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创业故事会里的生意经

创业故事会里的生意经

Vickie Elmer 2013年01月17日
密歇根州的Entre-SLAM鼓励创业者们通过故事大赛,向全世界分享他们创业的挫折与喜悦。有人就有生意。故事会不仅吸引了一些公司的赞助,还成了很多产品的推广平台。它们大到汽车,小到威士忌酒,几乎无所不包。

    像大多数创业者一样,这两位一手创建了Entre-SLAM的女性回顾起创业历程的种种酸甜苦辣,有太多故事可信手拈来。

    她们可能会告诉你,她们正在为创业者故事大赛和交际活动寻找完美的场地或合适的主持人。但Entre-SLAM的这两位合伙人、珍妮•巴卢和克里斯蒂娜•钱伯斯-普利斯也会很高兴让她们的故事大王来谈谈。

    总部位于密西根州安娜堡的Entre-SLAM鼓励创业者通过分享故事和喝啤酒来拓展人脉。巴卢说:“我们被真实的生活故事所吸引,”巴卢曾写过两本小说,但都没有出版。她还主持过当地一场电视海选节目。今年夏天她放弃了这些活动,以便在Entre-SLAM上花更多的时间。她说:“这就像电影《楚门的世界》(The Truman Show)一样——关注普通人、他们的日常生活和遇到的问题。”讲故事的人都是创业者,有些人有几十年的企业经验,有些人在上台前几天才刚刚创立了公司。

    巴卢和钱伯斯-普利斯正在拓展这一观众市场——美国国家公共广播电台(NPR)在十几个城市举行的每月故事大赛The Moth、Creative Mornings和TedX大会的观众。同时,她们还在吸引营销人员对这些故事的兴趣,通过这些故事销售从汽车(比如Jeep)到威士忌(Jack Daniels,杰克•丹尼)等在内的各种产品。

    全美范围内还有其他几个讲故事活动,但很少像Entre-SLAM这样每月举办。活动还吸引了很多机构,纷纷提供咨询、培训、摄影服务,同时帮助进一步完善故事,增强故事对于客户、投资者或潜在合作伙伴的吸引力。

    在某种意义上,Entre-SLAM结合了商会、The Moth和MeetUp活动元素。获胜者的奖品从区域大厨亲自掌勺的美食大餐到认证停车证,再到免费按摩,不一而足。

    2012年1月末,巴卢和钱伯斯-普利斯在讨论如何在资深人士培训课程上进行合作时,想出了Entre-SLAM这个点子。(巴卢的职业背景是培训。)巴卢问钱伯斯-普利斯,是否想参加The Moth。“我去不了,”钱伯斯-普利斯回忆道。但她想到,她们可以为小企业家创办一个类似的活动。

    三周后,她们决定成立一家新公司,公司名称未定,但希望是能邀请到“坐在第五排,常常被忽视的人上台。这些人有很精彩的故事要讲给人们听,但就是没有适当的人脉”受邀上台,钱伯斯-普利斯表示。

    两人的相识是通过住所附近的书店店主。“他最先预见到了我们会面的潜力,”巴卢说。“但他对于这可能引发的美好疯狂一无所知。”后来,巴卢成了钱伯斯-普利斯的公司KnowledgeCrush的客户,这家公司帮助培训独立创业者并进行市场推广。(除了讲故事和社交业务,这两位女性还在一起写一本面向高管的书,它是巴卢写书教育和编辑工作的一部分。)

    去年,3月29日,她们在一个挤满人的餐饮场所举行了首次Entre-SLAM活动,她们的一些朋友和几位嘉宾分享了他们创业遇到挫折的经历。

    Like most startup founders, the women who launched Entre-SLAM have plenty of stories about the joys and complications of getting their business going.

    They could tell you all about their search for the perfect venue or the right emcee for their storytelling competition and networking events for entrepreneurs. But partners Jeannie Ballew and Christa Chambers-Price would be just as happy to have their storytellers do the talking.

    Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Entre-SLAM encourages entrepreneurs to connect over stories and a beer. "We are drawn to authentic, real life stories," says Ballew, who has written two unpublished novels and hosted a local public access television show. She gave it up this summer to spend more time on Entre-SLAM. "This is like The Truman Show -- watch everyday people and their everyday dramas and issues," she says. Except the people telling stories are business owners, some who have decades of experience and some who started just days before their storytelling debut.

    Ballew and Chambers-Price are tapping into the kind of audience that shows up for The Moth, the NPR monthly story-slams staged in a dozen cities, Creative Mornings, and TedX conferences. They are also drawing on marketers' passion for using stories to sell everything from cars (think Jeep) to whiskey (Jack Daniels) and much more.

    There are a handful of other business storytelling events around the country, but very few are held monthly like Entre-SLAM. The events also attract organizations that consult and coach, film, and fine-tune business leaders' tales so they appeal to customers, investors, or potential partners.

    In a sense, Entre-SLAM combines elements of a chamber of commerce mixer, The Moth, and a MeetUp event. Winners take home prizes ranging from a gourmet dinner from an area chef, to validated parking stickers, to a free massage.

    Ballew and Chambers-Price came up with the idea for Entre-SLAM last January 2012 while they were discussing how they could collaborate on a veterans' training course. (Ballew's background is in training.) Ballew asked Chambers-Price if she wanted to go The Moth. "I couldn't go," Chambers-Price recalled. But she thought that they could create a similar event for small business owners.

    Within three weeks, they decided to launch a new venture, which had no name but did have a hope to reach "that person on the fifth row, that guy or gal in the dark, who has a great story to tell, but never had the right connections" to get invited on-stage, said Chambers-Price.

    The duo met through a bookshop owner who lives in their neighborhood. "He first saw the potential in our meeting," says Ballew. "Little did he know what blessed madness it would birth." Ballew eventually became Chambers-Price's client, at her company KnowledgeCrush, which helps market and coach solo entrepreneurs. (Besides the storytelling and networking business, the two women are working together on a book-writing cruise aimed at executives, part of Ballew's book coaching and editing work.)

    They held their first Entre-SLAM on March 29 in a packed catering space, where some of their friends and a few surprise guests shared stories of their business setbacks.

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