By Mickey Snowdon


My Story

I moved to Asheville from Durango, Colorado nearly three years ago. I was enticed by the cool mountains, access to the outdoors, and indescribable Asheville culture. 

One of my main reasons for moving here was to attend UNC Asheville’s Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences program, which I graduated from in May. Since living in Asheville, I have worked many jobs, including server, delivery driver, adventure therapy mentor, and most recently, communications liaison.

Sarah and Tony invited me to write this blog post to highlight my experience as a young professional trying to “make it” in Asheville. They told me that when they decided to move here from Brooklyn, every Ashevillain they met told them they’d better bring their own jobs. 

Perhaps you’ve heard this advice, too.

At first, they didn’t understand it. Asheville’s such an amazing town full of breweries, artists, restaurants, and independent stores—how could there not be an abundance of great jobs?

I set out to determine if the myth that Asheville is only lucrative for those working in the healthcare and hospitality industries was true by talking to a few of those making a living here.

My findings were mixed. While Asheville is a tight job market, I identified plenty of flourishing business sectors in town employing residents. To help with my research, I interviewed locals and experts in business and technology.

We have tech jobs.

Asheville is home to a burgeoning tech sector comprised of businesses like AVL Technologies, Immedion, Anthroware, Geriatric Practice Management, and the soon-to-arrive Charles Edward Industries. Plus, A-B Tech Community College is training a tech-savvy workforce right here in WNC with programs in web development, GIS, and systems security.

When I spoke with Steve Newman, Director of Sales at Immedion and Board Chair of Meet the Geeks, a local IT networking group, he said there are more open IT positions in WNC than there are skilled professionals to fill them. A major reason for this is the region’s underpaid IT market. Most WNC-based businesses don’t generate as much revenue as other regional or national businesses do, so IT salaries are lower here than in cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. 

Though Asheville tech jobs may pay less, according to Venture Asheville’s Director, Jeffrey Kaplan, Asheville’s postings are up 15%, while Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Greensboro are continuously seeing tech jobs decrease by 15-37.5%.

Newman says that although there are many Asheville tech jobs that pay competitively, it’s hard for locals and prospective residents to pass up an extra $1,000 a month salary that a bigger city would offer. But, he speculates that the rise in remote work could allow local IT professionals to make a national average wage while living in Asheville—a trend that is positive for those living here but doesn’t support local businesses who can’t afford to match national salaries.

According to Newman, “These are the pain points of developing a community. We’re parsecs ahead of where we were before Venture Asheville and Hatch AVL hit the scene.” He points to their work and the work of Mountain BizWorks and the Mountain Areas Workforce Development Board (part of the Land of Sky Regional Council) as helping to grow a robust and successful tech scene in Asheville.

We have manufacturing jobs.

Chris Buehler is the Chief Operating Officer for FernLeaf Interactive, an Asheville-based firm that provides software tools and consulting services to help communities develop resilience solutions. He is an advisor with Start100, a Charlotte-based accelerator that provides funding, coaching, and mentoring for budding entrepreneurs. He also serves on the board of Hatch AVL and Meet the Geeks, and as a mentor with Venture Asheville. Buehler’s career spans fields from aerospace and defense to wireless communications and wearable technology.

According to Buehler, Asheville’s job market is more competitive for residents who are further along in their careers because there are a lot of seasoned professionals who have relocated to the area and aren’t yet ready to retire. He says these people move to Asheville for the lifestyle, but continue to coach or consult their clients outside of the area.

Chris Buehler, Chief Operating Officer for FernLeaf Interactive, an advisor with Start100, a board member of Hatch AVL, and a mentor with Venture Asheville, says Asheville is great for those early in their careers. Photo courtesy Chris Buehler.

Buehler says he thinks Asheville’s job market is “reasonably good” for job seekers in the early stages of their careers. He points to the abundance of manufacturing jobs in the region as evidence of a flourishing industry. Multinational manufacturing companies such as Linamar, Eaton, BorgWarner, ThermoFisher, and Kearfott all have satellite locations in the Asheville region and are often hiring.

However, there’s a disconnect between these companies and the Asheville job market. For starters, these companies rarely advertise their jobs in local publications or on local job boards. Buehler says that because of their size and reach, these companies may have the perception that job seekers will find them, and therefore they only post jobs on their websites.

How important is networking?

I asked Buehler how important he thinks networking is for landing the ideal job. He says that networking is always important, regardless of the stage of your career. “You need to continually tend to your network as you tend to your garden. It doesn’t matter what season you’re in, there’s always something you can be doing.”

Buehler recommends using your LinkedIn and your personal network to get introduced to companies. During the introduction, he says it’s important you let these companies know what you’re good at, what you’re interested in doing, what stage of your professional development you’re in, and your education level.

Asheville’s size can be advantageous. Because it isn’t that big of a job market, Buehler says it’s fairly easy to get networked into the sector or company of your choice. It’s an open community, and people aren’t going to protect their networks like they might in bigger cities. People here are very willing to make introductions and offer their advice on a company or industry, he says.

He also recommends checking job boards—especially local ones, like Venture Asheville’s, A-B Tech’s, and The Citizen-Times’—regularly. 

Buehler says the benefit of having seasoned professionals working in Asheville is that they spend their money here, which indirectly supports job growth. However, if these older professionals moved here with a job, they most likely cater to clients outside of the region. This robs the community of their expertise, experience, and professional network, he says. 

When I asked Buehler if he thought Asheville’s salaries are on par with the city’s cost of living, he said they generally aren’t. He points out that salaries here are lower than the national average, whereas the cost of living is nearly equivalent. In Asheville, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $336 higher than the state’s FMR. An individual would have to make $24 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city. 

“A big mission that a lot of us have in professional groups like Hatch and Venture Asheville is to see salary levels outpace the cost of living [in Asheville],” Buehler says.

Bring your own job.

While Newman, Kaplan, and Buehler are optimistic about Asheville’s job market, others aren’t as sold. 

Andrew Polich is a teaching assistant and graduate student at Lenoir Rhyne University’s Sustainability Studies program. Polich says he worked in government relations and international affairs in Washington D.C. before moving to Asheville in 2018 to be closer to his family. When he moved to D.C., he didn’t know a soul. But within days, he landed an internship for former Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) on Capitol Hill and began brushing shoulders with diplomats, politicians, and movie stars.

In the last two years, he says he has worked as a landscaper, a house and pet sitter, a host at the Black Mountain Ale House, a construction worker, a blogger, a social media coordinator for a documentary, and an outreach manager for a local nonprofit. 

Polich’s advice is to bring your own job if you plan on moving to Asheville. If you’re already here, he recommends finding your side hustle and enjoying the lifestyle. “Take advantage of what Asheville has to offer—the outdoors and beer. If you want to rocket launch professionally, consider moving to the big city.”

Or start your own job.

Sarah and Tony told me that they started their own podcasting and marketing company because there weren’t any local jobs that appealed to them. They wanted to add value to their new community without compromising their skills and integrity—and they needed to get paid enough to live here.

If you decide to start your own business in Asheville, the good news is there’s an abundance of local business resources to take advantage of. Here’s a condensed list:


What do you think about the job market in Asheville? Let us know by emailing hello@makingitinasheville.com or DM us on Instagram @makingitinasheville.

Mickey Snowdon is Communications Liaison at The Collider and a local freelance writer.

In an effort to help you navigate the effects of COVID-19, we put together a list of resources for small businesses in Asheville (and beyond!).

Have an idea that you don’t see here? Let us know hello@makingitinasheville.com We’ll be adding to this list as time goes on.

Financial Resources

  • NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan: Mountain BizWorks is providing NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loans as a vital resource to help Western North Carolina small businesses be resilient and adaptive in the face of the coronavirus crisis. These are primarily designed to be a timely source of bridge loan financing until businesses can access SBA Disaster or other federal disaster funding.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to North Carolina’s small businesses. If your business has been financially affected by COVID, you can apply for a loan here.
  • The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina has announced 38 grants totaling $286,800 from its Emergency and Disaster Response Fund to help nonprofits addressing COVID-19 response and relief across WNC.

