How I Built This with Guy RazGuy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.
In 2000, Lara Merriken was 32, recently divorced, and without a job when she decided to make energy bars by mixing cherries, dates, and almonds in her Cuisinart. Eventually, she perfected the recipe and launched her company: L?RABAR. After just two years, the company was bringing in millions in revenue. In 2008, she sold to General Mills, but stayed on to help grow L?RABAR into one of the biggest energy bar brands in the U.S. PLUS in our post-script "How You Built That," we check back with Gerry Stellenberg who combined his knack for technology with his love of pinball to create a company for modern pinball enthusiasts called Multimorphic.
Alex Blumberg made his early career by helping build two of the most successful shows in radio and podcasting: Planet Money and This American Life. In 2014, convinced that podcasts could make money, he walked away from the safe umbrella of public media to start a new media company with co-founder Matt Lieber. Every doubt, triumph and humiliation of building the business was documented on the podcast Startup, which included the back-and-forth over how the company got its name: Gimlet. Many more successful podcasts followed, and five years after launch, Gimlet sold to Spotify for roughly $200 million. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," after years of researching how women's shoes wreak havoc on the joints, Casey Kerrigan quit her job in medicine to start 3D printing more comfortable designs: Oesh Shoes.
For Christina Tosi, baking wasn't just a delicious childhood hobby – it was a daily creative outlet and a way to blow off steam. After college, she went to culinary school and honed her pastry technique at high-end restaurants in NYC. But she also craved the opportunity to make unfussy, nostalgic desserts like the ones she grew up eating. So in 2008, Christina opened her first Milk Bar bakery in the East Village, with the help of her mentor, Momofuku chef David Chang. Soon, people from around the country were calling her up, begging for her gooey pies, confetti birthday cakes, and pretzel-potato-chip cookies. Today, Milk Bar has spread to 16 locations, and reportedly brings in tens of millions of dollars a year. This show was recorded live at The Town Hall in New York City.
When Carley Roney and David Liu got married, they had a seat-of-the-pants celebration on a sweltering Washington rooftop. They never planned to go into the wedding business, but soon saw an opportunity in the market for a fresh approach to wedding planning. In 1996, they founded The Knot, a website with an irreverent attitude about "the big day." The Knot weathered the dot.com bust, a stock market meltdown, and eventually grew into the lifestyle brand XO Group, valued at $500 million. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Tyson Walters who got so tired of his St. Bernard shedding everywhere that he created a zip-up body suit for dogs: the Shed Defender.
The very first time Tristan Walker shaved, he woke up the next morning with razor bumps all over his face. "I was like, what is this?" he remembers saying. "I am never shaving again—ever." He soon discovered that like him, many men of color were frustrated by the lack of shaving products for coarse or curly hair. Fifteen years after that first disastrous shave, and after countless meetings with doubtful investors, Tristan launched Bevel, a subscription shaving system built around a single-blade razor. Eventually his brand Walker & Company grew to include 36 hair and beauty products, used by millions of men and women across the U.S. In 2018, Walker & Company was sold to Proctor & Gamble, and Tristan became P&G's first black CEO. Recorded live in Washington, D.C.
Andy Puddicombe is not your typical entrepreneur – in his early twenties, he gave away everything he owned to train as a Buddhist monk. But after ten years, he decided he wanted to bring the benefits of his meditation techniques to more people. While running a meditation clinic in London, Andy met Rich Pierson, who had burned out on his job at a high-powered London ad agency. Together, they founded Headspace in 2010. Nine years later, Headspace's guided meditation app has users in 190 countries and an annual revenue of over $100 million. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," how a quick fix to a broken pair of sunglasses inspired Jensen Brehm and Nikolai Paloni to create an armless set of shades: Ombraz Sunglasses.
In 2010, Katrina Lake recruited 20 friends for an experiment: she wanted to see if she could choose clothes for them that accurately matched their style and personality. That idea sparked Stitch Fix, an online personal shopping service that aims to take the guesswork out of shopping. Today, it has about three million customers and brings in more than a billion dollars in annual revenue. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Justin Li, who created wearable equipment to keep cool and hydrated called IcePlate.
In the late 1980s, Curt Jones was working in a Kentucky lab, using liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze animal feed. He wondered if he could re-invigorate his favorite dessert by pouring droplets of ice cream into a vat of liquid nitrogen and – voila! – out came cold and creamy pellets that he soon branded Dippin' Dots. The novelty treat spread to fairs, stadiums and shopping malls, and eventually grew into a multi-million dollar brand. But a few years ago, Curt was forced to walk away after the company was hit with debt, recession and a punishing lawsuit. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," how Nadine Habayeb hopes to popularize puffed water lily seeds from India with her snack brand Bohana.
In the late 80s, brothers Bert and John Jacobs were living as nomads, traveling from college to college selling t-shirts out of their van. It wasn't a sustainable living – until one day, they created a new design. It was a simple sketch of a grinning face, with three words printed underneath: Life Is Good. The optimistic message was deeply personal to the brothers, who grew up in what they describe as a dysfunctional home – and it also resonated with customers, who started buying Life Is Good designs printed on just about anything, from towels to tire covers. Today, the Life Is Good Company has a reported annual revenue of $100 million. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," Jim Malone of CounterEv Furniture describes how he turns reclaimed wood from bowling alleys into tables and chairs for fast-casual restaurants.
Cotton muslin baby blankets are commonplace in Australia, where Raegan Moya-Jones grew up. But when she started a new life and family in NYC, she couldn't find them anywhere. So in 2006, she started the baby blanket company Aden + Anais, which now makes more than $100 million in annual revenue. We first ran this episode in 2017 – but about a year later, Raegan's role as leader and co-founder took a dramatic turn. She fills Guy in on what happened in this special updated episode. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Brian Sonia-Wallace, who started the business Rent Poet, and makes a living writing spontaneous poetry at weddings, corporate events, and other gatherings.