Why Stories Matter

I was asked by a friend and artisan Meredith Nicole of Oden Gallery to share my thoughts on storytelling and craft. Here is the article I wrote for The Province’s blog as part of Meredith’s 5 part series.


As we walk through our home, my husband and I are often struck by the amount of stories that fill up our space. We love to support local artisans, especially when we have a personal connection to their work.

I started Narrative Communications six years ago so that I could tell stories for a living. I’ve learned that the best stories are those that have rich, emotional qualities, stories that reflect who we were, who we are and who we want to be. In my line of work, I come across more stories than you can imagine and every single time I am struck by the raw emotion we, as humans, feel when we tell a story.

Storytelling doesn’t need to follow a linear timeline; we can jump between the past, present and future as we dance between our dreams and our reality. The one thing that all stories have in common is a catalyst; something that pushes us into, or out of, the narrative. For artists, that catalyst is often something deep inside them, something that needs to emerge or be expressed.

As a Brand Mythologist, I get to meet creatives all the time who are passionate about their craft, their material and their clients. In my experience, there are three types of stories that my artistic clients tell:

megan-1The Artist’s Story: The first type explores the artist’s personal story, their reason for being, and it is often something they have been asking themselves for a very long time. A few years ago, I worked with renowned artist and painter Tiko Kerr and it struck me how much of his own story, and his view of the world, showed up in his work. We spent countless hours digging into his narrative to understand the trajectory his life has been on through his art. It was a magical experience for me because I got to step into the mind of one of Vancouver’s most beloved artist and allow that story thread to weave it’s way through his pieces, both old and new.

The Client’s Story: The second type is usually based on commission – art that is made specifically for someone based on who they are or what they like. This is one of the reasons my husband and I love walking through our home with guests; we get to tell them how each piece of art contributes to our story. When Johan and I moved into our new home last year, we wanted as many locally-sourced, artisan pieces as we could afford. It was serendipitous that I met Meredith Nicole just before we moved when I was facilitating a brand storytelling workshop. Johan and I asked Meredith if she would build us a custom bed that reflected our story and she was immediately brimming with ideas. In the end, Meredith crafted us a bed made from a fallen cherry tree from the Okanagan; we loved the warmth of the wood and the fact that she built in shelves for maximum storage. The pièce de resistance was when she engraved words from our wedding ceremony into the headboard, As we stand beside the ocean tide, words that epitomized our rainy Tofino beach wedding just months before.

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screen-shot-2015-09-11-at-9-08-18-amThe Material’s Story: Finally, the third type of story many artists tell is that of the material. This is the most esoteric of them all, and often requires suspending reason and falling into our imagination. There are many reasons artists choose to work with certain material; cost, durability, ease. Yet for some, like Brent Comber, the material chose them. Brent is fourth generation North Vancouverite, and his ancestors worked with wood. Brent believes that when he works with wood, he connects with and reveals the stories that exist within the material. One afternoon, my client, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, called Brent Comber to see if he wanted a rotting tree that had to come down in their park. They told him the tree was likely 1,600 years old, and Brent knew at that moment that he had a story to tell. He decided to carve the tree into giant spheres to highlight the tree rings and give equal importance to every part of the tree. I had the privilege of helping him tell the story not only of the sphere, but of the tree itself.


Branding MBA schools

IMG_8953Last month, I presented a workshop at the EFMD Conference, a gathering of MBA schools from around the world. I opened the three day conference by speaking about the power of storytelling and the need for story making environments.

Over the course of an hour, I shared with the heads of some of the world’s top business schools the idea that in branding what we feel is often more important than what we think.

Storytelling has a direct connection with our emotions – our stories focus on our memories, our dreams and our sensory experiences. I wanted to paint a picture for the room that allowed them to feel my story first before I asked them to feel theirs. The remarkable thing that happened was that I actually felt the energy in the room as I did this. By being vulnerable and sharing parts of my story that are personal, I could feel the eyes in the room connecting with what I was sharing. I knew there were likely others who had experienced what I was sharing, and this was connecting them to me in a way that I could not have done with facts and figures.

After I shared my story, I was able to guide them through my Brand Narrative process with the understanding that being open and sharing something meaningful does in fact create a connection. I had people coming up to me over the three days reflecting back what I shared. It mattered to them. They developed an emotional connection to my story, therefore they developed an emotional connection to my brand.

Storytelling isn’t a science – it’s an emotional outpouring.

It’s a chance to be seen and heard, a chance to share something that matters and to hear something equally important back. To tell stories is to live and breath, and yet somehow we have lost that when it comes to talking about our work. When we first meet someone, we have a short amount of time to capture their imagination. We want them to connect with the story we are sharing, especially when it’s a story about something as intangible as a business school.

