Mary Allard of The Third Place podcast on inviting listeners to explore uncomfortable conversations in a safe space
Describe your business in a few words?
The Third Place podcast is a weekly podcast that invites listeners into the hard conversations that we have a tendency to avoid. It is a podcast that “goes there,” within a safe place where curiosity is encouraged, differences are welcomed, and empathy is embraced through healthy dialogue.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
To be honest, I never set out to start a podcast. Though in retrospect, I am surprised I wasn’t encouraged to sooner. In the Winter before the pandemic I found myself without any contracts in my natural foods consulting business, feeling quite lost and unclear on what was next. I went to see my favorite 90-year-old intuitive and she kept saying she saw me in front of a mic… She had no idea what a podcast even was, and at the time that only barely crossed my mind. Fast forward to March of 2020 and I had another contract dissolve due to the pandemic and then, my father suddenly and unexpectedly died. Two weeks later, I would find myself in front of a podcast mic for the first time. Starting a podcast didn’t feel like a choice, it felt like a non-negotiable part of my own healing journey.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Prior to the podcast (and what would also become a Podcast Publishing House), I spent my career in Natural Food and Beverage. I held C-level positions throughout half a dozen small, independent, and emerging brands. All I know is the start-up world and it has afforded me the experience to learn every facet of starting and running a business, but most importantly, the ability to hold authentic leadership roles to up to 130 employees at any given time.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always knew I wanted to be a leader… Calling myself an entrepreneur, on the other hand, is new for me! In retrospect, it is the way I have operated, even when driving other visions forward. We recently interviewed the Co-Founder of Square, Inc., Jim McKelvey and talked about what it actually means to be an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur usually means you’re embarking on something that has never been done in that unique way before, and there is no guarantee of success. He said that “the difference between the entrepreneur and the novice is that the entrepreneur expects the journey to be uncomfortable,” and I have only ever expected things to be uncomfortable. That is the moment when I started to call myself an entrepreneur.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
We started from scratch. NOT KIDDING! It was a total industry leap, and that humbles and inspires me to this day. We were all about two things – word of mouth and consistency. Those were the two things we knew how to do well, and so we leaned in. I translated my skills in running natural foods start-ups to starting a podcast, turned it into what I call a “podcast recipe,” and followed it religiously from day one. Long story short, we credit this for getting us to the top 3% of podcasts globally in only 9 months.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
So The Third Place podcast is all about awkward and uncomfortable conversations in a safe place… It was like telling the universe that we welcome as many as it could throw at us, and so it did! Over the Winter we found ourselves having many of these conversations offline with our personal network and having to really practice what we preach. Including, saying yes to as many guests as possible up front and not putting the time in to really ensure they were aligned with the depth and vulnerability we promised our guests. This resulted in us having to have conversations with guests around not being able to publish certain episodes… talk about uncomfortable!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
We are really proud to be up for the People’s Choice Awards with Podcast Awards as a contender in the Society and Culture section! Please go vote at podcastawards.com under “society and culture.”
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I have been fortunate to hire hundreds of employees in my career and it’s one of my favorite things to do as someone with a degree in Contemplative Psychology. People are fascinating and they will forever and always surprise you! I believe hiring for empathy and humor are two of the most important things to seek out and empower. I wrote a whole blog on how to create job postings, review resumes, and conduct interviews to hire for this trait. When it comes to humor, I always end an interview asking someone to show me their favorite or most used GIF, because I would consider most of the companies I have helped to lead to be “GIF culture,” where you can find humor even in the hardest, most stretched times.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The podcast and publishing house are pandemic babies. Businesses born during the pandemic. It is all we have ever known working remotely and has surprisingly positively impacted us as our started wider than our backyard from the get go.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Podcasting is all about the long game, and we are in it for the long haul. You can expect to see us weekly, discussing all the things that we all try to avoid, and bringing on more and more of our dream guests to emulate and inspire this within all of us. Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, Amanda Gorman, Nakeia Homer, Sonya Renee Taylor, Michael Ian Black to name a few… We’re talking to you!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
You have to close doors to open new ones.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
That everyone hates listening to their own voice, and the more you own it and smile while speaking, the more you and others will love the spirit of the message.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
My “WOML” aka the “Women of my LIFE.” I was born into a family of four older siblings, two of which are sisters. My two sisters and my mom call our little tribe “WOML” and they keep me anchored in self compassion, sometimes a dozen times a day. They also are the podcast’s biggest fans.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes and no. To me, my work is my life and my life is my work. What’s been most important for me, however, being that I take on a more “third place” approach to this, is applying making time with my 4-year-old son scheduled and sacred. Because my more “grey” approach to this doesn’t translate to a toddler, and I want him to know he is always my top priority.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I went to a school that had an incredible and immersive deaf and hard of hearing program, so all of our teachers used sign language as they spoke, from Kindergarten onward. It is my second language.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Know your energy rhythm and schedule around it. Drink more whole leaf tea. Put your bare feet on the ground at least once a day.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
To me it is all about my earlier definition of being an entrepreneur above, PLUS elements of self compassion and a tribe of women around you.