Today we chat with Jason Gillikin, the Founder and CEO of Earfluence Media.
This Q&A is a part of our series called interviews with locals where we interview local Raleigh business owners and entrepreneurs to share their story with our community.
Where did you grow up and go to high school? How long have you lived in Raleigh?
I actually grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, but, when I came to UNC for a college visit my junior year, I knew I’d be moving to the Triangle as fast as I possibly could—and I was lucky enough to get into Carolina.
One of the first songs I learned at UNC had the line, “I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred, and when I die I’m a Tar Heel dead.” I might not have the being born part, but I’m certainly proud to be a Tar Heel bred, and when I die…well, you know the rest.
So I lived in Chapel Hill in college, in Durham in my 20’s, and now in Raleigh since 2009.
How did you get into the industry you are in now?
In early 2019, I’d been in the SEO industry for 15 years, and at one job for 12 of those years. Honestly, I started to get antsy. I was thinking about my professional legacy and what I could be proud to leave behind, and it wasn’t working for someone else!
Maybe that’s a professional mid-life crisis, or maybe it’s becoming a little wiser with age, who knows.
At the same time, I started falling in love with podcasting: the storytelling, the education, and yes, the legacy you can leave with podcasting as well. So, I made the leap to entrepreneurship, forming Earfluence officially in August 2019.
Since then, the team has grown and we’ve been able to produce hundreds of episodes for clients in and around the Raleigh area.
Give us your 30 second elevator pitch for your business?
At Earfluence, we build brands through podcasting, one story at a time.
We provide full service podcast production, from initial podcast idea, to editing and mixing, all the way through social media marketing so your podcast can get through the noise and reach your audience.
Most popular or flagship service you provide via your business?
Full service podcast production. I didn’t realize right away that our clients would utilize podcasting as their top-of-funnel marketing strategy – the podcast is the free top of the funnel, and it creates raving fans who crave more content – and eventually our clients can monetize their expertise.
What would a traveler learn about Raleigh by engaging with your podcast channel?
They would learn mostly about entrepreneurship in the Raleigh area, and we’ve heard so many success stories (and learning opportunities) about the hustlers who make this startup community so special.
Who has been your favorite or most interesting person you have interviewed so far?
Oh my gosh. I’ve been a little starstruck on a recording a few times – Coach Roy Williams and Chef Vivian Howard come to mind. They were both fantastic of course, but I’d say the most interesting person that I’ve had a chance to interview was Rob Morrell.
We produce a podcast called Beyond the Obituary, where families can share stories of loved ones who have passed on because “they’re so much more than a one-page obituary.”
Well, Rob Morrell knew about this podcast, and he also knew that after 9 years of battling cancer, it was just about his time to go. So I interviewed Rob, along with his wife Maureen and his son Mike, and I was amazed by their strength throughout their journey.
It was an interview that will stay with me forever. Sadly, Rob passed shortly after the interview, but we always have his story (in his own voice) to look back on.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where in Raleigh would you take them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
Breakfast? We’re going to Nora for the coffee and the new breakfast sandwiches. Like, an egg and pimiento cheese biscuit, which is fantastic.
Lunch? Let’s go downtown to Morgan Street Food Hall for literally anything you could possibly want. I’m partial to the Sushi Burritos at Yoho.
Best thing about living in Raleigh?
I’m sure you hear this all the time, but it’s totally true: Raleigh is a place where you don’t have to leave and you can find anything you want, OR, if you do leave, you’re just a couple hours away from both the beach and the mountains.
Least favorite thing about living in Raleigh?
Back when I didn’t make my own schedule, I would say that my least favorite thing was the traffic on 540. But now, it’s hard to think of anything, so I’ll say my least favorite thing is that Raleigh doesn’t have an NBA team (yet).
Can’t miss attraction in Raleigh for an out-of-town visitor?
Your favorite business in Raleigh that you like to frequent?
Ok, I’m going to tell you, but let’s keep this a secret because it’s a hidden gem and I don’t want it to get too busy.
Heyday Brewing in North Raleigh, right around exit 18 off 540, is great for the beers, the food, and plenty of space outside for the kids to run around.
Oh and every so often – I don’t know if it’s the person working or if it’s a special day or what – but the kids will get ice cream for free.
What excites you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?
The community over competition, rising-tide mentality. Especially in the Raleigh Founded community, everyone is excited to hear about your business’s wins and quick to offer help when needed.
What concerns you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?
As much as I love to see mega-companies like Apple and Google plant their flags here (and seriously, this is a huge win for the Triangle), I’m concerned about the talent drain from small and medium-sized businesses.
Which local Raleigh entrepreneur inspires you to do better?
There are many, but two come to mind right away.
Donald Thompson is the CEO of The Diversity Movement, Board Member to about a dozen businesses in this area, investor, podcaster, author…one of those guys where you’re like “How in the world do you have the time for all this?” We’re lucky to have him on the Board at Earfluence, and after every single meeting with him, I have action items to take with me to grow both personally and professionally.
Then, my wife Megan Gillikin, who started off as an accidental entrepreneur 11 years ago, is now running two successful companies and is inspiring literally hundreds of entrepreneurs in her membership site, all while raising our three kids and putting up with me.
What’s one or two pieces of advice you would give to someone wanting to start a business in Raleigh?
- Your network is your net worth. Take all the meetings you can, especially in the beginning. You never know when a meeting will turn into a partner, a client, an amazing hire, or just someone who’s super inspirational.
- Take care of your health. It’s so easy to get trapped in the “go go go” lifestyle, but make the appointment with yourself to go for a run, take the kids to the park, go on a day date with your partner. All of those things are vital to recharging and being the best leader and entrepreneur you can be.
What is your favorite thing about running your business?
I get to hear stories from some of the smartest and most inspirational people in the Triangle and throughout the country. I know I’m incredibly lucky to be doing this.
Drink of choice? Which bar, brewery, or coffee shop in Raleigh do you get it at?
I like just about any IPA, and I’m grateful that Raleigh Founded always has some on tap. But if I’m feeling fancy, my wife and I will go to Margaux’s and drink Old Fashioned’s.
Favorite getaway spot in North Carolina?
Bald Head Island. There’s something about being at the beach with no access to your car where you can just let go.
When you hear the words “THIS IS RALEIGH” what comes to mind?
Wow, what a question! Raleigh is so massive, and there are so many things to do, how do you pick just one thing?
My mind was racing to the Hurricanes, to landmarks like The Angus Barn and the museums, to the lakes, to the greenways…
But really when I think of Raleigh, I end up landing on the vibrancy of downtown. The murals, the restaurants, the small businesses combined with billion dollar unicorns. The energy and positivity is contagious.
Everyone is so nice and supportive. When one of us succeeds, Raleigh succeeds!
Go say hi to Jason and tell him This Is Raleigh sent you:
- Address: 310 S. Harrington St, Raleigh
- Website: Earfluence.com