30: Chris Duke: The Practical Value of Storytelling+ Follow
On this episode of The Manage Your Message Podcast host Jim Karrh speaks with Chris Duke, founder and owner of Anna’s Gourmet Goodies. Chris’s business story is so real and compelling that Jim included it in his upcoming book, The Science of Customer Connections: Manage Your Message to Grow Your Business.
Chris did not set out to be a baker. But after a career that included sales for a pharmaceutical company, consulting for several global technology companies, and several years as a director for one of the companies surviving the dot-com boom and bust, Chris and his wife Debbie were ready for a change. They gathered traditional recipes, added a few twists, and started Anna’s Gourmet Goodies (named for their daughter). After a couple of years growing the business on the side, they launched a full-time venture in 2003.
That is a neat story on its own. However, Chris came to recognize the larger power of storytelling itself to build the new family business. He and Debbie had begun with a model similar to his grandmother’s—baking and selling wholesale desserts for restaurants. But they were called to a more personalized experience with customers. They began to experiment with gift boxes of cookies, which did not require refrigeration and could be packaged for a tailored customer experience. They did demos for local Realtors, participated in trade shows, and basically looked for areas of traction.
Along the way Chris launched a blog, OutsideTheOven.com, to share stories about the business, entrepreneurship, family, and giving. By 2017 he compiled many of these stories into a self-published book (“Outside the Oven: Observations on Life and Business from an Entrepreneur and Philosophical Baker”).
Jim and Chris have known each other since they were classmates in business school. Their conversation included insights for any entrepreneur or small-business owner, including the value of experimentation, ways to personalize customer relationships, how to remember and use stories in business, and models to follow for ideas and inspiration.
Among the highlights:
- Why he made the switch from selling wholesale to selling directly to end customers
- The choices he had to make when vanilla became scarce and more than quadrupled in price – and how that led to a conversation with an owner of Cook’s Vanilla
- What Chris learns from people like Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, and Chris Brogan
- Chris’s boyhood experience of meeting the real Colonel Sanders
Check out Anna’s Gourmet Goodies
Find Chris on LinkedIn
Read Chris’s “Outside the Oven” blog:
See Chris’s book:
Read more about Chris’s story concerning Cook’s Vanilla:
Chris’s story about Colonel Harlan Sanders and “The Colonel’s Creed”
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