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How I Built This with Guy Raz

Podcasts | Business

Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.

How I Built This latest podcasts.

Stitch Fix: Katrina Lake

Listen to Stitch Fix: Katrina LakeIn 2010, Katrina Lake recruited 20 friends for an experiment: she wanted to see if she could choose clothes for them that accurately matched their style and personality. That idea sparked Stitch Fix, an online personal shopping service that aims to take the guesswork out of shopping. Today, it has about three million customers and brings in more than a billion dollars in annual revenue. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Justin Li, who created wearable equipment to keep cool and hydrated called IcePlate.

Dippin' Dots: Curt Jones

Listen to Dippin' Dots: Curt JonesIn the late 1980s, Curt Jones was working in a Kentucky lab, using liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze animal feed. He wondered if he could re-invigorate his favorite dessert by pouring droplets of ice cream into a vat of liquid nitrogen and – voila! – out came cold and creamy pellets that he soon branded Dippin' Dots. The novelty treat spread to fairs, stadiums and shopping malls, and eventually grew into a multi-million dollar brand. But a few years ago, Curt was forced to walk away after the company was hit with debt, recession and a punishing lawsuit. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," how Nadine Habayeb hopes to popularize puffed water lily seeds from India with her snack brand Bohana.

The Life Is Good Company: Bert and John Jacobs

Listen to The Life Is Good Company: Bert and John JacobsIn the late 80s, brothers Bert and John Jacobs were living as nomads, traveling from college to college selling t-shirts out of their van. It wasn't a sustainable living – until one day, they created a new design. It was a simple sketch of a grinning face, with three words printed underneath: Life Is Good. The optimistic message was deeply personal to the brothers, who grew up in what they describe as a dysfunctional home – and it also resonated with customers, who started buying Life Is Good designs printed on just about anything, from towels to tire covers. Today, the Life Is Good Company has a reported annual revenue of $100 million. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," Jim Malone of CounterEv Furniture describes how he turns reclaimed wood from bowling alleys into tables and chairs for fast-casual restaurants.

Aden + Anais: Raegan Moya-Jones

Listen to Aden + Anais: Raegan Moya-JonesCotton 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. So in 2006, she started the baby blanket company Aden + Anais, which now makes more than $100 million in annual revenue. We first ran this episode in 2017 – but about a year later, Raegan's role as leader and co-founder took a dramatic turn. She fills Guy in on what happened in this special updated episode. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Brian Sonia-Wallace, who started the business Rent Poet, and makes a living writing spontaneous poetry at weddings, corporate events, and other gatherings.

Stonyfield Yogurt: Gary Hirshberg

Listen to Stonyfield Yogurt: Gary HirshbergIn 1983, two hippie farmers decided to sell homemade organic yogurt to help raise money for their educational farm in New Hampshire. As the enterprise grew into a business, it faced one near-death experience after another, but it never quite died. In fact it grew — into one of the most popular yogurt brands in the US. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Carin Luna-Ostaseski, who became the first American woman to start a Scotch whisky company after she created her own blend called SIA Scotch.

Serial Entrepreneur: Marcia Kilgore

Listen to Serial Entrepreneur: Marcia KilgoreAfter high school, Marcia Kilgore moved to New York City with $300 in her pocket and no real plan. One step at a time, she became a successful serial entrepreneur. First, she used her high school bodybuilding experience to find work as a personal trainer. Then she taught herself to give facials, and eventually started her own spa and skincare line, Bliss. The spa became so popular that it was booked months in advance with a list of celebrity clientele. After selling her shares in Bliss, Marcia went on to start four new successful companies: Soap & Glory, FitFlop, Soaper Duper, and Beauty Pie. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Emma Cohen, who explains how she helped develop and market The Final Straw, a collapsible metal drinking straw.

Shopify: Tobias Lütke

Listen to Shopify: Tobias LütkeIn 2004, German programmer Tobias Lütke was living in Ottawa with his girlfriend. An avid snowboarder, he wanted to launch an online snowboard shop, but found the e-commerce software available at the time to be clunky and expensive. So he decided to write his own e-commerce software. After he launched his online snowboard business, called Snowdevil, other online merchants were so impressed with what he built that they started asking to license Tobi's software to run their own stores. Tobi and his co-founder realized that software had more potential than snowboards, so they launched the e-commerce platform Shopify in 2006. Since then, it has grown into a publicly-traded company with over 4,000 employees and $1 billion in revenue. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," after Barb Heilman invented a device that easily releases child car seat buckles, she started a business with her daughter Becca Davison called Unbuckle Me.

