5 podcasts to help you grow your business

I was first introduced to podcasts about three years ago, and since then, it’s become one of my favorite forms of media. I was an avid reader growing up, and I loved that podcasts had such a narrative and easy-to-follow style. When I first began listening to them, it reminded me of the radio shows I used to listen to growing up, where the on-air personalities would laugh and joke with each other and everyone tuning in felt like we were among good friends.

My first podcast was NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz. My good friend had introduced me to the show when I was in the very early ideation phase of my business and was needing inspiration for how to raise money and develop it. She sent me the episode where Guy Raz interviewed Bobbi Brown, luxury makeup pioneer and mogul. I listened to the episode while I was stuck in LA traffic and for once, the bumper-to-bumper crawl didn’t bother me because I was so occupied. Brown’s calm and candid recount of her rise to success in the beauty industry was so motivating to me that it helped catapult me forward in taking actionable steps to develop my business.

After that, I haven’t put down podcasts since! I am going to share some of my favorite podcasts that I recommend you listen to if you’re needing encouragement, inspiration, or just general business guidance when it comes to starting, developing, or scaling your business.

As we should all know by now, entrepreneurship isn’t for the weak, so having an ecosystem–even if it encompasses people you don’t have a personal relationship with–to support you through the endless and countless points of confusion and being overwhelmed, definitely helps!

Here are my top five business podcast recommendations that provide exactly that:

1.As I stated at the beginning of this article, How I Built This with Guy Raz was my first experience with podcasts, and it’s still one of my favorites! The title speaks for itself: Raz interviews countless successful founders of million-dollar, and sometimes billion-dollar companies and breaks down how they did it. They go through everything: their upbringing, their first jobs, how they came up with their business idea, how they began developing it, their lucky breaks, how they scaled, and so much more. You leave feeling wowed at how amazing the entrepreneurs’ journeys have been, and it inspires you to one day be on their level.

Aside from the amazing guests and insight you gain from the interviews, Raz always ends each episode by asking the guests if they believe their success was based on luck or talent. It’s such an important question to ask because the answer is always both. There’s no amount of work or talent that can get you to the top. Luck (or favor/blessings if you’re religious like I am) HAS to be involved.

2. Work Smart with Morgan DeBaun is a new favorite. She recently launched her podcast a few months ago, but she’s been one of my favorite founders to follow for the last couple of years now. She’s black, she’s young, and she is BOOKED AND BUSY! As the co-founder of Blavity, a media company for black millennials, she’s a public figure because of her unique position as a young black founder, and because of the way she’s positioned herself in the industry as a thought leader and an expert.

There are many founders who lead successful businesses, but they don’t leverage that knowledge and create a platform. She’s done an excellent job of building a community of entrepreneurs and constantly spouting gems for those of us who are trying to go big with our businesses.

On her podcast, it’s a mix between episodes where she rides solo talking about her own experiences building and scaling her business, and episodes where she brings on subject matter experts to discuss highly-talked-about topics in entrepreneurship like when to start paying yourself, when to hire a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and raising money for your startup.

3. Smart Passive Income (SPI) with Pat Flynn is another favorite that I stumbled upon a couple years ago. I think Apple Podcasts suggested it to me because they saw I was interested in business content. Turns out, they did well by sending this one my way! Flynn has this fun, (slightly nerdy) energy that’s easy to follow and keeps you captivated. He created SPI several years ago when he was laid off from his cool architecture job and realized he had a knack for e-commerce and online marketing.

His show has a slightly different scope from How I Built This, in that he interviews successful entrepreneurs who aren’t as well known. Their companies aren’t typically in the hundreds of millions in revenue category, but they’re people who have been able to scale their businesses enough to make a living, and some of them still hit lower seven figures (which is an incredible feat that I’m not undermining at all.) Listening to SPI helps you take actionable steps to grow your own business, and also grow as a person and become more well-rounded overall.

4. Access and Opportunity with Carla Harris by Morgan Stanley. I discovered this podcast in the Fall of 2020, but it’s been in production since Summer 2018. I can’t remember how I first discovered this podcast, but I remember listening to my first episode last November during my regular four-hour drive from Washington D.C. to Raleigh, NC to visit my family.

This one holds a special place in my heart because listening to it directly connected me to my first venture capital (VC) firm. And when I say directly, that’s in the literal sense. If I hadn’t listened to that podcast, I would not have heard the episode interviewing Precursor Ventures‘ managing partner, Charles Hudson, and I would probably have never thought to reach out to them to pitch my own business.

