10 Best Episodes of the ‘How I Built This' Podcast

Microphone for podcast.

Imagine being able to sit down with the world's most successful entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought leaders to hear firsthand their stories of triumph, failure, and resilience. This is exactly what you get from tuning into Guy Raz’s acclaimed podcast How I Built This.

Whether you're at the inception stage of your venture or leading an established brand, the inspiring narratives offered by the podcast offer invaluable pearls of wisdom that can guide you toward your own success story. In this list, we’ve compiled some of the best How I Built This episodes for you to get started with.

Top ‘How I Built This’ Episodes

In each episode, Guy Raz takes listeners on a different journey, diving into the minds of the world's top founders as they share their intricate roadmap to success. From their humble beginnings and the trials they faced to the dizzying heights they've reached, the podcast is packed with priceless nuggets of wisdom.

Here's a compilation of the best episodes of the How I Built This Podcast, a must-listen for every aspiring entrepreneur.

1. Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard

Episode #14

In this entertaining and informative episode, Guy Raz interviews Yvon Chouinard, the mastermind behind Patagonia. Back in 1973, Chouinard, a passionate climber himself, launched Patagonia out of his need for better climbing equipment, and it quickly became a prominent brand in the outdoor clothing industry. The unique philosophy about business, leadership, and profits that Chouinard implemented played a significant role in that success.

Chouinard's leadership style is unconventional and innovative. He believed that prioritizing profit should never compromise the quality of the products or a company's responsibility towards the environment. From the insights in this episode, startups can learn an important lesson about balancing commercial success with environmental responsibility. It's clear that in Yvon Chouinard's eyes, building a successful company also means looking out for the planet.

2. Burt's Bees: Roxanne Quimby

Episode #366

Take a step back into the 1970s with Roxanne Quimby in this episode of How I Built This. Together with beekeeper Burt Shavitz, Quimby built a small enterprise selling "Pure Maine Honey." They lived a simple life in Maine, striving for self-sufficiency without your typical material comforts, and their ingenuity eventually led them to expand their business, transforming it from a local honey trade to the globally recognized brand, Burt's Bees.

Operating from their small cabin, they started producing candles using beeswax, followed by lip balm and skincare products. Their unpretentious and eco-friendly products quickly gained popularity, and now, Burt's Bees is a staple in most American households. Their story is a great example of the power of authenticity and solid partnerships in building successful brands.

3. TOMS: Blake Mycoskie

Episode #39

Blake Mycoskie, the charismatic entrepreneur behind TOMS, is the focus of this episode. Before even turning 30, Mycoskie had already launched and sold four businesses. However, it was during a trip to Argentina that he discovered the idea for an endeavor that combined business and philanthropy and founded TOMS.

Mycoskie came up with the winning idea of a "one for one" model where every sale of TOMS shoes meant a pair donated to those in need. Not only has this approach led to the donation of over 80 million pairs of shoes worldwide, but it's also expanded to include eyeglasses, water, and other essential items. Blake’s innovative business model serves as a benchmark for entrepreneurs aiming for a balance between commercial success and social responsibility.

4. Audible: Don Katz

Episode #377

In this episode, Guy Raz sits down with Don Katz, the visionary creator of Audible. Frustrated with the limitations of audiobooks in the 90s, Katz devised a plan to digitize and simplify the process. Having no direct experience in tech didn't stop Katz from launching Audible in 1997, an online platform for purchasing and downloading audiobooks to a dedicated player.

Though Audible faced some early struggles and even survived the dot-com crash, it found its success through the emergence of the iPod and a strategic partnership with Apple. Today, with over 600,000 titles, Audible dominates the digital audiobook market. Katz's story is one of perseverance and ingenuity and stands as an inspiration for all the tech entrepreneurs out there.

5. Whole Foods Market: John Mackey

Episode #37

In this podcast episode, Guy Raz interviews John Mackey, the revolutionary mind behind Whole Foods Market. Beginning his journey as a college dropout with $45,000, Mackey opened his first health food store, Safer Way, in 1978. This marked the humble beginnings of an organic food movement that would forever transform the American diet and lifestyle.

