How brand history can grow your business

History can grow business (photo-Rob Melnychuk)

Traditionally, consumers like what they know and understand. The more a potential customer can relate to a product and service, the more likely they are going to see its value in their lives. With so many small businesses looking for a way to stand out among the competition, one idea is to maximize the history of your product or service.

If you are a second or third generation owner of a business and you are looking to rejuvenate your sales, consider sharing the details of how your company began.

For instance, Moravian cookies are not only loved but are well-known by the history of the product. One company proving this case is Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies, dating back to the 1920s. The history or longevity of a product shows the product’s ability to sustain the test of time and appreciation by generations of customers.

Though you may feature this information online, have you considered using your product’s history as a marketing tool in your advertisement or public relations efforts?

Take the supermarket and restaurant industries. Think of the many grocery shoppers who spend time reviewing nutritional labels and those looking for menu items that are labeled heart-healthy. has researched ten food brands that give consumers access to information on the origins of their products’ ingredients. While these efforts are baby steps toward true traceability — and critics are somewhat justified in their assertion that images of verdant fields and smiling farmers are little more than marketing tools — smart brands are nonetheless moving in the direction of increased transparency.

1. Stone-Buhr — Buyers of Stone-Buhr’s All Purpose Flour can type in a lot code on the company’s website to see which family farms grew the grain. Stone-Buhr’s emphasis is on spotlighting the family-owned farms in the Northwest who supply it with certified sustainable wheat.

2. Coca-Cola — In the UK, Coca-Cola launched a web app that allows consumers to trace the origin of their can or bottle of Coke. Instead of divulging the sources of ingredients, Coca-Cola focuses on manufacturing locations, distribution and environmental impact. It estimates the carbon footprint of a drink, and shows the address of the factory it was made in.

3. Askinosie — Missouri-based chocolate maker Askinosie invites customers to enter a ‘Choc-O-Lot’ number to view the chocolate’s geographical origin, as well as information about the farmers who grew the cocoa beans. The tool highlights the company’s commitment both to quality and to a fair deal for farmers. Askinosie buys directly from farmers in Mexico, Phillipines, Tanzania and Ecuador, and doesn’t purchase beans until they’ve met the farmers in person.

4. Dole Organic — Dole lets consumers “travel to the origin of each organic product”. By typing in a fruit sticker’s three-digit code on Dole Organic’s website, customers can find the story behind their banana or pineapple. Each farm’s section on the website includes background info, shows photos of the crops and workers and tells consumers more about the origin of Dole’s organic products.

5. Chippindale Foods — Chippindale Foods supplies free range eggs to supermarkets in northern England. The company created to allow consumers to find out where their eggs were laid. After entering the code printed on an egg carton, people can view pictures of ‘their’ farmer and hens, and read a history of the farm.

6. Frito-Lay — Another big brand that’s embracing traceability is Frito-Lay. Its Chip Tracker lets consumers trace where a particular bag of chips was made, by entering their ZIP code along with the first three digits of the bag’s product code. The site returns a specific location along with its annual output. An associated map, meanwhile, highlights both growing and production facilities.

7. Fresh Express — A subsidiary of Chiquita Brands and purveyor of washed and packaged salad greens, Fresh Express allows consumers to find the origin of their salad through a ‘Leaf Locator’ on the company’s website. Fresh Express sources leafy greens from five US states and Mexico, and includes details on a location’s climate, growing season and agricultural history.

8. Crop to Cup — Through Crop to Cup’s website, consumers can trace their coffee back to the farmers who produced it. Drinkers of Uganda Bugisu coffee, for example, can read a profile of Peter Guimuii, who is married, has six children and approximately 5,000 coffee trees. The detailed personal information provided underscores Crop to Cup’s goal of improving farmers’ livelihoods.

9. Domino’s Pizza — Pizza lovers don’t enter product codes on ‘Behind the Pizza’, which was created by Domino’s to give consumers more information on how their pizza ingredients are made. While the site does show manufacturing plants and farms it works with, the focus here is more on edutainment than targeted transparency.

10. Iglo — First featured on Springwise in 2008, ‘Woher kommt Ihr Spinat’ is still going strong. Created by Iglo, a European market leader in the frozen foods segment, the program gives consumers access to details on where their spinach came from. Offsetting its Big Brand reputation, Iglo displays pictures of the spinach grower and his or her family, alongside information about the farm.

Want to grow your brand’s awareness and increase sales? Consider going back in time to capture your products’ history to re-introduce the value of your offerings to consumers anywhere.

Cynthia Occelli’s Journey to Business Success & Personal Growth

Who is Cynthia? She likes to say that she’s an “Author, Mother, Businesswoman, with a Law Degree & a Blackbelt in Shopping.” Discover for yourself in this interview that she is so much more.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much are a few sentences worth when the words give you hope, opportunity and empowerment, both at work in your personal life? That’s what I hoped to find out by interviewing a new member to “The BROO,” Cynthia Occelli.

Cynthia’s blog, “LIFE: It isn’t for the faint of heart,” (, is filled with a multitude of relatable life lessons that, Cynthia says come straight from what she has learned herself, throughout her own journeys in life.

