The best business podcasts to listen to right now

October, 2020
Words by Melanie Mitchell
10 min read
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If we had a Margarita for every time someone has asked Mel for business-y podcast recommendations when starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, we’d be drunk. So mix yourself a cheeky Margarita (it’s cocktail hour somewhere, after all), kick back and load up your earbuds with some aural inspiration to kickstart your business dreams.

1. How I Built This with Guy Raz, NPR

With hundreds of episodes clocked up, there’s no better place to start than at the beginning. It’s definitely worth scrolling right down to episode one, dating back to 2016, and taking it from there. Trust me on this.

Described by The New York Times as “one of the most popular podcasters in history”, US journalist Guy Raz has the rare talent of spurring conversation and drawing out the most interesting and defining memories and moments from his guests. He talks to the thought-makers, trailblazers and business-shakers behind some of the world’s best known and most successful companies and brands about their path to success and the years of effort in the lead-up.

Some of my favourite eps (it’s so hard to choose!) include one from 2017, where Whole Foods Market’s John Mackey talks about his incredible journey to starting an organic food revolution in the US with the brand at the forefront. Miguel McKelvey, co-founder of WeWork, reveals his company’s story from the initial concept of creating a flexible workspace for startups and freelancers in Brooklyn to a global upscale once valued at $47 billions dollars. It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, though; WeWork went on to endure many more ups and downs.

In an early episode form 2016, Joe Gebbia shares the amazing history of Airbnb (which I also had the pleasure of hearing at a 2016 Kick. Start. Smart conference in Sydney), beginning as a rented air mattress on his living room floor to a worldwide phenomenon that has revolutionised travel accommodation. Then there’s “Chicken Salad Chick: Stacy Brown”. This one was a real surprise. All the proud admiration feels for Stacy, who turned a humble sandwich filling into a $75 million business.

Other noteworthy eps are Ben & Jerry’s, Bumble, Away luggage, Chipotle restaurants, Dyson, Slack & Flickr, SoulCycle fitness studios, Five Guys burgers, Burt’s Bees, Happy Family Organics… See, I told you it was too hard for me to choose! If four years of enlightening and inspiring episodes don’t keep you up at night – for all the right reasons – Guy is now airing How I Built Resilience, a spin-off miniseries for 2020 developed to support listeners through the challenges of COVID-19.

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2. StartUp with Alex Blumberg, Gimlet Media

Since launching in 2014, Gimlet Media has become a go-to for superior storytelling and slick production values in podacast-land. StartUp charts its creation by co-founder Alex Blumberg, literally from the seed of an idea. It’s fascinating listening – you’ll be surprised and maybe a little comforted to learn that even a company that sold to Spotify for US$230 million in 2019 struggled at first, as most of us do, to navigate the startup minefield.

Episodes one to 14 offer truthful insights into what it takes to create a company, get funding, find a business partner (after much “dating”, Blumberg found his business soul mate in Alex Lieber), manage entrepreneurial burnout (we all know what that feels like – right?) and so much more. The first season was so relatable, in fact, that it was adapted into a television series called Alex, Inc.

After the first 14 eps, StartUp delves into the foundation stories of other fledgling brands. Cases in point include Dating Ring, a company conceived by two female 20-somethings combining technology with old-fashioned matchmaking; Mary Going, a suit-making business for the transgender community; and American Apparel, from its wholesale days in South Carolina to the mega-brand it is today. All throughout, Alex brings us back to the progress of Gimlet Media and its development, so stay on this ride.

From the very first episode, you’ll be emotionally connected to the brand; Alex has a way of making the listener feel as though they are privy to something revealing. While he lets us into his professional world, he allows glimpses into his personal life, too, and how starting a business from scratch can affect life at home. Since StartUp, its flagship podcast, Gimlet Media has been off-the-charts successful, producing some of the best, award-winning podcasts out there – a truly inspiring business story.

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3. Being Boss with Emily Thompson & Kathleen Shannon

This is one of the very first business-y podcasts I listened to, way back in 2015. Hosts and “business besties” Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon started it to bounce around business ideas and share their knowledge and experiences of being successful business owners with those who are just starting out – just like I was.

Five years, hundreds of episodes and eight million downloads later, the bubbly duo has a dedicated worldwide audience tuning in for enlightening chats with creative entrepreneurs and industry experts, practical business advice and inspiring tips for living well (and let’s face it, when you’re a business owner your wellbeing often gets relegated to the bottom of a very long to-do list – yeah, I know you feel me), all delivered with a healthy dose of humour.

