This week, Zach and Rock speak with Ona Oghogho, founder of Blk Pod Collective, Blk Pod Fest, and Pod House Media. Ona is a relative newcomer to the space but has made a big impact already. In this interview, learn about Ona’s path from working in healthcare to organizing podcast events, to hosting a podcast herself, and more.
Find out why Ona gets excited when new celebs get into the podcast game. It’s not necessarily because she loves the celebrity in question.
Ona shares her thoughts on creating sustainable diversity in the audio event space. Hint: don’t just invite people of color to represent on panels. They need to be on the event planning teams as well.
ONA OGHOGHO: I see that people really want to connect with other people because podcasting can kind of feel lonely. You’re just talking into an abyss. You don’t know if anybody’s listening on the other end and as much as it’s great to like connect with people on social, I’m a people person. So I knew that I really wanted to like bring people together to kind of talk through it. So they knew, you know, I’m not crazy. I, too, am having these same problems.
ZACHARIAH MORENO: Welcome to Between Two Mics, the podcast that brings you remote recording resources from Squadcast.fm.
ROCKWELL FELDER: I’m Rock Felder, co-founder and CFO of Squadcast.
ZACH: And I’m Zach Moreno, co-founder and CEO.
ROCK: On Between Two Mics, we bring you interviews with podcasters experts in the field of remote recording, we discuss current events in podcasting. And so much more.
ZACH: Twice a month, you’ll hear a founder’s episode. That’s just the two of us chatting about all things remote recording, updates to Squadcast, what we’re up to, and what we’re listening to.
ROCK: The other two weeks of the month, we’ll bring you interview episodes. Zach and I will sit down with experts in the podcast space to discuss their companies, their podcasts, their thoughts on podcasting, creating content and more.
ZACH: The most exciting part, we’re recording all of this on Squadcast, the best place to record remote audio and video interviews in studio quality.
ROCK: So let’s get Between Two Mics.
ZACH: Today’s guest on Between Two Mics is Ona Oghogho. Ona’s background is in marketing and communications, which led her to her to start in podcasting around 2017. Since then she has helped with over 200 podcasts and is now the founder of Blk Pod Collective and Blk Pod Fest. Their mission is to help fill the void of adequate representation for Black people within the podcast industry. And she’s also the co-host and producer of a few new podcasts. We touch on that in this episode, as well as what led Ona from her background in marketing and communications now to working full-time in podcasting. We talked to her about her journey to founding Blk Pod Collective, Blk Pod Fest, and Pod House Media. And we also take the opportunity to look forward to how Ona’s mission is coming to life within podcasting. Let’s get started with our conversation with Ona and thank you for listening.
ZACH: Thank you for joining us on Between Two Mics, you have a background in marketing communications, project management, finance, and business, and those are all amazing skills and superpowers with roots that have led you to start podcasting and podcast production, it looks like in around 2017. But to kind of back up for a second, I wanted to give you the opportunity to really tell your story about how you found podcasting and kind of where you got your start in podcasting.
ONA: Most definitely. First, thank you guys so much for having me. For me, podcasting really started off as a friend, she was launching her own podcast, and she knew that I had worked at radio as well as television in college. And I was like, Hey, could you help me with this? And I was like, oh, okay. You know, sure, have free time, why not? Being the true person that I am, I start digging into it. I’m like, oh, well, what about this? And what about that? And she’s like, okay, hold on. I’m not trying to do all of that. I just said, I needed your 2 cents on these two parts. And so I’m like, okay, well, let me see. Let me see what actually goes into podcasting. So this was back in 2017, and I started going to like meetups and stuff like that, taking place, just trying to see what was going on out there. At the time I was a manager, so I was working like, lord, 80 hour weeks traveling all the time. So I really couldn’t start a podcast cause I was just like, I do not have the capacity for it. Um, but then I got laid off from my job. So got laid off and I was like, okay, now I have all of this free time. And I actually decided to take a year off. So this was 2019. I was like, I’m going to just take a year off from working, figure out like what I want to do next. Well, in that year off, I ended up deciding like: Okay. I’ve learned all this stuff along the way. Like, so I’ve been looking at podcasting since 2017. I’m now interested to like put information out there. Cause I’m sharing stuff with friends who are starting podcasts. They’re like, oh my God, I didn’t know that. And some of them had been podcasting for like a year or two. And so they’re like, you know, put it out as an Instagram page. Like no big deal. Like if other people are interested, they’ll like it. And that’s literally how Blk Pod Collective came to be. It started off with me just posting information on Instagram, no website, no plan, no anything. Just like, oh, I’ve learned these things. And these are things that people can like think through that they may not have thought about before. And look at us two years later and it’s turned into a whole burgeoning community.
ROCK: Wow. What were some of those things that you were telling folks, especially those like kind of seasoned podcasters that they weren’t aware of until you shared that with them?
