Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ashley Bray, and I am the host of the Get Out Alive Podcast and owner of Get Out Alive LLC. At this moment, our business primarily produces podcasts every other week on our main feed about animal attacks and merchandise from our podcast, and our customers are typically those who love wildlife, true crime, or just want to learn more about the wild animals they live around.
We make all of our money from Patreon and website sales, and in a little over a year we made nearly $400/month on Patreon.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved animals. I had big dreams of being a conservation biologist (which back when I was 5, no one knew what I meant by that so I’d just tell everyone I wanted to be the next Steve Irwin), and was privileged enough to get into college at the University of Vermont to study Wildlife Biology.
After college, I took a job with the United States Federal Government working on human-wildlife conflict; When people had an issue with a wild animal, they’d call us and I’d try to talk them through how to coexist with the wild animal, and sometimes we’d be lucky enough to go investigate conflicts in person or help rescue animals like orphaned bear cubs.
I also did some work trying to stop the spread of rabies by dropping rabies vaccines from planes for animals like raccoons and skunks to consume. But because I represented the government, I couldn’t always be honest about how I would handle the conversations with people calling with their problems.
It was this frustration with not being able, to be honest about wildlife conflicts that blossomed into the idea of starting a podcast.
My high school best friend, Nick, and I talked each day about the phone calls I’d take and the realities of wildlife conflicts, and we had always joked about starting a podcast. We had lots of podcast ideas, and around that time in 2021 I had been consuming a lot of True Crime podcasts; I liked the True Crime genre, but often felt miserable coming away from episodes because there was no advice on how to avoid being robbed or murdered, they were just tragic stories.
All of these factors combined led Nick and me to decide we should create a podcast about animal attacks, where we could be honest about how dangerous some animals are and give people advice on how they can coexist peacefully with wild animals.
Once we decided on wildlife attack podcasts, I started searching to see if there were a lot of others that existed and how they were structured. At the time, there was only one major animal attack podcast we found but when I listened, I was disheartened to hear victims being shamed and no advice given on how to avoid attacks.
Finding that podcast was my ‘aha’ moment because even though there were other podcasts with the same topic, we could make it our own and do it in a way no one else was.
So we began creating our podcast. Although I had plenty of wildlife experience at this point, neither Nick nor I had any idea how to produce a podcast or even what equipment was needed for it. I had a full-time job that barely paid me enough to pay my bills and buy groceries, and when we started Nick had just gotten out of the military and had no job. We both had plenty of time (but little money) to get started.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
So, we knew we wanted to create a podcast about animal attacks – but how would we record it, get it out to podcast platforms, and advertise it? At this point, I had a few thousand followers on Twitter, and luckily a few of those followers or people I followed had their own podcasts.
So I reached out to Ellen Weatherford, producer of the Just The Zoo of Us podcast, and asked what equipment she used and what hosting platforms. We owe most of our initial success to Ellen’s advice and recommendations.
We purchased two Samson 2QU USB microphones that had a boom arm, shock mount, and pop filter for $99.99 on Amazon. We already had laptops, so the microphones were our biggest initial investment.
We signed up for Buzzsprout to host our podcast, decided to use Domain.com to get our domain (and we made sure “getoutalivepodcast.com” was available, of course), and settled on using Wix for our first website because it was quick and easy to set up.
We had settled on the name Get Out Alive (Nick’s idea) and went about getting a logo made. From some quick initial research, I figured the type of animal we’d talk about the most was bears, so I knew bears would have to be on the logo. I found a logo artist on Etsy that only charged us $10, and after a bit of back and forth, we got our initial logo which we still use to this day.
Here was one of our initial logo ideas, without a running hiker in it:
Once we had all of our equipment, we initially wanted each episode to be a back-and-forth between Nick and me where we each brought a story to every episode.
However, we quickly realized Nick was lacking in the storytelling (and notetaking) department, so we decided I would be the one telling the story each week, and Nick would react and ask questions.