Emily and Kathleen cover topics that are really (for reals) useful when you’re starting and growing a business. Stuff like “How to be a Boss When You’re Afraid of Failing” (I can totally relate) discusses all those insecurities you have when starting out on your own and bridging the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

For those considering the leap from being bossed to being a boss, “Redefining Professional” is an unmissable ep. “How to Set Goals Like a Boss with Paul Jarvis” offers practical ways to set goals for what you want, rather than focusing on what you fear, while Jason Zook joins the girls to offer advice to “Creatives Who Hate Selling”. Jason is best known for doing crazy shit like selling his last name to the highest bidder, or selling advertising space on his body, but most importantly for his offbeat life and business advice based on embracing your uniqueness to fuel the creative self. It’s out there, I’m telling you.

Illustrator, artist, writer, and co-founder of Dear Handmade Life, Nicole Stevenson pops in for an episode for makers and artists, offering advice on how to make money as an artist, while in another, artist and founder of the jealouscurator.com, Danielle Krysa, confirms “Your Inner Critic is Big Jerk”. She talks to Emily and Kathleen about the creative mindset when starting out on your own, inner and outer critics, and discovering a happy place between being serious about business and having fun with your craft.

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4. Hear Me Raw with Lisa Messenger

It wouldn’t be overstating things to say that the first COVID-19 lockdown this year hit small business owners for six and many out of the ring altogether, so the timing of Hear Me Raw couldn’t have been better. Launched during the lockdown, this podcast was an absolute godsend for me at a time when I was also starting to lose focus.

To describe Lisa Messenger’s achievements in just a few words is damn near impossible, but here goes. She’s a prolific publisher, author and founder of Collective Hub, a magazine and multimedia business and lifestyle platform; international speaker; commentator on business, entrepreneurialism and wellness… the list is long. Heck, she even counts the likes of Richard Branson, as well as me, among her greatest fans. Hang on, did me and Richard Branson just appear together in the same sentence?! You see? That’s the power of Lisa Messenger.

Lisa is responsible for reigniting my business mojo. After 14 weekly mentoring sessions with her during lockdown, I emerged a newly inspired businesswoman, ready to take on the world. There were also episodes from Hear Me Raw that helped keep up the momentum. “Sarah Davidson – How to Have More YAY in Your Day!” is great listening to discover the journey of the corporate lawyer-turned-successful entrepreneur who found her perfect business match in matcha.

Actor, musician, author and businesswoman, Nat Bassingthwaighte speaks of “The Power of New Beginnings” and how letting go of ego to discover a new normal is hugely liberating. “Turia Pitt – On Harnessing an Invincible Mindset” is a truly inspirational episode that puts a whole lot about life into perspective. As an athlete, the prognosis that she would never walk, run or even be independent again after suffering burns to 65 percent of her body, would have been devastating for most. But for Turia it was a driving force to prove the strength and power of a positive mindset to overcome adversity in any way, shape or form.

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5. The Bossy. Type with Alyce Greer

When it comes to spinning words into marketing magic, Alyce Greer sets the bar high. Alyce is one of our favourite collaborators and has been working alongside us for almost five years. That’s because the founder of Melbourne’s Bossy. Copywriting knows a thing or two about branding and how to make it sing, pitch perfect. So, as all generous humans do, she’s newly launched her very own Bossy. Type podcast to share her talent and invaluable knowledge.

Serving up copywriting and brand-building tips in bite-sized episodes twice a week, Alyce’s witty and unconventional how-to will arm you with all the creative nous you’ll need to put your best brand forward. In the first episode, she shares her own journey to building her bold brand, then she goes on to address the foundation blocks from which to build a complete brand identity.

One episode is a compact nine-minute guide to writing simple, creative and effective Instagram captions. “What the F***k is Tone of Voice, and Where do I Get One?” is a 25-minute listen on the importance of having a tone of voice for your brand and how to find it, while 10 Hacks for Punchy Copywriting is one of those episodes you’ll keep coming back to until it becomes second nature. Alyce packs so much useful advice into these short lunch break-friendly episodes, you’ll probably need to take notes. Bossy. Type proves that whole thing about good things and small packages.

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Mel doesn’t always listen to business podcasts.

When she feels like tuning out, it’s usually with a true crime podcast (probs doesn’t help with anxiety levels, but it takes her mind off business, brands and restaurant staffing issues). If you’d like a list of her recommended true crime podcasts, click the button below and keep an eye on your inbox.

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