Business Resources

  • What Now, Asheville? is a one-week series of Facebook Lives where we share actionable insights for responding to COVID-19 from and for local businesses in our community. Each day of the week, we’ll cover a different topic or theme and invite guests to speak about that specific topic.
  • Kickback AVL If you’re a restaurant or food service provider, consider partnering up with Kickback AVL to offer delivery.
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, keep your business up and running with these six tips from our friends at Mountain Biz Works.
  • Now’s a great time to reflect on your business and see where you might have room to grow. A while back, we put together a list of 21 Ideas to Grow Our BUsiness in Asheville. If you have spare time, give a read. Then pick one or two to focus on over the next few weeks while at home. Download the free PDF list here.
  • Explore Asheville has an in-depth list of resources for Asheville businesses, including information about SBA Disaster Relief Funds, instructions for updating your listing on the Explore Asheville website, and tourism industry insights and news.
  • Stay up to date with advice from the CDC for businesses and employers.
  • Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce put together this handy toolkit, including social media graphics you can use to educate your employees and customers.

Podcasts

Video Meeting & Recording Tools

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to sign up for some kind of video conferencing tool so you can continue to communicate with your employees, colleagues, and customers. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Zoom: They offer a free plan that allows you to host a digital meeting with up to 100 participants that is 40 minutes or less.
  • Google Hangouts & Google Classroom: Through July 1st, 2020 Google has expanded the free features of its video meeting tools. They now include up to 250 participants, live streaming, and the ability to record and save meetings.
  • Loom: This software allows you to record and share videos in a simple and effective way. Loom has temporarily released more features to its free version and has reduced its pricing for paid plans.
  • Facebook Live: Free and easy to use, Facebook Live videos allow you to essentially create your own live TV show and share it with an audience.

Give Back

  • #AshevilleStrong: If you’re a restaurant or retail shop, this non-profit initiative led by a group of WNC volunteers allows you to list your gift card on their website. All you have to do is fill out a form on their website with your business info.

Facebook Groups

  • Prepared: Your Online Business and Coronavirus Facebook Group: Join the on-going dialogue about the impact of the coronavirus on online businesses with Tyler J. McCall and other experts in the industry. They’re hosting Facebook Lives daily between Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 20th covering a wide range of topics from mental health to what to do with the kids while trying to work. Learn more and join the Prepared: Your Online Business & Coronavirus group
  • Asheville Quarantine 2020: If you need some positivity in your life or are just looking to connect with locals during this period of social distancing, check out the Facebook group Asheville Quarantine 2020.

Ideas for Staying Busy

  • Buncombe County Library + Digital Books: You’re probably going to have a lot of time on your hands to catch up on your business reading soon! If you have a Buncombe County Library card, you can access their Virtual Library. Another great app is Libby, which is easy to connect to your local library and download e-books and audio-books to your preferred reading device.
  • Meditation & Yoga: Miranda from Namaste in Nature has put together a list of Free Ways to Stay Calm and Healthy and Boost Your Immune System During Coronavirus (Covid-19), including some fantastic meditation and yoga videos.

Learn why you should start a podcast TODAY and how to do it.

Exciting news: we’re hosting a beginner’s podcast workshop in Asheville!

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of having your own radio show and want to start your own podcast to be able to share your knowledge about a particular topic with the world. Or perhaps, you want to start a podcast to grow your business. No matter what your motivation is, one thing is clear: podcasting is the number one hottest medium for content these days. If you don’t start today, you’re probably going to wish you had a year from now.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

  • Why you should start a podcast NOW
  • How to find your podcast niche, choose a format, and name your show
  • The basic equipment and tools you need to get started
  • How to use the equipment and implement soundchecks
  • How to complete basic audio edits using a free audio software
  • How to publish and promote your podcast
  • How to grow your listening audience

Interested?

We’ll be hosting this workshop in Asheville, NC sometime during the first quarter of 2020.

While we’re still working out the logistics of precisely when and where it will be, we invite you to sign up for our How to Podcast Workshop mailing list. Once it’s live, you’ll be the first to know!

Sign Up

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In truth, we couldn't stop at five ideas. We actually wrote 21. This post shares our top five but the entire post is about 3,000 words or just about over 15 pages as a document. If you'd like all 21 ideas, we'll send them to you in an email. Click here for all 21 Ideas to Help Your Business Make It in Asheville. 

This post is the love child of our own need to grow a business. You see, we just started a small marketing and business consulting agency in Asheville and have put a lot of time into thinking about how to build it, grow it, and sustain it.

After writing down all the ideas that could help our own business thrive, we thought: “Wait a minute —there are so many great ideas here! Why not share this with others?”

We hope that these concepts spark new ideas for you, help you to take action, and give you support on the way. Know that you certainly don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) use all of these. Pick the ones that work for you, and leave the rest.

If you have any questions, you know how to find us!

Let’s dive in.

1) Partner with your neighborhood. 

Look around you. As in your physical location. What other businesses are there? What do they have to offer that can complement your own business and vice versa? Is there an opportunity to co-host an event together? 

Example: This past summer, four downtown-based retail shops partnered together to host an event called the First Friday Shop Hop. Every first Friday of the month, they stayed open a little later and gave out free wine or beer to their customers. Each customer also got a “passport.” By visiting every shop on the passport and getting their paper passport stamped, the customer could enter to win a box of goodies which had an item from each store. It was a great event to bring awareness to retail stores during the summer when most people are out eating and drinking. It was also a great way to leverage each of the store’s customer bases to bring awareness to other shops in town and build everyone’s email list (see below).

How can you do the same? Perhaps you do a newsletter exchange to reach a new audience, or maybe you just offer special neighborhood discounts to other employees in the area. Get together with your neighbors and brainstorm!

2) Build an email list.

If you don’t have an email list or newsletter, let us be clear: Start. One. NOW. 

Don’t let social media be your only communication channel. The algorithms on Facebook, Instagram, and other social channels change all the time and you could easily lose touch with your audience if that’s the only digital way you’re communicating with them.

And hoping that they simply walk back into your store or come back to your website won’t cut it either.

So, how do you start and grow a mailing list? Here’s the abridged version.

Step 1: Pick an email software. Nine times out of ten, we’d recommend that new businesses start a mailing list by using MailChimp software because it’s easy to use and sits at a fair price point for most people. 

Step 2: Create an easy way for people to sign up for your mailing list. Add a sign-up form somewhere highly visible in your store. If you don’t have a brick and mortar, make sure you have multiple easy ways for people to sign up on your website. Even add it to your email signature.

Step 3. Provide people a reason to sign-up.  Though they’re common to see, we don’t love blanket discounts (something like 15% off for signing up). Instead, consider making your mailing list the only place your customers can hear about special offers.  But most importantly, write great newsletters. Chances are if the newsletter is meaningful, people will share it with their friends and family, growing your list exponentially.

If you need help getting started or improving your email marketing strategy, we’d be glad to help. Our marketing agency, Making It Creative, specializes in email marketing and list building strategy.

3) Join a local business group. 

Sometimes the best advice and support comes from someone outside of your business. Join a local business or networking group where you can meet like-minded people and garner new ideas. Business groups can also be a great way to find new partnerships. 

Here are a few of our favorite local business groups:

  • West Asheville Business Association
  • Charlotte Street Business Association
  • Young Professionals of Asheville
  • Asheville Business for Success
  • AVL Community of Freelancers, Remote Workers & Self-Employed
  • AIGA Asheville (American Institute of Graphic Arts)

4) Invest in professional development. 

Think: What aspect of your business would you like to get better at? Then, find a course and workshop that teaches that skill.

Here are some places you can find local classes and workshops:

There are also TONS of online courses through SkillShare, LinkedIn Learning, and colleges throughout the country.

5) Know your competition — then befriend them.

You probably already know a lot about your “competitors” but if you don’t, take some time and research who else does what you do in this area.  Browse through local Asheville newspapers and magazines, and do a quick Google search to find out who else is in your space (search “Asheville” + “your industry”).

Consider: What are they good at? How are you differentiating your business from them?

