Hosted by Erin Patinkin and Natasha Case, Start to Sale is the newest podcast from Eater, Vox Media’s food and drink site. In the show’s trailer, Patinkin describes Start to Sale as “a podcast that invites the brightest entrepreneurial minds to discuss all that it takes to build a company from launch to exit.” There are already many podcasts covering entrepreneurialism, business and startups, so why listen to this one?
Case and Patinkin believe two things distinguish Start to Sale. Firstly, where some business podcasts focus on startup stories or corporate strategy, the hosts of Start to Sale aim to dive deep into the challenges entrepreneurs face as their businesses grow and evolve. Their mission is to identify practical steps that CEOs and founders can take to overcome each hurdle on the path to ultimately selling their businesses.
For Case and Patinkin, Start to Sale’s second key selling point is that they are themselves entrepreneurs and co-founders of successful food businesses (Patinkin’s New York bakery Ovenly and Case’s Coolhaus ice cream). In episode one, Patinkin says “We listen to business podcasts all the time, and we started to notice that most of those podcasts were hosted by journalists, or tech industry people, or business psychologists, or organizational theorists. What we thought was missing was a conversation between entrepreneurs.”
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The hosts believe their experience as entrepreneurs brings a unique dynamic to their discussions with guests. As Case says, they want each episode of Start to Sale to be “a conversation that we would have in our kitchens, or at a coffeeshop, over a cocktail, about entrepreneurship whether or not these microphones were in front of us.”
The debut episode stays true to that promise, with Case and Patinkin asking Christina Tosi of Milk Bar how she has tackled questions of boardroom structure, raising funds and dividing equity among partners. The discussion does cover the Milk Bar backstory, but with a light touch. Impressively, Case and Patinkin are not distracted by Tosi’s star power or the elite company she keeps. They’re not going to breathlessly ask “What’s David Chang like?” as some hosts would. Instead, they and Tosi analyze the implications of having somebody with the reputation and presence of David Chang as a business partner. It’s a masterful debut that sets a high bar for the rest of the show’s run.
In subsequent episodes, Start to Sale largely succeeds in living up to the standard of that initial episode. The hosts use their entrepreneurial perspective to guide discussions with Jen Rubio of luggage brand Away, Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer of e-commerce site Witchsy, and Ari Weinzweig of Michigan-based gourmet food operation Zingerman’s. That idea of “conversations between entrepreneurs” proves a meaningful distinction to make between this and other business podcasts. Case and Patinkin encourage guests to drill down on aspects of entrepreneurship that a regular journalist might overlook or dismiss as mundane, often eliciting valuable insights.
Conversations cover everything from the importance of defining a vision and brand creation to seeking investment and learning to lead. There are illuminating moments highlighting the challenges, and downright stupidity, that female entrepreneurs encounter when making their way as entrepreneurs. Start to Sale celebrates female entrepreneurship – in addition to the hosts, all but one guest to date has been female – but it’s the entrepreneurship that is the show’s main concern. It’s a podcast for entrepreneurs, but also has wise words for people who might not think of themselves in that category – artists, freelancers or somebody with any kind of side hustle.
Each episode brings a slightly different dynamic between the hosts and their guests. In some instances, Case and Patinkin add a mentoring quality to the discussion. In others, the hosts seem curious about what they might learn from the interview. For the most part, they let their guests do the talking. However, they also share their own thoughts to clarify significant points in the conversation. In fact, listeners can use the hosts’ interjections as reliable markers for Start to Sale’s most useful takeaways – even if all they’re doing is backing up the guest’s observations with an affirming “very cool” or “for sure.” Start to Sale is also an enjoyable listen, with some funny moments.
A familiar pitfall with podcasts intended to provide listeners with actionable takeaways is that one guest’s methods will inevitably conflict with those of another guest’s. If this comes up from time to time on Start to Sale – Weinzweig’s anarchism-inspired approach to organization is unlike other models discussed, for example – it doesn’t discredit the show. It’s really up to the listener to decide what approaches and ideas will work best for them and their business or project. Think of each episode as a case study, rather than considering the entire season as an integrated course in entrepreneurship.
Though generally strong, the content occasionally wavers into more generic territory. Episode two, for example, lingers a little too long on Jen Rubio’s career prior to launching Away, before getting on track for a strong second half. However, at a little over the season’s halfway point, Start to Sale’s nuggets of practical advice and inspiration outweigh the show’s more routine moments.
Some listeners might ask why Start to Sale was launched under the Eater banner, given that only two of the four episodes released so far feature food industry entrepreneurs. One reason could be the hosts’ background in food entrepreneurship. Advertising may be a factor, as Start to Sale’s sponsor, smartwater, has also sponsored posts on Eater’s website. This isn’t really a criticism, more a question of distribution. Start to Sale is certainly relevant to food entrepreneurs, and episode one begins with a specific commitment to that demographic. However, most of what Start to Sale has to say is equally applicable to entrepreneurs and creatives in other industries. It would be a shame if that audience struggled to discover this rich source of ideas and experience.
Iain Shaw is a freelance writer covering food, drink and hospitality. After spending almost 15 years living in Beijing, Iain is now based in St. Louis, Missouri. Read a selection of his writing at iainshaw.