IAM1814 – Founder Helps Her Clients Write Their Amazing Life Stories

Podcast Interview with Lauren Befus

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the CEO Chat Podcast + I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless speaks with Lauren Befus, the founder and chief historian of Memory Lane Jane. Lauren works with individuals and families to preserve their loved one's life stories and legacies.

Lauren’s company is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she lives with her husband and four kids, but she travels around the country interviewing and working with life story clients.

Throughout the episode, Lauren shares the amazing fulfillment she and her clients felt, as she uncovers their incredible life story.

Overall, this episode provides valuable resources on CEO Hacks and CEO Nuggets that Michelle shared, making her business more efficient and successful.

Check out one of our favorite CEO Hack’s CEO Web Shop. Get your free audiobook and check out more of our favorite CEO Hacks HERE.

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Lauren Befus Teaser 00:00

There's something in sharing your stories face to face. I would say, especially face to face, it's so powerful. I don't know if anything replaces it or if there is any better way to break down barriers than that.

Intro 00:17

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:44

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we've hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for our CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, just like you, what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focusing on CEO Hacks and CEO Nuggets. This is by far one of my favorite questions I asked on the show. In other words, I asked what are the apps, books, and habits that make you more effective and efficient. Those were the CEO Hacks. Then I asked for a word of wisdom or a piece of advice or something that you might tell your younger business self if you were to hop into a time machine and those were the CEO Nuggets.

That's what we'll focus on this month and some of the top ones that can instantly impact your business. I love all the questions, but with every episode, I felt I would walk away with something I could look at and implement right there to save precious resources, time and money. Or I would also learn about the advice, tips, and tidbits or tools of the trade on how to level up our organization. So you'll hear some of these this month. So sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Lauren Befus of Memory Lane Jane. Lauren, it's great to have you on the show.

Lauren Befus 02:19

Thank you. Thanks. It's so great to be here. I'm excited.

Gresham Harkless 02:22

Yes, definitely excited as well to have you on the show, hear about all the awesome things that you're doing. Before we jumped into the interview, I want to read a little bit more about Lauren so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Lauren is the founder and chief historian of Memory Lane Jane, a national life story-writing company that partners with individuals and families to preserve their loved ones life stories and legacies, and custom heirloom books. Lauren's company is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she lives with her husband, and four kids, but she travels around the country interviewing and working with life story clients.

Lauren, super excited to have you again on the show and hear about all the awesome things that you're doing. Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Lauren Befus 03:00

Yes, I'm ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:02

Awesome. Let's do it then. So since you're always asking everybody about their stories and hearing all those backgrounds, I wanted to flip the script a little bit, hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story. What let you get started with all the awesome work you're doing.

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Lauren Befus 03:13

Great. Thank you. Yes, I know it is always nice to be asked questions because I am always the one inquiring about everybody else. I like to share about me. So yeah, let's see, so I started Memory Lane Jane in 2017 and that was just after such a long journey and I won't go into all the details and but just briefly, I Went to school. I went to college for writing and journalism and got a job as a rookie newspaper reporter right out of school and started meeting a bunch of World War Two veterans.

Their stories were so incredible and they had never told anybody. Nobody knew. Sometimes their wives would smack them on the shoulder and say, you've never told me that, we've been married for 40 years. So I just planted a seed in me there because I was thinking, wow, nobody's going to know these stories if they aren't recorded, if they're not asked. So I just started on the side, going with an old tape recorder, you press the 2 buttons down and put it in front of them. I would do that when I had a day off or whatever, I would just go sit with these guys and ask questions and record it for their family.

So that was the beginning of me just realizing, wow, there are so many stories out there that are incredible and not just world war two veterans, everybody. Their story, especially of your family matters. That was gosh, 22 years ago. And so I went and moved into different writing jobs and still just have this over the years. This kind of, oh, there's something here. I don't know what it is and so a bunch more experiences. Then about 10 years ago, my husband's grandfather said to me, gosh, I really want to tell my story. He has a huge family. I want to tell my kind of the patriarch of the family. I want to tell my story to my kids and grandkids. I want them to know.