When branding a business school, like branding a business itself, you need to gather as many stories as you can and look for patterns and themes, similarities and differences. Being able to capture those stories and create a ‘meta-narrative’ is what I do with brand mythology.

Mythology transcends time and place. It holds the stories we all relate to, because at some point in time, we created that myth. A business can tap into that power – they can create their own mythology, a collection of stories that people have in and around what they do and why they matter.

Branding a business school needs to be about more than just academics. It’s about possibility and it’s about change, it’s about overcoming a challenge and the desire to make your life better. That is the ultimate mythology = The Hero’s Journey. It exists in all of us, and it definitely needs to exist in the brand of a business school.

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Story Workshops

IMG_8566Spring is in the air – and for entrepreneurs that can often mean change.

A brand is a living, breathing ecosystem. You need to continually feed it so that it can grow, adapt and transform. I’ve been feeding my business lately by sitting down with some of my amazing fellow entrepreneurs and seeing what kind of magic we can create together. Spring feels like the perfect time to announce a new collaboration!

I first met Lizzy Karp in Palm Springs last year during the Loaded Bow retreat for female entrepreneurs – but we had both been told many times before that we needed to meet. When we did, sparks literally flew! We shared our own stories about how storytelling has influenced us in our lives and our professions. We talked about our mutual love of books and of building community. Needless to say, we knew that one day we would work together and do great things.

Photo 2015-01-20, 9 31 11 AMLizzy and I are proud to announce that we are now offering immersive storytelling workshops and mythology sessions for boards of directors, steering committees and small groups that work within larger companies. We recently worked with Aphrodite’s Organic Café, creating a custom staff training workshop that engaged their entire team by tapping into personal stories as well as the larger Aphrodite’s brand story. We convened 40 employees and connected them with the stories that were, the stories that are, and the stories that can be.

We hosted an Irish Wake to honour the stories of the past. We guided everyone in a group meditation to picture a meal that changed their life. We imagined new possibilities through some future storytelling. Most importantly, we brought people together.

Both Lizzy and I are conveners. We bring people together to share stories and to feel. Emotions are one of the most important aspects as to how we operate, and we want to honour those emotions by creating space to story-tell and to story-listen.

We will be unveiling more details soon. In the mean time, if you are interested in having us create a story-infused workshop for your team, drop us a line!

Megan & Lizzy


Power Sources


I first met Robin Bancroft-Wilson of Aatma Crystals through the SVI community in Vancouver and was struck by her genuine spirit. She radiates positive energy, and that must be why she was drawn to crystals. From what I understand, each crystal holds a specific energy, and we are often drawn to a crystal because of it’s energy source. My crystals have become power sources, reminders of the intention I first envisioned when I held each of them. They are wonderful guides in my daily meditations.

When I learned that Robin offered energy cleanses for new homes and business environments, I was instantly intrigued. My husband and I had just bought a house and I wanted us to feel like the space was ours and not the previous owners. Robin helped us create an intention for how we wanted to feel in our home, and it made us look at each room differently. I imagined conversation in the dining room, abundance in the office, creativity in the kitchen – and suddenly the house started to feel like our home. I was creating the future stories that would soon be present in these walls.

Robyn helped us bring our individual energy into each nook and cranny, and our love into the whole space. She helped us become fully present and aware of our surroundings through ritual and ceremony – the salt, the sage, the singing bowl – all of these were powerful tools that she used to weave our stories into the story of this house.

Every day I am reminded of the power of intention – rather than setting tangible goals, we can set intentions that are based on a feeling or an emotion. Ultimately, you let go of how things will unfold and you trust that everything will fall into place according to your intention. After living in our home for 6 months, I can honestly say that the intentions we set forth for our new home have already come to fruition. Whether it was the salt in each corner of every room, the vibrations from the Indian singing bowl, or the smudging effect from the sage – there was power in the simple act of walking through our home with fresh eyes and love in our heart.

It was the ritual that engaged us and the ceremony that allowed us to celebrate our new home for what it truly is – a place where our intention lives.


Power & Beauty

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 2.44.47 PMI am honoured to be interviewed for EcoDiva’s Embracing Power & Beauty campaign. I first met Garcy, the co-founder of EcoDiva, in Palm Springs on a Loaded Bow retreat. What has struck me ever since is how much beauty there can be in power when it comes from the heart. Thank you Garcy for epitomizing the beauty of power.

EcoDiva: When do you feel most powerful?