Although I had plenty of fellow wildlife biologist friends, I chose Nick as my co-host because of his lack of wildlife knowledge; He had spent a lot of time outside and hunts but didn’t have the technical experience I did, and I wanted this podcast to be a resource for those who also didn’t know a lot about wildlife.
Nick is also someone who doesn’t pull punches and isn’t afraid to have hard conversations, which was perfect for our podcast’s premise.
We recorded our first episode so many times before we got it “right”. Learning to speak to an invisible third person (the audience) was tricky – I had a job where I gave public talks to the public with and about wild animals, so I was used to public speaking, but this was different.
We probably recorded the entire first episode three or four times before I was happy with it. We also interviewed a tiger biologist for our first episode to really show everyone the purpose of our podcast, and to help us advertise. We then used Audacity to edit our podcast, because it was what Ellen had suggested, it’s entirely free and relatively easy for newbies to understand.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We did two months of recording before we released our first episode. We wanted to make sure we got a few interviews under our belt, so we interviewed a biologist and an animal attack survivor already before the podcast was even released.
We initially released a trailer so we could advertise before the first episode and get people to subscribe. When the trailer was launched, I posted about it on my personal Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook then made Get Out Alive it’s own Instagram and Facebook page.
We also created our first website using Wix; I used to make websites for fun to just blog about various things but had never made one for a business I owned.
I would come to find out that the initial layout we used on Wix would not be useful once our podcast would grow, but that comes later. At first, it was perfectly fine for what we needed. I also made sure we had our domain before the first episode was posted. The release of our first episode on July 14th, 2021, was really our launch.
We also made a Patreon for our podcast which we announced in episode one, but we didn’t mention it in our initial advertising. From other podcasts I had listened to, I knew Patreon was a great way for podcasters to make money while maintaining control of their podcast and brand.
We made three tiers with different benefits, and at first, our highest tier offered gifts every 3 months and a shout-out on our podcast. Each tier allowed patrons to ask our expert guests questions, and people could join our Patreon for as little as $1/month. Besides Patreon, we were funding the podcast entirely on our own.
We are at a 330% year-on-year podcast growth from 2021-2022.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Because of my following on Twitter, a ton of our initial listeners were from there. All I did was tweet about our first episode and engage with those who responded. We don’t use any programs to put a post out on multiple social media platforms, I make each post on our social media accounts myself and cater it to whatever platform it’s going on. My success on Twitter came from organic interactions with other users, and that has been invaluable.
I expected a lot of our initial listeners to be family and friends, but was surprised to find that a lot of our initial listeners were people from Twitter; I’m cornered into a part of Twitter we refer to as “Science Twitter” which is made up of researchers, college students, biologists, and general people who enjoy science.
Finding this community was really pivotal to our success because I already knew what everyone there enjoyed and Twitter makes it easy to throw out polls to see what people like and don’t like.
Having a few viral videos on TikTok has certainly helped our growth, but engaging with other Twitter users has been the most pivotal to our success.
Our first few patrons on Patreon came from Twitter as well. The people that came to our Patreon at first joined our highest tier, to our surprise. At that initial point, we weren’t even offering bonus episodes on our Patreon; It seemed that people were just happy to support us as we started if they really liked our content.
We continued to mention Patreon on every episode of our podcast, had a big button on our website that led to it directly, and always included a link to our Patreon in our show notes for each episode.
We also created some merchandise for our podcast soon after launch, once we realized the episodes and quotes really stuck with people. I was lucky enough to have some friends who were artistically talented and commissioned some designs from them.
One of the most quoted things from our podcast was actually from episode one, where Nick asked “do geese have teeth?” So we added a shop to our Wix website, got some sticker samples from Sticker Mule, and made some clothing with the designs using Printful; Printful was a no-brainer for us because they make clothing on-demand, so Nick and I don’t have to keep inventory in our own homes. Here is one of our early designs:
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, we have 44 patrons with a large majority of those subscribing to our highest tier. Our gross margin is 80% because of our income from Patreon. Our cost of goods is around $250 a month, with a majority of that being subscriptions to different services such as our podcast hosting platform, Buzzsprout, or our website host.
