Share from your scars not from the wound. Podcasting feels intimate and it can be easy to forget that it’s being put out into the public sphere. You have to be ready to face any number of reactions from criticism to sympathy and you have to be healed enough to handle that with grace. We are vulnerable on the podcast but always make sure we wait to share until we’re healed thanks to the advice of Justine Sones. You can check out that conversation in Episode 41.
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristina Lao and Raquelle Roodenburg, Co-Founders of Bombshell Brunches.
Kristina is an Artist-Advocate from Hong Kong with over 15 years working internationally as a creator, connector and curator in Entertainment. A nationally touring actor, singer-songwriter, and co-founder of Bombshell Brunches, Kristina champions sustainable creative, accessible careers on a local, national and international level.
A passionate community advocate and lifelong learner, Raquelle constantly strives to bring important topics to light through the power of curiosity, narrative and vulnerability. A Communications Strategist with over eight years of experience working with award-winning agencies and organizations, Raquelle is also the co-founder of the Bombshell Brunches community and host of the Bombshell Brunches podcast (as seen on Telus Optik TV).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
From Raquelle — “I was born in Salt Spring Island, BC and grew up in Vancouver in a VERY Dutch household. That meant Iearning how to deal with blunt criticism, to fight to be heard and to laugh at myself from a young age. That also meant growing up in a creative home where critical thinking was encouraged and the status quo? Well there was none.
In my graduating year of high school, I planned to travel the world, an idea which was swiftly thwarted by my incredibly persuasive mother who made a deal I couldn’t resist. She would pay for a summer of travel if I came home to go back to University. That was the beginning of my soul search of who I wanted to be in this world. Early on I thought I wanted to go into broadcasting and I wanted to create a news site that created well-balanced interesting content around world events. I had a phase where I wanted to empower young girls through the ancient methods of yoga. I taught women self-defence for many years and worked for incredible companies, such as the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation. The common thread in these seemingly unrelated careers? I was looking for a way to help empower other people.
When Kristina, Racquel and I started Bombshell Brunches events, I found my people. And after leaving the music industry I struggled to find a community like it. That’s when I knew we had to make Bombshell Brunches bigger — it had to be accessible to people all over the world and from any industry. Hence, the podcast was born. The podcast brought me back to my community but also served to remind me of what was really important in life and to lead from my values.
So, while I had worked in communications and digital marketing for award-winning agencies and in-house for incredible companies, I realized that I needed to re-align my career with my values. Shortly before the pandemic I took a massive leap of faith leaving a great job, my family, friends and partner to chase my dream, and I am now tackling a Master of Science in Health Communications at the University of Amsterdam.
Travel — check. Empowering others — check. Broadcast — check. It’s funny how things work out.
From Kristina — I was born in Hong Kong, but I grew up in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, London and I am now based in Vancouver, BC. I always loved music, but never really saw it as a ‘career’ — it is not considered a standard profession in many societies, and I didn’t have much creative career counselling in any of the schools I went to. When I left, I opted for a Business Degree, and quickly realised that the myriad careers I saw ahead of me were, unfortunately, highly undesirable to me. Throughout my high school and post-secondary studies, I took private singing and acting courses due to having extraordinary stage fright. I took a deep existential breath, moved back to Hong Kong, bargained my way (legally) into a degree in Music at Hong Kong University, and applied for parts and roles that were way bigger than I thought I could achieve. Why? Because after surviving my degree in International Business, and seeing a future that exhausted me at the thought, I realised that I would rather play in a covers band to an audience of one and scrape by than live a 9–5 life that left me yearning for the weekend.
Ten years later, I had become the first Hong Konger to be accepted into the London School of Musical Theatre, got myself a publishing deal for my music, moved to Vancouver for a new film & TV agent, and was working part-time for a post-secondary audio school, creating a specialised system to support and elevate others in their own creative careers.
Today, I have my own Entertainment consultancy, have been in Board-level positions for about four years, am the EVP of Corporate Social Responsibility for a Trans-Media Holdings Company, speak publicly on local and global panels and platforms to Career Pathways in Media & Entertainment, and have a new music publisher and wonderful part-time career in commercials, film, TV and theatre. Oh, and I started this podcast with Raquelle and secured a multi-season TV licensing deal with Optik TV on Demand within the first year.