ONA: So like things around like understanding, like content pillars, understanding how to market yourself, because I have a background in marketing and communication, and I worked at the school newspaper, television station, all these things. And then ended up in healthcare, but that’s a whole other story. Um, but with that in mind, I ended up start sharing, like how to go ahead and market yourself, ways that they can partner with other content. So, like, for example, if you have a podcast, partnering with a blogger on the same topic so that, that way you can be included on their website, included in their newsletter. Just those little things that people were like, wait, I never thought about it. Or because I was so involved in college, I knew that the student programs board, they’re always looking for different programs to bring to life. So if you talk to the youth, you talk to people who are like 24 years old or 22, or just graduating. That’s an opportunity for you to partner with a university to actually like expand your reach. People in college aren’t usually doing that much, and they’re always looking for ways to expand. Or the one that really resonated with people is the student government. It is..So I ran for student government in college and learned it was very fierce. I was like, are we running for the presidency? Because like, what is happening?
ROCK: Did you hire bodyguards?
ONA: What is going on here? I’m hearing like scandal, I’m like what happened? Um, and so I then kind of, you know, put that out there, like they’re looking for a platform to talk to people, and if you reach out to the student government, they’re going to promote it because of the fact that they were on the show. So like just those little tactics that I have kind of learned over the years that people just hadn’t thought about to reach a new audience. Because sometimes they’re all marketing to the same people over and over.
ZACH: I think a lot of podcasters kind of fall into that where we share the next episode, the next episode, the next episode. And it’s like, why isn’t my show growing? And it’s like, well, you know, the audience grows from, from reaching new people. Um, and I’m sure you have some tactics around how to do that as well. But, uh, you mentioned meetups as part of your, your starting in podcasting. And meetups are something that are kind of near and dear to our heart in the Bay Area here, we have a number of really great meetups, and I think in Atlanta, you all do as well. So like, was that kind of your intuition to seek out meetups? Or how did you find the, the meetup space within, um, within the podcast community.
ONA: For me, I actually said I’m one of those people who I was part of the student programs board in college. So we also do like a bunch of events and stuff like that. So I used to plan a lot of events. Um, after college, I also like planned weddings and all of these things. So I’ve always had a creative flare, I guess you would say.
ZACH: Wow. That is not easy.
ONA: I always like, and, um, I’ve worked with like, you know, Essence when they came here to Atlanta and like different events, large-scale events here in Atlanta, I do a lot of event production. So something I kind of consulted with on the side. Well, when I started realizing that, okay, wait a minute, I’ve gone to meet ups here in Atlanta. And I utilize that the Meetup app, um, Eventbrite, just to kind of see what was going on in the podcasting space, but I just, wasn’t seeing a lot of Black podcasters. And so we really started off, before we offered anything else. We started off with having events. So we used to have an event once a month. Each of that used to take place at a different Black-owned space throughout Atlanta. Whether it was a panel talking about the crossover from blogging to podcasting. Another panel, um, talking about how, like, you know, one of the podcasters was one of the top 50 podcasts and had been in that spot for quite some time. Um, another one was just a game night for people to meet each other and like interact and network. We even sponsored one in New York, which was a full-on event. So it really just turned into one of those things where it’s like, I see that people really want to connect with other people because podcasting can kind of feel lonely. You’re just talking into an abyss. You don’t know if anybody’s listening on the other end, and as much as it’s great to like connect with people on social, I’m a people person. So I knew that I really wanted to like bring people together to kind of talk through it so they knew that, you know, I’m not crazy. I, too, am having these same problems and let’s talk through how you, how you’ve done something different. And, um, I don’t think I ever even had an event where I was speaking. So for me, it was always just to kind of curate the events and bring the people together and then let everyone connect with each other. So there was times that people came to the event and they didn’t even know I was the founder. Cause I just would be like: well, hey everyone, welcome. And it took me a while to actually show my face on social media.
ZACH: That is a, making a lot more sense how you’re putting all of these pieces together. Um, I was super impressed when, when I first discovered your work and your voice and the content and community that you were lifting up. But to hear you tell the story and how these, uh, your background and the pieces fit together makes a ton of sense how now you’re, you’re the founding Blk Podcast Collective, of an event of Blk Pod Fest, and now, Pod House Media. So I think that how you have put these pieces together, your background makes for a really, really great story, and I appreciate you sharing it. It’s, it’s inspiring for, you know, how we can find space and ways to, uh, to lift up communities and voices that, that didn’t really have that space, uh, in the past. And that’s, that’s a really big mission and work worth doing so totally, you know, respect and commend you for doing that work. As a community founder and like organizer, what have you learned that you think would be helpful to other podcasters?
