This thought has crossed my mind repeatedly over the past year – what the f**k are we doing? I’ve said it out loud multiple times to Stephanie Wittels Wachs, my Lemonada co-founder and soul sister, and I have it on good measure that it’s her inner monologue. A real contender for a wrist or inner arm tattoo.
You see, about a year ago, Stephanie and I launched Lemonada, a podcast media company (you can read more about the why here – TL;DR, bad shit happened and we wanted to turn those horrific lemons into lemonade). And what a year it’s been. Although the days – which bleed into nights and early mornings and midnight panicked wakeups – are long, I must admit that it’s all been worth it… I think.
Our passion for and personal connections to the content of our first podcast, Last Day, drove us to launch Lemonada. But it hasn’t just been about cultivating and growing content and launching new podcasts – we’re also now running a full-blown business, with employees and payroll and all that good stuff. As you can imagine, some days (and weeks), sh*t gets crazy. Read on to hear about our biggest learnings from year one as a women-owned media startup that has released four chart-topping podcasts in less than six months.
No one else out there has done that. And it’s taken a lot of hard work, dedication, and tinkering when a #fail happens.
Here are our biggest takeaways from year one of starting a podcast media company:
- The world, in these divisive times, needs the unfiltered, humanity focused content that Lemonada podcasts provide. That’s been a key driver to our success. Lemonada taps into the zeitgeist of bringing joy to an often painful world. We’ve found that once you identify a niche, stay the course and the listeners will follow. For example, nearly one in three people know someone addicted to opioids. Our inaugural podcast tackles the heart-wrenching topic of the opioid crisis with humanity, wit, and hopefulness. No other podcasts are going beyond the facts and figures of the epidemic to understand the people – the families, health care workers, local leaders – behind this crisis, and providing them with real, tangible solutions. Americans are lonely, suicide is on the rise… there’s a real need for the content and community that Lemonada is creating.
- Figure out who your listeners are – and the advertisers will follow. The key to monetizing the podcast business is primarily through advertising – well, for now anyway. That’s certainly a focus for us, as we’re trying to be a profitable, sustainable organization. But our listeners came first – by providing them with satisfying, empathetic content that kept them coming back – and the advertisers soon followed. We realized that our listener base is a highly sought-after audience to advertisers, as 37% of our listeners earn over $100,000, 78% have Associates Degrees or higher, and 67% are in a relationship or married. Our base is diverse politically and in every way. Think: spending power.
- Launching a self-funded startup requires financial scrappiness and flexibility – and there will be a strategic shift as we bring on investors. We set out to turn lemons into lemonade, one podcast at a time. To make the high quality shows that we wanted, it was going to cost money. We opted to self-fund Lemonada – and a year in, are now entering a hyper-growth phase, which means figuring out the best approach to finding investors. The financial scrappiness and flexibility we could have in year one will have to naturally shift as we bring on more stakeholders. The infusion of capital, however, will allow us to do more, faster, and still produce series at the highest quality. Our goals will be expanding the team, expanding our reach outside of the US podcast market, and launching at least five new shows per year.
- Lemonada’s core values of diversity and empathy, and a flat organizational structure that empowers creators, fostered the culture we envisioned in year one. From the beginning, we built Lemonada with the understanding that providing an outlet for diverse perspectives is one way to cultivate empathy in these divisive times. Lemonada has attracted arguably the most diverse guest base in podcast history in a short amount of time, from Sarah Silverman, Mayor Marty Walsh, Victoria Beckham, DeRay Mckesson, Dr. Gabor Maté, Hozier, Dr. Eddie Glaude, Beto O’Rourke, and so many more. We know that our strong culture is a reflection of the belief in first-person narratives, diversity, and making the world a better place by showcasing the radical nature of humanity, unfiltered. Further, if you look at any major corporation, you’ll see lots of managers, managers, and more managers embedded in the organizational structure. We opted for a flat leadership model that empowers everyone who works with us to be a part of the creative process. This naturally fosters collaboration and diverse idea generation, and the list of people who want to work with us to create this bold vision for an audio revolution grows by the day.
Stay tuned for more blogging from Lemonada. We want to show the honest, transparent, gritty side of starting a business and fostering its growth.
Check out our podcasts and give ‘em a listen. You may laugh, you may cry, you’ll definitely learn; but we promise you won’t be disappointed.