So he said, I know how to write an interview. He said all I know how to do is talk. Do you think that we could do something here? Put it in this beautiful hardcover, full color, 150-160 page book. And he didn't tell anybody in the family. I think we had 45 of them printed and then he surprised everyone at our family Christmas gathering and they all opened them up at the same time and it just brought the house down. It was incredible. Everyone was crying and just couldn't believe it. And I think for him it was this validation of his life. So anyway, at that moment I knew this is what I want to do. This is what I just think every family should have a book like this of their stories.

Gresham Harkless 06:01

I appreciate you so much for sharing that and so many times I always say that when you tell your story so many times, there are so many stories that are wrapped into it and sometimes we're in silos. I absolutely am a journalist at heart. So much of that resonated with me because I love a tv show, I think it was like a segment. Maybe everybody has a story and it would take unimposing people and talk about their story and all the awesome things that you're doing. I thought that was beautiful.

Lauren Befus 06:28

Yeah, it's incredible. It really is. There's something so powerful about looking in someone's eyes when they're telling you their story and you learn how they came to believe what they believe and you might not agree with it, but it's been humanized. And they're a human being that you suddenly come to love and care for, and maybe you don't agree, but there's something in sharing your stories face to face.

I would say, especially face to face that just it's so powerful. I don't know if anything replaces it, or if there is any better way to break down barriers than that. So, I'm a little biased.

Gresham Harkless 07:05

Yeah, I'm biased as well too. So you have me in that camp too. So I definitely will co-sign and agree to that. I wanted to drill down a little bit. I know we touched on a little bit about how you work with your clients. Could you take us through a little bit more on your process and how you start the client you work with?

Lauren Befus 07:19

Sure. Sure. Yeah. So I'm in the middle, about three-four years in now of realizing, wow, I started out with one process and I'm doing some refining now because you don't know until. But typically, I will meet with a potential client and then we go through what is our vision for this book. What do we want it to look like? Do you know how many hours of interviews that kind of thing? And so that ranges. That could be 6 to 30 hours. Or whatever they want. Then once we get the green light for it, I will just start interviewing and we break that up over chunks.

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I usually say, 90 minutes, 2 hours. That's all people have to go down memory lane. It's exhausting and so we break that up over time. Then I get all of those transcribed and then I work with some amazing, I have a writing team, 3 different writers. So I almost compare it to throwing down a 5, 000 piece puzzle on the table. You have all the pieces there, but you're putting them together and weaving them. We're trying to keep their voice intact so that you can say, I hear my grandmother telling the story. But that it's cohesive and it's something that is enjoyable to read. We don't talk like how we read.

That needs a lot of work. So my team puts that together. Sometimes it's me. It's a lot of work. Fairly collaborative. And then at the same time, we're gathering pictures and mementos, working together. Then we send it off to a really great short-run printer. That's typically how it works. That would be from start to finish.

Gresham Harkless 08:55

Awesome. Awesome. Appreciate you sharing that. And also too, I love that kind of analogy of the puzzle pieces, because it seems like it really can be lack of a better term, custom design, according to that person, their voice, their experiences, and I really love that creativity that I imagine comes about from that.

So I wanted to ask you, you might've already touched on this, but what I wanted to ask you for is what I call your secret sauce. This could be yourself individually, the business, or a combination of both, but what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Lauren Befus 09:22

Ooh, that's a great question. I love good questions. I think for me, and I always hate saying this because I don't want it to come across as arrogant, but I honestly think the secret sauce is me. I love people and I love their stories. There are some kind of big box options to preserve your stories and they're great. I think however you can preserve your story, you do it. There's shopping at a Target or which is great, target is great, but then there's this more personalized kind of personal shopping experience where you would go and you're treated to this high-end experience.

I would say that's what Memory Lane Jane is. It's this very custom intimate, I know I hate to keep saying experience, but it really is. I need maybe a better different word, but I think, most of our clients will say, besides actually getting the finished book, their favorite part of the whole process is just the time spent doing interviews and that's with me, I do the interview. So that's the one thing that I haven't yet, and that's part of growing and learning when to give things away and train up people and I'm learning that. But yeah it is just a very custom personal experience.

