The fascinating stories of how entrepreneurs get started.

by | Jul 5, 2016 | Entrepreneurship, Fierce Excerpts, Fierce Strategy + Creative, From the CEO

*Image from charity:  water of Scott Harrison holding his signature yellow jug.

NPR’s “From Scratch”, the show about the entrepreneurial life.

I love listening to educational radio programs and as an entrepreneur and brand strategist for entrepreneurial brands, I’m a big fan of NPR’s “From Scratch”, the show about the entrepreneurial life.

As I was driving back from a Fierce meeting up in SC this weekend, I heard the episode that featured Scott Harrison, founder of charity:  water and Dan Yates, Co-Founder of Opower. Both of their stories got me excited.

Here are a few excerpts of things I learned as I listened.

What I loved about Scott Harrison’s story is how he became an entrepreneur. He quit his job as a night club promoter in NYC and went from a spacious loft apartment in Midtown with a grand piano to a 200 sq. ft. cabin with two roommates on a Mercy Ship in post-war Liberia. He had decided it was time for him to get back to his childhood faith and find meaning in his life—and what he realized over the course of the two years that he worked on the Mercy Ships was that the world needed clean water. And so he did something about it. He raised his first $15,000 at his 31st birthday party and started charity:  water. The story of how it has become all it is today with thousands of clean water projects all over the globe is truly fascinating and nothing short of miraculous.

Dan Yates, Co-founder, Opower

I loved the story of how Dan Yates started Opower equally as much as Harrison’s. Opower is a software company focused on energy efficiency. They work with the utility companies to monitor how much energy a consumer uses and then give households and businesses incentives to lower their energy consumption. What was so interesting to me was their use of behavioral science techniques so that people would feel compelled to consume energy more responsibly.

It all started when he was given access to some research.

Four different door-hanger marketing pieces with four different messages were left in one test market. The overall message was simple: If you switch off your AC at night and use a fan instead, you can save on your energy bill. The question was how to communicate this message clearly—and also drive action and behavioral change. They tried four approaches with their four different door-hangers. One door-hanger focused on monitoring your energy consumption, one door-hanger focused on the effects of your energy consumption on the environment, one door-hanger talked about preserving resources for the future and being good citizens and one door-hanger took the peer pressure approach saying your neighbors have done this, why don’t you try it too.

The only group that saw a change was the peer pressure group or what they now call their “peer proof” method. So simple—and so smart.

Both of these companies are now successful brands that are changing our world for the better. They both started from awareness of a problem and the relentless curiosity-driven search for a solution.

You can listen to the full stories here.

You can donate to charity:  water here. 100% of your gift goes to fund clean water projects.  

We invite you to brand fiercely with us.

If your entrepreneurial effort needs a strategic branding partner, we invite you to brand fiercely with us. Reach out at today.