ONA: Stop focusing so much on like your downloads and instead focus on like engaging with your actual community. Figure out who the people are. So like one thing I tell everyone is, anytime someone leaves a comment indicating that they liked the content, that’s your opportunity to connect with that person. So, one thing I always say is like, I will jump in the DMs to say, you know, one, thank you so much for listening. Would you mind if I add you to our email list? Would love to use you as like a cohort to be able to push new ideas we may have. One, that makes people feel like super connected. Cause it’s like, oh, you actually care. So just taking that initiative. And then the other thing I would say is stop making it, like, make it a reciprocal relationship versus this like me, me, me me, me. It feels like those people back in the day, they used to walk up to you and be like, listen to my mixtape. And you’re like: oh, okay. No, thank you. Or like the perfume girl at the mall, who’s just consistently like: here, just let me waft to the cross your face. And you’re like: mmm. I don’t want to listen to your audiogram. Thank you so much. And so it’s the same concept versus somebody who you feel connected to, you’ve built something with, you’re more inclined to support them. And that’s the mindset. I really want people to take. One, interact with your audience as well on their pages. Figure out who like your most engaged listeners are, turn on post notifications, make it reciprocal. And that’s one of the big things I do with our community. Like if I haven’t seen somebody post in a week, we’re going to reach out. We’re going to say, Hey, is everything good over there? Haven’t seen you a lot. And they don’t have to be a member. It’s just creating that accountability in that community. And so I really want more people to focus on community versus downloads and listenership and everything like that. Like back to true storytelling and bringing people along with you on that journey.
ROCK: What’s your opinion about podcasting when it comes to different racial topics? Like what do you think is going right, but what do you think also should be changed? Or what would you like to see improve?
ONA: Honestly, I think I want to just see more people get comfortable with having certain conversations. Um, I know like for example, like whenever anybody reaches out to me, they always assume like, all I want to talk about is like Black issues. No, not necessarily. Um, so it’s just one of those things of looking at, looking at each race and its totality. And recognizing that we are not just, um, a monolith, like we’re not going to just focus on one particular element. And it’s the same thing I tell our community is, you know, a lot of people create podcasts. A lot of Black podcasters create podcasts for Black people, but there’s only about what 12%? Of podcast listeners are Black. So for all fighting for that same 12%, then that ends up being kind of problematic. It’s okay to create content for more people. It’s okay to create content for everybody. And then getting comfortable with just having difficult conversations, whether you’re uncomfortable by it, as long as everybody’s respectful, as long as it’s coming from a place of like actually wanting to learn. Um, those things are important. So I can definitely say that places like Clubhouse, I’ve seen a lot of like that type of open dialogue taking place that I hadn’t really seen before. And so I want to see those types of things continue. Where people are feeling comfortable crossing those racial barriers without feeling offended or defensive. And so that’s, that’s the piece where I feel like as I look at podcasting as a whole, my big thing is wanting to diversify, not only people in front of the mics, but the behind the scenes as well. So we’ll see where it’s growing. As far as a lot of people in front of the mics are more, you know, diverse, but on the backend, the producers, the VPs of these different companies, not so much. So with a platform like Blk Pod Fest, where anybody can attend, but all of the speakers are going to be Black. There are certain instances where I’m looking for a speaker for something that I can not find a single Black person who speaks on that topic. And for me, I want to get to a space to where that’s no longer the case. And more companies are more aware of it being problematic. This isn’t just a podcasting issue, of course, this is across the board. But as podcasts from being a newer medium, we’re just seeing where, even though, like, don’t get me started even things like not knowing technically what a producer does because from each company it’s a different definition. Um, so just stuff like that, it’s just, you know, wanting to kind of level the playing field and get more people in more positions, and kind of have the dialogue in a way that’s not so tense, I guess, is the best way to put it.
ROCK: Yeah, no, it’s absolutely a thing. And I think one of the opportunities that you brought up that I don’t think I’ve heard discussed enough is like, there’s tremendous opportunity in the listener growth as well. Like you can’t tell me that 12 or I forget the exact percentage, but it was in the teens, uh, too low. And there’s obviously so many people that can benefit from podcasting. Whether they’re our listener, producer, host, all that stuff. So I think that’s all good, good things to build awareness about.
ONA: Yeah. I think it’s just one of those things like, I’m Nigerian. Um, so once my mom kind of learned about podcasting, one, she doesn’t listen to my own show anymore, which is okay. Um, she was like, well, I don’t want to start a podcast, so I really, I don’t want to listen to this, but I’ve now discovered this show and I love it. You should do a show like that.
ONA: Okay, Mom, thank you for your great feedback. But it’s just one of those things. Like once you introduce somebody new to it and explain it to them, they really kind of get invested. Like they dive on it. It’s that Clubhouse. People dive on into it. They’re binging it, and it’s easy to consume. And so that’s the big thing I always tell my community is just make sure you spend more time introducing the concept of podcasting to other people. And don’t be so upset when celebrities are joining into the podcast world, because that’s a thing. People feel some type of way. Which I’m like, actually, I get excited by that because that means more people are going to know about podcasting. And guess what? After some time they’re going to be like, oh, what else is out there? And it gives our shows an opportunity to be found. So I get very excited when new celebrities are starting a show because I’m like, oh, well, let’s see, who’s saying that they love this. Let me follow you. Let me interact. Like, oh, there’s a show over here that’s similar, let me drop that right there. And now you have a new engaged audience that never knew about this medium.
