Turn your curiosity into a thriving business!
When Harry Duran launched the Vertical Farming Podcast in 2020, he had zero experience or connections in the industry— he just wanted to learn more about vertical farming.
Yet through strategic partnerships and consistency, he has established himself as a leading voice in this emerging space.
Fast forward just over three years later, and the part-time project has generated over $80,000 in revenue.
Tune into episode 586 of The Side Hustle Show to learn:
- What made him interested in vertical farming
- Tactics for landing high-profile guests
- Creative approaches to securing sponsors
- Strategies for expanding into a media network
- And much more
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The seed for the Vertical Farming Podcast was first planted when one of Harry’s podcast production clients gave him the book Abundance by Peter Diamandis in 2019.
The book discusses future technologies, including a brief mention of vertical farming that piqued Harry’s curiosity.
Eager to learn more, he quickly ordered the book The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century by Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier and read it within a day.
Harry saw this as the perfect opportunity to follow his interest through starting a podcast in this niche.
“There was a chapter about the future technology of the world, how the world is going to be greater looking forward,” he shared.
With over 9 years of experience hosting the interview-based show Podcast Junkies, he already had the skills needed to conduct long-form conversations with industry leaders.
This was the perfect vehicle to learn more about the industry, even without subject matter expertise.
Launching the Vertical Farming Podcast
Harry fittingly named the podcast “Vertical Farming Podcast” for direct SEO opportunities.
He secured VerticalFarmingPodcast.com and social handles like @VerticalFarmPod to stake his claim in the space.
To build early traction, Harry started compiling his “Dream 100” guests—a list of CEOs, founders, and thought leaders in vertical farming he hoped to book.
He began cold outreach, mentioning the big names he was already speaking to. Whether confirmed yet or not, this demonstrated momentum and appeal to key figures in the industry.
To build social proof and reviews, Harry encourages listeners to rate the show at ratethispodcast.com. He reads new reviews on upcoming episodes, which helps drive engagement.
When choosing his podcast categories, Harry selected Science, Technology, and Nature. He discovered that having Nature as the third category pushed the show to #1 in smaller countries around the world.
This allowed him to tout being the “top-ranked vertical farming podcast globally.”
In March 2020, COVID-19 threatened to derail the podcast right as Harry was preparing to launch.
But he reached out to initial guests like David Farquhar of IGS (Intelligent Growth Solutions), and they were still eager to record conversations amidst the uncertainty.
Thanks to Harry’s corporate marketing background, he knew vertical farming companies likely had inactive trade show and conference budgets.
So after recording with David, he asked if IGS would be open to sponsorship.
David connected Harry with the CMO, Jeff. Harry pitched a 13-week “season” sponsorship for $9,000—about half the cost of a conference booth.
Intrigued by this niche marketing opportunity, Jeff agreed pre-launch.
This secured Harry’s first $9,000 before publicly releasing a single episode!
“Treat Your Guests Like Gold”
With major funding secured, it was time to produce content. Harry adhered to his motto: “Treat your guests like gold.”
He made sure each CEO guest was comfortable, letting them take breaks during long interviews.
The production team also did extensive editing, so each episode really showcased the guests in the best possible light.
Harry is similarly devoted to sponsors. As a title sponsor, IGS has:
- Primary ad read before each episode
- Mentions in all social media posts across platforms
- Shoutouts from Harry on his personal profiles
When a sponsorship period winds down, Harry gives first right of refusal to continue working together.
Many sponsors have re-upped to keep the relationship going.
Creating a Compelling Media Kit
To attract future sponsors, Harry needed a polished media kit, even with low initial downloads.
He highlighted his personal social following from Podcast Junkies to emphasize industry experience.
The media kit contained listener reviews, Apple Podcasts rankings in smaller countries, and audience demographics.
This framed the niche podcast as a high-quality production reaching the right people.
It also featured the CEOs and founders interviewed to date.
Scrolling through these, sponsors could see Harry’s access to all the major players in vertical farming.
The tiers included Title, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and single-episode sponsorships. However, Harry priced the single episode prohibitively high to discourage one-off placements.