If they offer something that you don’t, why not recommend people to them?

It sounds counter-intuitive but this “I’ll scratch your back, you’re welcome to but-under-no-obligation-to scratch mine” mentality can be more beneficial than constantly being down each other’s throats.

After sending a few people their direction, reach out. Say hello. Tell them you admire their work and have even referred folks. See how it goes. Then, consider partnering with them strategically. After all, two heads are better than one.

We actually have 16 other ideas for you to use…

We hope these first five ideas have sparked your creativity, curiosity, and commitment. Want our entire list of 21 ideas? We’ll send you a printable PDF with all of them.

Hi! Tony here. Some of you have asked about our podcast set-up so we wanted to take the time to share with you the basic equipment we use.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that this post is not meant to be exhaustive of all of the things you could use to create a podcast and it certainly does not intend to claim that this is the best set-up for running a podcast. 

This is simply a post about our current podcasting set-up and why we’ve chosen to use each part. It answers the question of “What equipment do you use for your podcast and why?” It is not how we use our gear or about podcasting strategy in general. If you’re interested in learning more about those things, we’re planning a podcast workshop in Asheville this coming year. Be the first to hear about it by signing up for our workshop mailing list.

We hope this overview of the podcast equipment we use is helpful for getting started if you’re considering launching your own podcast.

*Please note that for your convenience we’ve added links to the products we use for the podcast. Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. That simply means that if you purchase an item through a link listed on this post, we will earn a small commission off the sale.

How We Chose Our Podcast Equipment

When we decided to launch a podcast, I took a deep dive into all of the gear necessary to run a podcast. And you should know something about me: I love gear. I love reading about gear. I love watching YouTube videos about gear. And yes, I love buying new gear. 

But when it came to researching how to make a podcast, I quickly became overwhelmed — well maybe not overwhelmed but I was most certainly whelmed.

Audiophiles have a funny way of talking about frequencies and hertz and stuff you and I simply don’t have experience with or care about. So attempting to learn about what gear you need can quickly slip into a thesis about soundwaves and decibels and things you need a dictionary or degree to understand.

So it took me some time before I was able to make sense of some of the articles, YouTube videos, and conversations I had with friends. But eventually, I landed on a very simple podcast set-up —which I’ll explain in detail below— that works wonderfully for us here at the Making It in Asheville Podcast!

The set-up we use has a combination of high-quality and affordable components, as well as an impossibly simple-to-use technology. All of these pieces of equipment combine perfectly to allow us to record interviews with up to four total people on location, churn out a single episode per week, and not pull our hair out in the process. 

Our Basic Podcasting Set-up (It’s Simple, I Swear)

I don’t pretend to have gone to school for audio-engineering but the way I think about podcasting equipment keeps it simple. You’re welcome to think this way, too.

You’ll need to consider five different categories of “things:”

  1. The RecorderHow will you record and save the audio?
  2. The Microphone(s)How will the device that saves the audio hear it?
  3. The Audio EditorHow will you edit and improve the audio after recording?
  4. The HostingHow will you share it with the internet?
  5. The MiscellaneousWhat other things will add to the recording and listening experience?

Let’s dive into each of those below.

The Recorder: Zoom H5 ($250-$400)

The recorder is a device that records and saves the audio to your memory card.

You can’t look up podcasting equipment without seeing Zoom recorders in the results. I’m sure there’s a good reason for it. Everyone swears by some version or another of a Zoom recorder for its mobility, ability to record multiple tracks, and relatively high-quality output, all for a moderate price (relative to some recording setups).

Multi-track recording is a big deal. It means that Sarah’s, our guests’, and my audio are all recorded separately. This allows me to edit each of them on their own (i.e. increase Sarah’s relative volume or pull out a sneeze that only my microphone hears). Multi-track recording is an essential element of building a professional sounding podcast. 

If you want a multitrack recording, Zoom has you covered. We narrowed our options down to two: the H5 and the H6. The primary differences that I noticed between the Zoom H5 and Zoom H6 were the number of recording tracks and the price. While there seemed to be no difference in recording quality, the H5 said it could record up to four tracks while the H6 could record up to six. The price difference was rather substantial for the new H6 models vs a new H5.

Because we only expected to interview up to two people (and therefore need four tracks in total), we opted to start with a refurbished H5 that came with a bundle of other gear. The bundle allowed us to limit our overall investment and allowed us to prioritize getting started. The thought was, if the podcast grows, we could always get a “better” (or bigger) recorder.

What we didn’t realize was how the Zoom H5 calculated the four tracks. The H5 has inputs for wo external microphones and one microphone built into the recorder which records in surround sound (or a right track and a left track) for four total tracks. As such, our first couple of interviews used a boom mic to record our guest’s audio (the boom was a part of the recorder bundle we purchased). 

To allow for four total microphones, we actually needed to buy an additional component that converts the on-recorder microphone into two additional XLR inputs. 

In hindsight, we could have opted to purchase a Zoom H6 out of the gate, which has 4XLR inputs standard plus the onboard microphone that records in two tracks.

OUR PICKS:
Zoom H5 Four-Track Portable Recorder – If you only need to record with up to 3 people
Zoom EXH-6 Dual XLR/TRS Capsule – To convert the onboard recorder into two additional microphone inputs and turn H5 into a 4-input recorder and the H6 into a 6-input recorder
Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder – If you want to record with 4 or more people

The Microphones: Audio Technica 2100 (~$60/each)

After spending what seemed like a lifetime reading about microphones, I can say that I still don’t fully understand the science and what makes one better than the other. But here’s what I did retain.

Generally speaking, some mics are great for recording studios while others are great for stages. The studio mics hear EVERYTHING in just about a full 360-degree range. Stage mics are directional. They work like a sound tractor beam and are at their best when you’re speaking directly into them. 

Because we do not have a studio and we were planning to record on location, we went with “stage-style” mics. These mics are great and can be found as part of cost-saving bundles with miscellaneous other equipment you might want to consider picking up — think mic stands, headphones, and more. We discuss some of those below in the Miscellaneous section.

OUR PICK: Audio Technica 2100 Microphone – These are often offered in cost-saving bundles. We discuss one of them below.

The Audio Editor: Audacity ($0)

While you could certainly record a conversation and send it directly to the world, it’s wise to make a pit stop at an audio editor before you do. This is where you can cut and splice intros, outros, advertisements, and pull out any hiccups or annoying background sounds. 

Audio engineering can be daunting. I watched videos on just about every technology out there and decided to move forward with Audacity, a free audio software. 

While Audacity is not as intuitive as our hosting product (up next), there’s only a couple of steps we take to polish our podcast before publishing. The steps are relatively easy to learn and fast to execute. We may eventually switch to a paid audio editor at some point, but for now, the free version of Audacity works just fine and we’d recommend it for anyone who is just starting out.

OUR PICK: Audacity

The Hosting: Pinecast ($0-$10/mo)

It’s one thing to record a podcast, it’s another thing to get it onto the internet and have it show up everywhere people want to listen to it. At its core, the “getting-it-to-show-up-where-people-listen” is part of “hosting” a podcast. 

Most experts advise hosting your podcast separate from your main website (for reasons like “hosting it on your site could drastically slow down your website”) and luckily there are a lot of podcast hosting solutions out there. After some searching, we went with Pinecast.

Honestly, I don’t remember what made me pick Pinecast initially. I remember reviewing about five all-in-one solutions and thought that the free product’s setup, user interface, and paid pricing tiers of Pinecast were the best.

And we’ve been very happy with that decision. The podcast set-up and publishing process could not be simpler. After taking a couple of minutes to do the initial set-up, all we have to do now is just drop the audio file into a new episode page, update the descriptions, and moments later the podcast is live across the internet. 

Again, one major benefits of Pinecast for new podcasters is its simplicity and that it’s free to host your first 10 episodes. After our first 10 episodes, we started paying $5 per month —a subscription fee that is well worth the convenience. 

Here’s a referral offer we’ve taken from our Pincast account page: “Start your own podcast for free, no credit card required, forever. If you decide to upgrade, use coupon code r-2f50bc for 40% off for 4 months, and support the Making It In Asheville Podcast.