ZACH: These are tough conversations, right? To, to have in some ways, and maybe not in others, but it struck me because our mission here at Squadcast is, is to help facilitate meaningful conversations.Meaningful isn’t always that, that word was like chosen very specifically. And it, you know, it’s, some times is the most meaningful conversation to have not the most comfortable conversation and really address these, these topics head on. So I’m really glad that you’re creating that space and that forum for people to not just talk about one race or one gender, or just really finding ways to, to get beyond that, I think is the ultimate goal, right? Like to not really have the problem that you mentioned of, of not being able to find a speaker for your event. If we’re doing our job well as an industry, that that problem should go away. It should get easier, you know? So I think that’s, that’s something that I look forward to thanks to the, the work that you’re helping to do, that, that others, that we’ve, uh, connected with in the community are helping to do. And, um, you know, I think it, it starts with, uh, events like yours that, um, that really provide that stage and really have these conversations, whether they’re comfortable or not is almost like a side consideration. You know, that, that really great work that you’re contributing to, to the podcasting ecosystem that I don’t think enough people are, you know, just to be straight up about it. So anybody else you want to kind of lift up it, who’s doing similar work, of course your community and your platform, but there are others we’ve interviewed Jay Connor with The Extraordinary Negros podcast. He’s done some events kind of before things closed down. And those were fantastic, um, in, in the LA area. And you’re in Atlanta. So, um, others that we can share in this conversation with.
ONA: um, I say Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown, um, she’s the founder of Caribbean Podcast Directory. She also has a production company called Breadfruit Media. Um, we literally connected, oh my god, yeah. Back in 2019 at a conference in New York. Ever since then, I think she had her directory. I tapped into her when we were launching our directory and ever since then, like, you know, whenever we have something going on, she’s super supportive. So she’s doing amazing work to highlight the work of Caribbean people, um, both in the diaspora, but also overseas. So she does, I know she like did a panel for International Podcast Day. Just those types of things. Um, another person I’d say is Talib Jasir. I hope I said his last name right. Um, he’s the founder of Afros & Audio. So they’re a podcast. So that’s the conference that I was saying that we sponsored in our first year in 2019, that took place in New York. Um, he’s doing amazing work to like, you know, kind of his big platform is, um, helping those who are, um, have some form of disability, um, in audio. So whether it’s, if you’re deaf, whatever the case may be, um, he has a big platform around that, but he also uplifts Black creatives, um, to help them, you know, they’re audio and narrative based podcasts and audio drama. And so those two people right there, I think they’re doing amazing work for our community at large.
ZACH: Are you recording video along with audio for your podcast?
ROCK: Earlier this year, we released our video feature, which allows Squadcasters to record, download, edit, and upload video content to go along with your podcast.
ZACH: Lots of creators use video alongside audio to create marketing elements, to engage with listeners, and to generally make their content more accessible.
ROCK: Squadcasters who listened to this podcast and want to upgrade to a video and audio plan get their first month free with the code BETWEEN that’s all caps and spelled B-E-T-W-E-E-N.
ZACH: And new Squadcasters, we’ve got something for you too. Use code NEWBIE. That’s all caps N-E-W-B-I-E at checkout for your first month free when you sign up for Squadcast.
ROCK: We’re so excited to hear and see what you can make on Squadcast.
ROCK: Again, that’s the code BETWEEN for Squadcasters looking to upgrade.
ZACH: And code NEWBIE at checkout for soon to be Squadcasters, head to squadcast.fm, to claim these offers and start creating.
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ZACH: I think there’s, uh, a lot of opportunity in the work that you’re doing, but also, you know, we’ve interviewed, um, our advisor Adriana, she’s doing kind of similar work, but for the Latinx community. I really look forward to seeing more diverse individuals on stages when we get back to, uh, in-person events and you know, this momentum, it seems to be accelerating and picking up. So I’m curious, like you have your event, you mentioned some other fantastic events that, um, we’ll, we’ll link to in the show notes, the bigger industry events. The Podcast Movements and the Podfests, like how have you seen the momentum within those communities?
