You might choose not to hype the occasion of your 100th episode, but Jamila Souffrant celebrates one million downloads for sure, as most podcasters would and should.
In doing so she says she’s “always been a saver.”
Born in Jamaica and raised in Brooklyn by a single mom, she learned that hard work and commitment to grow could change everything.
“I get my courage and my willingness to thrive from her,” says Souffrant, creator of the "Journey to Launch" podcast. “She worked her butt off to put herself in a better position. That's what shaped me.
“She also taught me to save. But when it came to building wealth, I really didn't have a framework for that.”
Through a little bit of luck and a whole lot of hustle, Souffrant built one herself. In a very special episode of Journey to Launch, she celebrates one million downloads with a look back on how she reached financial freedom –– all while launching a brand, growing a community of listeners, and raising a family in New York City.
Countdown to liftoff: save and invest
In college, Souffrant earned a business degree “because I wanted to earn as much money as possible,” she says. She landed a prestigious internship and a full-time corporate job. But it wasn’t long before she knew that ultimately, she wanted to work for herself.
“I just felt that in my bones,” Souffrant says. “I hated the fact that people had to ask for time off or to take vacations. I remember saying to myself, ‘that's not me. There's no way I'm going to be asking anyone for anything’.”
Shortly after graduation, Souffrant had a unique opportunity to buy a new-construction condo in pre-gentrified DUMBO, Brooklyn. At age 22, she’d saved enough to sign the contract; two years later, she closed the deal. It was just a studio apartment, but it was her own.
She didn’t know it then, but she’d taken her first huge step toward lasting wealth. Over the next ten years, the value of the property skyrocketed.
Throughout her twenties, Souffrant took on a series of entrepreneurial side gigs. She launched a magazine for women of color, earned a real estate license, and invested in a vending machine business. But she still hadn’t achieved her dream of financial independence.
The breaking point –– and then, inspiration –– came in her early thirties, when Souffrant was pregnant with her first son. As she drove home one day on one leg of a three-to-four hour commute, she promised herself that she’d find a way out –– of gridlock and the corporate life entirely.
With that, Journey to Launch was born.
Phase I: Sharing your story expands your orbit
Because she immersed herself in podcasts and other media that inspired her to get serious about building wealth, Souffrant thought, “What if I could be that for other people –– to help them learn about financial freedom, independence and a life that they didn't know existed?”
At first, she chronicled her journey with a blog and an Instagram account. She began connecting with others on the same path. “I was sharing stuff, but I wasn't really putting myself at the forefront,” Souffrant says.
“If you were to scroll all the way back to my beginning, it was really just quotes and a couple of pictures of myself. I didn't want to be judged and I didn't really want people in my real life to know what I was doing.”
She thought maybe she could be “semi-anonymous and not really share numbers,” she adds. “But things were kind of slow when I did it that way.”
Souffrant knew she was inspired by others’ hard numbers. So, after about a year, she worked up the nerve to open up –– for real. She calculated her progress and wrote a blog post about how she and her husband saved and invested $85 thousand in just one year.
“When I started sharing, you know what? … People were interested,” she says. “They were like, ‘wait a second, who is this and how are you doing it’?”
Phase II: Accelerate speed and build momentum
Even as her blog began gaining traction, Souffrant focused on refining her efforts.
She spent her hours-long commute “devouring” podcasts about personal finance, played on double speed. “Learning from podcasts literally changed my life,” says Souffrant.
“I enjoy writing, but it takes me forever. So, I thought I’d try the podcasting route … I felt like through the medium of podcasting, I could dive deep and you could hear how I talk.”
As an immigrant and a woman of color, her voice is quite literally important. And Souffrant knew exactly what she wanted to see more of in the world of personal finance – diversity.
“I wanted to showcase more people who look like me who are doing this, and I need to give tools to more people,” she says. “I want to open a door for them.”
To demonstrate that sincerity to her audience, Souffrant made a commitment from day one that she’d be consistent. “It’s what I like from other podcasts: consistency. I knew what stood out for me, so I knew the exact type of format and kind of show I wanted to create.”
Phase III: Chart a new course
Through several years of concerted saving, Souffrant and her husband built a considerable nest egg, but she had no intention of quitting her “very safe and stable” day job. Then, when they found out she was pregnant with baby number two, Souffrant knew she didn’t want to go back to full-time work.
Inspired by fellow podcasters-turned-entrepreneurs, she began to think of “Journey to Launch” as a career, not just a side hustle.
“Instead of aggressively saving and investing in our retirement account, we started a ‘F-you’ fund,” she says. “I changed strategies to find a way to reach my goals and find freedom right now.”
When her daughter was born, Souffrant did quit her job.
“It was scary, she says. “But making podcasts really helped me.”
Even though “Journey to Launch” wasn’t yet making consistent money, it was resonating with listeners.
“The response I got told me there was something I had to explore, and if I didn’t, I was going to regret it,” she explains. Now, after just 124 episodes and a million downloads, her podcast’s impact has been profound.
“This is bigger than me,” Souffrant says.
Phase IV: Seek out new opportunities
The “Journey to Launch” podcast has opened up abundant new opportunities for Souffrant.
She appears regularly as a personal finance expert on “Making Cents with Kristie,” a segment on News 12 in New York City. It might be a local broadcast, but it’s in the nation’s biggest market.
“It’s been amazing,” Souffrant says, “because I eventually see myself having a [TV] show. It’s a great way to practice being on camera, and an honor to serve my local community in this way –– talking about money.”
Souffrant is also becoming an in-demand speaker and leader of finance workshops, which has expanded her skill set –– and courage. “I'm nervous to record episodes at home, where I’m just alone talking into a mic,” she says. “So going on stage isn’t easy.”
Nevertheless, she’s building confidence. The podcast has been featured in Buzzfeed, Money magazine and Business Insider, and Souffrant has appeared on dozens of podcasts. Now, she counts several podcasters she once admired from afar as friends. And she’s partnering with companies she believes in, so she can keep providing free content.
“To transform lives deeply — the way I want to — I have to earn money,” she says. “It’s important to keep this running. But I've turned down a lot more [partnerships] than I've said yes to, because it's not just about the money.”
Her listeners, Souffrant says, “have given me their ears and hours of listening to me. I do not take that lightly. Any company I choose to work with, it’s because I think that it can be a benefit to them.”
Phase V: Boldly go into the unknown
“I had no doubt that I would reach a million downloads,” Souffrant says. “Once I set my mind to something, I go for it. I’m not afraid to do things that are scary.”
But as soon as she makes that claim, Souffrant admits that the reality is a bit more complicated.
“I guess I should say that differently. I am always afraid. If you’re afraid of doing things, that's normal –– not knowing if it's going to work but going after it anyway.”
The only limitation we really have, she adds, is “what you think you can't do.
“My goal is to get as many people as I can to hear that call — within themselves.”