Live Episode! Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP: Angie & Dan Bastian

Listen to Live Episode! Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP: Angie & Dan BastianAngie and Dan Bastian weren't trying to disrupt an industry or build a massive company – they just wanted to put aside some money for their kids' college fund. In 2001, Dan stumbled across an internet ad touting kettle corn as a lucrative side-business, so he and Angie decided to take the plunge, investing $10,000 in equipment. At first, they popped kettle corn in front of local supermarkets in the Twin Cities and at Minnesota Vikings games. Eventually, they moved indoors to Trader Joe's, Target, and Costco – and got a crash course in how to run a business along the way. Angie's Kettle Corn eventually took on a bold new name: BOOMCHICKAPOP. And in 2017, the company was acquired for a reported $250 million. Recorded live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Dyson: James Dyson

Listen to Dyson: James DysonIn 1979, James Dyson had an idea for a new vacuum cleaner — one that didn't use bags. It took him five years to perfect the design, building more than 5,000 prototypes in his backyard shed. He then tried to convince the big vacuum brands to license his invention, but most wouldn't even take his calls. Eventually, he started his own company. Today, Dyson is one of the best-selling vacuum brands in the world, and James Dyson is a billionaire. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with television producer Mike Sorrentino, who created an iPhone case called EyePatch that cleans and protects the phone's camera.

EO Products: Susan Griffin-Black & Brad Black

Listen to EO Products: Susan Griffin-Black & Brad BlackIn the early 1990s, Susan Griffin-Black was working for Esprit in San Francisco. On a business trip to London, she walked into a Covent Garden apothecary shop, picked up a bottle of lavender oil and took a whiff. The aroma — "like being in a beautiful garden" — literally changed her life. That was the inspiration to develop her own line of essential oil products. For 15 years, she and her husband and co-founder Brad Black barely scraped by, but the business eventually thrived. And though their marriage ultimately ended, their partnership continues. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods describes how she and her partners turned Alaskan bull kelp into pickles and salsa.

Teach For America: Wendy Kopp

Listen to Teach For America: Wendy KoppIn 1989, college senior Wendy Kopp was trying to figure out how to improve public education in the US. For her senior thesis, she proposed creating a national teaching corps that would recruit recent college grads to teach in needy schools. One year later, she launched the nonprofit, Teach for America. Today, TFA has close to 60,000 alumni and continues to place thousands of teachers across the country. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with 19-year-old CEO Abby Kircher who turned a peanut butter obsession into Abby's Better Nut Butter.

Dave's Killer Bread: Dave Dahl

Listen to Dave's Killer Bread: Dave DahlDave Dahl's entrepreneurial journey began in prison. In 1987, he was addicted to drugs and incarcerated for home burglary. For 15 years he bounced from one sentence to the next. But in the mid-2000s, Dave returned to his family bakery where he was inspired to make bread – organic, nutty, and slightly sweet. He sold the loaves at farmers markets and shared his story of recovery on the package – a branding decision that attracted fans and media attention. In 2015, the Dahl family sold the business for $275 million dollars. Today, Dave's Killer Bread sells over a dozen types of bread in grocery stores nationwide. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," armpit entrepreneurs Jason and Erica Feucht tell us how they turned whiskey and vodka into the natural deodorant Pit Liquor.

Yelp: Jeremy Stoppelman

Listen to Yelp: Jeremy StoppelmanIn 2004, two former Paypal engineers, Jeremy Stoppelman and Russ Simmons, were spit-balling new internet ideas. Out of their brainstorm came a site where you would email your friends asking for local business recommendations. The launch was a flop, but they discovered that people seemed to enjoy writing reviews not just for friends, but for the general public. Fifteen years later, Yelp is a publicly traded company with more than 4,000 employees and over 140 million monthly visitors. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," Liz Bales explains how putting cat food inside plastic mice became her full-time business and why it could revolutionize the way humans feed their cats.