ONA: So I’ve never been to Podcast Movement before, so I can’t really speak as far as like what they have going on there. But Podfest, I love what Chris is doing because of the fact that he, he does think it’s important to diversify and everything of that nature. Overall, though, from what I’m seeing from, like, for example, why launched Blk Pod Fest is because of these two things. Everyone can talk about diversity and wanting to diversify. But if the people putting it together are not diverse, that is problematic. So you can talk about it. But if nobody on your team is a person of color, to me, that is problematic. And I recognize there are not really large teams or anything like that, but in the same token, you can’t want people of color’s dollars, but you’re not willing to actually give them a seat at the table. Um, so for me, you know, it’s, it’s great to like have more speakers on stage. It’s great to welcome everyone. But at the end of the day, for me, it comes across more. So like people are wanting to open up stages so that, that way you can get more Black people. So you can say you are diverse. But you’re not, one, making it affordable. So you’re not thinking of the fact that a lot of people of color, Black people, they’re not monetizing off of their pocket. So if your one ticket is 3, $400, then how can somebody afford the plane ticket, the, um, hotel plus your ticket for your actual event? So those three things right there already cause a disparity in accessibility because those within our community who are creating content, this is just something out of a passion. Um, they may not have the funds to get access to that same information or that same network. And then along with that is also, there’s the lack of diversity on the teams putting things together. So for me, if I don’t see diversity in the teams putting things together, to me, it just comes across as another thing for you to check off on your box. So when I look at the event space, one big thing I want to tell anyone is if you’re wanting to say that you are a diverse event, then make sure that those who are putting the event together are also diverse because of the fact that they’ll be able to kind of point things out before you even see it. Um, there’s things as a Black woman that I’m going to notice that may never just come across your mind because we don’t have the same experiences. And so for me, you know, down the line, as I look at, you know, Blk Pod Fest, I want it to be something where everyone comes, but the only people on stages are Black people. Well, if I’m wanting everyone to be there, and I want, you know, to cater to other people, I need to make sure there’s somebody else on the team who can help me see the things that I may have blinders to, because that’s just our reality. So that’s my big thing when I think of the event space, um, I know like, you know, the only one I’ve gone to is Podfest. And I know Chris does amazing job. He’s super open. He super like giving, like he has a heart of giving and allyship, like you give him feedback and he’s like, okay, let’s see how we can fix that. Like, he’s very on top of it. Um, I have not worked with other people in the space, so I can’t really speak to their intentions, but I just know what I see from a community builder standpoint, is I need to see more diversity, not just on your stages, but actually on your teams, on the type of things you’re curating at your event. Because if I’m spending $400 to come to something, I’m sorry, there are certain things that I want this to be fun. I don’t want to just spend all day talking about podcasting. And my idea of fun and yours might be drastically different. So there needs to be somebody who’s looks like me, who might be closer in age to me, all of those things that’s helping curate those experiences.
ROCK: It makes a lot of sense and it’s super reasonable. And, uh, I think it’s helpful and I’m optimistic that podcasting and the events, all aspects of podcasts. And I think we’ll embrace it. It’s early enough that, and I think a lot, there’s a lot of good folks in the space that do care about this. And obviously having someone like you kind of, you know, doing all the work that you’re doing to highlight this as is super it’s making a big impact, I think. And we talked about highlighting all the work that you’re doing about Blk Pod Fest, Blk Pod Collective, but you’re also recently started a media company. So I definitely want to highlight the work that you’re doing there. Tell us about it.
ONA: So, honestly, this is one of those things that I, I envisioned, but then I was like, I’m never leaving healthcare. And then I left healthcare, and I’m like, oh my goodness, I left healthcare. Um, it happened. Um, so it’s just one of those things where it started turning into, um, I was really working with a lot of members and people within our community with their podcast. Um, just really looking, cause I research a lot, like I’m an avid researcher. And so I originally wanted to be a lawyer. Yeah. So I’m an avid researcher. So I like to, I kind of dig down rabbit holes, and I look at the why’s and the what about this? And what about thats? So I started helping a lot of people with their podcasts. Well, next thing you know, like, you know, their podcast is growing, like, you know, had one client who she went from 300 downloads an episode to 2000 downloads an episode. Being featured. Well, it happens one time and you’re like, okay, you know, that’s a fluke. Then it happened with Blk Pod Collective’s podcast. Okay. Did it twice. Then by the fifth sixth client, I’m like, oh, wait a minute. Maybe I actually like, know what I’m doing here. I can do a little something. And then I started taking like courses on sound engineering and just like learning more about that and the different tools. Um, and then, you know, mind you, I took a year, so all the 2019 I didn’t work so I had a lot of free time. Um, and so, with that in mind, I ended up deciding like, you know what, I think this is something I want to do, but I wanted it to be separate from Blk Pod Collective. Um, originally it was starting to kind of get infused, and it was becoming confusing for people because membership ranges from like, what, $5 to $20. There are people thinking that, you know, with your $5 membership, your podcast was going to be edited and, it was like oh, sorry, no. That’s not how that works.
ZACH: You know, this takes a lot of time.
ONA: It takes a lot of time. And that coupled with the fact that for me, Blk Pod Collective our pillars, our community, education, and visibility. And so podcast production just did not fall into those three pillars. And I’m very big on, we stay focused on our mission, and anything outside of that, we don’t focus our energy on like, we’re a very small team. There’s only three of us. From there. I was just like, okay. I also wanted to bring a story to life. So I have a podcast that I’m working on. Um, I’m a two time cancer survivor. And then along with being a two-time cancer survivor, I in 2020, I had like emergency surgery. I have now had like seven or eight surgeries in my lifespan. And, um, I just started noticing, like, whenever I would tell people things, they’re like, I have that same experience where like the doctor didn’t listen to me. And my experience was very similar. Like I had emergency surgery because the hospital in which I worked at did not listen to me for a year. And then I ended up almost dying. So I decided that I wanted to work together.
ONA: Yeah, 2020 was 2020.
ROCK: You’re a fighter.
ONA: Definitely, yeah, like I have cancer at 16 and then again at 17, and then, you know, there’s just a bunch of health things that, you know, kind of left you with after that. And so working in the healthcare industry, but also my own experience in healthcare. And like people just telling me their experiences, I started realizing like there was an opportunity for a story to be told, and I want it to kind of be like a narrative podcast of people just talking about their experience within the healthcare system. Um, as well as how to advocate for yourself and fight through those moments where, you know, something might be wrong, even though, you know, the norm of what they say seems like you’re perfectly fine. So that’s a project that I’m currently working on, is just allowing and opening space for people to share those experiences. Um, and it leads to kind of very pressing to what’s going on in the times, of people not trusting the healthcare system, which has a lot to not getting the vaccine and just all of these things. So I’m super excited for that project. Um, and then the other one is one with myself and Kerry-Ann, the founder of Caribbean Podcast Directory, uh, pods den, which is, um, a bi-weekly podcasts, like news industry. Um, we just found ourselves, like, we have a lot of these like long conversations about things that happened in the industry. And like, we’ll literally be like, oh my god, can you believe this? And let me show you the stats that I found about this. And did you know that..And it’s like, we were like, wait a minute, we’re spending all this time talking about this. Let’s record it in a way that’s like fun. I’m super silly. She’s much more serious. So it’s like our dynamic works out perfectly. So just wanting to bring that those two things to life, but also help other people with their process. That’s a big mission of mine. I don’t want to hear about society and culture things all the time. I want to hear more stories about our experiences and not just the like sad stuff, because that can be draining after a while. But like the triumphs, the things that you’re working on, like the amazing things that you’re doing, um, I want to be a part of like bringing original stories to life. That isn’t like the same old, like, oh, this happened on the news or sports and just kind of taking it beyond sex and relationship. And so that’s really how Pod House Media came to be is wanting to help other people tell their stories in an authentic way. It’s always crazy cause I’m like all of this started from an Instagram page. I did not, like people are always like, oh, what’s the plan and the vision? Um, this was not part of the plan of anything. So I have no clue. It’s just as things come, like I tell people like literally most things come to me in my sleep, and when I wake up and I’m like, okay, well, this is what we’re doing. And, um, Kerry-Ann or somebody on my team is usually like, okay, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. Let’s put some steps in place. We’re not doing that today. And I’m like, oh no? Okay. Not today. Okay. But, but we have to do it this year. They’re like, okay, we can do that. We’ll make it work. Um, yeah.
ROCK: When did you feel like you were onto something when, when was it where, you know, it became more than just an Instagram page that you’re trying out and you’re like, holy, this is, this is going to be part of my legacy here?
ONA: It wasn’t until like last year…There’s two times that I finally realized like, oh, okay. In March of last year at Podfest. So I had to literally, like I had emergency surgery in February, and I want to say like the day before Podfest is where my doctor was like, okay, I’ll let you travel. And so I’m like, literally, like, yeah, I had literally had surgery. Like it’s probably had only been like three to four weeks by the time Podfest came around. And so I was sore and tired at Podfest. But, seeing how, like everyone came together cause we held a meetup. And I remember like I brought a bunch of games because we do a game night here because sometimes, you know, it’s hard for people to like start talking to each other. So if you like put strangers and play games and people loosen up. Well, literally we came in the room and we had drinks, we had music and I was like, okay, we’re going to play games. But then it was noticing like everybody was still talking. So I was like, do you guys want to play games? Or just talk to each other? They’re like, we just want to talk to each other. And I was like, oh, okay. Sure. And the amount of people who were like, like the highlight of it was seeing us there. Cause we were like, we were, I think we’re the only Black company on the vendor floor at all. And so people were super excited to just see us there, like to see that, oh my god, this is possible. Now one thing I always say is I’m like, uh, Chris did not make us pay for this space. Let me be very clear. Um, did that have $10,000 just sitting here? Like this was not, yeah, there’s a small organization .But people were super excited just to know that somebody who looked like them was in that space. And to connect with us and get to meet us in real life. And like, kind of see our energy because like we’re based in Atlanta and we did all these events in Atlanta, but if you’ve never come to Atlanta, you’ve never met us. And just the amount of people who were like, I read your blog and like, I love the information. What do you think about possibly doing this? And I’m like, do you want to write about it? They’re like, oh my god, yes. And just from that experience and like people begging us to do a podcast, which I was just like, okay, I’m sure we’ll figure out how we’ll do that. That was the first time that I was like, oh, okay. People I had never known that knew we existed, knew about us. And when they saw that we were coming. It made them excited to be here. That was the first time that I recognized that, oh, okay. You know, maybe we’re doing something good. And we had launched membership earlier. So we had launched membership in January of that year. And you know, we’re still building small traction because I was like, okay, we have to figure out how to make money guys. Like, you know, this is not easy to sustain. Next thing you know, like the membership is growing, is growing, is growing and I’m just like, oh, okay. All right, this is good. The second time when I’d say it really solidified was last year, it was like an August. That was when I really realized. So we held a micro-con and about 800 people attended our micro-con.
