How I Built This

How I Built This

www.npr.org/series/490248027/how-i-built-this
How I Built This is a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of th
Aden + Anais: Raegan Moya-Jones
Jul 17 • 43 min
Cotton muslin baby blankets are commonplace in Australia, where Raegan Moya-Jones grew up. But when she started a new life and family in NYC, she couldn’t find them anywhere. She was sure Americans would love muslin blankets as much as Australians. So in…
Rolling Stone: Jann Wenner
Jul 10 • 48 min
After being involved in Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, Jann Wenner wanted to start a publication to capture the exploding counterculture scene of the 1960s. The result was Rolling Stone, a gritty music magazine that – for 50 years — has left an…
Spanx: Sara Blakely
Jul 3 • 31 min
We’re hard at work planning our upcoming live shows, so we bring you this favorite from the last year: Spanx. At 27, Sara Blakely was selling fax machines and desperate to reinvent her life. So she came up with Spanx — hosiery that eliminates panty lines…
TRX: Randy Hetrick
Jun 26 • 44 min
In 1997, Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick was deployed in Southeast Asia, where he was stationed in a remote warehouse for weeks with no way to exercise. So he grabbed an old jujitsu belt, threw it over a door, and started doing pull-ups. Today, TRX exercise…
WeWork: Miguel McKelvey
Jun 19 • 48 min
In 2007, architect Miguel McKelvey convinced his friend Adam Neumann to share an office space in Brooklyn. That was the beginning of WeWork: a shared workspace for startups and freelancers looking for an inspiring environment to do their work. Today,…
Carol’s Daughter: Lisa Price
Jun 12 • 43 min
Lisa Price worked in television but had a passion for beauty products. At her mother’s suggestion, she began selling her homemade moisturizer at a church flea market. Twenty years later, Carol’s Daughter is one of the leading beauty brands catering to…
Five Guys: Jerry Murrell
Jun 5 • 36 min
Jerry Murrell’s mother used to tell him, you can always make money if you know how to make a good burger. In 1986 — after failing at a number of business ideas — Murrell opened a tiny burger joint in Northern Virginia with his four sons. Five Guys now has…
TOMS: Blake Mycoskie
May 29 • 54 min
Blake Mycoskie started and sold four businesses before age 30. But only in Argentina did he discover the idea he’d want to pursue long term. After seeing a shoe drive for children, he came up with TOMS — part shoe business, part philanthropy. PLUS in our…
Compaq Computers: Rod Canion
May 22 • 40 min
In 1981, engineer Rod Canion left Texas Instruments and co-founded Compaq, which created the first IBM-compatible personal computer. This opened the door to an entire industry of PCs that could run the same software. PLUS in our postscript “How You Built…
Whole Foods Market: John Mackey
May 15 • 47 min
In 1978, college drop-out John Mackey scraped together $45,000 to open his first health food store, “Safer Way.” A few years later he co-founded Whole Foods Market — and launched an organic food revolution that helped change the way Americans shop. PLUS…
Lonely Planet: Maureen & Tony Wheeler
May 8 • 41 min
In 1972, Maureen and Tony Wheeler bought a beat-up car and drove from London “as far east as we could go.” They wound up in Australia, by way of Afghanistan, India and Thailand. Their notes on how to travel on a shoestring became a book, which grew into…
Lady Gaga & Atom Factory: Troy Carter
May 1 • 45 min
As a kid, Troy Carter dreamed of being a rapper, but soon discovered he was a better manager than a musician. He took Lady Gaga from obscurity to stardom – helping shape both her music and her brand. Then he turned his gift for spotting talent to spotting…
Real Estate Mogul: Barbara Corcoran
Apr 24 • 52 min
Barbara Corcoran grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family in Jersey – with nine brothers and sisters. But she used her charisma to conquer the streets of Manhattan and build the real estate company, The Corcoran Group. She then reinvented herself…
1-800-GOT-JUNK?: Brian Scudamore
Apr 17 • 41 min
Brian Scudamore didn’t dream of a life hauling away other people’s trash. But when he needed to pay for college, he bought a $700 pickup truck, painted his phone number on the side, and started hauling. Now 1-800-GOT-JUNK? makes over $200 million in…
Instacart: Apoorva Mehta
Apr 10 • 40 min
App developer Apoorva Mehta almost gave up on being an entrepreneur until he figured out what he really wanted to do: find a hassle-free way to buy groceries. Five years after launch, the grocery delivery app Instacart is valued at $3 billion.
