Rachel Downey was a new mom in 2017 when a professional contact who knew about her marketing and sales background asked for her help promoting a new podcast.
She agreed, largely because the hours would be flexible. Yet she soon saw the success this client, Jim Brown, had building his brand through this podcast — and recognized an opportunity: to “go all in and do this for other people,” she said.
She ended up partnering with Brown and together they launched Share Your Genius, an end-to-end podcast production company for brands.
Two years later, with the business growing and another kid on the way, Downey chose to drop out of law school and focus full time on the company. And two years after that, in 2021, Downey had another choice to make, when a Share Your Genius client offered to buy the business.
How a client of Share Your Genius became its new owner
The client, Tiffany Sauder, was an entrepreneur herself. As the CEO of Element Three, Sauder had experience building a successful marketing agency. She came to Share Your Genius for help developing and launching a new podcast, and with Downey’s help, Sauder launched Scared Confident, an interview-style podcast about living with fear, in 2020.
The podcast succeeded in developing Sauder’s brand and creating more name recognition for her as an entrepreneur, she wrote in a blog post about the acquisition. She saw talent in Downey and wanted to bring Share Your Genius to her brand clients.
“Rachel has a unique mind and talent,” Sauder said in the blog post. “She pictures and puts together complex ingredients in her mind — video, audio, narrative — and is also incredibly business-savvy. We connected as mothers and women, and had really transparent conversations about our professional goals that led us to joining forces.”
At the time of sale, Share Your Genius was bringing in about $500,000 in annual revenue, serving about 30 clients. They accomplished that with just three full-time employees, including the founder, as well as some contractors. Figuring out the team structure and roles was one of the biggest challenges for Downey. “Clients were buying me, and I needed the company to go beyond my abilities,” she said.
Downey wasn’t looking to sell the business, but she recognized that this move could help her solve that problem, and she had a strong rapport with Sauder. “She is a business owner, she has four kids, a lot of our values aligned, and it felt like a cool opportunity to get direct mentorship from somebody who’s actually invested in you,” Downey told They Got Acquired. “She had told me, I’m investing in the Rachel business, not the podcasting business. So that was attractive to me because it felt like she wouldn’t put me in a cage.”
Element Three bought Share Your Genius for mid-6 figures, Downey said. The deal was an acquihire, so Downey committed to staying on for at least three years in exchange for a salary, bonuses and equity. She also parted ways with Brown at this point, who took his share of the sale based on their previously established ownership split.
For successful agencies, their client base can be a breeding ground for acquisition interest, because clients experience first-hand the value the business provides.
Together, Sauder and Downey have come up with an ambitious five-year plan to grow Share Your Genius. As of October 2022, about a year after the deal, they run 70 shows and aim to scale up to 300 in part by productizing the ways clients can purchase services and intentionally developing a community around the people who work with them. “We’re not concerned with being the biggest, but we want to be the best,” Downey said.
“Building a business is a team sport, so if you have the opportunity to have the best of the best surrounding you, then sometimes you have to take that shot,” Downey said.
But, she added, entrepreneurs should go into an acquisition with clear eyes and think carefully about how their working lives will change after a sale. “Just be really realistic with knowing what you’re actually giving up. And trust your intuition. It’s gotten you where you are already, so just lean into those feelings.”