Telling Your Founding Story

It's the true story you will tell a million times over. Why did you start your company or non-profit in the first place?  You'll tell it in long versions and short versions; investor versions and TV interview versions. Do you have your story sorted? 

You have a gem of a tale; you just may need help writing it out. 

  • What surprises customers about your company? (Throw readers for a loop.)
  • What inspired your concept? (Be real, human, honest and anecdotal.)
  • What were those first days in business like? (People like a real-life, hard scrabble story.) 

This is the basis of your "brand voice." It embodies your mission to drive sales or increase donations. 

Here's a founding story we recently wrote for SummerSkin, a Portland, Oregon-based UPF apparel company:

It started with a scarf. A stylish wrap crafted of anger, fear and frustration. It turned into a global hit. 

In 2007, Summer Kramer, was a healthy 26-year-old pharmacist who was floored have been diagnosed with melanoma cancer on her shin. Kramer had lived in wet Western Oregon most of her life -- she'd seen more rain than sunburns.

The melanoma was detected early, but following surgery, Kramer was told to cover all exposed skin . . .  for the rest of her life.

Kramer was relieved and furious. Angry at herself for tanning. Angry at the sun in the sky. Angry at the clothing industry for not selling sun protective clothes for someone who essentially identified herself as "style conscious".

"There are a lot of sport-centric UPF (ultraviolet protective factor) clothes out there for athletes," Kramer said. "But nothing I’d pick to wear on a date or to a concert.”

As a board-certified pharmacist, Kramer knew a thing or two about research. She studied exactly which textiles blocked the most dangerous forms of sunlight without chemical additives.

“Basically, I decided I would create fashion that didn’t announce to the world that I was wearing ‘UPF clothes’,” Kramer said.

She bought a fashion sketchpad, and feverishly sketched. A year later, in 2013, Kramer officially launched SummerSkin through a combination of personal savings, a small business loan and Kickstarter crowd-funding. Anchoring the line was the "Endless Summer Wrap", a versatile, modish piece with a UPF level of 50+. Using a soft spun bamboo rayon blend, the garment was an instant hit.

Today, the SummerSkin collection is 20 items strong and the wrap remains the best-selling piece. The line now includes blouses, scarves, dresses, skirts, pants, sunglasses, and hats. The clothing is all made in the U.S.A., most pieces as close as Newberg, Oregon.

Kramer is now a mother, as well, and could be described as the Jessica Alba of the UPF clothing community. Alba was recently listed by Forbes as one of America’s richest self-made women with her Honest Company; eco-products for family care. Kramer is also a 30-something parent of a certain “do-good / do-better” generation.

Fashion bloggers and stylists are raving about the company. SummerSkin has been featured in Elle France, InStyle, The Huffington Post and was recently invited to a post-Emmy award gift suite. 

Yet, improving sales isn’t Kramer’s highest goal. She literally wants to see melanoma numbers drop in her daughter’s lifetime. Her website and blog are part "storefront" and part "sun protection awareness campaign".

“Our 10-year vision is to reach 10 million people and increase sun protection appreciation,” Kramer said. “Skin cancers can be avoided and sun-damage aging can be slowed. . .  I have an opportunity to change the course of someone’s life by sharing facts about sun protection I didn’t know earlier.”

And, she means business.


About SummerSkinBased in Portland, Oregon, SummerSkin is a line of stylish women's apparel with UPF 50+ sun protection built-in. Founder, Summer Kramer, created the line following her own treatment for melanoma. SummerSkin fabrics are never chemically treated to achieve a UPF factor and their sun protection will not wash out. Contact: / 866.674.8833