As many of you have already heard, Factory45’er Whitney Sokol, founder of SproutFit, was featured on NPR’s “How I Built This” last week!
The wildly-popular podcast has featured guests like Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Sara Blakely of Spanx and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS and at the end of each episode, host Guy Raz highlights one of his listeners working on his or her own startup.
I was so excited when Whitney emailed me to say NPR was interested in her story and of course, I wanted to know all of the details.
If you’re wondering how to successfully pitch big-time media opportunities, Whitney has shared all of the nitty-gritty details with us. Read our interview below:
NPR’s “How I Built This” is a big deal! How did you go about making that happen?
Thank you! One of my good friends suggested I check out “How I Built This” last year, and I quickly became obsessed with listening to these inspiring entrepreneurs. Every episode either motivated me or encouraged me to keep pushing, and I needed to hear those affirming messages.
A few months ago, that same friend urged me to pitch my story launching SproutFit to the host, Guy Raz. Just a few days after an email pitch, I got a call from NPR saying they wanted to set up an interview.
Can you share the exact email you used to pitch your segment for the show?
It was through Guy Raz’ website, and here is the exact message I sent him (quite long… I know):
Obsessed with the How I Built This podcast – it’s more addicting than potato chips. And, as a problem-solving mompreneur using my corporate career to fund my passion for challenging the conventional, ultra-wasteful approach to clothing babies, I’d love to share my story with your listeners.
Plus, as a dad, you might appreciate that my inspiration came from sitting inside my infant son’s closet, cursing at onesies through bleary eyed delirium.
SproutFit is an adjustable, sustainable baby clothing company thoughtfully designed with growth spurts in mind. We were recently 142% funded on Kickstarter and #BackedByAxe (Showtime Billions’s fictitious Axe Capital VC – meant to bring to life the core values of Axe Capital by supporting real-life innovative companies on Kickstarter).
Before my son Beckham was 12 months old, we had accumulated totes upon totes of clothes he grew out of, or never got to wear. When something finally fit him comfortably, a month later he needed the next size. It became time-consuming and frustrating to weed through clothing that wasn’t solving any of our problems – in fact, they just created more.
Babies triple in weight by their first birthday and will outgrow at least 7 traditional sizes between 0 and 24 months. Parents know and anticipate this when creating a baby registry and prepare for baby’s arrival. In essence, childrenswear companies have gotten away with creating the fastest revolving door in fashion (even in comparison to brands churning out new styles every week!).
For the worst offenders of fast fashion consumption, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who replaces their entire wardrobe 7 or more times in 2 years. But, blindly, that’s what we parents expect to endure with our babies. I felt duped and wanted to change the paradigm.
Modern, minimalist and sustainable in both design and materials, SproutFit saves parents time, money and hassle. The first collection includes short and long-sleeve bodysuits, reversible leggings for double the outfits, bandana bibs and essential blankets.
Let me know if you have availability to discuss further should you have an interest in speaking with me.
All the best to you,
A Note from Shannon: I want to highlight a few reasons why this pitch works really well – even though it’s longer than a typical pitch. First, it’s very obviously personalized – in the second paragraph, Whitney says “Plus, as a dad, you might appreciate…” Generic pitches rarely work and the sooner you can show you’ve done your research the better.
Second, in the third paragraph, Whitney uses the social capital she has already earned to set herself apart from some of the other pitches NPR receives. She shows proof of concept by mentioning how much she surpassed her goal on Kickstarter and uses a well-known name like Axe Capital to keep the reader’s attention.
Third, and most importantly, Whitney pitched a compelling *story* that NPR’s target audience would resonate with – she’s not trying to sell her product. There’s a huge difference between writing an engaging pitch and writing a commercial. Whitney nailed it.
How did you feel before the interview? Were you nervous? Any imposter syndrome? If so, what did you tell yourself to overcome it?
After a fact-finding call, they scheduled the actual interview to take place the morning after I was supposed to arrive at a conference across the country. Because the interview required me to have one phone to speak into and one phone to record on (and I only had a cell phone), I sucked it up and held the call in my hotel room, knowing I’d be incurring hundreds of dollars in long-distance phone charges!
That part didn’t exactly ease my nervousness. You should have seen me pacing around the room – making sure the air conditioner was off, drinking tea so my voice wouldn’t crack, arranging my notes like I had OCD… yes, I was just a little nervous!
A quote that I repeat when I’m feeling the imposter syndrome sneak up is from H. Jackson Brown:
“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.”
It helps level my outlook and speak to the person instead of getting caught up in being intimidated by their success. So, after a couple minutes into the call, I hit a stride and the nervousness melted away.
That is until the call was over and I realized I hadn’t been recording on my iPhone. I felt my chest and face get hot and actually cried in the shower. I was SO mad the entire day of meetings!
After letting the HIBT team know about my mistake, they said they’d circle back with me soon and that it happens all the time. The whole day I felt like an idiot. Like I blew it.
Not thinking they’d be calling me back, I got back to my hotel room late that night and recorded some of the answers to the questions I remember them asking. I wanted them to know that I respected their time, and at that point, I didn’t have anything to lose!
The next afternoon, they emailed me and we reschedule. I was so relieved! The second time around went much smoother. Maybe it was a blessing the first one didn’t get recorded.
How has the reaction been? Did the episode drive traffic to your site?
The reaction has been very positive. I’ve had multiple orders, 36x more traffic to my site and engagement on social media. It’s amazing how far social proof goes for a small business, especially if it’s in the form of a mainstream outlet like NPR.
To listen to Whitney’s segment, fast forward to the 40:00 minute mark of the “TRX: Randy Hetrick” episode here (or just listen to the full episode – it’s excellent). And to check out Whitney’s startup, SproutFit, go here.