemy of a good Origin Story, it’s time to start shaping yours.

Something that works well for our clients is to stage an interview, either with a colleague or with themselves. Consider it your private press conference of sorts, with a single purpose: to unearth the truest, most vulnerable story of how you got started. 

Here are a few of our favourite questions to get you thinking. These questions are designed to help you take a moment to reflect back on why you started and how far you’ve come. 

  • When you started your business, what did you see that you wanted to change?
  • Has this since changed? Why, and how?
  • What life-long values of yours led you to build your business?
  • What is it in you, your family or your history that led you to create, build or master your business, product, cause or mission? What are your roots—the lineage or path—you come from?
  • Who/what audience do you consider first when you make the big decisions about your brand or in your role?
  • When was the last time you took a stand that cost you something?
  • Just what gives you the right or audacity to do what you do? (Anger is advisable when answering this one.)
  • What’s the story behind your brand name?
  • What scared you about getting started? What scares you now?

As a next step, reflect on how you’re currently communicating your progress and what you’re still yet to share. Start there.

Step 4: Ground your Origin Story in relatable reality 

Ever noticed how many of your favourite food brands tell their Origin Story as part of their packaging? 

That’s because we, as consumers, like to know where stuff comes from and, above all, we like to know who it comes from. Before we buy into your product we want to buy into youyour motives, your obstacles and your origins.

It’s for that exact reason that we all recall the story of innocent smoothies and how it began with three graduates selling smoothies at a music festival.

To this day, innocent’s website shares how the founders “put up a big sign asking people if they thought we should give up our jobs to make smoothies, and put a bin saying ‘Yes’ and a bin saying ‘No’ in front of the stall. At the end of the weekend, the ‘Yes’ bin was full, so we resigned from our jobs the next day and got cracking.” 

Their story wasn’t grounded in science or unattainable success, but in something that many of us can relate to: that feeling of disliking your job and having a crazy business idea.

There’s a lesson in this. As founders, we’re accustomed to thinking big about the future and moving quickly from the failures of our past. But it’s essential to ground your Origin Story with something familiar from your start, so your audience can all identify and relate to you.

Remember that part of what you’re selling is the dream of possibility. Don’t just ask someone to take a big leap of faith on your crazy idea: Ground it in what’s real, what they already know to be true. People want that safety and security. Tell them what’s true for you. Look back at your past circumstances, and offer them the perfect frame and foil for people to say:

Step 5: Help your audience do better

People buy better versions of themselves. That’s one of our guiding philosophies in the work we do. 

We, as humans and as consumers, are far more conscious than we’ve ever been and we want the brands we engage with to help us do good. In fact, we demand it. 

So, even once your Origin Story is written, keep asking yourself: how can my Origin Story evoke trust? How can my Origin Story help people buy into a better version of themselves? Give people a reason to say: 

“I understand why you’re doing this.”

“I hear why you’re the team to solve this.”

“I can see how you’re going to change the game on this.”

“I believe in this. I believe in you.”

Ultimately, you can have all the world-changing ideas you want, but nobody is going to care unless they get it and get you. 

That’s why it pays to go back to the beginning, connect with where you came from and tell your Origin Story in a way that your audience can see themselves in it too.

Your origins are the foundation for any powerful brand story. Your roots. Your strength. Your core credibility. Here’s to choosing the most fertile storytelling soil for your brand to grow and flourish.

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In five emails, we’ll teach you what it takes to build a brand people can really get behind. Let’s go. 👇


Amanda Baker
Amanda Baker

Co-Founder at Make Us Care. I’m here to help founders, leaders and their teams build brands people actually care about. HELL YEAH profit matters but people matter sooooo much more.

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