ONA: I think ours was the biggest micro-con that was held. Yeah. So that’s how I launched Blk Pod Fest was doing it then, because I had originally thought, you know, we need more time. We need to figure out this and all of these things. And then when Chris was…
ZACH: It’s the wave, we got to catch it.
ONA: Like literally Chris was like, oh, we’re doing this. And I was like okay. Let’s schedule a photo shoot. We got to get the website done. T-shirts this, that, and like within three days we had a website, we had a brand photo shoot, took place. We had videos done. And like, it was literally like all hands on deck. This is happening, whether we’re ready or not, we’re getting ready because it has to happen now. When it took place, that was the second time when I really realized, okay guys, this isn’t just like some small thing that, you know, we’re doing, people are actually looking at us for inspiration, and we need to make sure we continuously like provide the knowledge, provide the information, provide the support and hold ourselves to a high standard. Like we had always held ourselves, but it was also still one of those things where it’s like, well, I’m busy today. I don’t feel like it. It went from right, okay, well, yeah, suck it up. And you got to just put this as part of your like plan for your day and how we’re going to go about this. And like, we grew the team, like we added another person cause it used to just be two of us. So like just those things, like those were the two moments that I realized like, oh, this is happening. I mean, I’m ready, I guess? I don’t know. How do you know when you’re ready?
ZACH: Those inflection points are critical in any business, but that you really, you know, you, you seized the day and really rose to that occasion. I have to say, you know, in all the things that you’re doing, you’re, you’re a force of nature, Ona, like, this is a lot that you are contributing. And not small challenges to take on, and you’re making it look easy in, in some ways, at least from what I’ve learned from you today. That’s not really a question, but I’m just, you know, in a very inspired and in awe of the work that you do.
ONA: Well, I thank you so much. This is honestly it’s the blood of the, it’s actually not that hard. So, um, and that’s why I think my parents finally supported me, like leaving my job because at first he used to be like, no, what are you doing? Like, you know, the good Nigerian parents that I have you’re either a lawyer or a doctor. And what is this podcasting thing? What do you mean you’re going to, you’re going to go to. What is that you’d like to talk that much. And I’m like, no, not really. So it’s just one of those things it naturally happens. So it’s one of those things where I look at all the skillsets that I’ve built over the years, everything from project management to being a manager, like I became a manager like 26. Being a manager of like large teams across the country, across the state that ties a lot into being able to really help support our community.
ONA: So our, we have what over 200 members. Each of them have to be supported. And a project management plan has to be put together each quarter as to how we do that and how we show up and still like live and have a life. But each person still feels uniquely touched by the three people on the team. Tying down to my event management background, and really, it’s funny, like vendor management and all of these things that I used to do for other people throughout Atlanta and different events and weddings and all of these things tie into what we do at Blk Podcasts. Like we have 1300 people register and 800 people attend this last one as well. And so just with those things in mind, we always like to look at okay, who can speak to these things truly, because in the day of internet, everybody can make it look good, and they can make it seem like they know something. But I have gone to several conferences where I’m ready to take notes. And I wrote down nothing, cause you just motivated me to death. It was just one of those things where all of my skillsets that I’ve built over the years though at the time, probably didn’t make any sense to me. Like the things that I was picking up now tie perfectly into the three different brands that I have.
ZACH: This has been an awesome conversation with you, Ona. So thank you so much for, for being transparent and sharing your perspective and the ways that you’ve grown and are contributing to, to podcasting. That’s what this podcast is about, as people who are moving it forward, um, in one way or another, and I think you’re moving it forward in a couple of different directions. So thank you for all of that contribution to, to podcasting with kind of what the capital “P.” I want to ask you kind of one final question here, and like looking forward, how can listeners use their platforms? Like you have built this amazing platform and community, and you’re doing all this great work, but to help in some way to amplify that? Like the people listening to this show, our listeners, what can they do from your perspective to use their platforms and podcasts to, to help, uh, in service of your, your mission. It’s a big mission. So just to recap, it’s the, to fill the void of adequate representation for Black people within podcasting. How can our listeners, uh, help in, in service of that same mission?
ONA: So for me, this looks like a few different things. So if you are a listener who has a podcaster you have a platform, um, it’s looking at when you’re hiring an editor, when you’re hiring a production assistant, when you’re hiring somebody onto your team, is looking beyond just your scope of who you know. Um, I think it’s human nature to first just tap into your own network. But if your own network looks like you, that’s not going to be very diverse. And that’s just the reality of it. Most people are most comfortable being friends and having people around them that look like them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Um, it’s just based off of your experiences in life and who you meet, but it’s doing the work to kind of go beyond your network to figure out who else might be out there that could be of service. And so it’s in your hiring process, it’s in your stories that you’re looking to tell. It’s in who you interview for your show. And so it’s going beyond just like the people who end up on your radar. Because before I ended up on anybody’s radar, I was doing the work. It’s just now people notice me. And so it’s figuring out who’s already doing the work that you could have on your show to help amplify their voice, to help give them a platform. So that’s where anybody who’s listening who has a platform, who has a show. For just somebody who’s like, you know, an avid podcast listener, share the information, share it with other people, not just on your, you know, social media, but if you have a newsletter, if you have something else that you’re involved with, take the time to step out of your comfort zone to see what else is out there. Because Apple is going to recommend the same shows to you. And if you only listen to a certain type of shows, that’s what’s going to show. Take the time to figure out what else is in there. What else could you possibly tap into and be completely comfortable tapping into somebody else’s audience that doesn’t look like you? Um, it is human nature to want to congregate with other people that you resonate with, but I think, as a country, and just as people where we can really help grow and better the world and better future generations, is stepping outside of our comfort zone and being more comfortable with having conversations and learning from people that do not look like you because of the fact that they have something that they have to share as well. So overall, I just think it’s just being more mindful of what you’re consuming, being more mindful of who you’re giving opportunities to and being completely comfortable saying that you don’t know. And that’s, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s being conscious about making a difference once you recognize that you are not actually stepping up.
ROCK: Thank you for that, Ona. And, uh, for the folks that want to learn more or follow the great work that you’re doing, what’s the, what’s the best place for them to go?
ONA: They can follow us at Instagram, which is Blk Pod Collective, which is just B-L-K-P-O-D Collective. I recently finally launched my own Instagram page because people wanted to connect with me outside of Blk Pod Collective. And that is my first name, O-N-A my last name O-G-H-O-G-H-O. And the same thing for Pod House Media. So if you’re looking for, you know, if you want to bring a story to life, or you want to, you know, talk to me about a project that you have coming down the pipeline. I don’t just work with Black people. I work with everyone. So that’s important to note, um, feel free to reach out. And that’s also Pod House Media on Instagram and the same thing for all the websites and everything and Blk Pod Fest, all the things have their own Instagram because that’s the one thing I know how to use. The best place is definitely Blk Pod Collective’s page because I’m actively on there.
ZACH: Just to recap for our listeners, we covered a lot here today because you are doing so much and contributing so much. We covered a bit of your background, like how you got started in podcasting, your story behind that, um, how you founded Blk Pod Collective, Blk Pod Fest, Pod House Media, what you’ve learned along the way. And how our listeners can put that into action in service of your mission. And we can all play an active role in shaping the podcast industry and community that that looks like us, that we want to be part of. So thank you so much again, for your time here, Ona. Find links to all the things that you mentioned in the show notes for this episode and reach out and participate in the community. I think you’ve been super inspiring for different ways that our listeners can do that. We’re big fans and love the podcast community. So, um, we, uh, we are very grateful for your contributions there.
ONA: Thank you guys so much for having me. I really do appreciate it. It’s been great conversation.
ROCK: Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of Between Two Mics.
ZACH: We hope you enjoyed our conversation. If you learned something or we intrigued you a bit, let us know on social media.
ROCK: You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, by searching for Squadcastfm.
ZACH: And if you want to show the podcast some love, you can leave us a rating or review wherever it is you’re listening right now.
ROCK: This show is put together by us, Zach and Rock. It’s mixed and produced by Vince Moreno. With help from Arielle Nissenblatt. Our logo is designed by Alex Whedbee.
ZACH: Since we’re a podcast about podcasts, we want to shout out the brands and products that we trust. We’re recording, using Squadcast.fm. And here’s our current stack. For recording, we’re using ATR2100 mics, Apple AirPods Max headphones, and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interfaces.
ROCK: We edit the show on Adobe Audition and our hosting site is Simplecast.
ZACH: That’s it for us this week. We’re back next week with more from between these mics.
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Vincent Moreno Jr. is an Audio Engineer, head of SquadCast Support, and avid BBQ’er. He aims to make sure Podcasters can create content smoothly while sounding crystal clear with ease.