Alisa Ivory Smith loves stories, understanding what motivates people, learning about different industries and products, and making connections. All of those attributes add up to The Beehive, a podcast in which she interviews women entrepreneurs from all over the world. We sat down with Alisa to understand a bit more about her podcast, and the lessons transferrable to Bigcos.
Why did you decide to start The Beehive Podcast?
The Beehive Podcast is all about women entrepreneurs who’ve started their own businesses. I interview them to talk about their journey, and the process they took to go from the initial idea to actual launch of the idea—what challenges they had and how they got past those challenges; and also what fears they had and how they got past those fears.
I had many reasons for starting the podcast, the first being that I wanted a challenge. I started listening to podcasts when they first came out, but I never thought about being a podcast producer until I listened to a show that talked about being a podcaster, and how I could do it, too! I also wanted to give back; I had just spent the last two years getting my MBA, and I had a little girl, so it had been a while since I had been doing any volunteer work. I missed it. So, I tried to figure out how I could give back to the community, but still be at home.
The third reason—last but definitely not least—I wanted to figure out a way to empower women to help them be stronger both in life and in business.
What are the common threads across the entrepreneurs you’ve interviewed?
A big one is that these entrepreneurs are solving needs that they have in their own life. They’re either thinking of that from a standpoint of solving a business or just solving it for themselves and maybe it accidentally turns into something bigger.
Another big thread is that people don’t have a background in product development, or anything related to how they might execute their idea. They’re completely disconnected, and yet they have the tenacity and the motivation to pursue their idea and get it launched. They may not have those connections in the industry, but they’ll just ask their friends if they know someone who could help them—they’ll stumble their way into how to solve their problem, which is amazing!
Social media engagement is also huge, especially for consumer research. They’ll develop a following, and then ask their followers for opinions on what they should launch next, or how they should develop their current product. They’ve built this level of community with not only the people around them but people online as well. They’re also using it for their launches to get the word out, not only to their consumers but retailers who may want to sell their products. Social media has really sped up the consumer research process for startups—they can make decisions and just do it.
How do you think these lessons learned translate to the corporate world?
When we talk about innovation, are we really willing to do whatever it takes to meet the consumers’ needs? The answer should be yes, but in the corporate world, it’s yes, IF all of these other constraints are met. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, those things don’t always exist. It’s all about solving the problem in a way that’s perhaps not the most elegant solution, but the most viable.
From a corporate standpoint, we have a lot of barriers to innovation. There are gatekeepers whose purpose is to make sure the idea is as good as it could be within the constraints that exist. As companies get bigger, they add more systems and processes to maximize efficiency. However, corporations need to make sure that those efficiencies still allow for innovation to happen. In a way, innovation needs to be coddled and protected. Innovators should have space to really think and figure out what an idea could actually be before bringing it through the gatekeepers.
Knowing failure and adversity come with the territory of entrepreneurship, how have these leaders been able to overcome these challenges?
Someone once told me that if you fail, it just means you need it keep going; it means you’re closer to your target. These leaders don’t let failure get the best of them; they see it as part of the process. It’s inevitable so they figure out what they can do to better their process. They fail, they get up, they reach out for help, and they move on. These entrepreneurs are working to help people, and that’s what keeps them going.
A failure when you own your own business becomes a bit more personal, but they don’t take it personally, and I’ve been trying to figure out how they do that. I think they see it as more of a science experiment. They come up with a hypothesis, test it in the marketplace, it may or may not work, and if it didn’t work then they just do something else.
What is your biggest takeaway from these podcasts so far? And where do you envision your podcast going in the future?
More and more women are starting their own businesses; there’s so much potential out there. I think women are leaning in a different way. They’re leaning into their own self-sufficiency by business ownership.
Another big takeaway is that these companies are extremely agile, which is a huge threat to large corporations. These smaller companies can talk to consumers and quickly pivot.
As for the future, it would be really nice to create a network of women empowering women—a network for women to get help in starting and launching their ideas. I just want to motivate women to do what they think they want to do and bring their ideas to life. I could see the podcast even branching out and talking about the individual parts of product design and commercialization.
Anything else you’d like to share…
People are disrupting the marketplace where they are, but there’s also this level of disruption in the way they’re living their lives. They’re going into something in which they have no knowledge, and yet they’re surviving and thriving. I think that’s a really beautiful thing.