MediaTech Ventures’ Community Spotlight Ep.05 – Phoebe Mroczek

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Meet Phoebe Mroczek, podcasting guru and people empowering wizard.

Her entrepreneurial journey started when she was super young, slingin’ Snapple disguised as lemonade. Entering 5th grade, she saw an opportunity among her friends and classmates, to build and sell custom made scrunchies.

Her education would take her to New York to work for a hedge fund, only to escape the toxic work environment with a one way ticket to Taiwan. This path would quickly land her in China and working with the United Nations, and eventually back in the US focused on business coaching and creating content.

Fast forward, her natural and thoughtful communication skills along with some encouragement from business colleagues, the Unbecoming podcast was born. Three years into it, Unbecoming podcast now reaches hundreds of thousands of listeners weekly, is in 40+ countries, and is nationally syndicated through 12+ am/fm stations. Find out how Phoebe’s journey and passion for helping people, helped build an incredible show that touches the lives of people all over the world.

Your entrepreneurial journey started at a very young age. Turns out, fifth grade, what inspired fifth grade, Phoebe, to sell scrunchies?

Phoebe: Well, I have to say it started before I was selling Snapple pretending it was lemonade, which is a whole other thing. It’s terrible. That’s not something I’ve ever told out loud to anybody, so when I was in fifth grade, I realized that none of the kids in I was almost too embarrassed to sell. I was making scrunchies for myself and all my sister’s friends loved them, and we’re always commenting on them. And so I thought, well, what if I started to sell them to my sister’s friends, and it made it easier because it wasn’t so personal, so I could still make them. And then my friends thought I was cool. And I would sell them to my sister’s friends and it was awesome. And so that was my first real second, maybe, but real creation that I wasn’t lying about. So I just knew that I could do it and I knew I could sell things that I liked.

You did mention in the Inc. article that I read, dipping your toe in the corporate world in Asia, what brought you there? And what did you learn from that experience?

Phoebe: Oh, well, the first thing I learned was because, right after college, I moved to New York, I worked at a hedge fund. And I just like really not enjoying it. There was a little bit of harassment happening. It was just not a very pleasant experience. And so I ended up it was the first time that I had seen myself as worth something. And when all of this was happening, it wasn’t a pleasant working environment, I’ll say that. And so I told him where I wanted him to go, which you know, I shouldn’t say out loud, and I bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan. And because I had never known anyone that had ever been there and I’d done some research. So it wasn’t like totally on a whim. I had gotten my English certificate. So I knew I could go and get a job. And so I got a job there. But what really brought me to China, which is where I feel like my professional career really started, I had just done some work with a couple of organizations, and one of the ones was the United Nations. And I just had done so much research on people that I thought were doing something I wanted to do, which I thought at the time was international development. I was looking at getting my master’s in international development, I ended up changing to project management, which is what I was doing in Taiwan while teaching. But when I got to the United Nations in Beijing, or I got the job, it was like this, ooh, that’s not really where I wanted to go. But was I willing to make myself uncomfortable in a place I didn’t really want to go to do the thing I wanted to do? And the answer was yes. And so once I got in there, I kept saying at the time, and I always say now I just need to get my foot in the door. And once my feet are in the door, I can work the room. But I just got to get that sort of opportunity. And I felt that was it. 

And so I started working at the UN and saw that there was so much red tape, I was working on the Millennium Development Goals at the time, and I was writing speeches and press releases that I was so under qualified to be doing, but I just like, have you ever written a speech before? I was like, sure. And then I did it, you know, so it was like, I had to really dig deep and not so much to like, embellishing but I think people don’t put their hat in the ring for certain things that maybe they could grow into. And so that was something I was just really ambitious. And I was like, yeah, of course, I’ve done that. Yeah, I’ve written press releases, no problem. And then I was like, oh my god, how do I do this? And then you figure it out. So I think that’s probably what I learned and most in that and the things I was working on you know, they kept saying they’re like, well, in 10 years when we start to integrate this or implement it and I’m like 10 years and that is I’m not working on something that’s it was just so far in the future that I couldn’t grasp it. So I ended up moving to a different company to a Chinese finance company and then I moved to CBR  commercial real estate. And so I was running their retail for Asia Pacific marketing. And that was like my kind of corporate experience.

You’ve held multiple communications and marketing roles throughout your career, what was it that made the light bulb go off for you and say, AH! podcasting?