I never took another full-time job. I intentionally designed my career in Media & Entertainment, both in front of, and behind the lens, so that I can create my most fulfilling life AND elevate others at the same time. Bombshell Brunches is a fabulous arrival of the most important values I hold: To be brave, live full, and inspire others to do the same.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
We have found that our episodes are infiltrating our lives in the most curious and brilliant ways. Raquelle and I started hosting brunches so that we could create a safe space, have brave conversations, and design fuller lives. When we had our first meeting and outlined a few sample themes with our Community Manager Laura at Optik TV, one of her comments was ‘oh my gosh I need to listen to that episode!’ We took that as a glorious sign that our gut instincts, and how we dissect our lives as friends, is actually really valuable to others. So, we ran, and continue to run with it. Kristina froze her eggs two years ago, so we found fertility experts to talk with. Raquelle has a dance background and found her freedom in movement, so we chatted with Formation Studios about releasing trauma through dance. When we started podcasting, we wanted to create a community of like-minded people, and an organic means of building up our badass friends. The stories we hear inspire, invigorate and inform us, and we take every lesson and laugh more deeply than we could have imagined.
A highlight has definitely been working with Telus Optik TV. Telus started airing the podcast during the pandemic on their community channel which was so incredible. The Telus team was so community-driven and wanted to promote diverse content and after seeing success on their community channel they decided to license our content. To date, Telus Optik TV has licensed 30 episodes so now our content can be found OnDemand.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
What do you mean, when we were STARTING?! I think at least once an episode, we f*ck something up. The difference now, and the biggest lesson to date, is that we learned to normalise it. Raquelle has an incredible way of laughing through adversity, and Kristina’s dry humour tends to make it this brutal combination of panic and hysterical laughter. Once, during an earlier episode, Raquelle said “ok, so if we’re going to f*ck this up, we’re going to keep rolling.” Kristina, naturally, PANICKED. And then we continued on, and over time, normalised that behaviour. Now, we embrace it — dogs barking, Kristina’s weird side-rat-tail in the midst of an impromptu episode about a bad bar experience, we stand on the same page and normalise ‘failure,’ so that we can get to the good stuff.
Another big mistake has been trying to do everything ourselves! We both work full time in our various fields and Raquelle was also doing pre-masters classes. We were trying to do our own video editing, audio editing, cover art, promoting the episodes, photoshoots, branding…. It was exhausting AND we were not the best people for all of those jobs.
Our key takeaway was outsourcing so that we could focus on doing the things only we could do. After outsourcing for a while, we ended up building a team which has changed the dynamics and the trajectory of Bombshells and ourselves in so many incredible ways.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
While Bombshells has been around as in-person brunches for over three years, a couple of weeks ago we aired our 52nd episode! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
Everything we do comes down to the Bombshell Brunches ethos: Be Brave, Live Full.
Failure isn’t a dirty word.
Lead your life by values, not outcomes.
Build a badass team, and honour them well.
Find your fire friends and never be afraid to make new friends who align with your values, to reach out to the people you’re listening to on this show (including us), and take charge of your biggest life!
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
Raquelle’s Take: I think as humans we innately want a story arc. We are so attracted to the Hero’s Journey and movie script writers have known this for years. We want to see the twists and turns of going from this ordinary world to following the call of adventure, we want to know about people’s personal walk through fire and then we want to see them come out the other side. I think really binge-worthy podcasts in any niche — be it sports, self-help or history make real use of narratives.
Kristina’s Take: I binge things that have the following: relatability, hilarity, and familiarity. Those three things are what attracts me to watch TV shows and follow my favourite influencers. What I love about myself and Raquelle is our specific dynamic — she disarms my dry, Brit wit with an effervescence that is contagious. Our guests are immediately comfortable, because I tend to call them and get them familiar with my dry sarcasm the day before, so when we sit down together to record, we’re already friends (it helps that some of them ARE friends, too, but you’d never know who was and who wasn’t, and that’s a sign of a great rapport). What I love about our podcast is that it is made to be binged — every topic is something we want to know, or we hear from our audience that they want to know. We’re in it together, and that feels good.
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
Oh how interesting you mention that… We have a great episode about burnout with Justine Sones! Maintaining discipline is difficult at the best of times, but it really does help having more than one person on your team (even if you’re the only one in front of the mic). Accountability is key, and understanding that sometimes, showing up is the hardest part. We have found that we need to carve space to understand each others’ motivators and work behaviour, so that we can hold sympathy AND drive each other when necessary. Creating a good workflow is always recommended- it’s a heavy lift to brainstorm at the start, but once the processes are out on paper and you know what you need to get done each week, you can figure out how to best do so and have enough breaks to work sustainably.
