Do What You Love

Do What You Love

Do what you love and the rest will come.

This was the philosophy I grew up on. (With Valentines Day around the corner it seemed like a fitting blog to write).

My Dad was a firm believer in all things positive long before it was trendy. He could see the good in anyone and anything. He would tell you he never worked a day in his life and there was an energy about him that just made you believe that anything was possible. I soaked it up.

But I do remember a night very clearly when I owned Starstruck a clothing manufacturing company (read about it here) and I called home and the conversation went something  like this:

Me: So Dad a whole container of fabric is lost. We have some unforgiving retailers waiting on us and I don’t know how we can deliver on time. I’m loving this a whole lot Dad truely I am but when will “the rest” come? I’m worried “the rest” is lost with the fabric and there is no tracking number?

Dad: It’ll come Jano. It’ll come. Just hang in there.

I hung up the phone sort of stomping about wanting a better answer. How could he be so darn sure?

As entrepreneurs we know life isn’t always sunshine and roses. There are long exhausting days that try us in a way nothing else can. Our faith can be shaken in ourselves, in our products and in our business. And we might not be able to see it at the time but there is real magic in being shaken to the core like that. I think at the heart of the entrepreneur lies an unstoppable  faith that when we do what we love the rest really does come.

I miss my Dad everyday and his voice saying ‘It’ll come’ is as clear to me today as it was that night. And it’s advice I’m glad I’ve built my life and my business on.

Finding Your Story



When I first started to say out loud  that my new business would be called The Story co. I got some sideways glances. I would need to further explain what that would mean and then I would get a weak smile and a hesitant nod. (Note to self work on 30 second pitch) And I still get those glances, but not as often. Now all aspects of story marketing is becoming mainstay and it has become  the “go to strategy”.

There are courses, schools conferences, blogs all about strategic story telling. It’s thrilling and I could eat it up with a spoon. But there are times when I think we are taking the simple, and making it complex. Most of us were brought up on stories. We know a good story when we hear it and of course the opposite of that is also true. There are some tricks to the trade but formalizing story telling too much can remove it’s magic and perhaps misses the point.

Here is a GREAT STORY … about a company that I have enjoyed watching and supporting over the years. They have recently written THIS BOOK which of course I am going to buy. They were one of the first to jump on the “be happy, not grumpy band wagon”. Being first to market is a valued position – is that why they are such a success? They also had great designers, on trend product and you could find their merchandise where you wanted to buy it. All really, really, important ingredients to their success.  Others have done this too, but have had short runs and success has been fleeting. A t-shirt is still a t-shirt right?

So how come it works for them?  I believe it comes down to finding the power of their story and unleashing it consistently. Their  “life is good, but not always easy” philosophy  resonates.  And it has resonated for 11 years. Their story is rooted in their reality making it undeniably authentic. It also makes us want to buy their product and give their product to others. And most of all it  makes us want to cheer them on, and be part of their story. Boom. That’s the power of story.

Maybe their story strategy is well crafted –  narrative structure perfect, character development flawless, story structure supreme and the controlling idea nailed. But I think they just wanted to share their reason for being. Sell some product. Spread a message that we needed to hear. Authentically live their brand.

So please, do find your story. The one that means something to you, and to me, and be sure it’s the story that only you can tell.  Put the formula aside, let the heart and soul of your business sing and run wild – that’s where you will find your story. Then own it. Own it big.

When you find it be sure to tell us about it. We can’t resist sharing a good story.

PS I just happen to think Life is Good is a cool story no endorsements received.

Building the Story Co Brand

When you are in the business of building brands – building your own can be quite daunting. It’s a measure by which others will determine whether or not you are good at what you do – so that’s kind of scary. It’s also your very own, and you want it to be so perfectly right – yup, pile on more of the palm sweating scary. And you want it to vibrate, resonate, engage, sizzle and shine while telling your story (the one you keep a little too close to the vest). Tall order.

But … an irresistibly, expansive tall order!

One of the nicest compliments I have ever received was from a client, after presenting her with a snazzy new business name, visual identity and tagline she said “you listen on a whole different level”.

So I listened …

What could this little company of mine offer the world?

Clarity, beauty, and growth was the answer that roared out loud.

What do I believe the world needs more of?

Businesses who understand how powerful their story is. And people who know how to own their story. Combining the two? Well, that’s where the irresistibly, expansive bit comes in.

Who did I want to work with?

Difference makers.

What could only the Story co do?

Listen on a whole new level. Hear the story, and find its power. Connect the dots.

(And if you know me at all just the mention of the word dots gets my visual senses tingling. So of course dots were going to part of this wonderful adventure but I digress)

So I flushed out a business plan all the while keeping these statements near and dear. And only when the strategic process was complete did we start the visual identity and naming process.

The name the Story co and the tagline: live your story, love your brand. That came naturally.  Live+love,  hell yes I want to spend my life doing exactly that.

Story + brand – well that was me in a nutshell.

Next up …

Fonts – oh for the love of fonts!! So many, many, many beautiful fonts! The ever brilliant Kelly Hogan, Story co font wizard and design guru said “hmmm how about something that hints back to days gone by to the place where we first got the story – the newspaper. Bam! Font selected. And all encased in a circle – well you know now that I love circles. Playful, unending, inclusive, strong. Yup – needed that!