Phoebe: Oh, man, um, well, I think I have always been a natural communicator, you can talk to my family. I’ve always been somebody who likes to communicate, whether that’s through talking, I love to write I think writing is actually my first love. I’ve been writing my whole life and then I was working with a business partner, former business partner, and he and I were just like, what’s a next step that would be quite innovative and a little bit different and at that point that was, I think, almost six years ago. And I think that’s right, and we just decided, we’re like, why don’t we start a podcast, it’s something that not as many people were doing. And it was a huge leap of faith to see if this was something that we could do. And so we started it, it did really well. And then I decided, I was like, this is something I know I want to do on my own. I’m not having the conversations that like depth or the richness of conversation that I really care about. And that’s kind of what led me or propelled me into starting my own show, which was almost three years ago now.

So the Unbecoming podcast is designed from what at least I’ve listened to and what I’ve read, ultimately empowering people going through or pursuing anything in life. To quote a nationally syndicated radio show that helps entrepreneurs create what they want by being more of who they are, what inspired you to take on such a wide range of topics?

Phoebe: Well, I heard a quote, that is from Paulo Coelho, who wrote the alchemist. And he said, maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s actually about unbecoming everything that’s not really used. You can be who you’re meant to be in the first place. And I heard that literally, every time I say it, I get chills. And I thought about being in. I have been coaching and working, I had a marketing agency for a little bit, and worked with people to really refine their voice and how to create solid, effective, honest marketing messages. And so what I was finding and a lot of these people who were teaching everybody was that behind the scenes, they’re a big mess. 

And so I understand that and I get it right, we’re not all put together and all of that, but I thought that what was missing was this real transparency and so I go based on truth, trust, and transparency, that has been something that I like three pillars of my life core. Just core statutes of living, right, that those are things that are really important to me. And so what I realized was that there are, it’s not just in one area, right, it’s like this bleeding over into other areas. So if you don’t have it together over here, or in certain areas, so if you’re not finding, let’s say, abundance, over here in business, there’s something blocked in other areas of your life. And I think that people take on just the business side. And I think this is what made me a really good business coach was that I don’t actually care about your business, which might sound really weird to hire somebody who doesn’t care about your business, but it was like, I actually care about your relationships and your kids and your, you know, your health and fitness because if we can’t see it, it’s like you’re banging your head against the wall over here. What if we looked over here and that’s going to show us everything we need to know about why that’s not working. And I don’t think enough people spend the time and dig into the depth that I want. You know, I want to know everything. I’m quite a personal coach in that way. So, rather than just looking at business, it was like, well, why don’t we look at all areas, but more specific topics. So how do we figure out where all of those integrate and create a more balanced society? I don’t like that word, but a more harmonized version, harmonious version of who you are. Right. And so that’s kind of what inspired the show. And the whole time has been my own journey of figuring that out as well. So allowing people in my life to make sure that I’m being you know, I’m acting in integrity and that I am practicing what I preach, which is really hard sometimes.

So speaking about topics, what does your process look like? How do you plan on what you’re going to tackle topic wise? Or is it as structured as that? Or is it just around maybe the person that you’re interviewing?

Phoebe: Well. So I have to say in the last, what, for almost a year, the majority of my shows have been solo shows. So it’s just me talking and the way that I create those is I just, I mean, I’m really methodical. You know, I use your notepad app. And when I think of a topic in my you know, I just put it on my phone. I’m like, that’s something because it’s, the more real I can be based on my own personal experience the better, right? If there’s no point in me being like, well, hypothetically, if this happens, it’s like, no, this is happening in my life right now. And this is something that’s really real for me and that I can talk I can speak to or talk about. So for the solo shows, it’s that it’s really like an intuitive just, this is what I need to be talking about, or a conversation I’m having with somebody. And then they’re surprised to find out later when I’m like, hey, by the way, that conversation was on the show this week, and you know, and they’re like, oh, god, just hope you don’t say my name. I’m like, no, no, it’s all private. But it’s important. And so I think that people really relate to that. And then as far as guests, it’s really the guests that I think are interesting, intelligent, they have something that they’ve either overcome. They are a former somebody I love. You know, I’m a former college athlete, you’re a foreigner, you know, like, who are you and the people who are willing to go deep and to be really honest, selfishly, it’s people I want to get connected to I’m doing a lot of work with some really cool people coming up, you know, one ladies on my favorite TV show, and I just was like, hmm, I would love to talk to her. That would be a really interesting conversation, how did you get there, and things that pull me out of my comfort zone. And so that’s sort of how I choose them.

And looking back you’ve got hundreds of thousands of weekly listeners you’re in 40 different countries syndicated in across dozens of AM- FM channels. Is there anything that you would have done differently, and if so, what might that have been?