OUR PICK: Pinecast

The Miscellaneous: Other Handy Podcast Tools (Various Prices)

Beyond the primary bits of equipment, there are some other odds and ends you’ll want to consider as you’re getting started. 

Memory Card (~$12)

Memory is one of those technology areas that expand exponentially almost every year. The cost of a 1 terabyte hard drive less than ten years ago would have made your head spin. Today, you can get one for less than $100. Memory and storage will almost double in capacity and half in cost yearly. 

With that, buy whatever size memory card you think you’d need or want. And just know that next year it will be radically cheaper to get that same card than this year. 

We recorded all of our first 26 podcasts on the memory card that came in our recorder bundle. It only had 4 gigabytes of memory, which is about 8 hours of high-quality 4-track recording. It’s a perfect size if you’re diligent about exporting the recorded audio and reformatting, or wiping the card, after each episode. And a 4gig memory card costs almost nothing.

For context, the 64 Gig memory card we link to is under $12.

OUR PICK: 64 Gigabyte Memory Card

Batteries (Prices Vary)

Our recorder only has four levels of battery: full, two bars, one bar, and then…poof! The recorder turns off. In one interview, our recorder dropped from full to completely dead. Luckily, we had extra AA’s in our bag!

Since then, we’ve exclusively used Lithium batteries and always carry more in our bag. I’m not sure of the science behind it, but lithium batteries last a substantially longer time than standard batteries. They are, in my opinion, the best battery option for podcast recording because the last thing you want is for your batteries to die in the middle of an episode.

OUR PICK: Energizer AA Lithium Batteries

Tripod ($60)

When we record, we mount the Zoom H5 recorder to a tripod so that I can easily watch the audio levels and make tweaks without having to break too far from eye contact with the guests and Sarah. It’s not a required accessory for a podcast—it’s actually something we bought for video and photography—but it’s one that I love and I’ve used for every episode. 

OUR PICK: Manfrotto Compact Tripod

Foam Mic Covers (~$1)

The internet told me that adding a foam cover to the microphone would improve the recording quality. For about $1 per mic, I took the chance and I’ve been very happy with the results. It works something like a windshield for your “puh” and “shh” sounds.

OUR PICK: Onstage Foam Microphone Covers

Mic Stand/Boom Arm ($49.99)

To be clear, you don’t need a stand at all. One of the most popular interview podcast hosts and his guests hold their own microphones. 

But still —our boom arm mic stands are probably my favorite part of our set-up. They allow us to take notes during the podcast, sit almost anywhere, and talk with our hands (which I love to do). Stands also help to keep the mics close to the mouth, which is essential for high-quality audio. Our mic stands use a simple c-clamp and have been clamped onto tables, arms of chairs, and more for our podcast. We highly recommend them so long as you also get the shock mounts we list below.

OUR PICK: Knox Gear Boom Arm

Shock Mounts ($19.99)

Not all mic stands are created equal. The key, as it turns out, is that the stands have what is considered a “shock-mounting system.” This means that the microphone is effectively supported in a web of bungee cords. A shock mount limits the transfer of energy through the mic stand itself and into the mic. 

Again, I am not a sound engineer. But traditionally, any time you tap a mic stand or the table a mic stand rests on, a sound wave passes through the stand into the microphone and gets recorded in your audio. Sounds that you would never notice while talking with your guest can get picked up by the microphone and could ruin an otherwise great audio recording. 

Shock mounts limit the effect of sound transfer and the likelihood that you record a podcast that, due to tapping, clicking, or humming sounds, becomes impossible to listen all the way through. 

OUR PICK: Knox Microphone Shock Mount

***As a side note, we actually bought this Audio Technica Bundle which includes the above Audio Technica Microphone, Knox Gear Boom Arm, Shock Mount, and Pop Filter for under $100. Even though we don’t use the pop filters, we saved a few bucks by choosing this bundle.

Headphones ($16+)

The other tool that helps limit the risk of recording unexpected and bothersome sounds are over-ear headphones

If you’ve ever seen a photo or video of a radio host, they almost always have headphones on. Rockstars almost always have in-ear monitors. And it’s the same reason you should wear headphones when recording: you need to be able to listen to live playback to know what’s actually happening in your recording. This is perhaps the only way to ensure a quality recording without waiting until you get home to upload the audio file to your computer player.

Headphones are their own black hole of audiophile blog posts and information. The pair I bought was about as cheap of a pair as was available and I’ve been very happy with them for both recording and editing our episodes. 

OUR PICK: Tascam Over-Ear Headphones

Setting Up Your Own Podcast

Here’s the thing: the most important thing you can do for your podcast is to start it. Gear doesn’t matter all that much. Our first episode was recorded directly into a 2011 MacBook Pro. You can bet it sounded pretty bad. But we started.

We continued to record, learning more about gear as we went along. In fact, so much of what we know now about podcast equipment, we learned from making mistakes (like letting the batteries die during an episode). With every single episode, we get better and better and I guarantee you will, too. But you have to press record first.

Want to Learn More About Starting a Podcast?

If you have any questions about how to start, ways to grow, or why you might what to consider launching a podcast — you might want to click here. We’re planning to run a How to Podcast Workshop in Asheville that will cover those exact questions and more.

Every Sunday, we hold a 15-minute meeting that has drastically improved our relationship, both in our business and personal life. We call it a “Weekly Stand-Up.” 

What is a Weekly Stand-Up?

The name “stand-up” just means that the meeting should be brief enough that everyone can stand through its entirety. It’s common lingo in the corporate world of engineers and developers who meet weekly or daily to sync on all the tasks that need to get done. While we don’t always stand during our own Weekly Stand-Up, we do try to keep the meeting under 20 minutes. 

What happens during the meeting is pretty simple. We go through a list of action items and write them in a shared Google document. We bucket the tasks into different categories: personal, our marketing business, and anything related to Making It in Asheville. Together, we record anything and everything that’s on our minds.

For example, under “Personal” we might put “Take the car for an oil change” or “Call health insurance company about XYZ.” Under “Marketing Business,” we go through administrative tasks that are on our mind such as making sure we follow-up with a client about a proposal or scheduling a time to prepare for a meeting with our logo designer.

The point isn’t to think through every tiny detail, but rather to see the big picture of what needs to get done, when, and by who. 

Why Does This Work for Us?

Holding weekly stand-up meetings is helpful to us for several reasons: 

  1. It ensures that we don’t miss anything.
    We help remind each other what needs to get done. Sometimes one of us will think of something that the other one forgot or simply didn’t think of.

  2. It provides a time and place to talk about action items.
    Rather than interrupting each other throughout our work week with surprises like, “Hey honey can you take the car to get an oil change?” or “Hey honey can you help review this proposal before I send it?” we’re able to get it all out during a designated time. We both know that if we are aware ahead of time about something, we’re better prepared to help. We can set aside the time to do the task rather than feel a grudge about it because one of us surprised the other with an unexpected to-do list item mid-way through the week. 

  3. It helps us prioritize what needs to get done, when, and by who.
    By building a list of all these things, we can decide together what’s the most pressing and important and delegate who will do what. And since we keep it in a shared doc, we’re able to look back throughout the week to remind ourselves.

  4. It keeps us accountable.
    If we get to the end of the week and things have gotten done that we said we’d do, we’re able to clearly see what’s still outstanding. This constructive pressure means that we’re more likely to get it done than if it was just floating somewhere in our minds.

  5. It catches new ideas as they come up.
    Although this isn’t meant to be a brainstorming session, it often brings up new ideas! If one of us thinks of something brilliant (or semi-brilliant), we can write it down and store it away for later so we don’t forget.

In short, setting aside just 15-20 minutes per week helps us be more productive all week long. 

How to Host a Weekly Stand-Up

There is no right or wrong way to host a weekly stand-up meeting (except for maybe letting it run too long), but what we can do is tell you what works for us and how we ourselves do it.

  1. Schedule 15-20 minutes the same day and time every week.
    Put it on the calendar and make sure all attendees are aware of the meeting and know they need to show up.

