Because of my marketing background, I often get asked by entrepreneurs on the keys to building a brand. They’re usually thinking about a cool logo design, color schemes, or innovative marketing campaigns but they usually overlook a very simple element. Their personal story.

I’m not talking about their resume/CV with work experience and successes in the business world type stories. I’m talking about playing with dolls, legos, climbing trees and flunking 3rd grade type of stories.

How do these types of stories help build a brand? Read the below example from one of the entrepreneurs in a recent workshop I conducted in Honduras.

New Business

Marlenn Orellana is the owner of Consulado de Cafe. A very quaint restaurant in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It is also connected to a boutique hotel that is managed by another owner.

Over the last two years, she has opened up a cafeteria within the local university and received the opportunity to take over Consulado de Cafe two months ago.

She also has been propositioned by the hotel owner to potentially take over the management of that as well.

Troubled Past

Marlenn shared how her mom had passed away when she was 10 years old and her dad had re-married soon after. Her new stepmother was not very supportive of her and her siblings. So bad that Marlenn had to act as the surrogate mother to her younger siblings.

When Marlenn became an adult she had a son but struggled financially. There were times when she didn’t have enough food to eat but her stepmother would not offer any. While her dad wanted to help, he could not overcome the control of his wife (Marlenn’s stepmother). He would say to her, “I may have bought the groceries but she cooked the food. So whatever she says goes.”

While Marlenn’s dad would apologize for his inability to help, it still hurt deeply and left emotional wounds, bitterness and disappointment. Eventually, she was able to forgive her stepmother for not caring and her dad for not standing up for her and her siblings.


Learning the Gift of Hospitality


However, there were many happy memories as well. Marlenn’s grandfather was an evangelist and would travel from town to town and often take Marlenn and her siblings. They treated it as an extended picnic as they got to walk, with lantern in hand for those nighttime travels, from place to place and meet new people.

She also remembers pastors and missionaries coming to stay at her grandparent’s house and the feeling of hospitality that they extended to their guest. Many great meals, conversations, fellowship and friendships were developed during those visits.

Building the Business Brand

Now how do those memories tie into the brand of the business?

With the potential to manage the hotel plus run her restaurant, she essentially is opening her “home” for business. That spirit of hospitality that she was raised with will serve her well in the business.

It will be important for Marlenn to instill that same sense of hospitality she learned growing up to her staff so they don’t treat customers as a transaction but as a new friend. When they spend a few moments to really try to get to know the guests, the guests will start to feel at home.

So from the interior design, furniture, paint, and staff, the atmosphere that Marlenn creates should be drawn from her personal experience. This will create a brand of restaurant and hotel that people will be drawn to.

Feeling of Home

After all, when people travel whether it is for business or pleasure, they like to come back to a place that feels comfortable. Home is comfortable. So creating that same atmosphere will go a long way to retaining customers. Many will overlook a lack of a few amenities for the feeling of being among friends and “family.”

So while having a good business acumen and putting together effective marketing campaigns is important, making sure the owners key strength is reflected in the business is most important. Being intentional about building around that strength on a consistent basis will build a successful brand.

That is why your story matters.