Phoebe: The first thing so I hesitate to be like, I would have done this differently cuz I’m like, well, it’s led me to here and here is perfect and it’s working out. However, if I could speak to my, you know, Phoebe from three years ago, I think I would let her know that this is going to unravel in the way it’s supposed to. And I think I put so much pressure on myself at the beginning. I mean, I said my first 10 episodes were like because I didn’t even know if I had anything of value to say. And that is like actually even embarrassing to admit. But the Phoebe of three years ago was like, I don’t know if I can do this on my own. I don’t know if I have things to say. And so I would have just taken a lot of pressure off of myself. And even, you know, people say that it takes about 25 I’ve heard this right when I started podcasting, they’re like, oh, it takes 25 episodes to find your footing. It took me probably 65 I mean, it took me so long, that when I saw the red light go on, I just lost my personality. And I couldn’t say anything. And it was just I was thinking too much and I wanted people to perceive me in a certain way. And when I had my own show, I was able to let that go a little bit, and I have to mean, some of my episodes were totally scripted. And that was coming from the person who said that I’m unscripted. But I was so nervous that if people saw the real me that they wouldn’t listen anymore, or they wouldn’t care what I had to say. So there’s an element of confidence, obviously, but that’s I think comes with the territory right? It comes with experience and doing this a lot. And then strategically, I would have gone for people that were what I would have considered out of my league sooner. Right? 

You never know and just be really, I interviewed Mia Hamm last year, which was a big interview for me, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and Tisha Venturini who are like some of my idols growing up, and I flew to Atlanta. I mean, it was a whole thing were basically really quick background but they were like, okay, we, you know, next Friday, this is a Wednesday and they said next Friday, you’re on I had been pursuing them for six months, I mean, I was like on the dot, you know, so people are like, oh, god, that’s amazing you’re so lucky. I’m like, well, I put a lot of time and effort and reminders, And I was just getting really excited, but not too excited in case it didn’t happen. And so she’s like, we’re gonna be in Atlanta on that Friday, and I just wrote the manager back and I was like, that’s so funny. I’ll be in Atlanta that weekend. Is there any way we can do it in person? And she was like, yeah, definitely, if you’re gonna be here already. And so I just hung up with her. Alright, stop the email, you know, close my inbox, and I called my best friend who happens to live in Atlanta. And I was like, cancel everything. I’m buying a ticket. I’m going to be in Atlanta next weekend or next week. And she’s like, what’s going on? I was like, don’t worry about it, we’re making this happen. So it was like you got to go for it. You know you got to go for those things. Those people that you think are going to make a difference on the show and it turned out you know, I had a girlfriend of mine was like, well, what’s the ROI on you flying there and getting a hotel and all that. And I was like, it’s not about the ROI for me right now. This is like a big moment in the show, I felt it and it’s if I had listened to other people who thought I was nuts, I never would have had that experience. So trusting myself a little bit more.

What are some things you would tell somebody that is looking to pursue this idea of starting a podcast today? And how to tackle some of those emotional drawbacks early on?

Phoebe: Well, first, I would say play to your strengths. So podcasting might not be right for you.  It’s something if you can grow into it, I think people feel a lot of pressure right now to start a podcast because everybody else is doing it. And I think there’s merit to that because it might be pushing you out of your comfort zone. And I think there’s a fine line between resistance because you know, it’s something you should do, or fear, you know, fear and FOMO. So, really make sure that you are playing to your strengths here, if you know speaking is the way that you feel comfortable or that people your audience receives that then great if your audience is listening to podcasts, great if they’re not, you know, which I think there’s a very small now, there’s a very small market that is not listening to podcasts, but, you know, making sure that it’s the right channel for you is number one. And then as far as like, overcoming the emotional stuff, I mean that I would just say, get them some sort of mentor. You know, really, I think mentorship is something that is so underrated, you know, whether that’s a coach or a mentor or whatever, but figuring out and staying really true to who you are, who you’re attracting, and what you’re going to say, and keep having it come back to that right having a seamless message that always comes back to whatever that red thread throughout your interviews is mine is always unbecoming. But it’s growing as I’m growing. You know, there are moments where I have totally doubted I even now, I mean, and I don’t even mean to say it like that, but I get so now I just did an interview last two weeks ago that I was so nervous about that I almost was like if this woman quizzed me on her life, I would pass with flying colors. And there’s no reason for that. You know, I did so much research and I was like, oh, my god, but I think that preparation helps me be present. 

