The ABCs of Owning Your Story: Authenticity, Beauty, and Confidence

Every great brand starts with a memorable creation story, a narrative that fixes the company’s roots and founders in a unique time and place, with a transformative call to action. It’s not about money. Or contriving a narrative to manipulate customers. Your story is genuine, personal, often emotional. 

Madison Reed fosters a community around the value of confidence that comes from beauty and the power of an authentic story. The company made a strong statement last week by co-hosting a personal branding event with the GUILD, to inspire women to own their own stories. Here’s how the story starts for Madison Reed.

A Product with Purpose

For CEO Amy Errett, it started with an epiphany. A few years ago, she experienced a pain point close to home. After an early executive stint at E-Trade, she’d led a series of successful startups and was also a VC. Her wife was dyeing her roots every two weeks, and Errett feared this wasn’t healthy. The dyes all had harsh chemicals, and the process was crude, with only two options: cheap DIY, or expensive salon ordeal. Errett set out to find a healthy alternative, and discovered her company.

“Our story is, how do people who don’t know about hair color decide to disrupt an industry? We weren’t really sure of the business economics, but we were sure that if we built a better product that was caring, authentic, transparent, and honest, and stood by its money-back guarantee, that the customers would come.”

Together with co-founder Sabrina Riddle, Errett created Madison Reed: safe, healthy, hair color crafted in Italy and sold online and at the company’s “color bars” in select cities around the country.

Errett also believes that beauty comes from confidence. Madison Reed is her daughter’s name:

“So it’s personal. I want every little girl in the world to know that she can do anything she wants in the world. That she is powerful, and beautiful, and has no limitations because she’s a girl. I want this brand to stand for women’s empowerment of owning their beauty.”

Encouraging Women to Own Their Stories

“Own Your Story” featured a workshop led by Olivia Christian, event strategist at the GUILD (and host of The Game Last Night), who led women through the “when, what and how” — the emotional hook that increases the pull of your story. Whether you’re pitching investors, introducing yourself on stage, or meeting in a face-to-face interview, powerful stories can increase your confidence, beauty, and strength.

Heidi Dorosin, Madison Reed’s Chief Marketing Officer, kicked off with the story of a pivotal event that helped redefine her life’s mission. She had lived by the values of achievement and outcomes, always going to the best schools, getting the best jobs, and earning promotion after promotion. But she still didn’t feel fulfilled, and after failing to attain a coveted promotion, she left her high-powered corporate job to come to Madison Reed. The transition has taught her new values in self-expression and the joy of the journey — and also the value of smart failure:

“I wish you good fails.”

Anne Cocquyt, founder of the GUILD, told how the roots of the GUILD reached back to her German grandmother. Through her brave determination to rebuild her family’s life after World War II, she instilled in Anne the values of community and the courage to found a company to support women in their professional journey.

Finally, a few brave GUILD members and attendees took the stage and recounted their own stories of powerful transformation. A woman who mentors girls was inspired by playing soccer in the South Pacific during a Peace Corps assignment. Another found a rewarding career in tech by taking a solo trip around the world. A health set-back led yet another to a calling to educate women on listening to their bodies.

Authenticity was at the heart of these journeys of discovery.

Staying True to Your Roots

The best founders make authenticity an ongoing component in their story. Before Madison Reed had even launched, Errett identified the company’s values: “joy, love, trust, courage and responsibility.” These words are stenciled onto the office walls, printed on sticky pads, and featured at a weekly stand-up meeting where Errett talks about successes and failures. She understands intuitively that the best companies continue to embody their mission as they grow and expand. “We have something called Culture Club, where our employees are on a six-month voluntary rotation to be part of living the culture of the company,” she says. They’ve come up with events and charitable acts, such as distributing hygiene kits to the homeless, donating prom dresses for girls, and handing out coats. There’s even an internal Slack channel called #love, dedicated to brainstorming and planning.

Madison Reed helps us see something we all instinctively know. Stories enrich our lives and community. The secret is learning how to own and share them with other women.

We loved this event so much, we’re going to do it again. But this time, on a bigger scale. Learn more about our session with storytelling master Olivia Christian at our first-ever un-conference, SERENDIPITY.