In that episode, Harris interviewed Hudson about his prior experience working for VC’s, and then his experience founding his own VC for underrepresented founders at the pre-seed level without previous startup experience. If you know anything about VC, that’s nearly unheard of, so listening to that episode inspired me enough to reach out to them to consider adding my business to their portfolio.

To my surprise, they liked my business enough to reach out to me for an interview! I would have never reached that level of exposure and connection if it were not for the literal access and opportunity the Morgan Stanley podcast provided. Even if you’re not ready for VC or if you don’t have a viable business yet, listening to this podcast will get you moving in that direction!

5. To round out this list, I’m going to talk about First Pitches with Lolita Taub and Eric Bahn. On this show, they bring on famous founders of multi-million-dollar startups (many poised to become billion-dollar startups) and as the title implies, they talk about their very first pitches. If you’re a founder yourself, you likely already know that your first pitch was HORRIBLE (I know mine definitely was.)

This show does a great job of showcasing “glow up” stories, reminding us that where we started is not so important! I came across this podcast because Eric Bahn, one of the hosts, is a general partner (GP) and co-founder of Hustle Fund–an early-stage tech VC firm that I had discovered several months ago from a tweet one of his other co-founders and GP, Elizabeth Yin, tweeted.

Hustle Fund hosts some of the most helpful webinars I’ve ever attended (and I attend a lot.) Because of their premium content for startups, I’ve become a regular attendee, and was among the first to learn of their podcast they launched at the beginning of this year.

I know this article ended up being quite long, but if you’re trying to actively grow your business, this is a worthwhile read. Check out all five of these podcasts on your next work commute, long drive, or grueling workout!

How to take studio-quality marketing photos from home

When you’re starting a small business, it can feel overwhelming to get everything up and running, especially on a limited budget. The easiest part is coming up with a business plan (which is not actually easy). But on top of that, depending on the industry, there are legal regulations to navigate, product development and manufacturing to make heads or tails of, and a litany of other ends to tie off before you can even launch to market.

Arguably, one of the most important things to prepare for a successful launch is marketing. Corporations shell out an insane amount of money towards this because they understand how critical it is for customer acquisition and retention. What attracts potential customers? Simply put, it’s your branding. Branding is essentially every interaction a customer has with your company. How do they experience your brand? Many things influence a customer’s perception of your brand, but the very first thing that sets the tone is your image.

As human beings, we are aesthetically driven. So in order to reel in customers, having polished, clean branding is key. How I achieved this for my small Ankara fashion clothing line was easy and cost me almost no money at all. I simply used the tools I already had at home and then used a HOLY GRAIL business tool that has saved me a lot of stress over the last year. That tool is FIVERR.

Fiverr is a freelance creative gig platform where thousands of freelancers sell their services for as little as five dollars–hence the name. I can’t remember how I first discovered them, but I haven’t looked back since! For the last year, I’d been using Fiverr for my other startup that’s still in development. So when it came time for me to prepare launching my new Ankara fashion clothing line, I knew I would need quality images to make my brand appear more reputable and attract customers. Instead of spending money on a photographer and having to do a photoshoot during COVID, I thought of doing my own photoshoot at home!

All you need are four things for perfect, studio-quality photos from home:

  1. A white/light-colored wall
  2. Natural light
  3. A tripod with a phone holder (and a smartphone with a decent camera–I used an iPhone XS Max)
  4. A Fiverr account

I set up my tripod in my bedroom, opened my windows so the room was well lit, and used the timer feature on my phone. I modeled my own clothes, took as many pictures as my heart desired, and sent my photos off to a freelancer on Fiverr to Photoshop the background to look like a nice, vibrant studio backdrop. I only paid $5 per picture edit, or $20 for 5 pictures, and honestly, you could save even that small amount of money if you know how to use Photoshop yourself (I just don’t have the patience for it.)

Launching a business is hard and expensive, but don’t let getting quality marketing photos become an unnecessary up-front expense before you even start making a profit. Try out my technique and let me know if it works for you. Best of luck in launching your business!

Lighting The Way: How Akon is Illuminating Africa, One Country At a Time

Akon has quite literally been a beacon of light for the African community. Though he’s been away from the spotlight for some time now, the singer, songwriter, producer, and business mogul is far from forgotten for many.

In 2014, Akon started Akon Lighting Africa, a non-profit that provides solar energy to 14 African countries and over 600 million people. Akon is from Senegal himself, therefore, he knows the struggle that many Africans face in more impoverished areas. For many, once the sun goes down, productivity is non-existent because being able to afford constant electricity is nothing more than a far-fetched dream.

Akon solved that problem for many by implementing solar energy panels on houses in extremely rural, developing countries like Guinea, Mali, Niger, Benin, and Sierra Leone. If there’s one thing that those African nations will never have a shortage of, it’s sunshine. The solar panels will allow those people to receive 24/7 energy in their households at no cost to them.

