Obsessed with reading *and* feeling empowered? Then you're going to heart this podcast
Recent college graduates from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alana Baumann and Samra Michael, bloomed SHE WELL READ in Alana's kitchen the morning after a late-night sleepover. The brand launched in February of this year with 6 podcasts, many sharing a common theme exploring the complexities of relationships. Their goal is simple, to empower other women as they educate themselves through literature.
Co-founders Alana Baumann and Samra Michael spill the inspo behind their brand, what it’s like to work with a best friend and what it means to be well-read.
What was the inspiration behind creating SHE WELL READ?
Samra: "The inspiration behind SHE WELL READ was the merging of two of our ideas that we talked about after one of our sleepovers a year ago. I wanted to find a community of women that I could relate to on an intellectual level and a group I could relate to after college since I feel like I've been in some type of organized group activity my whole life. It felt wrong not to have something so I was like, 'I think a book club will be super fun and we could just get together and talk about this book or whatever,' and Lana had been listening to a lot of podcasts, so when I was talking about this idea, she was like 'That would be a cool podcast! How do you feel about taking this idea and turning it into something greater?' I was like, 'You know, I hadn't thought of it that way but that takes it to another level and I'm totally down.' It was kind of weird fate that turned into SHE WELL READ."
What’s it like running a podcast with your best friend?
Alana: "Us being friends does help because we know how each other thinks and we know how we process different things. We know each of our strengths and weaknesses so we capitalize on that and it's very much like a mutual effort. It’s also very balanced. It's really easy to bounce ideas off of each other and organize different things. I went to a conference and there was a brief freakout moment. We were like, 'Oh my God! Can we do this?' It was a lot of information that we were learning in such a short amount of time that got us so stressed out, but we took the time to decompress and think about how we wanted to take what we learned and apply it to what we're trying to create. It was learning how to make those ideas work together so no one felt like one's ideas were getting more attention than somebody else's. It's very much equal and I'm not saying that it's always going to be perfect as it is right now, because that's not how life goes, but I feel like it's very natural for the most part."
How are you using your podcast to be a positive influence?
Samra: "It's something we talked a lot about and we want to use our voice for good, now that we have this platform. So I guess the most recent example is, we paused our podcast for the sake of talking about the Black Lives Matter movement. We want to speak out about things that are trending in the culture if it feels relevant enough to us which in that case, it did not even feel right just to continue as usual."
Alana: "So I think as we grow, we're also learning how to take on those types of responsibilities because it is hard sometimes since we both work full-time jobs to stay consistent on things. So the more and more content that we're putting out, I thought 'How do we want to be intentional about this?' Black Lives Matter is rampant. It is important not just to do it at the moment, but after that moment. I feel a major core of the movement is not just about George Floyd was murdered and we're upset, but it goes way past that and before our time. There's so much in this movement, so just constantly being able to repost something, or talk about it or just any small thing that we can do is important. Even with Mental Health Awareness month, we're both huge mental health advocates, we had my therapist come on the mini-series to talk about mental health and just different opportunities."
What does being well-read look like to you?
Samra: "I'm thinking specifically of NoName Book Club that is pushing reading black literature and trying to make that a movement. I want SHE WELL READ to be on that level, taking things very seriously and putting meaning into all of the content that we're putting out. It's really just about Female empowerment, period! Being well-read encapsulates so much from finance to education to so many random little things that are actually super helpful to people our age."
Alana: "Being well-read is a woman or anyone who believes in the continued betterment of themselves through reading and reflecting with a diverse group of peers. The benefits of being well-read means being knowledgeable, having more empathy starting more stimulating conversations and the ability to see something from a different perspective."
Can you share with us why Text Me When You Get Home was the introductory novel for the podcast?
Alana: "So the first book was kind of Samra’s pick. Samra was already like 'I'm gonna start this book club for women,' and Text Me When You Get Home is a great book because at the time we were going through a lot of different changes in our friendships and with each other. It was a great book to start with because it was super relevant to what was happening to us, and we thought it would be happening to a lot of other people especially if you're just graduating or starting a new phase of life. Anything dealing with friends is what the book encapsulated, so that's how that became our first book."
Samra: "We were going to graduate so I was watching a lot of my friends move away and that created a huge divide because of long-distance friendships. I was dealing with a lot of issues within my friend group, and it eventually led to some falling out. There are so many pressures in college and we were dealing with a lot so looking back, I wish I had handled things differently in a lot of situations, but this book honestly shows you how you can revive a past friendship and how you don't have to feel bad about falling out with someone. It tackled different things that felt relevant in my life and Lana agreed and so that's why we picked that book."
What have you learned about yourself through the process of creating a podcast
Alana: "We’re funny as heck."
Samra: "Yeah I stay laughing. I definitely think in the beginning we were stiffer so I think we got more comfortable in front of the mic. I learned that I say period too much. So that's like something I had to reflect on."
Alana: "I feel like our flow got a lot better as we got more comfortable with just podcasting in general. We figured out our own individual flows and learned what we can and can't handle. I feel like this is definitely was that thing that I was missing once I graduated. This filled the void to make me feel more fulfilled in life because I'm doing something for me that's bettering the community that I also love. I've been changing a lot through this podcast."