Fill In the Blank: “My Company Does _______.”
Entrepreneur|Spring 2017 Startups Issue

It’s not as easy as it sounds. And you’d better get it right.

Matt Mccue

Abianne Falla and JennaDee Detro are sisters, and their family has a ranch west of Houston. Like many places in Texas, the land had become dotted with yaupon, a little holly shrub that cattle ranchers treat as a weed. But the sisters looked into the greenery’s history and discovered that it’s the only naturally caffeinated plant native to North America—and it used to be dried, steeped, and consumed as a tea.

They started harvesting the yaupon and created a company called CatSpring Yaupon Tea. The way they figured it, no one has heard of yaupon, but everyone knows tea. And although their drink isn’t technically tea—that word refers to a beverage made from the Camellia sinensis shrub—yaupon is made like tea, looks like tea, and tastes like tea. So what’s the easiest way to explain what they’re selling? Call it yaupon tea.

That hasn’t sat well with the tea world. Serious drinkers have poohpoohed them to their face or sent protesting emails. And so, to avoid getting any deeper into a fight they weren’t looking to pick, the sisters refined the way they talk about their product. “We like to say, ‘Yaupon is Texan for tea,’” Falla explains. “It’s steeped in hot water but uniquely Texan.”

Falla and Detro are dealing with a problem befuddling many new companies: How do you best explain what you sell, or what you do? It should be simple: You know your product better than anyone else and what sets it apart from its competitors. But often there may not be a simple way to capture what makes you so special. New products can be hard to describe. New services can seem odd or overly complicated. And unless you figure out precisely how to communicate it all, your marketing plan can become disjointed and slicked with meaningless jargon that causes potential customers to pass you by.

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