When we were on Wix, we got ~70 website views a month. We updated to Squarespace last week, and in the past week alone we’ve had just under 70 visits and a bounce rate of 48.48% (188 pageviews; I attribute this somewhat to posting on our social media platforms about our new website).
Out of all of those website views in the last week, we’ve had one sale so far with a conversion rate of 1.49%. For YoY podcast growth from 2021-2022, we are at 330%. We are definitely making a profit and did not expect to be doing so well a year into creating our podcast.
We have not spent any money on ads, but I have spent a fair bit of time appearing on other podcasts as a guest and advertised our podcasts on those podcasts. We have had multiple people reach out after those episodes and tell us they came from my guest appearances on other podcasts, so it is certainly a useful method.
Today, I have gotten a new JLAB Talk USB microphone but Nick still has his original equipment because it works well still.
As I alluded to earlier: Our needs outgrew what Wix could do, so we just created and released a new website through Squarespace.
Our new website is much more well-suited for us, and this time I researched other podcast websites that I liked and took the parts of their website I liked to use with ours.
We were able to add a book club page (as a way for our listeners to engage in related material more), a page for people to submit their attack stories, and an updated about page to include the brand-new audio editor we just hired for 2023.
Squarespace also has a much better interface (for us, anyways) than Wix when customers make purchases, and Squarespace pairs nicely with Printful as well.
Our short-term goal is to get back to a weekly schedule. A few months after our initial release, we had to go to a bi-weekly schedule because my work schedule got too hectic to research and edit every week. We also release at least one bonus episode a month on our exclusive Patreon RSS feed, so I’d like to do two a month if we can’t get back to a weekly schedule on our main feed.
We hired an audio editor, which will allow us to spend more time on the research behind our stories and spending time finding guests.
In 2022, we made Get Out Alive its own business: Get Out Alive LLC.
We did this for a few reasons, with the biggest being that in the future, a very long-term goal I have is to make Get Out Alive a wildlife conflict consulting business. I am currently getting a Masters’s Degree from the University of Florida in Wildlife Forensic Sciences and Conservation (which was suggested to me by one of our guests!), and want to apply those skills to real-life situations.
If we did use Get Out Alive to respond to real-time wildlife conflicts, we could use that for podcast content as well. We’d also like to travel more, like to locations of attacks, and record on the go. This year we also plan to start constructing our own podcast studio that’s more soundproof and will allow us to visually record our podcast.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There have been two big learning curves for us: The first has been learning how to interview different types of people. For interviews, we talk to both research professionals and victims of animal attacks.
We’ve found that some researchers don’t want to talk about their study species possibly killing people (even though we are clear up front with our podcast purpose), and Nick and I have no training on how to talk to someone who’s experienced an intense trauma like being attacked by a grizzly bear.
Luckily, we haven’t had any terrible interviews, and one of our best from 2022 was actually when a publishing company reached out to us (after finding us through Google) and asked us to interview a 3x grizzly bear attack survivor.
The second big learning curve has been maintaining growth. Despite Nick currently being enrolled in a business administration college program, neither of us has owned a business before.
We’re still learning what podcast advertising avenues would be most advantageous for us. Once again, word of mouth and organic social media posting has been the most helpful for us so far, but in 2023 we are going to look into other advertising options. We also don’t have any partnerships or ads in our episodes and will be exploring that in 2023 as well.
For a short time, we recorded episodes in a studio that charged $75/hour and had soundproof panels and more expensive microphones than we had, but we found that the sound quality was actually worse than if we were to just record separately in our homes. So far that’s been the only investment mistake we’ve made.
And then, of course, there’s the most difficult part of podcasting: negative reviews. These were hard for me personally to come to terms with. We found that as our podcast got more popular, although an overwhelming amount of our feedback is positive, it’s easy to get bogged down on the few negative comments.