I first discovered her blog on one of my regular visits to BlogCatalog. Cynthia says BlogCatalog has been a useful tool in growing her following. She says she prefers to call anyone who stops by her blog, a friend, whether a new friend or returning one. To sum up who Cynthia is, in just a few words, is simple. She’s already done the work:

“Author, Mother, Businesswoman, with a Law Degree & a Blackbelt in Shopping”

(A blackbelt in shopping catches my eye in a beautifully relatable way. Always a woman with the ability to connect with not just words, but the right words.)

Gillean: What brought you to Broo? How did you find the citizen’s online newspaper?

Cynthia: I discovered Broo after meeting several talented and kind writers at

Gillean: When you reviewed the site, what did you see and how did you see it as an opportunity for you?

Cynthia: Well, my first impression was that it is different from so many sites in that the focus is on good writing. I liked the layout, simplicity and relatively small population. The opportunity that jumped out at me was how much I could learn. Watching other authors choose topics and writing styles as well as connecting to the human aspects woven into every article is fascinating for me. I believe it makes me a better writer, broadens my horizons and keeps me current.

Gillean: Having read so many of your posts, I would have to pass along the title of ‘inspirational writer’ your way. What made you develop your first blog?

Cynthia: Starting my blog was the natural extension of my daily life. In my business and social circles, I am always sought after for creative, or obvious but unseen, solutions, inspiration and advice. In my relatively short life, I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of challenge and success. Inspiring, encouraging and revealing the potential in others is my passion. My blog allows me to do that at any time.

Gillean: What is it you do specifically offline as a career? It sounds as if you are a consultant?

Cynthia: I am currently making a career transition to motivational writer, speaker and coach. For the past ten years, I have worked as a business consultant and real estate investor/broker. I continue to work with certain clients and manage my real estate, but my ongoing efforts are changing.

Gillean: Your writing is always so in-depth about emotions, their value and how we, as individuals can better understand them and better use them to improve our daily lives.

Cynthia: Yes, I know firsthand that a person who is able to master their mind, uncover limiting beliefs and do the work required to change them can achieve whatever they genuinely desire. Many people believe they are who they are and there isn’t much they can do about it. I know that isn’t true.

Gillean: Well you have opened up the box, per se. What types of experiences have given you a personal understanding of emotions and beliefs about oneself?

Cynthia: Well, I’m an open box, in that respect. I believe that every situation can be used for good, including and especially the “bad” parts of ones life.

Gillean: Fortunately or unfortunately, I would agree with you 100%.

Cynthia: I grew up a biracial child in a home where racial slurs were common parlance. As a teen, I dropped out of 9th grade, got in with a very bad crowd, and ended up living in a garage on welfare with a baby. That was my first challenge. I made many bad decisions because my fundamental belief was that I wasn’t good enough. This belief underlies the majority of negative self views. In my specific situation, having a baby helped me. I thought I wasn’t worthy of a good life, but my child was, that was the motivation I needed. Ideally, we parents teach our children this instead.

Fueled by my desire to get us out of the ghetto, I began reading every self improvement book I could get my hands on. My mind began to open to new ideas and gradually I began to believe that I could live a better life. Within 5 years, I was living in a new city, going to law school, working and on my way to building a successful business.

(To be so open, so raw and honest with one’s personal details is just another indication to me that Cynthia is a rich and never-ending resource of honest hope and possibility, sent in a care package of carefully chosen words. I wonder if she knows just how significant what she writes, what she shares has positively influenced and impacted so many people’s lives.)

Gillean: And how is it that you have been able to gain so much from self-help books that line the shelves of bookstores from year to year? I suppose, what I am saying is that an average person can pick up a self-help book and be back within a month or so, trying to find THE answer to life through yet another self-help book.

Cynthia: I trust my gut. I will read ANYTHING and I strive to, but I know what’s right for me when I encounter it. It resonates with me. It’s almost as if I’m remembering something I knew, but had forgotten. Beyond that, there is no escaping doing the work.

Gillean: The work someone must do on behalf of his or her own situations?

Cynthia: None of the books I read had magic in them. Great change in your world comes from great change within.

Gillean: There you go again. You pass along another great few words that provide much more than the total sum of words together.

Cynthia: That makes me smile. I try to break things down into short direct statements because when one is swimming in thoughts and challenging their habitual beliefs, complex ideas don’t help. I want to say something that sticks.

Gillean: I can’t think of a time that I have walked away from a post that hasn’t made me think, brought a smile to my own face or made me anxious to read your next post. To be fair, this is my opinion. However, it appears you have quite a number of followers?

Cynthia: I prefer to call them friends. I have a plethora of friends who give me as much as I give them. I have never enjoyed anything more. Of course, my writings aren’t for everyone. That is as it should be.

Gillean: I would hope that most people would feel comfortable agreeing that we all are a work in progress. With this in mind, what do you currently find is the biggest need in a man and in a woman, regarding emotional understanding?

Cynthia: Kindness. To self and others

Gillean: Really? Not love?

