Fans of the hit Southwest Michigan-based podcast "Hustlin' in Heels" can thank Stacey Carlin's grandfather for giving us one prolific story teller. Stacey is host of the popular podcast celebrating women everywhere who are "hustlin' in heels" and crushing it every day -- and she lives that mantra with great verve.
I sat down with Stacey recently so I could share her own story more widely just ahead of Season Two of her podcast series designed to, "Celebrate women everywhere who are working it in whatever their chosen field might be." She says her grandfather was a newspaper guy, "So, I've always been interested in stories. Grandpa was one of my best friends and we would tell stories around the camp fire, so I was always interested in stories." Now, as she sips one of her favorite Southwest Michigan Wine Trail wines in each podcast, gathered around the electronic campfire, she hearkens back to the strong women in her family whose southern heritage moved north with them to work the steel and automobile industries. She calls them "fiercely independent with a strong sense of womanhood that runs deep in my family." That strong nature and her love of stories led to her outstanding Season One of podcasts.
Stacey says, "We really wanted to create this tribe of women who would support each other, and help each other out. The way that we are doing that is by telling these incredible stories of women who are hustling out there, who are getting it done, who are managing to balance a full time career with maybe a family they are raising at home, with extracurricular activities and volunteer responsibilities." She adds, "So, telling their stories and the common themes that are woven throughout all of our interview subjects and all of those stories, has really created this whole tribe of women who are interested in 'fixing each other’s crowns,' I guess…so to speak."
Obviously being called "Hustlin’ in Heels", the podcast is primarily targeted towards women who are in the workforce, but Carlin says, "We also speak a lot to women who maybe are running the home, which (as a mother of three children), there’s no harder job than taking care of your babies at home. We also speak to them, and we also speak to guys." Recognizing that it’s called “Hustlin’ in Heels,” Stacey notes, she also has quite a few male listeners and has even had some men as guests, "because it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, there are these common themes that create success. So the whole idea of hard work, the whole idea of doing something you believe in, and maintaining that sense of integrity in all the work that you do. Those are common themes, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female."
Season One of the podcast launched as a dynamic duo with Kaylee Ganus as a co-host wherein they would talk about things that they had experienced, or things that they felt were important, as women in the workforce, and women in the corporate world. They started compiling a list of ideas that they thought would be interesting, like the challenges they had faced or the successes that they had achieved, and then evolved into the idea of talking to other women "who are crushin’ it" in whatever field it is, and see what they did, see what their story is, and sort of create a road map for women listening who were maybe contemplating a career, or contemplating opening up a business, and some of their inspirational stories.
Stacey says the feedback has been outstanding, she says, "I talk about our tribe. We are in social media with an HIH Tribe, a Hustlin’ in Heels Tribe, of women who are joining us every week on this journey, and they’re learning something from each one of our guests and the feedback has been phenomenal." She notes, "There is just so much support on social media, we get people who are following our journey but are also recommending guests and who are interacting with us and interacting with other guests. Some of the best messages I receive are things like, 'Ugh, had a hard day at work today, and it was just one of those days, like I burnt the kids toast, or then I get them off to school and forgot this kid’s lunch, and then I go to work and I have all these meetings and my boss is giving me a hard time, and I have all these things going on in my life, and then I jump in my car for my commute home I turn on you ladies and I hear these inspirational stories of these other women who are experiencing the same thing, but they're still getting up every day, puttin’ their heels on, and going to work and you gave me the little pick me up I needed and I know there are other women out there like me and we just gotta keep pushing forward, keep hustlin’ and keep supporting each other.'” Stacey thrives on that kind of feedback.
She says, "We’re on in the mornings sometimes, too, if they listen on their morning commute, and we have a lot of stay-at-home moms who listen to us as well, and we celebrate women who are working it in all fields and even though it’s called 'Hustlin’ in Heels,' we don’t care if you’re wearing tennis shoes, flip-flops, work boots, combat boots or whatever."