Megan: I love this question! Mostly because I’ve just realized that I feel most powerful when I lead with my heart. When I first started doing this work, I didn’t always trust my emotions – I thought they were a sign of weakness. I thought that power was associated with someone who does not waver, does not quiver, does not cry. Now I know better. When my cheeks flush or my eyes water, it’s because I care so deeply about this work, about the people connected to this work. My ability to feel is one of my greatest gifts, and there is power in that.

EcoDiva: Being recognized as a “powerful woman” these days doesn’t always have a positive vibe that comes along with it. What does being a powerful woman mean to you?

Megan: A powerful woman lifts others up whenever she can. She doesn’t look for path of least resistance – she walks toward the fire. I believe the road ahead of us involves a massive re-structuring of business culture – we need to create work environments where people don’t have to choose between work and family, between stress and boredom. For me, a powerful woman sees beauty in vulnerability and strength in failure. She fights the good fight and knows when to listen.

EcoDiva: Do you have a personal mantra, or a quote that has been helping you lately?

Megan: I love the quote from Albert Einstein “Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.” Working on my own, I need to believe in that invisible community. Technology has actually helped me with that – with Twitter I connect with likeminded people around the world, through texting I stay in constant contact with my female entrepreneur breakfast club, and thanks to Skype, I can see my clients even when they are across the country. Although, there is nothing like meeting a friend for coffee, a client for lunch or going on a retreat with values-driven companies like Eco Diva Beauty.

Read my entire interview here!

What’s Your Tradecraft?

Take Courage Drop ShadowYou know those people who talk a big game? They have lots of ideas, many of which hold potential, and yet very few of them actualize. Well, that’s definitely not Katie Jeanes and Aaron Vidas.

Katie and Aaron are ‘those’ people – you know, the ones who make things happen. They get an idea, they talk it out, and then they commit to it. They have both started several businesses, and they have learned a lot along the way. When Katie first told me about their inspiration for Tradecraft, I thought it sounded really cool and hoped it would land somewhere tangible in the future. Less than a month later, they not only had a brand, they had built an entire community.

Tradecraft seeks to understand what motivates people, specifically entrepreneurs. We all have our own little ‘sayings’ – perhaps it’s a quote from a famous person, or a nugget of wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Those sayings get us through the tough times and remind us to savour the good times. Being an entrepreneur isn’t just about working for yourself; it’s about building something you believe in, something that the world needs. It’s about tapping into an experience we can all connect with. And that’s what Tradecraft is doing – they shine a light on the words that motivate us to keep going, despite the odds.

ElixirI often talk about The Hero’s Journey in my story sessions, and I truly believe that Katie and Aaron have made their way through the journey cycle and are standing at the top of the circle, holding onto the elixir. The elixir represents the wisdom they have gathered on their respective entrepreneurial journeys, and they are now completing this journey by sharing that elixir with the world.

The goal shouldn’t be to gain as much wisdom and knowledge as one can; the goal needs to be how we can then share that knowledge with the world, releasing it out into the open so that it can spawn new ideas, new inspirations. So thank you Katie and Aaron for planting new seeds of inspiration and for shining a light on the power of words.

My saying is It’s the stuff of life and I invite you to read my Tradecraft interview here, A Modern Day Mythologist.

Creating a Storytelling Culture

Hollyhock HeartA week on Cortes Island with 150 social entrepreneurs out to change the world can only lead to one thing…deep, deep gratitude.

I returned to Hollyhock’s Social Venture Institute last week and was greeted with a flood of friendly faces. This ‘business conference’ is often referred to as summer camp for entrepreneurs, and this year did little to disprove that reputation. For me, it offers sanctuary from the daily buzz of running my own business, a retreat to reset and recharge, and a place to connect and set new intentions. Last year’s post The Prism Effect gives you a sense of what to expect.

This year, I had the honour of co-facilitating a workshop with Amy Hartzler, a story maven who runs Do Good Better in Washington, D.C. Amy and I spent hours chatting about the rituals we bring into our work and how we celebrate the changing nature of our story. We then convened 50 entrepreneurs in the beautiful Kiakum room for our workshop How Passion, Ceremony and Narrative Create Brands We Remember. We were inspired to share the rituals that inspire our work, and invite everyone in the room to share how they mark and celebrate the stories that surround them.

One of the hardest things to do as a business owner is create a brand that people feel on an ongoing basis. In branding, it’s essential to have an inspiring narrative, a strong logo and powerful imagery. Yet it shouldn’t stop there. We need to move beyond storytelling and focus on story creation. How can we inspire our team, our clients, even ourselves to share the stories that matter to us daily? I believe it is by recognizing the patterns and rituals we have that make us feel safe and free to explore our story sphere – that place where our emotions reside – so that we can feel things without having to explain them.

