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。
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 "We are drawn to authentic, real life stories," says Ballew, who has written two unpublished novels and hosted a local public access television show.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.