Gayle Turner (center) with Storytellers Channel partners (from left) John Whitworth, Deborah Usry and Greg Provo Photo by Sarah Walor
Gayle Turner describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur," and when he runs down a list of a half-dozen businesses — some wildly successful and some not so successful — that he's launched from his hometown of Richmond, it's easy to see why. His latest, the Storytellers Channel, capitalizes on America's growing interest in both video exhibitionism and the preservation of family histories.
Turner coaches, directs and records people interested in telling their stories; the performances are produced as a digital family keepsake. He says that if any town is willing to tune in and give his idea a try, it's Richmond. "We did our first workshop Dec. 9," says Turner. "I have 14 stories now." He plans to post them all to storytellerschannel.com for the world to enjoy. (View one below)
Of course, there have been stumbling blocks along the way, says Turner, who like any good entrepreneur has made mid-flight course corrections to his initial plan as needed.
"I've had to realize that some of the assumptions I made about the business model — I won't say they're wrong, but they haven't proven themselves right yet," he says.
Under his original model, the company's revenue would come from fees paid to conduct a series of storytelling workshops and from ticket sales to storytelling events staged by the workshops' participants. As well, money could come from sponsorships, advertising and selling the narrative content through various media. And because storytelling can open avenues of communication, Turner also offers consultation for corporate retreats, allowing companies to engage in team-building exercises where employees share their narratives with one another.
Getting this business model up to speed, though, has been a challenge. The general audience he assumed would be wooed by storytellers' narratives didn't materialize, so now Turner is working on a social-media component to make up the difference.
On the upside, he's had a lot of moral support to help him push through the start-up phase. "I know it sounds trite, but I'm stunned by the amount of support, assistance and encouragement I've gotten here."
Nevertheless, Turner adds, encouragement from the region's financial titans doesn't often help bring a start-up's bank account out of the red. "We have a very, very modest [community of] angel investors, venture capital investors," he says. "It's still fledgling. It's not that it's bad — it's in the early stages."
Watch Richmonder Richard Hansen, a professional Engineer and Commissioning Agent, share a story: