After living in Houston, TX, for several months, I finally found a suitable workspace. Coffee shops — with their unreliable WiFi and unpredictable crowds – weren’t cutting it for me. So, I spent a week bouncing around coworking spaces in the city before picking a permanent home. Little did I know that in my new work home, I would discover one of the coolest startups in Houston, TX. The Houston Pod is a podcasting service operated by the husband-wife team, Sarah and Ray Smith. I convinced the pair to sit down with me for a few minutes and tell me their story.
Who are Sarah and Ray Smith?
Sarah and Ray were both born and raised in Rosenberg, TX, a small suburb of Houston. They attended rival high schools but met each other when they were 15-years-old. The Smiths went separate ways after high school but reconnected in their twenties. They discovered that they both had a passion for business, innovation, and communication.
“For us, our journey has been very much about us learning about one another but also growing businesses from start to finish,” Sarah said. “We’re entrepreneurs at heart. We enjoy the grind.”
What is The Houston Pod?
The Houston Pod occupies an adorable studio office in my coworking building, and I’ve spent many afternoons watching Ray and Sarah work. I’m particularly impressed with the balance of warmth and professionalism their workspace exudes.
“I was an audio engineer for about ten years before we started this business,” Ray said. “We decided to start it towards the end of 2018.”
He initially learned about professional podcasting services while he was editing a podcast for his church. He was already an avid podcast consumer, so he decided to give it a shot. At the time, Sarah was looking for an idea for her capstone project for her business degree. They used the opportunity to explore the concept and flesh out the details.
Sarah and Ray wrote the capstone project together, with Ray focusing on the vision for the business and Sarah implementing the operational strategy. Fast forward to early 2019, and The Houston Pod is on fire.
“It was one of the fastest-growing things I’ve ever been a part of. We quickly gained ten clients worldwide, from Africa to Europe to Canada. We were rolling,” Ray said. “It grew a little bit faster than we did.”
They embraced the rapid growth and focused their energies on the new business.
How the Dream Team Works
Sarah and Ray are nothing short of a dream team, but they admit that they have vastly different personality types.
“I’m a business junkie. Organizational development is a big passion of mine. Our personalities really work well in the business because he has such a visionary, creative personality, and I’m more of the managerial type that comes in with practicality and steps,” Sarah said. “He creates the endpoint, then I can create the steps in between, but I can’t run, not knowing where I’m going. That’s the symbiotic relationship here in our business.”
Sarah and Ray work together like a carefully choreographed ballet. However, they quickly realized the value of connecting with other businesses and artists to help them stay plugged into the local scene.
“[Being in a coworking space] allows us to be in a bit of an ecosystem. I mean, we met [you] because we work in the same coworking space. What’s interesting was, right after that, a lawyer who works in this building approached us about starting a podcast,” Ray elaborated.
Ray and Sarah are also committed to becoming thought leaders in their industry, particularly in the city of Houston.
“We wanted a space where we could host classes and workshops and things like that. That’s the way you get local business, I think. It’s just educating people,” Ray said.
The couple loves the challenge they take on by being the first to approach tough conversations and educating people in their city.
“We just have such a love for the city. If we ever thought about giving back or establishing something long-term, I just couldn’t see it anywhere else,” Sarah said. “I do think we have the vision to expand to other cities, but we wanted to approach it differently. We’re both big on giving back, so we want to pour into our own community.”
They were also inspired by the groundbreaking on the Ion Building, a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation, and collaboration scheduled to open in Houston in 2021. Ray also pointed to Houston’s abysmal daily traffic for creating the perfect consumer opportunity for podcasters.
“Houston is so ripe for long-form content like podcasts that people can listen to on their way to work,” Ray said. “The drive time adds up, so we are the perfect city to advance in something like podcasting.”
The Growth Strategy
Considering The Houston Pod’s success, I asked Ray and Sarah if they have any other projects in development.
“We always have ten million projects going on,” Sarah said. “We both have an entrepreneurial spirit, but this is our number one. The Houston Pod is our baby. It was birthed from our love of communication. We’re always streaming and thinking and trying to strategize about how it will grow.”
The couple spends most of their time dreaming up new ways to provide more value for their clients. They are trying to get into additional coworking spaces and engage more with their community.
“I laugh because I have a new idea every day for what The Houston Pod could be doing. Just one of them would be integrating video. YouTube is starting to favor long-form content, which is great for YouTubers and podcasters alike,” Ray said.
However, for Ray and Sarah, producing high-quality content is the top priority.
“For 2020, I want people to be having authentic and engaging conversations. That is my goal,” Sarah said.
The Houston Pod Podcast?
So, Sarah and Ray help their clients create amazing podcasts but, do they have their own?
“It’s scheduled to launch in Spring 2020,” Sarah said. “We always knew we would start a podcast, we just wanted it to be true to ourselves. We took a lot of time to think about the topic and brainstorm what we wanted that brand to look like.”
Their podcast will focus on marriage and entrepreneurship. Sarah and Ray have learned that being each other’s business and life partners come with a unique set of challenges, and they’d like to lead the discussion about these types of relationships.
“There aren’t many resources, and there aren’t many people talking about it. So, we were like, here’s a topic we can talk on for days,” Sarah said.
They also plan to invite power couples, brother/sister duos, and other types of family teams to talk about their experiences and debunk some of the myths surrounding families in business together.
“Like, do you fire your wife?” Ray asked jokingly.
Sarah credits their mutual respect as a cornerstone for their success.
“We were friends before we were a couple, so we got a chance to see each other grow up outside of the relationship,” Sarah said. “I feel equally empowered to run this business and speak into it as he does.”
At this point, we wrapped up the official interview but ended up chatting for another hour and a half about life, work, and finding one’s purpose. Honestly, I can’t get enough of this couple. They are #lifegoals, #businessgoals, and #partnergoals wrapped up in one package. I’m super excited to see their business flourish. Follow them on Instagram to stay up-to-date on what they’re up to.