In a few years' time, Mackey co-founded the now iconic Whole Foods Market. The episode unfolds and looks at Mackey's story of perseverance, giving listeners an insight into the trials and triumphs he faced on his way to founding a company that drastically changed how Americans perceive and shop for food.

6. Spanx: Sara Blakely

Episode #1

The episode that started it all! Guy Raz talks to Sara Blakely, who is the inventive entrepreneur who created Spanx hosiery. At 27, Blakely was working as a fax machine salesperson, a job she quickly realized was not her calling. Looking for a drastic career turnaround, she came up with the idea of Spanx hosiery, her inventive solution to eliminating panty lines.

This episode beautifully chronicles Blakely's journey of creating and building Spanx. From just an idea to eventually becoming a household name, this story is a testament to her relentless passion. It offers an intimate perspective of the struggles she overcame and the innovation it took to make Spank a reality.

7. Five Guys: Jerry Murrell

Episode #40

In this tasty episode, Guy Raz hosts Jerry Murrell, the founder of the burger chain Five Guys. After his other business ideas failed to take off, Murrell took his mother's advice and saw money-making potential in making quality burgers. In 1986, he launched Five Guys alongside his four sons.

From its first restaurant in Northern Virginia to becoming one of the fastest-growing chains in America, the evolution of Five Guys is a captivating story. This episode unfolds Murrell's journey from multiple failures to establishing a well-recognized brand. The struggles he overcame, the lessons he learned, and the success he attained offer an inspirational lesson in perseverance.

8. 1-800-GOT-JUNK?: Brian Scudamore

Episode #33

In this intriguing episode of How I Built This, Guy Raz talks with Brian Scudamore, who is the brain behind 1-800-GOT-JUNK? To pay his college tuition, Scudamore turned to an offbeat idea - a junk hauling business. He invested in a $700 pickup truck, painted his phone number on its side, and set out to earn money by hauling people's trash.

From these unassuming beginnings, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is now a brand that generates an annual revenue exceeding $200 million. Through his exchange with Raz, Scudamore takes us through his unexpected journey – transitioning from hauling junk as a side gig to leading an industry mainstay. His story serves as an inspiring testament to how small ventures can grow into multimillion-dollar empires.

9. Etsy: Rob Kalin

Episode #566

A riveting ecommerce story, Guy Raz sits down in this episode with Rob Kalin, the down-to-earth founder of Etsy. Etsy was born in 2005 from the humble desire to create an online platform for makers and hobbyists alike to sell homemade goods, Kalin found inspiration in his own struggles to sell his personally crafted furniture pieces. The brainchild of this ingenuity, Etsy, was an immediate success, transforming into a multimillion-dollar enterprise within just three years of its inception.

However, it wasn't all smooth sailing. As Etsy continued its trajectory of exponential growth, Kalin found managing the expanding company increasingly challenging. The mounting pressures culminated in 2011 when he was blindsided by his removal from the position of CEO. Despite this setback, Kalin returned to his roots, embracing a quieter life as an individual maker and small business owner. He left a lasting legacy, though – Etsy. Today, it's among the leading online marketplaces globally, boasting revenue of a staggering $2.5 billion in 2020 alone.

10. Airbnb: Joe Gebbia

Episode #6

Wrapping up our list is the story of Airbnb through the eyes of co-founder Joe Gebbia. A chance meeting with a stranger sparked an idea in Gebbia's mind that not only helped him cover his rent but revolutionized the travel industry. Gebbia saw potential in opening his home to strangers looking for a place to stay, marking the birth of Airbnb.

Initially designed as a solution to pay rent, Gebbia nurtured his innovative concept into a pioneering platform that now outnumbers even the largest hotel chain in terms of available rooms. Throughout the episode, Gebbia shares insightful details about how an idea borne out of necessity metamorphosed into a global industry leader. It underscores how creativity paired with tenacity can create far-reaching change, making this episode a must-listen for budding entrepreneurs.