It is up to every business owner to lead with the heart.

In order to create a story-making culture, here are some things that you can do:

  • Invite your team to gather around the same spot each day, or once a week, for a story sharing circle.
  • Host a retreat and invite your team to create the content depending on their interests.
  • Develop brand rituals, things that you do every single time you meet with a client or do an employee review.
  • Simple things, like lighting a candle, can be a great reminder to ponder your own story throughout the day.
  • Find fun ways to engage your clients so they feel comfortable sharing their story with you.
  • Listen. Ask an open-ended question and then listen. Don’t wait for your turn, just listen.
  • And once a year, travel to Hollyhock if you can. It’s a place where stories are born.

Stories are meant to be honoured. If you are trying to create a story making culture, be sure to create the safest space possible and thank those who share. Find ways to celebrate and bring ceremony back into the workplace, and above all – have fun! Our stories are our lifeblood, they keep us rooted and inspired all at the same time. They connect us to each other and help us form beautiful communities like this one, my beautiful, empowering Loaded Bow girls at SVI:

Loaded Bow at SVI

Loaded Bow at SVI


Passion, Ceremony & Ritual


For me, the path to storytelling was an arduous one at first. I didn’t trust my own experience and instead looked to others to help define my vision. Many people I met along the way offered mentorship in the form of advice; specifically, they told me to avoid the touchy-feely trap of storytelling. They told me that businesses need tangible, concrete proof when it comes to communicating their message. They need fail-safes, messages that had been tried, tested and true. They want a formula.

For the first few years of my business, I tried to figure out that very formula. And to be honest, it worked out rather well. I collected stories, pulled out key messages, and created content that was keyword optimized or 140 character friendly. Yet, something was missing. An essential ingredient that I found in my Story Harvesting was being left out.

Part of my job is to talk to people. At my wedding party in May, a friend poked fun at me and my husband, describing to everyone what it is like to attend a Farmers’ Market with us. Yes, we do stop at almost every stall, and yes, we do talk to the farmers’ and artisans, asking questions about their business. Alright, sometimes we talk about other things, like what life events led them to open a Kiwi farm in Abbotsford. We love to hear their story. I see myself more as a story listener than storyteller.

So, when my clients enlist my support to talk to, or rather listen to, their staff, their clients and their friends, I take that very seriously. I’m not looking for a sound bite or a twitter post, I’m looking for something deeper, something pure and from the heart. When I find it, I know. I can’t go in with a list of questions and force that truth-telling to take place. I need to let my own guard down, share my vulnerability, and create a space where trust is present and stories are honoured.

In recent talks with friends and fellow entrepreneurs, we’ve talked a lot about ceremony and ritual. We talk about how we miss out on moments of celebration; we forget to acknowledge a new piece of wisdom, or we downplay a victory for fear of tooting our own horn. Yet, ceremony and ritual is how we get to fully absorb our significance, our contribution to the world. I now try and carve out time every week to honour my own growth, and to celebrate that growth with my community. Having a Breakfast Club with four other inspirational female entrepreneurs is a giant leap in the right direction :)

My interest in Mythology is deeply rooted in ceremony and ritual, and my goal for this year is to weave more of that into the work I do for others. In a few weeks, Amy Hartzler and I will co-present a workshop at Hollyhock’s Social Venture Institute on this very topic, and I will honour the occasion by having a moment of quiet amongst the old growth trees, absorbing the wisdom that flows in and out of each of us.

Walking the Hill

In Irish mythology, there is an ancient tale that when two people fall in love and decide to commit their lives to each other, they meet at sunrise on either side of a hill. They then walk up that hill separately, considering everything that makes them who they are. They think about their hopes and their dreams, their challenges and their fears. When they get to the top, they come together and share what they have discovered. They then talk about what their life will look like together, what they both want for their future and what obstacles they may encounter. As the sun sets, they walk down the hill together, hand in hand, as a sign of their commitment to both themselves as individuals and to each other as a couple. They then celebrate this commitment with those they love. From then on, every year on the same day they walk the hill as a symbol of their commitment.  

View More: http://thenickersons.pass.us/megan--johan

This myth is particularly important to me and Johan because it symbolizes a marriage that allows both people to hold true to their individual spirit, while encouraging the other to pursue their dreams. On April 26th, this story was told during our wedding vows as our rings were passed from person to person in a beautiful Ring Warming ceremony. Our rings were created by our friends Gen and Kevin of Hume Atelier with this Irish myth in mind.