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
From Raquelle: “I find inspiration everywhere! From immersive experiences such as museums or art galleries, music festivals, travel, games or scientific journal articles. I find the more I experience, the more I am inspired.”
From Kristina: “I read. Everything and anything I can. I also gain so much from conversations with industry, friends, colleagues and conferences. Raquelle and I are both life learners, so we really have evolved over the years into these brain sponges. Other podcasts are useful as well.”
Ok fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
Raquelle’s Take: “Without question, three podcasts come to mind — Skinny Confidential with Lauryn and Michael Bosstick of the Skinny Confidential, Ed Mylett and Unf*ck your Brain podcast with Kara Loewentheil.
Kristina’s Take: “Brené Brown, Jay Shetty, Ed Mylett and Sex with Emily.”
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
I think there is an authenticity to the podcast that listeners pick up on. We show up as ourselves in every episode and because of that we have the unique ability to disarm our guests — inviting them to be vulnerable and to show up as they are — just the way you brunch with friends. We take a person-first approach to interviewing because the story starts before the expertise was honed and that story matters.
If we were to break that down into a blueprint, it would begin with communication. Communication is the most important factor. Next, an iterative mindset, followed closely by knowing your audience and knowing your guests.
You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
Find your personal poop story.
There’s a myth in the podcast world that you have to be some kind of expert on an ultra niche topic in order to make it in the saturated podcast industry. But I couldn’t disagree more. The Lady Gang is composed of three awesomely accomplished women who thought their guests would be the star of their show — until they realized it was really their own relationships with each other that drew listeners back. These women are unabashedly themselves and go down any and every rabbit hole from embarrassing poop stories to old flings, to gut-wrenching fertility issues. It’s completely relatable, generally light and nothing is off the table. There is something special about being 100% authentic and celebrating who you are and how you view the world. I would argue your personal view of the world and your voice is what makes a podcast stand out.
Podcasting is real-life on the go.
Do you have conversations with people around you and notice the room is fired up by the end? People are leaning forward and hanging on every word? If so, you have a real candidate for a podcast. For us, Bombshell Brunches started as in-person brunches and after three years of hilarious conversations, insightful discussions and building true friendships we knew we had something worth bringing to a bigger platform.
The technology doesn’t make the podcast but it certainly helps.
I’ve read a lot of articles that say not to invest in mics and headphones right away. You CAN start creating your podcast with nothing more than your laptop and a pair of basic earbuds. While having a lack of technology certainly shouldn’t stop you from starting a podcast — if it’s something you plan to take seriously — we recommend investing. No one wants to listen to 45 minutes of bad audio — even if you do have great content.
Podcasting is SO much work!
If your podcast dreams include making it more than a fun pastime then we highly recommend surrounding yourself with a good team. Recording a podcast is one thing but growing a podcast is another. A team doesn’t need to break the bank — it could mean pairing up with people who have complimentary skills or using a service like Upwork to create assets. Alternatively, if you’re a DIYer at heart, there are incredible services such as Canva, Skillshare, Later.com which can all help you efficiently scale and grow your podcast.
Share from your scars not from the wound.
Podcasting feels intimate and it can be easy to forget that it’s being put out into the public sphere. You have to be ready to face any number of reactions from criticism to sympathy and you have to be healed enough to handle that with grace. We are vulnerable on the podcast but always make sure we wait to share until we’re healed thanks to the advice of Justine Sones. You can check out that conversation in Episode 41.
Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to: 1) book great guests; 2) increase listeners; 3) produce it in a professional way; 4) encourage engagement; and 5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
Booking Great Guests: ASK! You’d be surprised how many people will reply to you if you just reach out. But DO YOUR RESEARCH — if you’re going for guests of any size, KNOW your guests and why you’re a fit to host them. We like to engage with our guests on socials, subscribe to their newsletters, and if possible, share value with them before ‘making the ask.’
Increase Listeners: Like the best fruit and veggies — keep it organic. You will find tonnes of tips and tricks on the internet to increase listenership; from podcast swaps, to advertising, to social media amplification. But the reality is that podcasting is a craft and it takes time to hone your skills. If you let your listenership grow organically, then you can make those mistakes and create your personal voice without fear of imperfection or people’s opinions holding you back. You can try new things and get adventurous to see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll know when you’re ready to amplify when people start sharing your podcast without you asking.