AOL: Steve Case
Apr 3 • 34 min
When Steve Case started out in the tech business in the mid-80s, the idea of the internet — as we think of it today — didn’t exist. But with AOL, Case saw an opportunity to connect millions of people, through chat rooms, news updates, and the iconic…
Power Rangers: Haim Saban
Mar 27 • 43 min
As a refugee growing up in Tel Aviv, Haim Saban remembers not having enough money to eat. As an adult, he hustled his way into the entertainment business, writing theme songs for classic cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff. But producing the…
Kendra Scott: Kendra Scott
Mar 20 • 44 min
Ever since she was a little girl playing dress-up in her aunt’s closet, Kendra Scott loved fashion. Her first business was a hat shop, which she started at 19 – it failed. A few years later, she started a jewelry business out of her spare bedroom. Today…
5-Hour Energy: Manoj Bhargava
Mar 13 • 35 min
After living as a monk in India and running a plastics company in Florida, Manoj Bhargava decided to launch something new: a one-shot energy drink in a bright, battery-shaped bottle. Today, 5-Hour ENERGY is one of the most recognizable energy drinks in…
Chesapeake Bay Candle: Mei Xu
Mar 6 • 42 min
Twenty-five years ago, when Mei Xu emigrated from China to the U.S., she loved going to Bloomingdale’s to gaze at their housewares. She eventually started making candles in her basement with Campbell’s Soup cans, an experiment that led to the…
Atari & Chuck E. Cheese’s: Nolan Bushnell
Feb 27 • 50 min
Before he turned 40, Nolan Bushnell founded two brands that permanently shaped the way Americans amuse themselves: the iconic video game system Atari, and the frenetic family restaurant Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Crate & Barrel: Gordon Segal
Feb 20 • 31 min
In 1962, Gordon Segal — with his wife Carole — opened a scrappy Chicago shop called Crate & Barrel. That store turned into a housewares empire that has shaped the way Americans furnish their homes.
Live Episode! Beyond Meat: Ethan Brown
Feb 16 • 26 min
As founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown believes he can turn peas and lentils into protein that tastes — and feels – exactly like beef and chicken. He says they’re not quite there yet, but after 8 years in business, their products are sold in…
Lyft: John Zimmer
Feb 13 • 41 min
Ridesharing wasn’t a thing 12 years ago when John Zimmer was in college. But a class on green cities got him thinking about the glut of underused cars on the road, and eventually led him to co-found Lyft, a company that has helped make ridesharing a way…
Kate Spade: Kate & Andy Spade
Feb 6 • 41 min
A 1991 conversation at a Mexican restaurant led Kate & Andy Spade to ask, “What’s missing in designer handbags?” Kate’s answer was a simple modern-shaped handbag that launched the iconic fashion brand: Kate Spade.
Virgin: Richard Branson
Jan 30 • 34 min
Richard Branson took a record shop and built it into a label, a bank, an airline, space tourism, and 200 other businesses — all under the name Virgin. But the serial entrepreneur has also had his share of failures.
Zappos: Tony Hsieh
Jan 23 • 30 min
Computer scientist Tony Hsieh made millions off the dot-com boom. But he didn’t make his mark until he built Zappos — a customer service company that “happens to sell shoes.” Now Zappos is worth over a billion dollars and known for its completely…
Honest Tea: Seth Goldman
Jan 16 • 31 min
In 1997, after going for a long run, Seth Goldman was frustrated with the sugar-filled drinks at the corner market. So he brewed up a beverage in his kitchen, and turned it into Honest Tea.
Drybar: Alli Webb
Jan 9 • 34 min
A decade ago, full-time mom Alli Webb noticed a gap in the beauty market: there was nowhere that just focused on blow-drying hair. Now with 70 locations, Drybar is testament to Webb’s motto: Focus on one thing and be the best at it.
