Commercial Currents: Business Inspiration—Our Favorite Podcasts

Claire Donnelly
Posted 2019-08-14

Business Inspiration: Our Favorite Podcasts

This month, we decided to share some of our favorite business-themed podcasts. Not necessarily educational resources, but more inspirational. August isn’t the time to step away from your business and learn something new. It’s insane, and we know it’s hard to keep your head above water and not completely burn out. So, if you’re in need of some inspiration to keep you motivated this month, check out some of these business and start-up related podcasts.

Gimlet Media – StartUp

If you haven’t listened to Gimlet Media’s StartUp podcast yet, you’re missing out. A documentary series about entrepreneurial life, the episodes in the first season (Episodes: Gimlet 1 – Gimlet 14) are about former Planet Money and This American Life reporter Alex Blumberg starting his own podcast media company. The first episode starts with a hilarious and awkward pitch to an investor friend, that we’re pretty sure most people would have edited out. Alex is incredibly generous with what he shares though, so as a listener we are lucky to get this inside look.

After Season 1, the podcast turns to following around other start-ups which we found a little less compelling, until Season 7 (Episodes: Arlan Hamilton 1 – Arlan Hamilton 6). The subject of the season is Arlan Hamilton. She is one of the only (or maybe the only) black, female, and gay venture capitalists out there, and she built her fund with absolute pure grit. To get her fund off the ground, she spent her days pounding the pavement and making cold calls in the Silicon Valley and her nights sleeping in the San Francisco airport. She is now out to prove that venture capitalists are leaving money on the table by not investing in outsiders (i.e. anyone who is not male and white). Her story is so inspiring and will hopefully remind you that August has only 31 days, so hang in there.

NPR – How I Built This with Guy Raz

Of course, anything from NPR is well produced, and Guy Raz’s How I Built This is no exception. This podcast is sort of the classic founder-centric story, but with large well-known companies.

In How I Built This, Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies and weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists—and the movements they built. As a host, he does an excellent job of weaving together a compelling story with a mix of both narration and interviews. Our favorite episodes include:
Roxanne Quimby of Burt’s Bees

Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia

Tom Chappell of Tom’s of Maine

I guess you could say we skew towards Mainers or Maine-founded companies, but Guy Raz has interviewed an insane range of people from James Dyson of Dyson Ltd, to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, to the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. The list is seemingly endless, so you’ll definitely find something you like!

Freakonomics – Freakonomics Radio

This one may be a bit nerdier, but certain episodes of Freakonomics Radio have really drawn us in. This podcast is definitely a bit less produced than How I Built This. It’s really just conversations between Stephen Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books, and “really smart people,” or as he notes, “Nobel laureates and provocateurs, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and various other underachievers.”

Check out this podcast to discover the hidden side of everything, where Dubner highlights things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) — from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything.

One series we enjoyed is called “How to Be Creative,” and its five episodes are definitely well worth a listen. In particular, be sure to check out the fifth and last episode of series called How to Fail Like a Pro (Ep. 370).” It’s something we all do at some point, so we might as well be good at it!

What inspires you? 

What are your go-to online resources for business inspiration when you feel like you’re about to throw in the towel? We’d love to know what inspires you on a daily basis. Send your favorite business-themed (or not) podcasts to Claire Donnelly, and we’ll share them in a future update.

Featured Resources

Further questions?
Interested in sharing your favorite business inspiration or have questions about our small business support services? Contact Craig Olson or Claire Donnelly with the Island Institute’s Small Business team.

What We Do

The Island Institute’s Small Business Team provides business and financial planning to help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of starting and growing a business. For more information on our small business support services, feel free to contact Craig Olson.

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