Telling the story behind the product

If you're selling products to the public, do you tell the story behind them?

A dynamic and otherwise entrepreneurial social enterprise may be missing a trick by not doing so. The enterprise in question is a furniture re-use scheme - providing training and work experience for people disadvantaged in the jobs market through disability, age, and ex-offender status.


Creating mirrors with style 


There's not much of a market for pieces of second-hand furniture with mirrors on top, so they sell the mirrors separately. But these are no ordinary mirrors - they're hand-painted by trainees in the project, some creating underwater scenes - and the result is that each old mirror is given a new lease of life as a real work of art.


Handsome as they are, the mirrors have no labels or other information to tell the story behind the product. Explaining that they've been been hand-painted painted by ex-offenders, re-furbished from donated furniture, with proceeds from the sale helping to sustain the enterprise adds real value. Such information - displayed on the back of the mirror - could clinch a sale and would surely increase the asking price.


Selling on quality, not sentiment  


The furniture re-use scheme left the labels off their mirrors by default rather than by design, but some social enterprises make a conscious decision not to tell the story behind the product. They want the products to be appreciated for their craftwork; they want to focus on the ability of their trainees - not their disabilities. They want sales to be based on quality, not sentiment.


While respecting such a principled stand, it flies in the face of commercial sense. It negates a unique selling point - something to distinguish such products from the competition. Sensitively telling the story behind each product - with the agreement of the producers - would not only raise more money to sustain the enterprise, but could also raise the self-esteem of those trainees.