View More: http://thenickersons.pass.us/megan--johanMine is a puzzle ring, two rings in one. The interior ring holds two points that represent each of us, the exterior ring holds a cross that for us symbolizes the hill we walked up and the hill we walked down. The centre part of the ring is where our commitment took place. It is an amazing thing to have a ring made just for you. It is even more powerful when it holds the spirit of a story told for hundreds of years and one that is so meaningful to us.

When Johan and I decided to get married, we knew that we wanted the event to bring our families together. Half of our guests were travelling from Sweden and so we wanted to invite them to experience the local culture. Tofino was the perfect setting to reflect our passion for local business – from seasonal food to micro brew, we incorporated the local community into every part of our weekend.

First, we hired Sheila and Shannon from Rare Earth to help us bring our vision to life. We indulged in amazing farm-to-table food and drinks from Red Can, Tofino Coffee and Tofino Brewing. We took to the seas with Ocean Outfitters, and we rested our heads at the magical Pacific Sands. We hired Sol Maya, a local glass artist, to create glass starfish for our guests, acting as both table decor and a gift to remember the weekend. And we had the most amazing photographers, The Nickersons, capturing the beautiful moments of our day. Every decision we made was intentional and echoed our passion for building community and sharing story.

What you get when you support local business is so much more than a transaction – you build friendships, share laughs, receive advice and connect with people on an emotional level. We are so grateful for everyone that came together to make our wedding so special.

There are many versions of marriage, and many ways to throw a wedding. We are all telling our own story and that is what makes it all so unbelievably special. Surrounding yourself with a community that supports you gives you the strength you need to create the story you have always wanted to live.



My Loaded Bow

Armed with Community. 

Just over a year ago, I was invited to an evening called Loaded Bow. I didn’t know what to expect; all that I was told was that it was an evening for women entrepreneurs, and that I should bring a fellow female entrepreneur along. I brought my dear friend Theodora Lamb and proceeded to have one of the most memorable nights of the year, ten of us sharing our ‘Stories of Love’ and connecting on what it means to be a female business owner. It was the first of many beautiful nights with this community.

Photo by Caroline Boquist

Photo by Caroline Boquist

That first evening, I walked into a beautiful, new world. This world has introduced me to some of my closest friends, including Gen and Zoe, the founders of Loaded Bow. They started this experiment four years ago, self admittedly as a way to make new, awesome friends in Vancouver’s entrepreneurial space. Gen runs Hume Atelier, a bespoke jewellery studio with her husband Kevin, and Zoe Pawlak is a painter and collaborator, creating beautiful works of art in many different forms.

So much loves goes into and comes out of this community, so it was without hesitation that I said yes to a four day Loaded Bow retreat in Palm Springs this past weekend. 25 women gathered at the Ace Hotel (yes, it felt like a movie set!) for what can only be described as a Meeting of the Hearts. The theme of the weekend was Story, and four of us were invited to craft workshops that inspire storytelling.


#1. Tell Me a Story. Lizzy Karp, of Raincity Chronicles, led us into the psyche of story listening, teaching us how we can craft questions that ignite curiosity. She reminded us that asking a question in a certain way can trigger memories and offer responses cloaked in emotion and intrigue.

#2. Archetype & Myth. I led the group through a personal Archetype experience, landing on an archetype that each person identifies with and a challenge getting in the way of fully becoming it. Then, I took everyone through the Hero’s Journey and we positioned ourselves in the circle, at one of the 12 stages of transformation. It was reassuring, to see so many others on the same journey.

#3. The C-Spot. Thara Viyali, Naturopath to many of us there, invited us into the story of stress. She asked us to consider our own relationship to stress and taught us about the effects of Cortisol and how we can find our own ‘C-spot’ by understanding how our body reacts to stress.

#4. Remembering the Future. Finally, Chloe Gow-Jarrett of Lululemon led us 20 years into the future where we connected with our future selves who then shared wisdom and insight based on ‘our’ life experiences.

Between all of that, we were privileged to have Lauren Roegele lead us in yoga and breathing exercises, harnessing the power of our individual story and collective experience throughout the weekend. It was nothing short of perfection the way that everyone wove into the tapestry curated by Gen and Zoe. I have never experienced the beauty of female friendship quite like this – it was a lightning bolt of love and a real, honest moment in time. It also didn’t hurt that we were in ultra hip land at the vibrant Ace Hotel where the party never stops despite the 108′ desert heat.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to this beautiful community who continues to nourish every part of my world.

Photo by Jessica Karalash, Kurate Style

Photo by Jessica Karalash, kuratestyle.com