  2. Delegate one person as the note taker and one person as the meeting leader.
    They might be the same person or they could be different, but we often find that whoever is taking notes is able to lead the meeting because they have the tasks in front of them.

  3. Use a shared document or make sure that you share the notes from the meeting with everyone involved right after the meeting.
    We like using a shared Google document that we both have access to sot hat we can refer to it throughout the week and cross items off our list or make notes as we do them.

  4. Create buckets or categories to make tasks more manageable.
    For us, we bucket by areas of our life (personal vs. business) because it’s easier for us to think of things that way. But you could also bucket by the person who is responsible for carrying out the task.

  5. Go through each category and task items as quickly as you can. The goal is to decide: what is the action, who needs to do it, and when it needs to get done. Use verbs, not nouns, where possible. For example, “Blog post” is more nebulous than ”Create an outline for Thursday’s blog post.”  If deciding those details seems like too much to do in this quick little meeting, then the action item is to schedule a separate meeting to discuss it in more detail. 

  6. End the meeting with a brief recap.
    Everyone can go around and say what they will work on this week and when they will get it done. For example, “I’ll take the car to get an oil change before Friday and I’ll schedule a call with XYZ on Tuesday.” 

After the meeting, we usually like to take 5 or 10 minutes to schedule any items on our calendar while it’s all still fresh in our minds. 


It’s a simple activity, but it has truly helped us stay in open communication with one another. Even though we live together and are together all the time, we don’t always communicate about everything that’s going on in our lives. By setting aside just a few minutes every week, we’re able to capture our action items in one place which makes for a lot more productive week and life.

And you? Do you hold weekly meetings with your partner or colleagues? How do you get the most out of them? Let us know by sending us a message on Instagram or our contact page.

Since starting our podcast we’ve heard a lot of variations of: “I’d love to listen to podcasts, but I just don’t have time!” 

We feel you

In this post, we’re going to share five free and easy podcast-listening tips to help you get more from those earbuds in less time.

But first, a little bit more information on what inspired this post. When we moved from New York to Asheville, we found that we started to have a lot less time to listen to podcasts. It sounds counterintuitive, we know, but the fact was that we did much of our podcast listening and reading on subway rides during our 30-minute commute between Brooklyn and Manhattan. This gave us one WHOLE hour every day of pure podcast pleasure!

Now that we live in Asheville and work from home, we don’t have that daily downtime like before. We’re grateful that we don’t have to commute anymore, but we also miss that 30-minute window to get in an episode (or two!).

We still love listening to podcasts (we have our own podcast channel and are always on the lookout for inspiration)! So rather than just give up listening to them all together, we’ve discovered quicker, more time-efficient ways to consume the content. 

And thus, we’re here to share with you today our favorite tips for listening to podcasts faster and smarter!

5 Tips for Listening to Podcasts More Effectively

1. Listen to a podcast at 1.5x or 2x speed.

Did you know that you can change the playback speed on podcasts? This is a great way to condense an hour-long podcast into a 30-minute snippet. And while you might be wondering if it changes everyone’s voices into Alvin-and-the-Chipmunk-sounding ones, the answer is typically no. The audio will play faster, but it should maintain the speaker’s voice at a normal pitch and tone.

Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Open up the Apple Podcast app. (Note: This process is more or less the same for Spotify.)
  2. Click “Play” on the podcast you want to listen to.
  3. At the bottom of the screen, tap the podcast player to make the controls full screen.
how to change podcast speed in apple podcasts app

4. In the bottom left corner, you’ll see “1x”. Tap it and adjust to the speed you prefer.

That’s it! We personally prefer 1.5x speed but you can go up to 2x.

2. Listen while doing tasks that don’t require your full focus.

Put on a podcast while you drive, go for a walk, stand in a long line, or wait for an appointment. Other great podcast-listening tasks include cleaning your apartment, painting, or enjoying a glass of wine. And, instead of watching another episode of Game of Thrones or The Office, put on a podcast! If it’s late at night, this is especially beneficial. Rather than looking at a screen (which is proven to mess with our ability to fall asleep), all you have to do is listen while still getting to enjoy some entertainment before bed.

3. Make a playlist and save it for later.

Every time you see a podcast that seems appealing, download it ahead of time while on WiFi and save it to a playlist. Then, the next time you go on a long road trip or have a long plane ride, you’ll have something to keep those earbuds happy.

4. Read the show notes, then skim and skip as needed.

If you’re not sure if you’re going to like a podcast episode, start by skimming the show notes. If it still seems interesting, start listening. Skip ahead if some parts aren’t catching your attention until you get to a section that you’re enjoying. This works particularly well for conversational podcasts that don’t have a defined storyline.

5. Listen with a third-party podcast player.

There are some absolutely fantastic third-party (meaning not Google Podcasts or Apple Podcasts) podcast apps. We both listen on Spotify regularly for well-produced NPR quality podcasts. But Tony swears by the Overcast App for long-form interviews. Overcast gives you incredible control over the exact speed you choose to listen (sometimes 1.5x speed is a little slow and 2x speed is too fast). It also has the ability to shorten just the longer pauses between speech.

Bonus Idea: Stop listening to it if it’s not interesting!

Let’s be real — just because you enjoyed the episode before or just because everyone is listening to a podcast, doesn’t mean it’s for you. Give a podcast 5 to 10 minutes, and if it doesn’t have you hooked, STOP. Maybe you’ll come back to it later when you’re in the right mood, maybe you won’t. That’s okay. There’s no point in torturing yourself through the entire episode if you’re not enjoying it.


So that’s our top five tips for making the most of a podcast. What did you think? Do you have any other tips or tricks? Let us know on Instagram.

No matter if you’re a small business owner, an aspiring artist, or the CEO of a massive company, our advice to you today is simple: show your work.

It’s what we’d say to anyone who wants to start or grow a business, develop a brand or scale an idea. It sounds simple enough, but we’re the first to admit that showing your work is not always easy to put into practice.

In this post, we’re going to describe why, how, and when to show your work and share with you the benefits of doing so. But first, here is some food for thought if you’re the type who is already counter-rationalizing why not to show your work.

Why You Might Be Against Showing Your Work

Well, if you’re not showing your work, you’re probably thinking something like:

“But I have no idea who to share it with? Who would care?”

If this is the case, send it to us! We’d love to take a look at what you’re working on and (if you’d like) help you find the right audience.

“What if someone steals my idea?”

First —and please let us be crystal clear —no one will steal your idea. People are entirely too much in their own heads and “busy” to steal your idea. You could hand your idea to your number one “competitor” or the biggest player in the market and they’ll all but certainly say, “Dang that’s cool but we just don’t have the bandwidth to act on that right now.”

Now, let’s just say someone comes out with the same thing you were thinking of doing. This happens all the time! There are two things to remember:

1) Someone else in the market is a good thing. It validates that there are customers and that people are interested in your idea. It also allows you to specialize and differentiate yourself from the guys who are already doing it.

2) There’s something that could never be stolen from you and that is, well, YOU. Your fingerprint will be on your work and that will give it its own unique flavor and appeal.

There dozens of breweries in Asheville and likely hundreds of brewers. How many of those brewers do you think have “stolen” each other’s Pilsner recipes? And yet, every brewery is different and has its own unique spin.

“I wouldn’t even know how to share my work.”

This reminds us of a powerful amorphism: When the why is strong enough the how is irrelevant. If you want to share your work but don’t know how, keep reading.

“I’m a perfectionist. I can’t share it until it’s ready.”

Pablo Picasso created 50,000 paintings, but only about a hundred of them were considered true masterpieces.

Perfectionism is not cute, it’s a form of resistance (you’ll read more about that below). If you can’t share until it’s perfect, you’re missing the point. It’s about connection building. Read on to see what we mean.

Why Show Your Work

So why should you show your work? What’s the point?

1. You can build a real relationship with your audience.

Think about it: if you keep your projects all hidden away until it’s time to sell, who do you expect to show up buy it? Sharing what you’re working on creates an open dialog and gives color to the kind of person that you are, the effort that goes into your work, and helps customers and future customers understand why they should buy from you. When you share the process, you start building a relationship with a growing audience so that when you are ready to sell, you have people to sell to.

