How I Created A Profitable Podcast For Car Enthusiasts
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Over 150 high-end vehicles glistened in the sunlight, Porsches, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Mercedes, all polished and lined up in neat rows.
While this may sound like a picture captured by a drone flying over a Concours d’elegance event, it actually describes the scene of me enjoying my very favorite toys within my childhood bedroom. Dozens of Hot Wheels® and Matchbox® cars drove my imagination and fascinated me for hours of playtime from ages four to 12.
Great to meet you! I am Darren Reighard, and I’m the Founder and CEO of the Cars of Carlisle Network Podcast. It is a culmination of a lifelong obsession with beautiful, fast cars that led to my business. Indubitably, I am blessed to have manifested my passion for all things automotive into an increasingly successful entrepreneurial pursuit.
From my inception and LLC incorporation in March of 2018, I’m proud to have organically grown my team (aka “pit crew”) to include intracast hosts, voice talent, editors, subject matter experts, and historians. I’ve coined the term “intracast” as a featured tier within the Cars of Carlisle Podcast Network to balance regularly featured guests of the community with deep-dive, detailed automotive subjects such as the history of car manufacturers, race series, legendary contributors to the hobby, etc.
I create, produce, and publish a weekly podcast that is downloaded worldwide on myriad platforms. Our audience is everyone and anyone from supercar manufacturers and collectors to the average commuter who enjoys our catalog of over 130 episodes to date.
By design, the target duration of each weekly show is between 30 and 60 minutes. We aim to allow people to listen to Cars of Carlisle whenever they choose to take a mental break from working, or while working out, or during their commutes, or when changing their oil, or perhaps when they are simply relaxing. We are currently over 12K downloads from over 45 countries.
My colleagues do an amazing job with their contributions to our overall automotive journey. On that note, I’d like to take a moment to put a special “thank you” out to all of the Cars of Carlisle team members, emphasizing how much I value everything they give to the business. In two years, I went from a dozen downloads and investing five figures of my own savings to now an annual revenue that is increasing, while downloads are exceeding 12,000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In the winter of 2018, I ran into a friend as we were clearing snow from our cars. As we began to catch up in the parking lot that bitterly cold morning, he explained that he had been successful with a podcast about his Amazon and eBay seller business. As we both live in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the epicenter of automotive car shows and car parts swap meets, he knew that I was a car aficionado. Sagely, my friend identified a need -- that our hometown was without an automotive podcast. However, he admitted he did not have the time, interest, or knowledge. This is where the cartoon light bulb came on for me!
It is critically important for me to build strong relationships and loyalties with our listenership.
With my mass communications degree and love of production and writing, the natural path was for me to “take the wheel” and create a virtual product to fill this niche and market gap. At that time, I was busy and satisfied working 45+ workweeks in the same corporate management position that I still happily hold today; however, this new passion creatively fueled me.
So, that same afternoon, I conducted market research, conjured the name of the podcast, set up the entity WaltCannon LLC, purchased domain names for Cars of Carlisle, and started the process of creating a company logo and website.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
After exhaustive research, I purchased editing/production software, mics, and recording equipment. Concurrently, I aligned with Carlisle Events (host of world-famous car shows, car parts swap meets, and automotive auctions) as a marketing affiliate, and started reaching out to potential guests and promoters. In terms of copyrights and legality, I purchased the rights for the music used as the intro and outro to the show.
Furthermore, I procured the voice talent of one of my favorite local DJs, and am ever diligent in securing release/waiver forms from anyone featured “on-air” during an episode.
Each week, after preparing show notes and a production outline, as well as coordinating with all parties, I meet with my show guest(s) and record the interview. Within the process, the next step is to tackle digital editing and post-production, where the transitions and sound bites are blended seamlessly with the standard weekly introductions, that particular week’s trivia question/answer, and sponsor promotions.
Once the episode is compiled, honed, and deemed as ‘completed,’ it is rendered, and then uploaded each Tuesday evening to iTunes and Podbean; it is also made available to all digital forums with a descriptive show notes write-up, authored by yours truly each week.
