Lauryn Sargent holds a firm belief in documenting and sharing life stories so future generations will truly know their ancestors. This is a sentiment she takes to work with her everyday as Founder of Stories Inherited.
Before creating her own company, Sargent spent over seven years recruiting for entrepreneurial organizations and Fortune 500 companies. She holds an M.A. in Education and Human Development from George Washington University and a B.A. in Communications from Ohio University.
WashingtonExec spoke with Sargent about her company, what made her want to get involved with personal histories, company promotion and challenges, the funny tale of how she met her partner, Scott Thompson, and more.
WashingtonExec: What does Stories Inherited do?
Lauryn Sargent: We help companies and families of all sizes document, preserve and share their evolution or journey on a personal level, through business cases and milestones, or both. We use new media like interactive books on the iPad and traditional media like hardbound and audio books to tell the story. Our products are heirloom-quality and are intended to be passed down from generation to generation.
WashingtonExec: Why did you start a company like this?
Lauryn Sargent: I spent eight years recruiting in both corporate and agency environments, which I really enjoyed. One of the most rewarding and interesting part of my career was learning about and evaluating an individual’s career progression and hearing the personal story that went along with it. And, I loved solving business problems within organizations through people.
I saw an opportunity to apply my skills and interests to solve a big problem that faces a huge population.”
Our Baby Boomers are simultaneously retiring and caring for their aging parents. It’s natural for them to wonder about their personal legacy as they figure out how to hold on to their parents – their stories, their recipes, their voice, their thoughts. I learned that to create and preserve a legacy the right way, required a professional’s expertise – so I became one. Now my company provides a service and creates a suite of products that result in beautiful and professionally produced legacies for our clients.
WashingtonExec: Why branch into corporate histories?
Lauryn Sargent: First of all, our customers asked for it! One of our clients gave their father a Stories Inherited gift for his 60th birthday, and we spent a lot of time talking about his career, what he’s learned, and how he personally adapted to an industry that rapidly evolved over thirty years. It was fascinating. We developed a series of business cases based on his experience.
Secondly, we found we could create a blended personal and corporate history product, which makes a lot of sense when we interview founders and CEOs: the life of their business is part of their personal story.
And lastly, we loved the idea of a corporate history that honors the story of an organization, but has multiple functionality in the office on a daily basis, such as an employee on-boarding tool or as an innovative marketing and sales presentation for new customers. For example, we worked with the families of an assisted living facility and the Executive Director asked if we would document the story of the company itself. It was incredibly important to the organization to not only tell the story of the facility’s history through text, but show some of the services they provide. We captured the experience living at the facility by integrating old and new videos of the residents participating in activities, through audio testimonials from employees and families, a virtual tour of the chapel, the library, the patio: all are features of our interactive histories for the iPad.
Corporate histories surely celebrate customers, management, and the life of the business – but they serve a dual purpose as well.”
WashingtonExec: What makes you different from your competitors? What drew you to this industry?
Lauryn Sargent: We are an innovator in the personal history industry. There is no one that we know of creating interactive books – which use audio, video, text, and other widgets like scrolling timelines – to capture a life story. You can click and hear your loved one recount one of their favorite memories in their own words, in their own voice. You can read about their perspective on the history they’ve lived through, along with academic definitions of the events so when your future generations pick it up 100 years from now, they understand the historical significance and impact. And, you can watch videos taken by a family member in Christmas 1999 as well as professional video interview clips, like virtual tours of a loved one’s home.
We are also passionate about giving back. We are currently utilizing a “Buy One, Give One” model. For every product we sell, we donate our services to someone who is disadvantaged in some way. Lately we’ve worked with a Stage 4 Cancer patient and a senior with early stage dementia, neither of which had the financial means to engage us, but were passionate and serious about preserving their story.
WashingtonExec: What are your biggest challenges?
Lauryn Sargent: Our projects are time intensive. We’ve spoken to a lot of people who tried to do this themselves but never finished, and we understand why. It’s a lot of effort and time to gather content, transcribe interviews, conduct additional research, scan and edit pictures, professionally design and lay out the format and cover, etc. We are currently testing a product that allows us to complete your unfinished projects…like Snapfish for the personal history industry. You can upload your unfinished products and we’ll turn around a professional product.
Everyone understands the need for what we do, and there is passion from families to record the stories of the matriarch or patriarch. But, another challenge is, for the personal history part of our business, there isn’t much urgency on the client side to start the projects. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. I quit my job to start this company, so clearly I feel documenting and preserving legacies are important. However, I missed my own grandmother, who died before I could finish her history. Corporate histories are easier in that there is often urgency to complete a tool for business use as opposed to a product families will use for personal use. We don’t like to remind families that they don’t have all the time in the world, no matter how true it is.
WashingtonExec: What are some of the ways in which you’ve promoted your company and gotten your name out there? In doing so, what would you say has been the best method for promotion?
Lauryn Sargent: Promoting our company has been an interesting experience because we’re also educating the market on the personal history industry and the use of interactive tools to tell a story. And, the opportunity – and challenge – of our business is that our mission resonates with so many different audiences, and our best leads have come from a variety of sources. To name just a few:
– We’re starting to put on free workshops at memory care and retirement communities. We are passionate about documenting these stories and we’re happy to show families how. But, once we show families how to do this themselves, they realize they need to hire a professional! A lot of time and expertise goes into creating a professional, heirloom-quality product.
– We subscribe to publications like yours to learn about changes in companies and their personnel around DC. Sometimes operational changes or major milestones are opportunities for us to document and preserve corporate history.
– We’ve experimented with Google Ad Words and recently focused on SEO so potential customers nationwide can find and connect with us.
– But so far, traditional networking and marketing activities have worked best, like cold calling, following up on referrals from our network, attending networking events, presenting at Baby Boomer-centric trade shows and conferences, etc.
WashingtonExec: Though there is never a “typical” day at work, tell us a bit more about how you and Scott operate on any given day. Where do you start off? What do you both do?
Lauryn Sargent: We try to follow a schedule, but you’re right – it’s difficult to have a typical day! Because Scott and I are both responsible for business development and marketing, we are constantly out meeting with potential customers to not only develop business, but to get their feedback on our corporate and personal history products. Scott is responsible for applying the latest technical trends to our products utilizing the Lean Startup methodology. I’m also a fan of continuous improvement which I apply to streamlining interview and content gathering processes. We collect and analyze feedback from the market constantly to apply to new product and process development.
We’ve loosely structured our week this way: Monday and Fridays are office days, at either Scott’s or my home office or halfway in between (Silver Spring). Tuesday, we have external meetings with organizations and families all day in Virginia, Wednesday is a DC-day, and Thursday we’re meeting with potential clients and partners in Maryland. Of course, we’re meeting clients on their schedules too! Oftentimes we split up to cover simultaneously scheduled networking events or client meetings.
WashingtonExec: What has been your most time consuming project so far?
Lauryn Sargent: Our first corporate history client – and our first personal history client – were the most time consuming. We offered discounts at the onset to account for our learning curve. But, we keep continuously improving and iterating, and our products and efficiencies show it.
WashingtonExec: What else should we know about you or Stories Inherited?
Lauryn Sargent: I met my business partner Scott Thompson when I tried to recruit him to the company I used to work for over two years ago! I know it’s cliche but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.