Chesapeake Bay Candle: Mei Xu

Listen to Chesapeake Bay Candle: Mei XuTwenty-five years ago, after 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 multi-million dollar company Chesapeake Bay Candle. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz, who turned up-cycled beer grain into a snack bar called ReGrained.

Allbirds: Tim Brown & Joey Zwillinger

Listen to Allbirds: Tim Brown & Joey ZwillingerGrowing up, Tim Brown discovered he was very good at two things: design and soccer. While playing professional soccer in New Zealand, he was turned off by the flashy logos on most athletic gear. He started making simple canvas shoes for his teammates, but soon discovered a better material: soft merino wool from his country's plentiful sheep. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, his future business partner Joey Zwillinger was frustrated that most companies lacked a genuine commitment to sustainability. In 2015, Tim and Joey teamed up to create Allbirds, a company with two ambitious goals: create the world's most comfortable shoes, and do it in a way that was completely carbon-neutral. Today, just three years after launch, Allbirds is worth $1.4 billion. PLUS, for our postscript "How You Built That," how Kirby Erdely saw a problem with flying beach umbrellas and developed a new kind of tent stake—with a twist.

Live Episode! Tofurky: Seth Tibbott

Listen to Live Episode! Tofurky: Seth TibbottSeth Tibbott may be the only founder in the world who grew his business while living in a barn, a teepee, and a treehouse. His off-the-grid lifestyle helped him save money as he started to sell tempeh, a protein made of fermented soybeans. Throughout the 1980s he barely scraped by, but things took a turn in 1995, when he discovered a stuffed tofu roast made in Portland, Oregon. Knowing vegetarians had few options at Thanksgiving, Seth named the roast Tofurky and started selling it at co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 25 years later, Tofurky sells plant-based protein around the world, and has estimated sales of $40 million a year. Recorded live in Portland, Oregon.

Stacy's Pita Chips: Stacy Madison

Listen to Stacy's Pita Chips: Stacy MadisonIn the 1990's, Stacy Madison and her boyfriend Mark Andrus were selling pita sandwiches from a converted hot dog cart in Boston. They decided to bake the leftover pita into chips, adding a dash of parmesan or cinnamon-sugar. At first they handed them out for free, but soon discovered that people were happy to pay for them. So they eventually decided to leave the sandwich cart behind and launch Stacy's Pita Chips. They hoped the brand might grow into a modest regional business—but it kept growing. Roughly ten years after the launch, Stacy's sold to PepsiCo for $250 million. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," how Prerak Juthani and some friends from college took organic chemistry to the next level with REACT!, a board game that aims to demystify the stigma of molecular science.

Zappos: Tony Hsieh

Listen to Zappos: Tony HsiehComputer 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 unorthodox management style. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Mike Bolos and Jason Grohowski, who brought the office desk closer to the light by creating Deskview, a portable desk that attaches to a sheer window with a suction cup. (Original broadcast date: January 23, 2017).

Belkin International: Chet Pipkin

Listen to Belkin International: Chet PipkinChet Pipkin was the kind of kid who loved to take things apart and put them back together. As a young man in the early 1980s, he started hanging out in mom-and-pop computer shops, where he realized he could meet a growing need by selling the cables that connect computers to printers. That simple idea became the main ingredient in Chet's secret sauce: instead of making his own computers, he would make the accessories needed to make them work. Belkin International eventually grew into a massive manufacturer of electronic goods — last year, it sold to a subsidiary of Foxconn for more than $800 million. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," how Clay McCabe decided to rebrand his dad's zipper repair business into Zipper Rescue, a repair kit that helps people fix their broken zippers at home.

Framebridge: Susan Tynan

Listen to Framebridge: Susan TynanSusan Tynan's experience in the ephemeral e-market of LivingSocial made her want to start a business that she could touch and feel. After being charged $1600 to frame four posters at her local framing store, she decided to create a mail-order framing company that offers fewer designs at lower prices. Framebridge is now five years old and still feeling growing pains, but is slowly reshaping the rules of a rigid industry. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Len Testa, who created an app that uses real-time data to help people avoid long lines at Orlando area theme parks. (Original broadcast date: November 27, 2017)