2. You can assess product-market fit before it’s too late.

If you’re looking to sell the thing that you create, showing your work is a great way to test your product or service while the risk is low. Tony likes to say, “If you build your creation in the dark, you’ll always be surprised in the light of day.” You could invest hours upon hours working on a product before sharing it, only to realize that nobody wants it. By sharing it early on, even when it’s not “perfect” you’ll get helpful feedback that can help shape your creation into something that people actually want.

3. You can make the right connections before you need them.

You know what they say: it’s not about what you know, but who you know. You never know who you’ll meet and how they might be able to help you. By sharing early and building an audience, you might just get in front of someone that can change the trajectory of your business.

You see this all the time with musicians who serendipitously get discovered. Ed Sheeran started out playing in small venues throughout London and putting out his own EPs. One night, he attended a poetry night in Los Angeles. Jamie Foxx saw his performance and was so impressed that he invited him back to his home and let him crash on his couch for six weeks. Foxx brought Sheeran to his recording studio and an open mic night. While there are many factors that have contributed to Sheeran’s rise to fame, there’s no doubt that meeting Jamie Foxx helped him grow his fan base greatly.

“Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.” —Bobby Solomon

4. You’ll get over your fear of sharing.

So many people are afraid of sharing their work because they fear criticism. It’s only natural to worry about what other people think. You have to train yourself to be ready to “take a punch” as Austin Kleon says. We’ll bet that you’re going to get people that love what you’re doing. You’re also going to get people who criticize it, who say mean things. Fact. There will be less of the latter kind of people, we promise. What you’ll encounter the most is people who simply don’t care. But learning about these types of people is all part of the process. The more you share, the more you’ll realize that those criticisms can’t hurt you. And the more you share the more those people who were indifferent might become fans.

The more you share, the more you’ll realize that those criticisms can’t hurt you. And the more you share the more those people who were indifferent might become fans.

Think about all those artists working in open studios in the River Arts District. Do you think they care what other people think when they see their half-finished paintings? No. They’re there to share their process, to show off how it’s done! Which makes for a rather interesting story, and a fine supporting argument for their premium prices, don’t you think?

How to Show Your Work

So how should you go about it? There are many ways to share your work and it will be different for everyone. Here are a few ideas:

1. Start small.

If you’re writing, publish one chapter at a time. And if that seems too much, publish one blog post at a time. If you’re a photographer, share one photo at a time. If you’re a painter, share one day’s work at a time. It doesn’t have to be finished. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just share it and see what comes back. You’d be surprised at what type of feedback you can get early on this way!

2. Use social media.

Social media is one of the greatest sharing tools that we have! The important thing here is to know which social media platform to use. Instagram is fantastic for visuals as is Pinterest. Twitter is great for short inspirational words. Facebook lends itself well to written works and articles. YouTube is the place to be for musicians. Use the ones that fit best for the type of work you’re creating.

3. Turn it into a class.

Chances are there are other people out there that want to learn about what you know. Turning your art or skill set into a small class is a great way to connect with likeminded people and hone your own skills.

4. Give it away for free.

Let someone try it out for free. If you’re working on a book, have someone read it. If you’re a candlemaker, give away a few of your candles. Your lucky recipients will be so happy to have gotten something for free and you’ll get to test your product without spending much.

When to Show Your Work

Now. Today. Don’t hesitate, just do it.

If you’re having trouble with this, we encourage you to take a moment to think about The 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins. Mel Robbins is a popular author and motivational speaker. Her 5-Second Rule says to countdown “5…4…3…2…1” and then do the action.

It sounds silly, we know, but when you do this, a couple of things happen. For one, your brain stops worrying and instead focuses on counting down. You stop thinking about all the “what ifs” and instead concentrate on the numbers. Secondly, there’s actually a physiological reaction happening in your brain. The countdown signals your brain to get ready for action. When you get to “1,” the only thing that’s left is to take action.
So, just 5..4…3..2…1. SHARE!

Still not convinced?

Get inspired by these reads:

“The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield
If you feel the resistance of creating something, of sharing, of putting the first word on the damn page, then this book is for you. Pressfield inspires us to break through our creative barriers and reminds us that most of us just have to suck it up and put in the work every day.

“Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon
Kleon’s books are more like collages of inspirational quotes and images. What he says is simple and yet, so hard to do. Still, this book is definitely one to keep on the shelf when you need a nice reminder to start sharing.

“The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins
An easy, fast read that will convince to start taking action on the things you’ve been putting off or just don’t feel like doing.

“Poke the Box” by Seth Godin
A motivational read that will challenge you to try new things, or “poke the box,” and see what happens.

show your work quote

So, how will you show your work today?

We challenge you to share something today. Send us a message to let us know what you’re working on!

“If the goal is sales, that can be good in the short term but long-term success is very much based on trust.”

Our most engaging post on Instagram—by a landslide— is a picture of a 5” by 2” piece of paper. In sharing that picture, we started to unpack what we consider the single best marketing strategy that any business can undertake. It costs nothing and yet it pays dividends over time.  

We call it “The Trusted Advisor Theory.”  

But First, More On That Piece of Paper

This small piece of paper we shared contains a curated list East Fork Pottery’s favorite restaurants, bars, breweries, and activities in Asheville. It even includes other favorite potters in the city. We picked it up at their shop on North Lexington.  

To be clear, this isn’t just any list. As many of you know, East Fork is an Asheville institution—a well-known pottery brand now famous throughout the country. As far as brands go, they’re about as big as it gets in Asheville. They’ve been featured in Bon Appétit, Fast Company, the New York Times, and many other publications. 

While they make their goods in Asheville, they’re not just making it in Asheville. They’re making it everywhere

So then, why bother to give out a list of their favorite coffee shops, and even more shockingly, other pottery makers in town? Why send people away from their shop to other stores in town to their competition?

Why It’s Not Always About the Sale

“I’m not a very good salesperson. I often send people away to other companies,” says Gillie Roberts, owner of Ware, a sustainable lifestyle shop called in Downtown Asheville. “I’ll say to them ‘Here’s the exact thing you need, I don’t carry it for XYZ but this is what you need.’” 

She continued, “If the goal is sales, that can be good in the short term but long-term success is very much based on trust.” 

(P.S. We interviewed Gillie in podcast Episode 004. You can listen to the full episode and review the show notes here.) 

Gilli Roberts of Ware Asheville

There’s a valuable business lesson in Gillie’s words. We’ll bet that you’ve experienced a pushy salesperson who attempts to pressure you into buying something. How did you feel after that exchange? Pushy salespeople make us feel less trusting of that person and what they’re selling. 

On the other hand, there’s no better way to build trust when someone makes an honest recommendation

When we were brand new to town (not that we aren’t still—but this story was from our first weekend in Asheville), we stopped in Old North and got to speak with Jack, the owner, and Kylie, the manager. We didn’t buy anything that day and they didn’t pressure us to even look around. Instead with left with a list of their favorite restaurants and bars, written on the back of receipt paper. Every recommendation they gave has been amazing. When it’s time to buy a new pair of jeans, guess where Tony is going?

Whether they were aware of it or not, whether it’s part of an explicitly communicated strategy or not, East Fork, Old North, and Ware are positioned to be our Trusted Advisors. 

We know you’ve experienced this as well.

On a small scale, it happens almost every time you dine out at a restaurant. How do you feel when you go to a restaurant and the server ‘recommends’ the most expensive items on the menu? While it might be true that, yes, the $62 filet mignon is a delicious dish, it also might be true that the waiter is simply trying to raise the bill to get a bigger tip. It’s always much more believable, and endearing when they tell you what not to order and then recommends their true favorite and explains why. 

While becoming a Trusted Advisor doesn’t often happen overnight, it is a valuable strategy. And it’s accessible to you and to every business out there, no matter how small or large.

The Path to Becoming a Trusted Advisor

So how can you practice this paradoxical wisdom in your daily life and business? 

