Starting your own business can be daunting. There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainties that can arise. You may not know exactly what you’re doing, and the idea of putting yourself out there and failing can be scary. It can also be costly and timely which may not be feasible for some people. Starting a business is an endeavor that requires a great deal of work, determination, and passion.
I had the opportunity to talk with Clarissa Smith, a UBWA alum who graduated from Ohio State in 2017. Clarissa is a substitute teacher by day and a podcaster and comedy writer by night. Clarissa started off in corporate America, as she graduated with a business degree and needed the money, but knew she wanted to pursue a more creative career. It was difficult for Clarissa to have her own business on the side while working for a company that didn’t value a work-life balance. Though, since she decided to become a substitute teacher, Clarissa has been able to have a more flexible schedule and free evenings to work on her podcast and comedy writing.
Clarissa’s podcast, “The Final Stretch,” is about her final time in Columbus before moving to Los Angeles. Clarissa moved to L.A. for the first time in 2014 for an internship, but while she was there, she suffered from liver failure and had to get a transplant. It was during this time that Clarissa started her podcast for her family and friends because she wanted them to have something to remember her by in case something were to happen. After her internship, she moved back to Ohio to finish school and graduate. The podcast became a way for Clarissa to track her growth and journey back to L.A. after graduating. Eventually, Clarissa started to receive requests from listeners to talk about certain topics, so she began to interview comedians, actresses, relationship experts, composers, and others who she thought could help give advice and speak about their experiences.
After receiving positive feedback on her podcast, Clarissa started an LLC that focuses on her podcast but is also related to all things comedy. One of her long-term goals with the LLC is to produce comedy shows as well.
Being a woman in the comedy space, similarly to business, isn’t easy. Clarissa told me that being a part of UBWA showed her the important opportunities women have and how to ask gender-specific questions, like about maternity leave or how they support women, when finding a job. Although Clarissa left corporate America, this skill set has helped her in comedy because it’s an industry dominated by men, much like the business world.
As a business owner, you are likely to encounter many challenges and need to make changes or pivot even years after you start. One of these struggles for Clarissa has been marketing and advertising her podcast. As of right now, Clarissa says her marketing tactics fluctuate, but she knows she needs a more scheduled and planned approach to connect to her audience. Clarissa's next goals with her podcast are to collaborate with other podcasts and hire someone to help with marketing by the end of the year.
Clarissa’s advice for those who want to start their own business, podcast, or any project is to not be afraid, even if people question what you are doing. Don’t worry about how you will pay for it, or how you will keep up with the work. Just trust that it will get paid for and that you will be able to put in the work. She also says people will gravitate toward you if they see you working hard at something. For instance, Clarissa was able to meet people along the way who wanted to create designs for her, or help her with editing.
Starting your own business is risky and may be scary at times. There may never be a “right” time to do it, but it is one of those things you just have to start and navigate along the way. Failure is a part of the process and a chance to learn and get better. Like Clarissa said, don’t be afraid; put in the work and stay consistent.