Canned Water Storyteller – interview with Greg Stromberg (9 December 2008)

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Introduction

Greg bought my ebook, How To Tell A Great Story. When he sent me his story to edit, I was fascinated by the tale and asked if he would like to be interviewed. He agreed and without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Greg Stromberg …


Aneeta: Greg, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Greg, let’s start with a little about you. Where were you born, what was your youth and childhood like, where do you live now, what’s your family like and what do you do for a living?

Greg: I was born Feb. 10th, 1948 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My father was a blue collar worker and was laid off from his factory job quite often. My mother had to work full time to make ends meet. I learned at a young age when your father doesn’t have steady employment and what happens to self esteem. My father had a severe drinking problem and my mother eventually divorced when I was a senior in high School. I had plans to go to college when I graduated from high school but wasn’t sure I had the money. Fortunately I was able to borrow the money thru a government college school loan program. I started working in sales at a very young age (13 years old) selling YMCA cookies so I could go to summer camp. I worked part-time and full summers all the way thru high school and college. I lived at home with my mother and sister. I know my mother could barely make ends meet each month.

I now live in a small town of 10,000 in Sussex, Wisconsin. I have 3 grown children & all married , 2 boys and a daughter (the youngest), 1 dog, a wonderful wife, now a retired registered nurse who I have been married to 38 years. We have 7 grand children, 3 granddogs and our 8th grandson is on the way, early February 2009.

I currently work for a Japanese owned company called INX International Ink Co. and I am Director Sales National Accounts Metal Decorating. My company supplies all the printing ink that goes on decorated cans like Pepsi, Coke, and Miller/Budweiser labels in the world.

Aneeta: From the emails you send to me, I know that you a product you call a ‘Toobee’. Now, please explain what this is and how my readers can get one if they’re interested.

Greg: I have been dealing with the can industry all my life and started with the largest can company in the world when I graduated from MarquetteUniversity in June, 1970 called Continental Can Company. They manufactured all the soft drink and beer cans inMilwaukee. I worked for Continental Can for 7 1/2 years and then left for an ink manufacturing company called Sun Chemical Division General Printing Ink. My first task was to sell ink to the can companies in Wisconsin which included Schlitz Container, Miller Brewing Container plant, Continental Can Company and American Can Company.  It was at Schlitz Container in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on a very cold February evening that I was introduced to a flying can being flown in the Schlitz corporate office. I absolutely fell in love with the toy at first sight and wound up marketing and promoting the toy in Wisconsin. Eventually I wound up buying the patent from the inventor.

Today I sell the Toobee via internet ecommerce only at www.toobee.com with all profits going to my charity project called www.cannedwater4kids.org. I also started a community called the Toobee AirForce,” whose mission is to fly around the world to enforce world peace by bringing people together”. Our motto: “is the success comes in cans and failure comes in cannots”. What is really interesting is that 30 years ago when my oldest son was about 4 years old, he learned to fly the Toobee with me. Believe it or not, today he flies 737’s for Southwest Airlines. I can’t help but think that this flying can called the Toobee got him interested in flying. By the way it is called a Toobee because it is shaped like a tube and flies like a bumble bee which aren’t suppose to fly.

Aneeta: I am aware of the other business (and the story behind it) of your other product, Canned Water for Kids. Can you please explain to me what this is all about?

Greg: I always thought that the can had more value then just protecting liquids or food and I dreamed about how one could leverage the can more and make it more than what it is. Although my father was an alcoholic he did have one positive trait and that is, he was very generous and helped a lot of people. In fact he would tell me about my grandfather in the depression who was a dentist who would fill cavities for free to help those out in need. Maybe I have that gene, and as I got older I felt the need to do something more, make a difference and to give back to my community. I also felt that need with my company and industry. It was something I discussed with the owner Allan Sayers of a trade magazine called the CanMaker for our industry where we talked about social causes. In the summer of 2007 Allan invited a special speaker Neil McCormick from Toronto Canada who consulted to the United Nations about packaging for food.  Neil challenged all of us at this summit which was focused on the global markets and future economics. He asked us what we were doing with the metal can to help 3rd world countries. He said that most food spoiled before it even got to the consumers because there was no real packaging. Water was contaminated and as a result people died. In fact 5,000 children die a day due to water borne diseases. To me this was genocide all over again. I was moved. I heard at this summit the many reasons why the can really wasn’t ready for these third world countries. Poor and non existent roads, transportation, infrastructure and economics were just some of the reasons.  I thought there was and must be a better way so I decided to make the aluminum beverage can the bill board for this cause. I started a virtual, lean echarity called www.cannedwater4kids.org.

I thought, let’s make people aware of these water issues and sell water in cans in North America. It was our symbol for promoting clean water as a basic need. I also thought we could make the can more of a generating resource by finding advertisers or sponsors who could pay, just like they do for the Olympics or race cars. They could put their name on the side panel of the can. I always like the Neuman’s Own Brand idea and model. I loved what he did for cause marketing. In addition I decided to set up an open source www.cleanwaterexchange.org where all of the people in the world could solve these problems together.

Aneeta: From our recent correspondence, it’s clear that you see storytelling as an important feature of your work. Why is this so?

Greg: Story telling is something you do from your heart and you express in a conversational way. It lets people know that what you are doing and what your purpose is for doing it in a sincere way. When people know what your purpose is, you can find common ground together. This results in helping you learn, create and produce new outcomes or values. Collaboration, dialogue, sharing and helping others is what life is all about. It is a human experience to be shared in an authentic way and open transparent way. When you share & serve openly I do believe the law of attraction takes place and so does synchronicity. Neat things happen and friendships begin.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to venture into storytelling?

Greg: As you know when I first started I was fearful and didn’t have the confidence. I kept writing over and over until I got the process right. For me persistence is a value you need to think about and it will then flow. Suddenly you are in the zone. I think it is very much like a natural very open conversation. Think about the end and what you want the listener to take away. Dream and have a vision. It will happen with a little work and the understanding of someone like Aneeta who teaches from her heart.

Aneeta: Greg, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Greg: Every story or conversation is an opportunity to learn something. If you can walk away and say I just learned something new I never knew about before than I consider that a tremendous success. People have so much to share with others and story telling is a real human value. Listening and reading is a value you give in return.

Aneeta: Greg, thank you.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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