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3 Approaches to Building Your Founder Brand

Sifted | Tessa Clarke | Nov 7, 2022

Tessa Clark CEO OLIO - 3 Approaches to Building Your Founder Brand

Tessa Clark, CEO OLIO

I quickly discovered that building a “founder brand” is a critical part of the founder’s role. In the early days of a startup, it’s much less about being the CEO in the classic sense and more about being “the chief evangelising officer”.

With limited capital, building your founder brand can be one of the most cost-effective and compelling ways to build your company’s brand in parallel — with investors, the media, prospective partners and recruits, and of course, your user base.

Three approaches to building your 'founder brand'

  • Representative approach:  This involves speaking proactively on matters that directly relate to the affairs of your startup only and limiting your sphere of influence to your immediate industry press. This is the least personally exposing of the approaches that will still get the job done; however, it results in the fewest force-multiplying effects for your business.

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  • “The Evangeliser” approach:  This means we seize pretty much any opportunity we can to speak about OLIO and our journey! As a result, we’re required to talk not only about topics that are directly related to what we’re doing (building a hyper-local sharing app to reduce waste), but we’ve also had to develop well-thought-out positions on topics that are adjacent to us such as sustainable living, the climate crisis and company building more broadly.
  • Brand Ambassador: when as founder you become the — very public — living embodiment of your brand. Some examples of founders who embody this are Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow and Elon Musk. Whilst there can be enormous benefits to this approach in terms of the exposure it can bring to your business — assuming you’re good at it of course — there can also be significant downsides from a privacy and mental health perspective, meaning it’s not something to be undertaken lightly.

How to do it:

  • Be authentic and tell stories - brand building is a marathon, not a sprint; and it only works if it’s truly authentic and comes from within. Now is not the time to be anyone other than an amplified version of yourself.
  • Pick your poison - what is the best outlet to share your story in person and/or online?

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  • Start small and evolve from there
  • Build confidence - You need to make sure you work hard both ahead of time and in real time, to deliver a perspective that’s both pointy and to the point

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