Cynthia: Love becomes confusing in different contexts. Real love is always the answer, but many people use their version of love to be possessive, jealous, resentful etc. Kindness has no wiggle room. It is love specified.

Gillean: Another nugget of wisdom for me to file away. You spoke of how you didn’t view yourself as worthy when you were young and with child. I would say that this is a common occurrence as far as emotions go. You said that you read every self-help book you could get your hands on. But how would you suggest someone with the same struggle begin to strip away the layers of self-loathing? Are there some basic steps to keep in mind?

Cynthia: Depending on how ingrained the beliefs are and the personality involved it can be a monumental undertaking that requires outside assistance from a counselor, psychologist or religious/spiritual adviser. It’s an individual decision. For those who choose to work on their own exercises, self-awareness is the starting point. One must become aware of the self talk and automatic beliefs and behaviors that run like an automated program. It is there that all change begins. Shining light on things in the dark is a huge first step.

Gillean: Do you see the way one feels about him or herself as a direct result of how he or she grew up with certain parents and in a certain environment? Does your self-worth always begin with those who are parenting you?

Cynthia: I think that knowing the source of the problem is less important than addressing the problem.

Cynthia: My self-worth was initially shaped and patterned by the environment I grew up it, however had I looked to my past to change my future I might still be living that way.

Gillean: Isn’t what has happened to you in your past a direct correlation to the level of self-worth you have for yourself?

Cynthia: It can be, but absolutely does not have to be. I think that young people are definitely the most likely to be living the self worth that they derived from their life experience and the meanings they drew from it, however when one desires to change, they have the power to do so and then that correlation can be broken. Left to run on default, yes people just go on living the future with the mind of the past.

Gillean: Knowing that your self-worth begins and ends with an individual, realizing there is a problem is huge. But aren’t there often times that even after this, there seems to be no solution, no matter what the tool tried? Counseling and medicine are tools used today.

However, I would say that knowing you have to choose how you feel about yourself is often such an uphill battle. Are there small things one can do that can help direct someone in a more positive frame of mind?

Cynthia: The solution is commitment. One must really want to do, be and have better. One must be committed to doing the work, taking three steps forward and two back sometimes. Your question makes me smile because I just sent an e-book, tentatively titled “The Inspiration Reboot” for formatting yesterday. It is a short, free book filled with strategies and tools to snap one out negative states and launch themselves into powerfully inspired states. The more time one spends in an inspired, positive state of mind, the more opportunities they recognize, the better decisions they make, the better relationships they have etc. Living in an inspired state gradually changes one’s entire life. I learned this during my second major life challenge.

Gillean: First question, where and when can someone find your book and secondly what was your second major life challenge that brought you to a clearer understanding of ‘taking care of you?’

Cynthia: My e-book will be available for download free from my site as soon as the final is out. I would like to have it up before Christmas. I really want to give this gift.

Gillean: You get paid for your insight and you will be offering this e-book at no cost? Why?

Cynthia: I can’t really explain with justice how good it feels to give it.

(Now I realize how much I am happy to be called her ‘friend,’ as I follow her posts.)

My second major life challenge was after I’d transcended my rough teenage years and achieved everything I’d set out to. I’d graduated from law school (top 3% of my class with no high school diploma or undergraduate degree), built a thriving business, married a man I loved, had a daughter and was building my dream home on four acres overlooking the city of Los Angeles. I’d started an acting and modeling career, traveled the world and built relationships that I valued. It was a modern day Cinderella ending I thought.

Gillean: Sounds like one.

(I ask about her family and children and so on. And just as open and honest as she is about her own life, she gently and courteously asks me if her family can be left out. Cynthia says she respects any family member’s right to share what they want about themselves at the time they choose. I am happy to honor such a request.)

Cynthia: Then one day after several weeks of a debilitating headache that no doctor could figure out, my (then) husband suffered a brain aneurysm and in an instant my life changed forever.

In one moment, he lost his memory of us and became severely impacted.

In that same moment, I became a single mom again, but this time I had a $1mil+ mortgage, several unfinished business deals, two contentious law suits and a broken heart.

Cynthia: For 67 days, I sat vigil in the hospital waiting for my husband and our life to return. A year later, I was still hoping. At some point, it became clear that the life I’d had was over. Around that time, I really wanted to give up. I was pretty angry at life, at God and at myself.

Gillean: How do you begin yet again? What did you use as a compass and source of strength?

Cynthia: I met a lot of people who’d suffered unimaginable tragedy at the hospital. Most were zombies, they’d given up their belief in faith, hope and love and were just occupying a body until their turn to die came. Many were bitter and resentful. One struck me and I saw my future self in her. I didn’t want that. It inspired a lot of compassion in me. I knew that I had to make a choice. I had to choose between becoming her or returning to life, bruised and battered, but wiser, more loving, more understanding. For a year, I studied forgiveness and when I became able to honestly forgive every single person who had ever caused me grief, I was healed. I would never desire another to live that experience, but I accept the gifts it gave me gratefully.

In the next part of this interview with Cynthia Occelli, find out why Cynthia decided to share her life lessons by way of a blog, how she has used her blog to help others in business and in life and what she did to take her blog to a more available level on the world wide web.