From the Studio Floor

On Creative Business + Courageous Communication by Michele Perry


How Story Stewardship Grew My Blog By Over 4000% In One Year

Oct 25, 2018

I was sitting at my desk in our little outpost in the middle of South Sudan.  {I’m the pale one in the turquoise with the gorgeous gaggle of not-pale children.}

I stared at the wall trying to figure out some way the impossible was going to happen for my adopted family of 130 kids and staff.  We only had a few dollars left and I knew there was no money in our bank account a country away.  At least not yet.  I stared at that wall so hard like my staring might squeeze some genius idea out of it.  I stared.  And I prayed.

As the founder/director/bucks-stops-here gal of a children’s rescue home, I was in charge of seeing all the money came in.  That meant loads of travel and speaking and writing and meetings and work and meetings and it all left me exhausted and that was BEFORE I traveled 36+ hours one way with no sleep.  It was a run-on life not just a run-on sentence.

I networked when I wanted nothing more but to be back in the bush with my babies.  I wrote regular project updates and my reports had reports usually written on a waning laptop battery by kerosene lantern.  I even put those project updates on a thing I called a blog.  My mom and few friends read it.  In four years we had around 10,000 stop by and read my stellar facts-packed reporting.  Maybe.

I was doing everything everyone told me I needed to do.  All. The. Things.  And all the things were barely eking out enough to sustain our most basic needs.

I see you reading this.  You’re a side hustler, a big dreamer, a leap taker, an entre-maker… (High five, we just invented a word).  Maybe doing all the things has left you barely scraping by and staring at a blank wall too.  Hang on friend because this story is about to get real.  And it is for you.

The wall never gave me any answers, but praying sure did.  (I spent the first 20 years or so of my young adult/adultish life in faith-based nonprofit work. Of which, this project was a part).  Personally, praying for me is about 80% listening, often while journaling.  You can call it intuition or a nudge or a moment of clarity from the universe or what ever you’d like to call it however it fits best into your journey.  But clear as day, it was like this statement blazed its way right through my spirit and out my pen.  It was so loud and strong it was like someone was inaudibly shouting.

Stop stating the statistics and start stewarding the story.

Regardless where you are on matters of faith, the universe and inspiration, that one statement changed EVERYthing.  And I am glad heaven puts up with my love for all things alliterative.

You see, I thought I was telling the story.  I went back and read my updates and realized they were accurate.  And so dry they might as well have been written in sawdust.

I began asking what does stewarding the story mean.  I wanted my words to matter.  For the story I was living to be about hope and grace and transformation, not about guilting anyone into giving… no matter how badly we needed finances.  I wanted the words I shared to be life and truth and to wrap themselves around my readers like a safe embrace.  To be an invitation to everyone who visited my little corner of cyberspace, to join a shared journey.

The stories that matter most start inside us.  When we live out our story word-by-word, our story gives the ones who read it permission and grace to embrace their own.  Tweet This

The gift of a shared story becomes the foundation for connections to grow.  Stories become bedrock for building community.  So yep, Story Matters. {You know I couldn’t resist. It is after all the blog name. 😆}

So I shifted our engagement strategy from merely reporting the facts of program results to stewarding the story of our daily reality.  Five times a week I wrote the words we lived. I took pictures and I wove them together into letters of encouragement, life-giving narratives and open-hearted learning experiences.  Within 11 months we had 40x the exposure we started with.  More importantly we had a community that was invested in relationship who took joy in being part of our shared journey (and helping with our expenses too).

Friend, you may not be running a nonprofit a world away, but the same truth applies.  Story stewardship is central to everything we do online and in person as we build brands that matter™.  It isn’t just about words on a page (although they are super important), it is how we steward the story we are living in such a way to create space for community.  The shared story we create together becomes the lexicon that informs our culture organizationally.  {I’m going to be completely geeking out more about this… and talking about what I learned throughout my masters degree}.

What does stewarding your story look like practically when you are a creative entrepreneur?  I will be chiming in with more thoughts about that, but for tonight I want to point out some amazing resources already out there waiting for you.  Ready?  Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and prepare to be inspired.


  • This woman is my new business BFF.  OK , full disclosure, I haven’t met her and she probably doesn’t know I exist. But when I landed on her incredible, chock-full-of-goodness-that-most-people-charge-for website a few days ago researching conversion copywriting for my master’s thesis project, I about fell over.  Home page, front center is: Around here, I’m for stewardship of story.  Let’s tell yours. And she puts the full weight of her artful expertise behind that statement.  Go check her out.  You will be so, so glad you did.  I’m secretly saving my pennies to take some of her classes once I finish my thesis.  Let’s just keep that between us.  You know me after all: a paintbrush in one hand, a book in the other, coffee at my side and a Skillshare class or academic journal open on my screen.
  • Joanna Wiebe is nothing short of mind-blowing. I fell into the wormhole of her tutorial library, also while researching that thesis of mine, and might have stayed up to 4 AM exploring it.  Again, major future course goals.  Not because I want to become a copywriter for anyone other than myself.  Just because I want to serve the right people in the best way possible.  And we all know I’ll become a professional student when I can afford it.


(Disclosure: While these book links are affiliate links to Amazon, they are titles I own and consider an important addition to my bookshelf and reading obsession. )

Join the Conversation

  1. Joe Belechak says:

    You truly are a modern day prophet. We met briefly on a flight from Jax. We sat across from each other on the plane. We walked together to connecting flights. You profoundly affected me. Your joy is infectious. You inspire me. May you be blessed

    • Michele Perry says:

      Joe, thank you so much for your encouragement & taking the time to remind me of our conversation. It means more than you know and I am so very grateful.

  2. Sara says:

    This is amazing! Thanks for sharing such great advice. And definitely, the story is a big part. Because even right now, you sharing this with us, it probably wouldn’t have had the same impact if it wouldn’t have been that while reading, we were wondering how you were going to continue helping all those smiling kids! So happy to know there was a beautiful ending to that part of the story.

    • Michele Perry says:

      Thank you so much! It was an amazing privilege to serve such incredibly beautiful people and to learn from and with them.

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