“[Trust] is not something that happens immediately,” Gillie says. During the episode, she goes on to reference Brené Brown’s wise words: “Trust is built in small moments.” 

In other words: it takes time and you can expect to gain trust in baby steps. It’s uncommon to get someone to trust you in one fell swoop. You have to put in the work every day. 

But how? We sat down and meditated on this concept and came up with a few beliefs on how to build trust in business. We’re no gurus, these are just hypotheses. In fact, over the next month, we’re going to test these out and see how they work for us. We challenge you to do the same. 

Our 7 Truths of Trust Building

1. Share what you love.

If there’s someone you follow on social that you absolutely love, chances are your followers probably will too. Social media, especially Instagram, is a wonderful branding platform. It’s not necessarily designed to drive sales but rather tell your brand story and build relationships with others. So, sharing a post from a fellow like-minded business —even if it’s not directly related to your business or, on the other hand, even if it’s from an account that some might consider competition —is generally appreciated by your fans. And, in the end, it’s about serving your fans. 

By the way —this isn’t limited to social media. Sharing an article, newspaper clipping, quote from a book, or photo with a friend by email or a handwritten letter. We’re giving social media as the example because it’s the primary sharing tool we all use these days, but this practice could take many different forms.

2. Identify when you’re not the right fit.

When a customer comes in looking for something that you just don’t have or do, be honest. While there’s a time and a place to expand your offerings to fulfill a client’s needs, chances are you’ll end up feeling icky if you sell them a square peg for their round whole. Most of the time, it’s best to know what you do best and only focus on doing that.

3. Send people away.

Yup. Send them away. If you’re not the right fit, admit it and then attempt to solve their problem by knowing who is. Recommend that they try a different store, product, or company that fulfills their needs. While there is a small chance that they might not ever come back, there’s a higher likelihood that they will or that they will recommend your brand to someone else — someone who needs square pegs. 

4. Give away what you know.

Giving away something for free and not asking for anything in return is a great way to build trust. Also, knowledge and information are rapidly becoming free. If you think you’re in business because of what you know, we beg you to reconsider. People can Google/Wikipedia/YouTube search for the info. What they want is someone who knows how to save the day

So think about it: what do you know that your customers might want to know, too? Knowing that many of their customers visit their Asheville store from out of town, East Fork built a curated list of their favorite things to do in Asheville. It helps their customers and is aligned with their own brand ethos which is to support small, local businesses. 

5. Deliver on your promises.

Be accountable. Do what you say you’re going to do and do it on time. It should go without saying, but the truth is if you don’t deliver on your promise, you’ll lose trust. Trust is like a reputation and as they say, “reputation takes a lifetime to build a minute to blow.” 

6. Only speak positively.

Applied to a business sense, we mean don’t talk $#*! about your customers, your competitors, or your partners. One of the most cringeworthy mistakes we see here in Asheville is people talking down on businesses or competitors they don’t particularly like. The truth is we all have our favorites and our non-favorites. Share your favorites and keep your non-favorites to yourself! 

One of the best Reddit life-hacks we’ve heard is to only speak positively behind people’s backs at work because eventually, everyone will assume you talk positively about them behind their backs as well. That sounds like a great plan to us. 

7. Be real.

People can smell imposters a mile away. Speaking of which, avoid hyperboles when talking about your brand. Be yourself and talk about your business openly and honestly. Saying something like “We’re the best ice cream in town!” is a lot less compelling and trustworthy than “While there are many great ice creams in town, ours is different because we use XYZ.” There’s a happy medium between wanting people to be as excited for your product as you are and being real. We think it’s based on finding what makes you or your product unique and why that can matter to the right people.


Over the next month, we’ll be leaning into these themes and testing out our assumptions. We’ll report back in a month or so on the results so, stay tuned, friend.

Now, enough of us blabbering. What do you think? What makes you trust a business? How are you working to be a trusted advisor yourself? Let us know in a message! Email us or send us a DM on Instagram.

Let us guess, you have a never-ending list of things to do. You keep checking the boxes but you still feel like you’re not really getting anything done. As the list keeps growing and you keep moving, you can’t stop wondering “Why am I doing all this?”

We’ve been there. Most people have.

Well, breathe easy. This post proposes a unique process that helped us answer those types of questions in a clear, concise way.

We call it the “13-Hour Offsite” and we’re using it to plan our life together, build a business, and prepare for our wedding. While it’s still a work-in-progress that will continue to evolve over the years, the essence of how it works is ready to be shared with you today.

Follow the steps detailed below and you’ll be able to figure out what to do with your life and how to get started. It’s simple to implement and easy to test.

Take it for a test drive and let us know what you think!

The Origin of the 13-Hour Offsite

Whenever things have gotten particularly dire in the “what are we doing with our lives” department, we’ve found it helpful to escape.

Of course, we’re not talking about just running away from everything and abandoning all responsibilities. What we mean is more of a “retreat” – a geo-physical pattern-break that deviates from our normal day so that we have room to breathe and think. We opt for this change in scenery to allow us to zoom out and see beyond this moment or day or even the year ahead of us.

We’d take a day trip to go hiking. We’d go to the park for an afternoon. We’ve even stayed at a hotel 15 minutes from our home (a “staycation” we’d highly recommend! No travel, but you still have the perks of getting away).

Now, a spontaneous, quick trip as a pattern break is great and can lead to positive change but it’s not a 13-Hour Offsite. Case in point, one of these ‘retreats’ created the ah-hah moment which led us to make the move to Asheville.

So, you could say that we had already believed in the idea of changing locations to think strategically about life. Then Sarah read a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Doing Less by Greg McKeown. One of his theories to being an “essentialist” is to escape through a scheduled quarterly offsite.

The book made such an impact on Sarah that we decided to bake its philosophy of scheduled offsites into our commitments to each other for at least one year.

As we expanded on the commitment we unearthed a process that is powerful and repeatable.

The result: The 13-Hour Offsite

What is The 13-Hour Offsite?

It’s simple: every 13 weeks block 13 hours to envision 130 months and 130 years into the past and future so that you can plan your next 13 weeks.

“The 13-Hour Offsite” is more than just 13 hours dedicated to retreating from your daily tasks. It’s time dedicated to slowing down, zooming out, and reflecting on important questions so that you can more effectively create the life you want.

Here’s how the 13-13-130-130 framework works.

13 Hours

Thirteen hours is meant to be a full day like 8 am to 9 pm. Alternatively, you can utilize two work blocks like 2 to 9 pm and 8 am to 2 pm the following day (that’s how we ran our last offsite and we loved it). You can go longer. But don’t go shorter. Give the process time. Don’t rush it. Allow yourself the time to sit with these questions and unpack your thoughts.

13 Weeks

Thirteen weeks is more exact than saying “quarterly.” There are exactly four thirteen-week blocks per year. Use whatever process feels right to you (quarterly or exactly) to block your calendar for this year and commit to the dates you block off.

130 Months

One hundred and thirty months is just over a decade, 10 years and 10 months to be exact. We find 10 years to be an approachable but long enough window of time that “anything can happen.” We remember what our lives looked and felt like ten years ago and we think can imagine ten years in the future. It’s the sweet spot for us. If you’d prefer 5-, 15-, or 20-year reflections, knock yourself out.

130 Years

One hundred and thirty years from now is just about four generations. Around that point in the past, each of our first ancestors came to the United States. How crazy of a move is that?! It makes our move from Brooklyn to Asheville seem like a walk in the park. Outside of that, we know almost nothing about them. What might our great-great-grandchildren know or think about us? What stories, if any, would they be told? What legacy might we leave? The intention here is to think on a multi-generational level — to zoom so far out that it’s hard to even imagine.

Ok, so you’ve got the number. But what exactly do you do for all 13 hours of the offsite?

Let’s dive in.

How to Run your first 13-Hour Offsite

Each 13-Hour Offsite can and should be different but here are the guidelines we recommend you follow.

Scheduling the Offsite

1. Put it on your calendar.

Open your calendar, and find a weekend (or two consecutive days) where you can dedicate at least 24 full hours to this process. It should be no more than 13 weekends into the future. When you find days that work, block them for your “Offsite.” Now, count 13 weekends and block that for offiste number two. Do that two more times and you have a year planned.