Growing the Audience
In terms of listenership growth, Harry focused on partnerships with aligned vertical farming media outlets and creators.
For example, the Vertical Farming Podcast is now featured in the popular industry newsletter iGrow News. This regular exposure helps convert readers into listeners.
Harry has also expanded the show’s presence by attending vertical farming conferences and researching companies receiving funding on Crunchbase as prime targets.
He partners with sponsors in arrangements like discounted tickets in return for a certain number of podcast ads.
Moderating panels at these industry events has reinforced Harry’s credibility. Introducing himself as the Vertical Farming Podcast host builds recognition.
Becoming a Credible Source for Vertical Farming
Despite starting as an outsider, Harry is now seen as an authority in vertical farming.
He’s regularly approached for media partnerships, event participation, and industry guidance.
This perception shift stems from consistently interviewing the innovators and CEOs driving the vertical farming space forward. Harry’s curious layman perspective resonated with those eager to learn more.
He also ensures guests have a great experience. This motivates them to eagerly return and spread the word about the show.
The core revenue so far comes from $80,000+ in sponsorships.
With approximately 2,000 downloads per episode, Harry estimates a $25 CPM (cost per mille) would only generate around $50 per episode.
Instead, he focused on securing high-value, B2B sponsors willing to pay premium rates to reach this niche but engaged audience. New sponsors often come through introductions from past guests.
Secondary income streams Harry is exploring include a vertical farming job board, fractional CMO services for industry startups, and partnerships with aligned media companies.
In addition to the podcast, Harry created a Vertical Farming Jobs board to match openings with interested candidates in the space.
He also started a weekly newsletter called Vertical Farming Weekly that curates 10 top headlines about the industry. Distributed through Beehiiv, the newsletter has grown to around 1,600 subscribers and helps drive traffic to new episodes.
Harry set up a LinkedIn group called Vertical Farming Community as another gathering place for discussion and sharing updates.
A Day in the Life of Harry
So what’s a typical day like for Harry running this niche podcast empire?
He’s learned over time with Podcast Junkies to block off availability for interviews. Harry uses a tool called SavvyCal to limit recording times to Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This ensures he can be fully focused on each guest conversation. He’ll schedule one or two interviews per week during those windows.
The Fullcast team handles the editing and production work after the recordings are captured. This lets Harry focus on conducting the interviews.
He also includes pre-written text that each guest can easily share on social media to help promote their episode. This makes it simple for even busy CEOs to get the word out.
With production and promotion streamlined, Harry is able to devote time to partnerships, events, and other opportunities to grow the podcast and overall business.
This work structure has enabled Harry to keep producing 110+ high-quality episodes over the past three years as a solo podcaster.
Mistakes and Surprises
Launching a business in a totally new industry inevitably leads to some surprises and learning experiences.
Harry admits he initially spent thousands of dollars on things that didn’t pan out before finding a model that worked. At first, failures can make you feel like a failure.
But he learned over time that you have to build up that “entrepreneurial muscle” and expect some losses. Each failure teaches you something about what doesn’t work.
As an entrepreneur, you have to keep moving forward through mistakes and false starts. The universe rewards momentum.
The biggest surprise for Harry was going from zero visibility to being a respected voice called upon for events and partnerships in vertical farming.
This transition from curious observer to industry spokesperson happened faster than Harry expected. But it shows the power of consistency and delivering value to a niche over time.
What’s Next For You?
Moving forward, Harry aims to build out a larger “CEA Media Group” focused on the broader controlled environment agriculture space.
This could likely involve launching more targeted podcasts on niche topics within vertical farming and adjacent categories.
He’s excited about forming new partnerships and continuing to establish Fullcast as a premium podcast production agency serving clients in these industries.
With his established credibility and diverse income streams, the possibilities are wide open to create new shows and expand his authority.
Harry’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation
“Take imperfect action.”
Harry’s advice for replicating this success includes:
- Take it seriously from the start – invest in production quality, guests, branding, etc.
- Target high-value B2B sponsors willing to pay premium rates for niche outreach.