Produce it in a professional way: We researched and trialled different methods of engagement, using different types of platforms. I also have a PDF for guest tech requirements, managing expectations and making sure your guest is set up well is SO important. For example, we trialled Riverside software with our team before we tried it with a guest, and even with Zoom we did the same. Make sure you TEST, TEST, TEST!
Encourage engagement: Trial different ways to engage with your audience, to listen and respond to questions. Some people invite callers, others take to social media to get feedback/guest topics etc. We used to do a weekly poll on IG stories, and got hilarious responses to them. We also slide into the DMs all the time — we like to be a ‘circular’ podcast — it’s never a one-way conversation, and we continue to support our guests as much as we can. That’s how we all grow and glow up.
The best way to monetize it: Money is always an issue of balancing metrics, values, and opportunities. Explore different ways that align with your values, and be patient. We have media contacts and amazing friends (shout out Audrey K for the intros you’ve made!), so we utilised them respectfully and continue to honour and report back on them. Again, as one of our guests Matt Neutra (episode 49) says, you’re constantly depositing in the piggy bank of friendship when you enter into relationships. Other things you can think about are Patreon (i.e. donation services), sponsorships (just get good contracts and agreements in place), and see if there are funding initiatives for content creators, like Storyhive in Canada. Monetizing by views and listeners can be a much longer game, and very numbers-dependent, but it’s always worth keeping that in the back of your head when you’re strategising.
For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?
AUDIO: I recommend a good mic above all — you’re an audio-first platform. Mics are the top priority. My personal favorite is a Shure SM7B but it’s pricey. Many people use Yeti mics, and there are lots of different opinions on this one. I personally think it’s worth investing in a higher quality item, but you can always level up as you go! Secondly, good headphones. If you’re batch recording, your ears need PILLOWS, BBs!! I use Yamaha HPH-MT8s, and my ears are always hugged, and not crushed. You’ll thank me later.
VIDEO: If you choose to go with video, an external video recorder is ideal. We’re at the beginning of testing ours, but we just bought a Canon M200 on recommendation by our Creative Director, Glen Gustard, who is a seasoned content creator for super-influencers (and married to one, so… that helps). NOTE: Even if you’re audio-only, remember that you can often record video and use some of it for multi-purposing on socials and for promo, so this is a good idea no matter what!
EDITING: Let’s start with editing video! Oh how I wish I bought a higher powered computer with more processing power. My 2019 Macbook Pro with extra RAM STILL sounds like it’s launching into the stratosphere when I edit the videos for these podcasts. Do some research and talk to your specialist about this before you invest, and ensure you tell them you’re doing video AND audio editing — even if you don’t think you are, if you’re bootstrapping like we did at the start, you’ve got to edit a lot yourself or you’ll pay a mint to outsource it!
On editing audio: We’ve had a dialogue editing team from the start, but if you don’t, there are apps and help out there to help you get set up. Our career pathway partner, Levels Pro Production, is working with us to create a dialogue editing course, and we *may* be persuaded to create a beginners’ one down the line, but it’s a whole thing in and of itself, so make sure you’re ready to learn how to audio process! That said, some platforms, like Riverside, have some pretty advanced AI-based processing software, so you can check those out if you’d like to get things up and running quicker.
ENVIRONMENT: I recommend that people have a good hard-wired internet connection so that your preferred platform is uninterrupted. I also recommend setting up as private and sound-baffled space as possible. Noise interruptions from the podcast hosts can interrupt the conversation flow.
CONTENT DRESSING: We wanted to make this one clear to anyone who hasn’t done this before: brand alignment is KEY, and templates are YOUR FRIEND. We use Canva to build our systems. It makes life so much easier!
Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
WE HAVE A MOTTO FOR THIS: BE BRAVE, LIVE FULL!
Living Brave means creating a world where the word “failure” doesn’t exist. The fear of failure holds back the answers to some of the world’s deepest questions, the biggest loves and many people’s fullest lives. As Tones and I sing, “There’s alive and then there’s living.”
Living Full means creating a space where our listeners are willing and able to design their best, most fulfilling and inspired life. When you’re inspired to be your best self, you’re most capable of helping others!
How can our readers follow you online?
Subscribe to the Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bombshell-brunchess-podcast/id1529899651
Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.