This changes lives indefinitely. Children who once were inhibited from doing schoolwork or studying late at night now have the option to help their parents around the house after school, knowing now that they can do their assignments after sunset. Women don’t have to rush on their household duties in the afternoon to try and get everything done by nightfall. It introduces an entirely new way of life for these people, and now, they are free to focus on other things, like starting their own businesses.

Although some may consider Akon an icon of the past in America, he is surely a superhero in his own community, and the many others whose lives he’s changed forever.

MAKERS Conference 2018

On Feb 5-7, 2018, powerful men and women gathered together to discuss one thing: empowering women. Some of the participants were entertainers, some lawmakers, and some Fortune 500 CEOs. But what they all had in common, is that they wanted to engage in thoughtful dialogue surrounding the #metoo movement, and encourage both men and women to raise their voices against instances of inequality. Below is a recap of the MAKERS Conference this year. It was truly incredible!

Former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay uses Wedspire to plan her big day

If you watched last season, you’d know that the show’s first ever black Bachelorette won all of America’s hearts from the moment she stepped on screen. The attorney at law from Texas was sassy, yet sweet, and definitely was representing for the sistas (though some critics argued the opposite).

Regardless of whether or not every viewer was perfectly content with how she behaved on the show, in the final episode, Lindsay chose to start her future with 37-year-old Bryan Abasolo, a Columbian chiropractor from Miami.

Lindsay admitted at last night’s Wedspiration 2018 event that she was “not a little girl who ever dreamt of planning a wedding”, and didn’t know the slightest about where to begin.

She said, “Now that I’ve found the perfect man, I want to have the perfect wedding for us.” Luckily for her, Wedspire just launched an app that makes planning a wedding almost as easy as ordering your Starbucks. Almost.

Check out Rachel Lindsay on the red carpet at Wedspiration 2018 below!

Also, go to https://wedspire.com to take your style quiz and get started on planning your wedding!

Yara Shahidi was the belle of the ball at the inaugural Freeform Summit

This past Thursday, Hollywood’s newest it girl, Yara Shahidi, was given the utmost praise at Freeform’s very first Freeform Summit. The Grown-ish actor sat on a panel titled, Millennials Are Destroying All The Industries, and wowed the crowd with her take on how millennials (and her generation, gen x) are using social media to make industries stronger than they’ve ever been before.

Shahidi was joined by a slew of other young movers and shakers, the most notable of them being fashion model and entrepreneur, Karlie Kloss, Editor-in-Chief of teenVOGUE, Elaine Welteroth, and journalist and founder of Her Agenda, Rhonesha Byng.

Another panelist, NY Times best-selling author, comedian and digital strategist, Luvvie Ajayi, repeatedly hailed the 17-year-old for her wit and sophistication saying, “when I was her age, you couldn’t tell me nothin’. I was out here being stupid. And look at her (Shahidi) out here changing the world.”

Not only was she heralded as the smart, charming and talented teen that she is, but her show Grown-ish–which recently premiered in Jan. 2018–was also the most talked about on the red carpet beforehand.

Famous in Love actors Pepi Sonuga, Keith Powers and Carter Jenkins all gushed about how much they were really diggin’ Freeform’s newest comedy, and Jenkins even went on to say that he felt “honored to be on the same network as Grown-ish.”

Talk about critical acclaim, right?

Check out the video below when I broke the news to Yara that Grown-ish had been renewed for a second season.

Helen Maroulis #TeamUSAAwards Red Carpet

Last night, I got to report from the Team USA Awards red carpet–an awards ceremony to honor world class olympic and Paralympic winners for the “Best of the year” awards. Maroulis, the Rio 2016 gold medal freestyle wrestling champ, was up for Olympic Female Athlete of the Year. I got to talk to her about how it was being a girl in a predominantly boys sport growing up. The awards ceremony will air December 23rd at 5pm EST on NBC.

MY FIRST RED CARPET!!! OPRAH’S QUEEN SUGAR

So, last month, I got to report from my very first red carpet. It was such an exhilarating and exciting experience, and I never thought it would get to happen so soon after moving to Los Angeles! The entertainment industry and red carpets in particular are extremely competitive, and people seldom get chosen to report on them.

I was lucky enough to have a personal connection with someone who works at OWN, and she was able to get me media access to the season two finale red carpet for a hit show, Queen Sugar, which Oprah is the executive producer of.

I put on my glitz and glam and interviewed several of the cast members on the show, as well as got to stand one foot away from the queen herself, Oprah Winfrey! All I can say is, this is only the beginning for me!

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