That’s the most important thing is like, do your prep work, because it’s so I mean, even in this conversation, right, the fact that you knew that I had a scrunchie business in fifth grade, right, that does so much as far as rapport and moving forward, if you were like, hey, do you have someone who you could recommend, of course, because I know you do your homework. So that’s really important as a podcaster to do the work. And another thing I see people getting tripped up on numbers all the time. I’m in all kinds of Facebook groups where it’s podcast specific, and they’re like, oh, I got 77 downloads on my first episode, is that good? And it’s like, just cut yourself some slack. If you were going to put up a sign on the side of the road selling brownies or Snapple in my case, you know, it wouldn’t take off right away. So cut yourself some slack. Don’t compare yourself. That’s, I mean, it’s way easier said than done. But if I wouldn’t have compared and I still do it, like, oh god, I don’t have 50 million downloads per episode, what am I doing with my life? You know, it’s like, just chill out. But it’s real. You know, it’s really real. And I think that people spend a lot of time on the marketing of the show, which is important, but I think the content of the show is the richness of the conversation, being prepared to be really present. So you’re not, I mean, even a video show I would have probably this is going back to the other question, I would have started video sooner. I found it’s really hard for me to focus on the light being you know, like the video, the microphone. What am I saying? I’m listening. There are a lot of components to it, that makes a really good show. And I think it was important for me to grow into that. So for somebody starting out, right, is it the right medium? Do you have the right coaching or people to look up to or a community of people who are supporting you? And don’t compare yourself really stay true to is this a message that you’re going to want to live into for the next three to five years? That should be a commitment.

Speaking of support, and commitment, what are some good resources that really inspired you? Obviously, the alchemist and the name of the show, but other books, podcasts, videos, movies, maybe even what were some things that really made a difference for you?

Phoebe: So the number one book that I recommend most often is an untethered soul. I love that book. I just think a lot of people say it all the time, entrepreneurship is the greatest personal development less than you’ll ever start to learn. And it really, it doesn’t just put you on the track of personal development it likes, launches you into it, it throws you in the deep end. And so really staying on top of your emotional state is the most important thing. Because yeah, you can fall into comparison you can fall into expectations and outcomes versus like being here in the moment. So, I love untethered souls, anything by Michael Singer I love. I’m always reading 1000 books at one time. So I’m trying to think of what I’m reading. Oh, awareness by Anthony de Mello. That’s a book I read recently. I love him. I’m interviewing there, somebody from their organization soon, which I’m really excited about. Movies. I’m not a huge movie person. But what I do think that’s important is to find inspiration in other areas. So I am a reality TV show person, I love to get married, at first sight, Bachelor, I mean, all of those shows that people might classify as guilty pleasures, I don’t think you should ever feel guilty about pleasure. But finding other areas right pull yourself out of your comfort zone, do fun things, get out in nature, find other ways to be inspired than listening to shows that are in the same genre. Like, I find it really hard because I compare myself to podcasters, like Jordan Harbinger, who’s a friend of mine, and also his show is amazing. But if I listen to his show all the time, then I’m going to become more like him, which takes away from why people would listen to me. 

So finding inspiration in music, like I definitely, I feel very inspired by violin instrumental music, which is very strange, but also likes, and I feel inspired by Kesha and Lady Gaga and Beyonce, so having a wide range, I think just constantly staying inspired in conversation and being present. So I don’t know if that really answers your question.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Phoebe: A connection. I’m really able to connect with people and relate to people. And I think that that is something that I’m learning is not as common as I think it is because it comes really naturally to me so I really see and I think in the connection is like really seeing people is something that I think I’m really, that would be my superpower.

How do people get a hold of Phoebe, if they’ve got questions and they want to reach out and connect and just get to know you or listen to you? What are some good ways to connect with you?

Phoebe: The two best ways are Instagram so if you have a question I love to be very available. I think it’s important not just from a business standpoint, but from a human to human standpoint again, what we were just talking about, like, I love sharing. I mean, I pour my heart out through my podcast and through my writing, and I do that on Instagram. So @phoebemroczek which is a hard name, to say, let alone spell. There are a lot of consonants but hopefully, around this video somewhere, you can spell it. And then just join me on the podcast, I love attracting people who are those beacons in their own communities, the people who are the sharers, who share great resources, I consider myself to be one of those people to celebrate, and to support people that you care about that you feel connected to. We need more of those people.

And so if you know if anything that in our conversation connects to somebody, you know, come see me chat with me on Instagram. I take people through my day quite personally, so that’s my feeling.

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