I think part of your secret sauce should be you. You're bringing the passion, you're bringing the vision. And so I think I'm able because I'm so obsessed with this in what I do, then I think that's contagious. So it's, I think a unique experience for our clients and a unique experience for my staff. Because we think we're doing the best work in the whole world, and that is coming from me, the leader, you know, going on and on and on about how amazing this is. So, yeah.

Gresham Harkless 11:20

Nice. I love that secret sauce, and, I can definitely see how that would be something you would zero in on. And I think the ability to be able to, of course, see that within yourself, but also be able to get that out of other people as well too, I imagine during these interviews, is extremely powerful. Being able to provide those I was thinking of concierge-type services, it sounds super where you get that experience that you can't get anywhere else as you would want because your life is unlike anybody else's.

So you want to make sure that you get that concierge experience so that you can share your story and leave a legacy and do so many of those awesome things. So I absolutely love that.

Lauren Befus 11:52

Yes, that's great. I've used that word in the past and have had it for a while. So thank you for that reminder.

Gresham Harkless 11:57

There we go.

Lauren Befus 11:58

It's exactly that. Yeah.

Gresham Harkless 12:00

Is it awesome. I love that. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I want to ask you for what I call a CEO Hack. This could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Lauren Befus 12:12

That's a great question, too. So I read this book and I'm totally going to vouch for the author. So it's called Deep Work, a little while ago. It was fabulous. So I'm a very distracted person. I'm all over the place. And so he talks about where you just set up these short kind of sessions of deep work. Your phone is off. Internet is up and this is a particularly for me.

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I think as a writer, I have to have creative thinker and I have to have these just really structured times where I can't be distracted and do anything else. So, that has been I'm trying to find the author really quick too, because it just the book was so

Gresham Harkless 12:57

Cal Newport.

Lauren Befus 12:59

Yes. Yes. Thank you. So that has been really huge. I would say. So Cal Newport Deep Works. Then the other book, the War of Art has been huge for me to just realize that there is cause. I'm like, why is that work hard? Why is creating hard? I sometimes feel like maybe I'm just not meant to be a creator. Maybe this is just me but this whole book, the War of Art talks about how, this is a universal thing. It's like there's resistance all the time to creating and doing amazing, beautiful things.

Gresham Harkless 13:37

Absolutely it's not hard just for you. So, you might've already touched on this, but I want to ask you now for what I call CEO Nugget. So this is a little bit more of a word of wisdom or piece of advice. It might be something if you were to hop into a time machine, you would tell your younger business self.

Lauren Befus 13:51

I have this kind of this nagging feeling a lot, which I know a lot of people talk about as imposter syndrome and that, Oh, you're not really cut out for this. If people really knew right, that they'd never hire you or your company. I think that's a big one that I've, again, have learned that is through community that is a universal experience and thought.

I wouldn't know that if I hadn't been honest about that feeling and talked to others and read and listen to podcasts and so I think that would know that everybody feels this way. You do amazing work.

Gresham Harkless 14:31

That's a huge nugget. And you alluded to that is we realize that sometimes the people we look up to, the people that are most quote and quote successful and however we define that, have that and they the only difference is that they continued on.

So once you start to do that and you start to realize that you can, as we're talking, write our story of success, that's one of the most powerful things we have to remind ourselves of.

Lauren Befus 14:51

It's true. Yep. I totally agree.

Gresham Harkless 14:55

Awesome. So I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote, CEOs on this show.

So Lauren, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Lauren Befus 15:04

I've found something that I think is incredibly important and needs to happen in our world, and so I have a vision and passion for that. I think as CEO of Memory Lane Jane, it is communicating that passion to everyone else that's involved.

And so I think, okay, my job then is to train up and empower, train others to then start telling, they can tell as many stories as I can, maybe more. Maybe they'll be even better.

Gresham Harkless 15:36

Truly appreciate that definition, and I of course appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

Lauren Befus 15:50

Great. Yeah, no, I'm just so grateful to have been on here and just to share some of my story and journey and hopefully bring some encouragement to your listeners. So, yeah, you can find me at You can find me Lauren, I have Memory Lane Jane on Facebook, on Instagram as well.

Gresham Harkless 16:09

We'll definitely have the links and information in the show notes and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Lauren Befus 16:13

Thank you. Thanks so much.

Outro 16:17

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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