Zumba: Beto Perez & Alberto Perlman
Jan 2 • 39 min
Zumba began as a mistake: aerobics teacher Beto Perez brought the wrong music to class, then improvised a dance routine to go with it. For his students, it was more fun than work — and it eventually grew into one of the biggest fitness brands in the world.
Warby Parker: Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal
Dec 26, 2016 • 32 min
In 2008, it was nearly impossible to buy a fashionable, affordable pair of glasses online. That simple frustration inspired the idea behind Warby Parker – and disrupted the eyewear industry.
Melissa & Doug: Melissa And Doug Bernstein
Dec 19, 2016 • 37 min
Melissa and Doug Bernstein’s first success was a wooden ‘fuzzy puzzle’ of farm animals. Today, Melissa & Doug makes over 2,000 kinds of toys and serves as an antidote to the rise of digital toys.
Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard
Dec 12, 2016 • 27 min
In 1973, Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia to make climbing gear he couldn’t find elsewhere. Over decades of growth, he has implemented a unique philosophy about business, leadership and profit.
Serial Entrepreneur: Mark Cuban
Dec 5, 2016 • 35 min
Mark Cuban made millions off of tech startups, then billions off of stocks — and later went on to buy and revive the Dallas Mavericks. He has come to define the persona of the serial entrepreneur.
Angie’s List: Angie Hicks
Nov 28, 2016 • 30 min
In 1996, Angie Hicks spent hours reading contractor reviews to members over the phone. Today, the online review and referral service, Angie’s List, is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Southwest Airlines: Herb Kelleher
Nov 21, 2016 • 35 min
In 1968, competitors sued to keep Herb Kelleher’s new airline grounded. After a 3-year court fight, the first plane took off from Dallas. Today Southwest Airlines operates nearly 4,000 flights a day.
Celebrity Chef: José Andrés
Nov 14, 2016 • 28 min
As a kid, José Andrés tended fires for his father’s backyard paella cookouts. Later, he trained with the best Spanish chefs, and began building a restaurant empire that would transform the way many Americans dine out.
Music Mogul: L.A. Reid
Nov 7, 2016 • 33 min
L.A. Reid began his music career as a drummer. Then he co-founded LaFace Records, discovering dozens of future pop superstars. Reid is now one of the most influential executives in the music industry.
Samuel Adams: Jim Koch
Oct 31, 2016 • 34 min
In 1984, Jim Koch felt suffocated by his cushy but boring corporate job. So he left, dusted off an old family beer recipe, started Sam Adams, and helped kickstart the craft beer movement in America.
Dermalogica: Jane Wurwand
Oct 24, 2016 • 40 min
Jane Wurwand moved to Los Angeles with a suitcase and a beauty school diploma. She started what would become Dermalogica, an international beauty empire that set the standard for skin care.
Airbnb: Joe Gebbia
Oct 17, 2016 • 42 min
A chance encounter with a stranger gave Joe Gebbia an idea to help pay his rent. That idea turned into Airbnb — a company that now has more rooms than the biggest hotel chain in the world.
VICE: Suroosh Alvi
Oct 10, 2016 • 37 min
Suroosh Alvi was a recovering addict when he started a scrappy underground magazine in Montreal. It grew into VICE Media — a multi-billion dollar company that has shaken up the world of journalism.
Clif Bar: Gary Erickson
Oct 3, 2016 • 28 min
Gary Erickson asked his mom, “Can you make a cookie without butter, sugar or oil?” The result was Clif Bar, an energy bar named after his dad — now one of the most popular energy bars in the U.S.
Radio One: Cathy Hughes
Sep 26, 2016 • 33 min
As a kid, Cathy Hughes practiced her DJ routine while her siblings banged on the bathroom door. As an adult, she founded Radio One, the country’s largest African-American owned broadcasting company.
Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger
Sep 19, 2016 • 29 min
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched their photo-sharing app with a server that crashed every other hour. Despite a chaotic start, Instagram became one of the most popular apps in the world.
Spanx: Sara Blakely
Sep 12, 2016 • 30 min
At 27, Sara Blakely was selling fax machines and desperate to reinvent her life. So she came up with Spanx — hosiery that eliminates panty lines — and set to work building her business.
Coming Soon: How I Built This
Sep 2, 2016 • 2 min
On September 12, NPR launches a new podcast, How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz. The show features innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.