At the start of this year, about to embark on some big projects which would require a lot of solitary confinement and hunching over a drawing table, I asked you guys on Instagram for your podcast tips. The recommendations came in thick and fast until I had run out of space on my phone and couldn’t download any more.
Podcasts are very much the zeitgeist and it seems like anyone and everyone is making them even if they actually have very little to say, as I discovered since I have listened to what feels like ALL of the podcasts. Most of them are badly recorded and sound tinny or too muffled. A lot of them are too shouty or too giggly or too sycophantic.
I decided to take it upon myself to distil the list down to what I felt were the most motivational and interesting. Of course I have a personal bias and have chosen to focus on business and in particular, stories of female entrepreneurship. But hopefully it's of some interest to you too and might even provide some positivity and motivation as we step into a new week!
How I Built This with Guy Raz
Probably the original and best-known of the business podcasts, 'How I Built This' applies the same format to each episode, in which the founders of some of the world's best-known companies recounts the ups and downs of their venture thus far. Guy has a tendancy to hyperbolate the stories on behalf of the interviewees for dramatic effect but he also delves into the challenges and struggles faced during the start-up process which are often glossed over. A new episode is released
each Monday and my favourites so far have been Kate Spade, Patagonia - founder Yvon Chouinard and Joe Gebbia of Airbnb.
Monocle 24- the entrepreneurs
Whilst I love the theatrical, adrenaline-fuelled enthusiasm of Guy Raz, it does require a lot of concentration to keep up with its furious pace. This can sometimes be incompatible with a calm studio environment in which you don’t necessarily want heart palpitations from nervous energy. I was therefore thrilled to discover archives of Monocle 24: the Entrepreneurs. The format is different each time and is sensitive to the nature of the personal narratives of each entrepreneur in question: some tell their own story, some are interviewed. There are almost a hundred episodes but my highlights are and episode entitled Eureka 58 in which Polly Leonard discusses the conception of ‘Selvedge’ magazine, and new this week, an interview with Alex Bec, cofounder of It’s Nice That, a multifaceted creative studio which started life as what was essentially a blog for a uni project. Alex attributes a large proportion of It’s Nice That’s success, particularly in the early stages, to consistency: a commitment to creating a certain amount of content per week. This is something I’ve heard repeated a lot during my foray into excessive podcast listening so it seems like something these successful people must have in common: just doing stuff and getting out there and not overthinking it.
There is a little shop in Angel in London called Smug. It was one of the first of what is now known as a ‘Lifestyle shop’ where you can buy anything from a chair to a greetings card. Sometimes in shops like this you can also buy a coffee and attend an evening class. I have spent a small fortune in Smug over the years and was consequently delighted to discover that it’s founder Lizzie had created a podcast. I found Lizzie to be one of the most endearing of the podcast hosts. She accidentally deleted one of her episodes and instead of pretending that it didn’t happen, recorded an entirely new episode about how to ‘find a positive outcome after disappointment or failure’. This is another thing I noticed a lot of the successful people on the business podcasts had in common- the ability to keep picking themselves up and dusting themselves off which things have gone spectacularly wrong. My favourite episode of this series however was the Donna Wilson episode. Donna discusses how she moved her production from making everything by hand herself to outsourcing hundreds of different product lines. It reminded me of a book a once got out of the library about Laura Ashley who started her business by printing tea towels by hand on her kitchen table.
Desert Island Discs
Everyone knows desert island discs. I had to have a bit of a sabbatical from it after binging heavily last Winter and I think i’ve listened to every episode at least twice. My favourite presenter is Kirsty Young for her ability to ask the questions other interviewers wouldn’t go anywhere near. Desert Island discs is almost like listening into an intense therapy sessions. I enjoy asking other people about their favourite episodes as it says a lot about a person and can be quite a good barometer of compatibility. My favourites are Jo Malone, Lemn Sissay, Paul Smith and Kenneth Grange so I’m not sure what that says about me but I hope you enjoy listening to them too.
Breaking Beauty Podcast - Episode 11 with Glossier founder Emily Weiss.
If you haven’t heard of Glossier you have either a) been living under or a rock, or b) just aren’t that into makeup. I have been fascinated by Glossier and its millennial pink bubble bag marketing machine since its launch in 2014 and reached peak obsession when Laura and I tracked down the New York showroom on our last visit to the city. In this podcast Emily gives a candid insight into how she used social media to propel her business - particularly worth a listen if you’re an online seller!
Ctrl, Alt, Delete
Emma Gannon started the Ctrl, Alt, Delete podcast shortly after releasing the book of the same name. Throughout its brief recording history, Emma has bagged interviews with some of the biggest names in the fashion, literature and tech industries ranging from Lena Dunham to, most recently, Acadamy - Award nominated director of Lady Bird Greta Gerwig. The podcast is unique in that as well as focusing on career building, Emma also opens up dialogue about more challenging subjects such as money and psychological wellbeing. My favourites are Episode #85 with Otegha Uwagba, 'How To Build Your Own Brand' and Episode #80 with Sali Hughes. 'Saying No & Keeping Your Integrity'.