Colours –  I’ve got some really deep love for colour!  But those old newspapers were just black and white. The starkness, clarity and simple beauty reflected the brand. Wanted that.

And the finishing touch – the yellow dot. (just one – showed I am capable of some restraint). Yellow dot thinking has become our philosophy, our framework, our trademark. That little dot is the hero of your story. It is the best of you, it is what makes you stand out in a crowd,  shine like the sun, and smile silly.

And so that’s how the he Story co brand was born and each day it is a whole lot of fun to find ways to live my story, and love my brand. Always comes back to love, doesn’t it?


Getting It Right

Customer Service

Sometimes getting it right is the most natural thing to do.

When I owned Starstruck a company that manufactured a line of women’s clothing (check out the story here) we were shipping orders to 320 stores in the US and 120 in Canada. Once the order had been received we would call the store to make sure it had arrived ok, to see how it was performing and to thank them for believing in us. (I admit, it was a bit like sending our babies across the street – we had a lot of love put into those clothes and now that they were venturing off, and to check on them seemed like the most natural thing to do.)

Storeowners and department store managers at first didn’t really know what to do. They had never had a manufacturer call them before – which of course shocked us! So there we were on those first calls, me bursting with excitement checking in our babies; and the storeowner a little taken aback. A little awkward? Yup, but as time went on and we earned their trust by consistently calling them with each order. We realized that they loved having a chance to talk to us, and we loved listening to them! Quickly those who sold Starstruck became our friends and loyalties on both sides of the relationship deepened. We shared struggles and triumphs and the more they got to know us the more they enjoyed sharing our story with their customer.

We also gained insight into who their customers were and what they were looking for. From colours, designs, fabrics and price points we had a chance to learn first hand how to make the storeowner successful and their customer happy. Our line became influenced by who was buying it and the storeowners became invested in our brand – becoming the true heroes of our story. Quite honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that!

I could never put a price on the value of those calls and the friendships made. As we got bigger it was more challenging to do, with the stakes higher there was nothing more vital to our success then getting direct feedback on our product and getting advice on how our next line could best meet the needs of their customer. I never got over the thrill of making those calls, and what was so natural for us to do became a key differentiating factor in the highly competitive and fickle fashion marketplace. Our brand began to be set apart. We knew we weren’t just selling clothes – we were selling love on a hanger and success in a box.

When something feels like it is  the right thing to do – even if it’s not the industry norm. (Perhaps, especially if it is not the industry norm) Try it. Trust yourself to do the right thing. You got this.

Doing good, by doing right always wins.

Say Thanks – It’s Good For You!


Thanksgiving seems like a good time to pass along the best advice I have ever received and given and it is simply: to say thanks.

I walked into a client’s office last week and he had a thank you card I had written him from 3 years ago on his desk. Said it still inspired him!! Yup, true story. (On the flip side of that coin I have never gone into a clients office to see an email printed out and tapped to a desk. Just sayin’)

When was the last time a customer, client, or co-worker sent you a hand written thank you note? I hope your desk is just littered with beautiful notes but likely it has been a while and that is why this strategy when applied authentically can set you and your brand apart.

And the truth is we are thankful – we do appreciate what others do for us. We just don’t always know how to say it. So keep it simple. Keep it short. Send it immediately.

Here are some hints if you struggle with what to write:

First, think of person you are writing to, visualize that they are standing right in front of you. Now talk to them like you would speak to them if they were really there. This  will insure you get the tone right either formal or casual however you normally converse. Keeping things  keeps  real and sounding less like the Wal Mart greeter. So grab your pen and think of someone you need to say thank you to and start with:

Line 1: why you are thankful

Line 2: why what they have done for you matters to your business or to you personally

Line 3: a burst of generosity  – give some knowledge away

Line 4: a personal line about when you might see them next or something that you both share an interest in.

Here is an example:

Fantastic to connect today – thanks so much for sharing your time and energy with me.

I am completely inspired by the work you are doing  – my mind has been blown wide open! Your work is changing lives and it meant a lot to me hear about what your latest project.

You mentioned you were having trouble coming up (insert something you were discussing) and I had an idea flash –  (insert your brilliant idea or a link to some helpful information here). If you would like any help fleshing this idea out further reach out anytime.

Hope you pile on the pumpkin pie this weekend and cheer wildly for the Riders.

All the best,


What to write on?

Well preferably a branded thank you note. If you don’t have that – well email me right now here so we can design one for you! 🙂 Or run as fast as you can to Chapters and buy a stockpile of simple, classy looking thank you notes (think Kate Spade) with a blank inside. Then keep them on top of your desk so you can reach for them often. If your thank you is not branded include your business card in the envelope.

If you were just about to pull out the – “but you haven’t seen my handwriting” excuse. Well, think of this as good practice. Honestly, you can manage 4 lines!

Veering towards the  ‘nah “I’ll just send an email”  – very nice but won’t have a fraction of the impact. Trust me on that.  Old school, is the cool school besides.

And I have saved the best for last – science actually proves that saying thanks will make you happier too. Happiness researcher Shawn Achor has shown that when we thank others and look for the positives we start to feel more positive too. “The more opportunities for positivity we see, the more grateful we become.” And the good news just gets better, Achor says “When researches pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep and even have fewer headaches than control groups.”

Convinced yet?

Thanks for reading this. It means the world to me that my little thoughts reached yours and maybe started a tsunami of thank you notes being sent around the globe :).

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