She tells the story of one of her most popular episodes with Adele Garcia, a combat veteran, and her story of inspiration about surviving an attack from an IED, and how she has managed to overcome the post traumatic stress from that and how she was able to, with a family at home, to shut off that compartment of her mind and get war-ready. Stacey says, "She’s got a baby at home and she’s half way across the world fighting against people who are shooting at her when she’s driving a convoy down the road and the convoy gets blown up. How do you overcome that, and then how do you assimilate yourself back into normal life once you come back home? That was a very hard-hitting episode wherein we talked about a lot of things, and there are a lot of women in the military that listen to us, when they're stationed in other locations. That was a pretty hard-hitting one, but inspirational because she talked about how she then picked up running, as a way to manage that and handle that, and now she does Adele’s Alive Day Run where she runs 40 miles while raising funds to support causes that she believes in that are supporting women who are in the military."
"Hustlin' in Heels" inaugural season was 22 episodes, and attracted more than 30,000 listeners. She recorded from January until about July, but as with many moms "summers get busy, so we decided to take a couple of months off and now we’re going to be jumping back into season two with an amazing line up of women who have stories to tell about how they’re crushin’ it out there." Kaylee, however, retired from the podcast during season one, leaving Stacey is a solo host.
The new season line up is not entirely set, and Stacey is still accepting recommendations if you know somebody, a woman with an incredible story that needs to be shared, it doesn’t matter what field she’s in. She says, "We are looking for women who are hustlers, in whatever field that might be, and whatever form that might be, and we just want to share their inspirational stories to see if we can help glean some of those common characteristics or traits that other women can use to propel them forward in life."
Featured women can come from anywhere in the world, because she records out of NBI Studios in Bridgman, and has the capability to conduct phone interviews so they don’t have to be from Southwest Michigan, although she admits, "We do have a substantial number of amazing women here is Southwest Michigan," and she's looking for recommendations, adding, "I know a lot of people, but I know that there are a ton more women out there who have stories to tell, that could be inspiring, and we want to talk to them." You can reach her by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacey says, "The most inspirational story from season one was actually my cousin, Jenna Ennesser. If you are looking for a story about rising above adversity and becoming a champion regardless of things that set you off course, that is the one you want to start with. I’ll warn you it’s a tear-jerker, but she is an amazing example of strength, resilience, and faith."
Jenna actually worked for Mid-West Family Broadcasting for a little bit. Six months or so after her wedding, and the purchase of a beautiful farm house and all ready to start a family together, she was involved in an automobile accident and suffered an injury to her spinal cord. Stacey says she is currently utilizing a wheel chair, but since then has had three babies, is a strong advocate for the community of folks who are utilizing wheel chairs, and says, "In addition to that her motto is 'From Wheels to Heels.'"
Jenna is committed to being able to dance for her sons at their weddings, she is committed to being able to get out of that chair and so she is making moves and efforts to go that way. Stacey says, "A lot of us complain about the things that we’re facing in our lives, and she has a pretty substantial hurdle, with three small children now, but she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t ask 'why me?' she gets up every day, puts her big girl pants on and she handles it." She concludes, "She may be my baby cousin, but I have no greater hero than her, so that’s been my most inspirational story so far."
Born and raised in her "beloved hometown of Buchanan," (and that’s how she refers to it always) Stacey says, "I am in love with my town and I wear that on my sleeve. I think there are so many cool things about my tiny little piece of heaven here in Southwest Michigan." She grew up there, went to school there, and her family’s from there, but she left for about 10 years to go off to college. She lived and worked in Washington DC, for a while, worked for the State Department in Michigan for a while, and then decided to come back home about 10 years after graduation, and became a high school teacher at her beloved home town’s high school and did that for about 8 years.
Then, she decided to jump again and try something else out. Stacey admits, "That’s one common thing I have with a lot of my guests is that sometimes these crazy ideas come up and I jump with both feet and say let’s do it…and see how that goes." She did that and got involved with the Public Relations world and her current position as PR Manager for a financial institution, and then decided she wanted to start a podcast. She says, "So that’s where I am now. I’ve always been from here, my heart is always here, even when I’ve lived elsewhere in the U.S., and this is home and will continue to be home."
