07 Aug Meet the man who built a business inspired by Second World War family heroics
Rutger Bruining’s grandfather was a great storyteller. His name was Gerard Volmer and, during the Second World War, he lived in the countryside in the Dutch province of Zeeland where he led a resistance group to defy Nazi occupation. His grandfather’s story was one that was not widely shared, and kept within his family, but it inspired Rutger to launch the rapidly scaling biography-writing service, StoryTerrace.
So far, 2020 has been a whirlwind year for StoryTerrace. In March, they were fan favourites on Dragon’s Den – but fast forward just a few months, and they were faced with something that no business model could have predicted, a global pandemic. Despite an uncertain future, StoryTerrace has been able to overcome the odds, and has managed to continue scaling globally during the lockdown, which they attribute to people feeling more sentimental having more time to reflect on their life stories.
Rutger Bruining, CEO and Founder of StoryTerrace, discusses his inspiration for beginning StoryTerrace, as well as the importance of sharing experiences and memories this VJ Day to document WWII stories for future generations:
“I have always been fascinated by the art of storytelling. My grandfather, one of the main motivators behind my decision to help people document their life stories, was a member of the Resistance in the Netherlands in WWII, fighting against the threat of destruction at the hands of the Nazis. Throughout my childhood, my grandfather would regale me with tales of his time spent in the resistance and tell glowing stories of his relationship with my grandmother.
I always wanted to document the tales that my grandfather told me during my childhood, but unfortunately, he passed away before I was able to chronicle his colourful life. Getting caught up in the ups and downs of my own life kept me from taking a short pause to reflect and write down the incredible stories of my grandfather’s life, and that loss weighed heavily on me.
I also regretted not having recorded the stories that he told me, as they faded much quicker than I expected. This stuck with me for many years and led me to start StoryTerrace, which connects people with ghost-writers to help turn their stories into a book, so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from them. It’s so important for people to understand their parents, grandparents and great grandparents’ lives. They impact us in so many ways that we only start to appreciate over time.
With the health crisis at hand, many of us are concerned for states of mind, but sharing stories and writing can be one of the most therapeutic ways for us to connect in this difficult time, and offers an opportunity to document stories that we will be thankful for later on.
I have learned that above all, that a sense of connectivity to our pasts is vital for our mental health and wellbeing—and preserving and reminiscing on our own life stories is so important to our happiness. Documenting memories and the emotions attached to them allow us to share and reminisce on our personal tales – and everyone has a story worth sharing.”
Stories that define a nation
For Victory in Japan Day, StoryTerrace offers multiple case studies of veterans and survivors of the war – all of whom have documented their stories, or their families’ stories with the help of StoryTerrace’s professional writers. Their journeys are just some examples of the incredible stories uncovered from the time of the war.
StoryTerrace is offering a discount of £500 off any package of their biography writing service to WWII veterans to encourage the sharing of these powerful stories. This unique discount is to help commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, and shed light on the incredible, untold life stories of survivors of the war.