It’s been hard for me to also realize that things can very easily be taken out of context, especially if your podcast is just a long conversation with you and a best friend. You always have to be mindful of the “third person” (the audience) in the conversation, who may not always have the context or history that you and your co-host have.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For general podcast production, we initially used Audacity to record when we were in person together, but now we just use Audacity to edit.
Now Nick and I record remotely, so to do that and to record with guests, we use Squadcast which records everyone’s audio as separate files, which makes editing very easy – you can also schedule interviews with Squadcast, and it’ll send your guests tips on how to make their sound quality the best.
And then, we use Buzzsprout to host and distribute our podcasts to streaming services such as Spotify, iHeart Radio, and so on. We love Buzzsprout because they provide great analytic visuals, and weekly download updates and they have their own podcast, Buzzcast, which is a podcast dedicated to helping other podcasters.
There are so many tools we utilize to keep Get Out Alive successful: Two we have very recently started using and loves are Stamps.com and ShipStation. Every 3 months we send gifts to our highest-tiered patrons, and because there are so many of them now, it was too much for me to keep organized on my own. ShipStation in conjunction with Stamps.com allows me to easily track shipments to our Patrons and saves so much time at the post office.
And as I’ve mentioned above, Printful.com has been great for us when creating and selling our merchandise.
And of course, we use Patreon to earn a large majority of our earnings. Patreon is constantly trying to improve for both creators and patrons and actively engages with us to ask what features would be useful for us.
I also recently joined a Patreon “A Club”, which is a group of podcasters that use Patreon. We meet bi-weekly to discuss different aspects of podcasting, interviewing, and how each of us has found success (it’s how I found Starter Story actually! Also, there are plenty of other A Clubs not pertaining to podcasts).
As for social media, we currently use Tiktok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Although there’s software out there that can help push one post to multiple social media platforms, I prefer to make each post individually to each social media site.
Having a few viral videos on TikTok has certainly helped our growth, but engaging with other Twitter users has been the most pivotal to our success.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The most influential podcasts for us have been Ologies by Alie Ward because Alie’s enthusiasm and optimism inspired us, and of course Just the Zoo of Us because of their advice when we were getting started.
In terms of content, one of my favorite podcasts is True Crime Obsessed, which has an extremely successful Patreon, and they’re able to talk about serious topics such as true crime but make respectful jokes along the way, which gave us the courage to do the same.
We didn’t read any books about podcasting, but there were quite a few source material books that were helpful initially and gave us great information to share with our listeners. The first was Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, 3rd Edition by Stephen Herrero. because who doesn’t love a story about a bear?
Another great one was Coyote America by Dan Flores, which provided a great new context to an iconic species we wanted to cover.
And finally, Fuzz by Mary Roach gave us so many great and quirky animals and conflicts to talk about. I highly recommend their books to anyone who loves wildlife.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I’ve learned a lot in the past year of making our podcast, with the biggest thing being: If you’re going to start a podcast, make sure the topic is something you really care about.
According to Amplifi, 44% of podcasts have three episodes or less – if you want your podcast to be successful, you have to commit to being consistent. And if you stay consistent, you will have listeners who reach out to you about your topic frequently, so make sure it’s something you’re excited to talk about every day.
Also, do your research ahead of time – is your podcast idea already taken? Even if it is, you can still make it your own. If there’s a community out there that you want your podcast to be for, ask people what they want!
Make the podcast for yourself first, but also make sure that your listeners are happy and engaged. The biggest mistake I see is people making incredibly niche podcasts that may have a few loyal listeners but cannot breach the general public.
And finally: You can’t be for everyone, and neither can your podcast. Having people leave negative reviews on your podcast can feel very personal, but just remember that you are the one being vulnerable and putting yourself out there by creating a podcast. It’s not easy and many people just listening don’t realize everything that goes into making it.
Constructive criticism is always helpful, but make sure you’re putting energy into people who actually want you to succeed. And at the end of the day, as long as you stand by your content and the way you produce it, you will have people coming back to listen to each episode.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Founder of Get Out Alive Podcast
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