I asked what's in her future, and she jokingly said, "Speaking engagements, a world tour, merchandise," laughingly concluding, "I dream big." Reality is however, she wants to talk to more women, telling me, "I want to talk with more hustlers who are out there and I want to share their stories and I want to contribute to positivity in the world." By way of explanation she argues, "I think there is so much now that can weigh you down, so much sadness and heartache, and negative press that’s out there. It’s important to me, as a mother, to put things out there that are good, that are positive, that are uplifting and I think that’s what we do, and just contributing to a culture where women raise each other up and support each other, and have each other’s backs."
Her support is not just for women only, she has a son, and says, "This applies to all genders. It’s just the perspective that I’m coming from, and it’s also a perspective of the things that I love and the things that I talk about and come from, being a female...that, and wanting to put on my heels and my make up every day but also wanting to go into the boardroom and be able to negotiate and sell myself." She readily contends, "I think there’s room for all of that, and I want to talk to women that are wearing heels, I want to talk to women who are wearing hunting boots, I want to talk to women who are wearing flip-flops, I want to talk to women who are wearing running shoes. I want to see what makes them tick, and I want to see if the lessons that they have learned can be applied to other women’s lives, so maybe we can learn from each other, and we can work together and figure out how to support each other, that way."
Stacey is 37 now and knows we don't get to live forever. She paraphrases the quote about being "lucky to grow old, because it’s a privilege denied to many," adding, "Every day that I wake up is a good day. I work full time, I have three children who I dearly love, I have a community that I dearly love, I serve on lots of boards, on lots of committees, I run the Christmas Parade. I do a podcast, I do all of these things. I run Spartan races, I want to do more. I’m only here for a short period of time, I want to pack in everything -- as much as I can -- I’m just not a person that sits on the couch and watches TV. That’s fine, but I just can’t do it. There’s so many things that I want to do, that if I only had even more time I would do those things, and ideas are fun, and projects are fun, and I have a really hard time saying no when I think it’s a good idea."
As for her bucket list, she wants to visit all 50 states. The Spartan Trifecta (extreme racing) was a big thing on her bucket list, and she recently completed that. Suddenly, she turns it on. She admits, "Anytime an opportunity presents itself and is scary, or something new, I just say yes and figure out how to do it." She quotes Eleanor Roosevelt who said, "Do at least one thing every day that scares you," and says, "I try to do that. I try to do one thing every day where my heart races a little bit -- and I just do it. Maybe I'm an adrenaline junkie!"
Stacey says of her seeming fearlessness, "It’s how I live my life! Does it sound crazy? Let’s try it! I just want to experience everything. Jump out of a plane? That's on the list. I do like roller coasters, but I'm scared of heights." She goes on to say, "I'm scared of jumping out of things that are perfectly fine, but I do those things, because I like being scared of something, and accomplishing it. I like facing my fears, because you come out on the other side stronger." She lives by another quote: "Action cures Anxiety." She flat out says, "I live that. The nervousness is far worse than just doing it. My dad taught me that. Anxiety is way worse. Just get it done, knock it out. That’s part of why I do what I do."
The good news is, she's sharing it with all of us in her podcast and maybe gets a bit of relief from the bottle of local wine she shares during every podcast. Her personal favorite is dry, sparkling, wine, "With that, you got me all day. Dry wines for sure, just not a big fan of sweet wine, but I love our local wines. And love to promote any thing local, and in fact have wine sponsors." She drinks it, talks about it, and wineries are donating it to the podcast. She offers up, "If you own a winery or brewery and are interested in sponsoring one of my episodes, get us a bottle or two. If you want to do a paid advertisement, I'm happy to drink your wine on the podcast and talk all about it!"
She interviewed a ton of amazing women in season one, and talked to all kinds of women who had different stories for the way that they got there, with some common themes, "Which is what I love about this, because you can learn so much. What are the traits, the qualities, the things I have to do to be a hustler in my field? They all have some parallels, and a lot of common denominators. A lot them are jumpers. Like teaching during the day, and selling guitar straps at night to the point that the guitar strap thing becomes a giant company." That's the kind of story Stacey Carlin loves. You might very well too, so she encourages you to sign on and listen up.
Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, and click the link for more of "Hustlin' in Heels!" which is also available on iTunes.