So, in addition to my full-time management position in Corporate America, I invest, on average, an additional 30 to 43 hours weekly into my business. Thus, the key tenets of hard work, tenacity, and unwavering devotion to my fans, clients, and sponsors are all foundational to the success of Cars of Carlisle.
Describe the process of launching the business
After having the website basics addressed and archiving a couple of guest interviews, I “went live” and committed to a weekly podcast. Proudly, we have not missed a single week in our nearly three years in business.
Through friend and family word-of-mouth promotion, I immediately noticed followers, downloads, and feedback inch higher month over month. Along with my team, we started developing more captivating, entertaining, and informative content.
At the same time, we began gratefully accepting referrals from our interviewed guests who generously introduced us to other amazing people in the hobby and the industry. In turn, these referrals became new podcast guests (who know and, thus, recommend others as potential guests). Our fans are amazing and we are proud to share the Cars of Carlisle community with them.
My personal savings fueled all start-up costs. Remarkably, within the first month, the podcast immediately experienced income revenue by way of listeners’ pledges via Patreon. In the initial 15 months, I proudly secured our first corporate sponsorship with a West Coast-based Subaru performance parts vendor.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
During every episode, we mention our website and email address, genuinely welcoming all feedback (positive and constructive). I’m a proponent for being ‘real’ and authentic in every way, and always, always, always doing the right thing.
As I’m often heard saying in the weekly episodes, “…this is the community’s podcast, I just happen to be blessed enough to be in the driver’s seat.” It is critically important for me to build strong relationships and loyalties with our listenership.
An additional approach to attracting and retaining our audience is by providing value through meaningful and stimulating content. To that end, my team and I attend many car events, automotive museums, motorsport facilities, and individual businesses to cover the broadest presence and to find diverse and interesting developments.
As previously noted above, I am also fortunate to be a marketing affiliate to Carlisle Events, a first-class company that has been in business for over 46 years and is known all around the world.
Systemically, continued success comes in large part from keeping the show fresh and exciting. While the majority of our guests are automotive experts – like Rob Dyson of Dyson Racing, select guests of the show are known within – and beyond -- the car enthusiast arena. Such guests include Candy Clark (Hollywood actress, American Graffiti movie franchise); Alexandra Paul (Hollywood actress; movie Christine and television show Baywatch); social media personalities such as Mr. Regular of Regular Car Reviews; custom car visionary John D’Agostino; as well as representatives from car manufacturers such as Dodge, Ford, and Porsche.
There will never be an ideal time to start your business; to expect such a mirage can be, at best, a serious time-waster; and, at worse, it can be downright discouraging and self-defeating.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Optimism abounds! I would like to expand to multiple media facets, to align with car magazines, and, someday, perhaps to branch out to other topic areas. Although, for now, I have so much more to learn and to execute to refine my show, to grow my business, to give more back to the Cars of Carlisle community, and to improve as a leader and entrepreneur.
Landing opportunities to hang out with incredible individuals and to make lifetime memories through phenomenal experiences (like driving a Lamborghini and multiple Porsches at over 130 mph on race tracks), I feel like a ten-year-old kid most days. I’ve been highly fortunate to attend events and meet celebrities that not everyone would be able to while immersing myself in an industry of which I will never tire.
My 18-month goal: To expand sponsorship to manage my business full-time as CEO.
My 36-month aspirations: To continue to build my brand; to have a fully paid staff of five (5) employees; and, to begin to explore merger and expansion opportunities.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There is a definite “give without taking” lesson that is reinforced through involvement in a business that’s taken personally. We recently followed through on an idea by joining with another automotive business owner to develop, produce, and host an online “virtual” car show. We named this online event C.O.U.R.A.G.E. and raised money for Feeding America, with 100% of the proceeds going to fellow human beings who need a helping hand – particularly individuals affected by COVID-19 complications. C.O.U.R.A.G.E. -- the acronym -- stands for Car Owners United Rallying Against Global Epidemics.
