By Chris Olsen
Several years ago, while working as a marketing director, instructor and advisor at an economic development agency, I watched as fledgling female entrepreneurs prepared to pitch their business ideas. These women had just completed an inaugural business-planning course. And on the last day of the intensive multi-part program, they were required to present their business concept to a panel of mock investors, which included me. Only something was amiss.
I fully expected to see self-assured, well-spoken females share their stories with passion and presence. I’d interviewed many of them for feature articles for the agency. They were confident telling their stories in a one-on-one situation. But when the women stood up in front of a room full of people, they were unable to clearly and confidently convey their purpose.
Seeing them struggle was painful to watch. My discomfort was elevated because the odds are stacked against female founders before they even get their business off the ground. Women receive significantly less business funding than their male counterparts. Women who do secure funding typically receive less capital and less favorable terms. As I combed through the research to learn why, I discovered many of the women had something in common. One of the primary reasons female founders were being denied critical business resources was the inability to effectively communicate their purpose—the reason their business exists—to potential investors, partners and supporters.
Getting Clear on Purpose
At the agency, I began coaching women through the process of articulating their purpose and developing their founder story. The results were transformative. Knowing their WHY gave them confidence. It grounded them and provided a solid foundation on which to build their brand. It gave them a competitive advantage from the start. Because when a woman entrepreneur is confident in how she describes her purpose, her business, and the impact she’s making or intends to make, others have confidence in her and her business as well.
Whyography Workshops were created in part from what I learned coaching hundreds of entrepreneurs. Each participant begins by exploring her upbringing, values and personality, as well as influential people and events throughout her lifetime. This helps her clarify her WHY. Getting clear on her WHY gives her the confidence to boldly bring it to the world.
Once she pinpoints her WHY, she’s guided through communicating it in her Whyography. A Whyography is not a basic business bio—far from it. The distinction is important. Rather than a list of jobs and accomplishments, it’s a powerful short story designed to articulate and elevate her WHY. A Whyography is a confidence booster. It connects the founder with others who can relate to her experiences and are aligned with her beliefs. It’s a vehicle for sharing her true and powerful voice with the world. And it opens the door to the resources she needs to be successful.
Female-founded businesses that lead with their WHY reap big rewards. Purpose-driven businesses yield a greater return on investment and outperform the stock market. The vast majority of consumers make a cause-related purchase every year and support brands that align with their values. And now more than ever, employees want to work with organizations that support causes they care about. When they do, they’re more engaged, more satisfied and more likely to succeed.
The bottom line: Your WHY is part of your organization’s DNA. And your Whyography is the foundation for developing effective business communications strategies. Whether you are a female founder just beginning to build your brand or an established purpose-driven enterprise ready to take your business communications to the next level, My Founder Story can help. We are dedicated to establishing an empowered, confident community of women who are changing the world.
Learn more about workshops, courses and coaching for female founders.
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose.” Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.