Put these offsites on your calendar now and do everything in your power not to schedule anything else for those specific days.

It can be a full weekend or a full day. We suggest at least 8 hours of dedicated work time to allow yourself to fully decompress and reflect (13 hours with breaks, food, and movement). When in doubt, default to scheduling more time for this process than you’d think.

2. Familiar places are not allowed.

No matter how long it lasts, it should take place outside of the office and outside of your home. Think: pattern-break.

We’ve taken a beach trip, traveled up to the Hudson River from New York for a weekend hiking, and we recently rented a quiet cabin Airbnb that was about an hour from Asheville and tucked in the mountains.

Almost anywhere will work but prioritize limited distractions.

3. Invite a partner.

This part is optional but it can be helpful in having another set of eyes and perspective.

That said, you should only invite someone who is fully on board with the distraction-free getaway and who you can trust to ask honest questions about your business or life without judgement. It’s better to go alone than invite your best friend who just wants to gossip and drink wine.

If you’re holding a quarterly offsite for a business, then invite your key shareholders and trusted advisers. We’ll discuss the rest of the notes as though it’s a personal off-site but this process can easily be replicated for your business.

During the Offsite

1. Set up a distraction-free zone.

Make sure that you are fully focused without any distractions. Turn on automatic email replies, turn off your WiFi (or better yet: go somewhere with no internet connection), and turn off all phone notifications (airplane mode).

It’s important to know your weakness here. For example, Tony feels particularly tempted by his cellphone, while Sarah feels the pressure to work when she’s around her computer. So we did bring computers on the last trip and Tony left his phone in the car.

Let people know you are going away and won’t be reachable until a certain time. If you feel weird about being completely unreachable set up an emergency-only contact method, like a phone number that only the babysitter of your kids has.

One exception to this rule that we have made is using our devices for music. While we don’t like to listen to music all the time during our offsites (sometimes the soothing sound of nature is just what we need), music can be a helpful way to relax. If you feel like turning on WiFi to access Spotify will be a temptation for you, then make it a priority to download songs beforehand.

2. Use pen and paper.

We’re all-in on the power of pen and paper for helping facilitate slowing down and thinking as you work. We each have favorite notebooks and pen types. And we use them to force us to slow down, sit with, and unpack our thoughts during these reflective days.

If you’re normally all-digital, try to run your first 13-Hour Offsite with pen and paper. Don’t trust us, test it. See how it goes for you.  

Fun fact: transcribing notes taken in pen helps you to refine and store the thoughts and plans you make in the longer-term memory of your brain.

And bring any other arts, crafts, or work materials you’d like. We brought tons of post-its and markers.

3. Reflect on 130 years.

There are many ways you can go about doing this, but the point is to think about the big picture, the multi-generational big picture. This is not a time to make a list of things to do this week or ways to grow your mailing list, but rather a time to think about the kind of person you’d like to be remembered as.

Unlike our ancestors, there will all but certainly be a digital trail of our thoughts, actions, and our contribution to our communities.  

Here are a few of our favorite questions to ask during this time in order to spark big ideas.

  • What did my parents/grandparents/great-grandparents do that has affected my life today?
  • What was their life like? What do I know about the details of their days? What do I know about the quality of the lives they led?
  • What impact do I want to have on my grandchildren? Great-grandchildren? Great-great-grandchildren?
  • What will they know about the details of my days or the quality of the life I led?

One of the realizations that we’ve drawn out of this step is that who are ancestors were matters and doesn’t. In other words, if they hadn’t made certain choices we wouldn’t be here but at the same time, we’re free to choose how we want to be no despite those who came before us. It’s a powerful meditation.

4. Reflect on 130 months.

There’s no wrong way to do this either. The idea is to consider a decade or more into the past and future. There is a amorphism that’s important to keep in mind here:

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.

In 10 years, just about anything is possible. So what will you create?  

Here are a few of our favorite questions to ask during this time in order to spark big ideas.

  • Who were you 10 years ago? What did you dream about? How did you act? What led you to where you are today?
  • Can you identify moments you’re particularly grateful for as they got you here to this moment today?
  • If you can create any reality for 10 years from now, what would it be? Who are you in that reality? How do you act? Describe your days, what do they look like? Who are you as a person?
  • What actions would keep that reality from occurring? What actions would increase the likelihood of that future?

5. Spot the themes.

After reflecting on the above, see if you spot any trends or themes. Do you find yourself thinking about a certain memory as a child? Or a certain vacation you took to France? Is there a certain characteristic or word that comes out when you think about yourself in 10 years?

Think about:

  • In 10 years, I want to be [insert adjective and focus on “Being“].
  • I feel most aligned when I am doing ______.
  • What do I want people to say about me when I’m not in the room?
  • What’s missing from my life right now? Am I waiting for the right time to stat? Is there something I wish I did more of?
  • What things or activities in my life are not congruent with the person I want to be in 10 years from now? In other words, is there something you realize you need to do more or less of?

6. Identify your North Star.

The next step is simple: what’s the one guiding force or forces? You need to be able to see it, feel it, and hear what’s happening in the scene. It’s a state of being that you want to be able to transport to mentally.  

For example, during one of our first quarterly offsite, one idea that we felt particularly drawn to was being able to wake up in the morning, sit on a porch, drink our coffee. We envisioned seeing trees, hearing birds, and sitting in a rocking chair.

Even if we don’t particularly want a rocking chair, we wanted to be in a place where that was possible. For us, this meant not living in a tiny New York City apartment, but somewhere with grass in a quiet house. It also meant not working a typical office job where we would have to wake up and be in the office by 9 am, but rather where we could have a slow morning if we wanted to.

In our last quarterly offsite (as of June 2019), one theme that came up for both of us was “service.” We both felt strongly about serving others through our work and actions.

Getting clear on our visions has made it clear what we had to do next.

7. Plan the next 13 weeks.

What are the things you need to do in order to get closer to your North Star?

Get clear on the actions you need to prioritize to move toward your desired future and commit to taking them for the next 13 weeks.

For us, it was to visit other cities where having a house and sitting on a porch facing trees might be possible. So our next steps were to plan trips and book flights to those cities. We blocked time for researching new cities, planning for new careers, and getting clarity on what else would be needed to start a new life in a new city.

Soon enough, our trajectory shifted from living in a big city with desk jobs and fast-paced mornings to living in a small city with a window looking out at trees and owning a business that allowed us to work from home.

In our most recent 13-Hour Offsite, we ended up breaking down our plan even more. We each wrote down three to four daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly commitments based on our North Star ideas.

For example, one of Sarah’s North Star goals was to be more thoughtful and intentional with her time. She hates feeling distracted by too many projects, so for the next 13 weeks, she is committing daily to writing down only a small number of tasks for the day and assigning each one a reasonable time slot. She does this every night before she goes to bed so that the next morning, she doesn’t have to spend time figuring out what to do. This one tiny action is allowing her to focus on the important things and say “no” to the things that aren’t on the list for today. As a result, she is feeling much calmer and in control of her life.

Making This Your Own

We believe in the 13/13/130/130 Framework but when you run your 13-Hour Offsite the day is yours to make your own. The primary points to take away from this process are:

  • 13 Hours: Block a full workday.
  • 13 Weeks: Run these reviews quarterly.
  • 130 Years: Zoom as far out as you possibly can (generation thinking).
  • 130 Months: Think about the future of your wildest dreams (decade thinking).
  • Plan: Put it on your calendar.
  • Pattern-break: It should not be at your home or office.
  • Partner: Bring an accountability partner if you have one.
  • Pen & Paper: Go analog on your first offsite.
  • Process: Prioritize the actions that will move you closer to your vision. Get specific by writing out daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly commitments.

When it’s all said and done, you will have a clear idea of what your North Star is and what to do to get there.

By escaping the everyday activities of life and looking at the big picture, you’re able to see what’s missing and what’s on track. But it’s only after zooming out, that can you zoom back in and plan the essential daily tasks it takes to reach your true goal.