Another “giving back” experience occurred in July 2019 when my best friend and I participated in Rally North America, a four-day, driving scavenger hunt fundraiser. In addition to raising charitable donations, my podcast served as a forum to raise awareness for Camp Sunshine, which was the benefactor of the summer 2019 rally. This charity (Camp Sunshine) does superb work as they inspire hope in families affected by life-threatening childhood illnesses and diseases.
One less-than-ideal aspect that I’ve learned through my media business is that once you have a public presence, there’s pressure to reach everyone. Early in my business, I discerned and accepted that I couldn’t do everything and be everything to everyone. Thus, I quickly had to apply the value of prioritization. I decided that by creating a high-quality, world-class, extremely professional podcast, the measure of my success would be a growing, dedicated listenership.
Knowing that I have a committed group of fans/followers means far more than simply an array of impressive analytical metrics. My company and team have realized success due to unabashed promotion and our presence with car enthusiasts. Additionally, I’d like to think that my car passion, boundless energy, and laser-focused devotion to my listeners have been like fuel injection to WaltCannon LLC’s success.
To close out this thought, I believe in and anchor my business by, my marketing tagline “Car Community, Car Culture”™, it is all about my listeners and car cohorts. The most important, helpful habits learned through my business are commitment, consistency, and follow-up.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Podbean has been a solid, intuitive, and user-friendly platform with a dynamic analytical engine for monitoring growth and managing overall performance metrics. Likewise, the virtual audio mixer technology (Voicemeter) and editing software (Reaper) have proved invaluable in producing our weekly podcast.
Various car clubs and online communities provide endless information and resources for fact-checking, events, and experiences.
Moreover, I voraciously devour information from periodicals such as Car and Driver, MotorTrend, Road & Track, and various others that I have been picking up and reading cover-to-cover since I was a young boy. My team and I utilize YouTube, and similar online resources, for not only entertainment but also for how-to content, product reviews, car specification details, et al.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Ever curious as a lifelong student, I’m constantly fascinated with learning. My pursuit of knowledge will never be quenched, especially in the areas of how to conduct and expand a professional, value-add business; how to hone my skills and business acumen; and how to improve areas that need strengthening (e.g. sales and fundraising).
A few reference books I have found beneficial in recent months include, but are not limited to Sales EQ by Jeb Blount, Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau, and a nearly century-old book that holds - Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Further, I enjoy and recommend various books and videos by Tony Robbins.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Something I would encourage people not to do is to wait for everything to be perfect before taking that initial leap. Get out there and do it!
There will never be an ideal time to start your business; to expect such a mirage can be, at best, a serious time-waster; and, at worse, it can be downright discouraging and self-defeating. As the phrase says, “you need to start by starting.”
If you have planned and are armed with the requisite knowledge and market details, just jump in. Not to throw another catchphrase, but it comes down to what my inner circle of family and friends hears me repeating often: let’s go with “progress over perfection” every step of the way.
I always lead and manage WaltCannon LLC (Cars of Carlisle) as though my startup/small business is already operating as a much larger company. From Day One, I’ve engineered every facet of my business with scalability at the forefront. That way, having organized and structured all elements with expansion in mind, when we grow to be a medium to large business, it will be relatively painless.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Until additional aforementioned sponsorships materialize, I cannot add employment at this time. However, my small team and I continue to give many hours per week, outside managing our full-time careers.
Proudly, I am a third-generation car fanatic in a family of automotive geeks. It is a dream of mine that the fourth generation -- my son and daughter -- would someday join me in growing this legacy.
What a blessing that, all these decades later, after playing with my Matchbox® and Hot Wheels® cars as a child, that I now am a business owner who has affiliations with Carlisle Events and Auctions, Subaru performance parts, a Porsche dealership, and have had dozens of experiences driving millions of dollars of sports cars.
Talk about a small boy’s dream come true.
Soli Deo Gloria.
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