Samantha Lee Wright is an entrepreneur, podcaster, coach, speaker, and author with a serious case of wanderlust. She was an identical twin raised by a single mom, who taught her to be fearless and to lead with curiosity. Samantha dropped out of art school to live with her sister in New York City. Curious to explore the country and be in nature, she lived in hippie communes and met her now-husband along the way. With no auto mechanical knowledge, they converted their diesel truck to run off of vegetable oil and traveled cross-country and back until they landed in Boone, North Carolina.
An office manager position at an OBGYN practice exposed Samantha to midwifery. While living in a teepee on a llama farm, she became a doula and was poised to attend nursing school when she became pregnant with her first child. Searching for a side hustle to contribute to her growing family’s expenses, she immersed herself in the world of essential oils. As a new mom, cultivating relationships with clients meant spending too much time away from home, and Samantha was determined to create a job that was flexible, meaningful, and profitable.
An avid podcast listener, Samantha studied entrepreneurial podcasts and went to “Google University” to turn her love of helping people, essential oils, and health and wellness into “The Essential Oil Revolution,” the world’s #1 essential oils podcast. Her family went from a combined $17,000 per year income to a six-figure income. Afterward, Samantha became an entrepreneur passionate about sharing her unique voice with the world while being of service to the community she was representing. “Picture that person and treat them like the treasure they are by providing the best quality content you can,” she says.
Having DIY’d her way to building a wildly successful podcast, Samantha noticed the majority of podcast teachers were male. As a result, she set out to create a simple, transparent coaching business to help budding podcasters go from having an idea to making their first episode and beyond. She had learned that investing in high-quality sound, production, and branding that reflects your personality and subject matter were key to a popular podcast. And, she became aware that many women weren’t taking the leap because they were unsure if their voice mattered.
True to her sunny spirit, she launched Pineapple Podcast Academy, where she demystifies the technical, explains podcast formats, and helps her clients own their concept by helping them see the value in their own expertise, passion, and perspective. As one of the few women in the business of podcasting, she instinctively knew her branding needed to be bright, colorful, and unapologetically female. “I wanted to throw it in people’s faces that I’m a girl and I’m teaching podcasting. Girls can teach tech too.”
Samantha talked to NonGirly about why dropping out of art school was the best decision for herself, why she’s never afraid to fail, and the importance of women believing that their voices matter.
What kind of kid were you? What were some of your likes and interests?
I was a very shy kid. Part of that was likely exaggerated by the fact that I’m an identical twin. I grew up with two other girls (my identical twin and older sister) who have strong personalities. It takes a while to realize who you actually are, versus what you’ve been told you were your whole life—based on the comparison [to my twin]. I was book-smart, I loved school, I was a teacher’s pet. And fun, you know, I loved to play. My sisters and I were very imaginative. We would make up games, home movies, and create things out of nothing.
What were your favorite school subjects?
Art class was my absolute favorite. I took a lot of art classes outside of school; growing up, my focus was on painting, drawing, and theater. I loved working behind the scenes in technical theater in high school. But I was never on stage; I had terrible stage fright. However, I loved making that magic happen. I had a huge love for film and TV. Any form of storytelling or entertainment was just pure magic to me, and I loved being a part of that in any way I could. I also did well in math, but English and science were not my forte.
There’s not enough encouragement for girls to excel in math and science, but there’s so much creativity in STEM and business.
It’s interesting to think about that, especially computer science. I often think about what my life would have looked like if it was fostered more for girls, especially because I grew up at that age when AOL would send everyone those discs in the mail so you could dial-up and get into chat rooms. Thinking back, I was probably 10 years old around that time and out of all my siblings, I was the one who wanted to be on the computer the most. I loved playing computer games. Just being in front of the keyboard to me was this fascinating world. None of my influences around me knew anything about computer science.
And, in school, it was just becoming part of the curriculum. I was learning right alongside my teachers who were teaching (and learning) computer science. I don’t think anyone realized, in my sphere of influence, how much power there was in teaching coding and things like that. Had they known, they would have seen those skills and desires in me as well, and likely encouraged me to go in that direction with my schooling.
I was working in a coffee shop the other day, and there was this young woman on a phone call with a coding problem for a project or an assignment. And it hit me how cool it was to see this young girl working in coding. I wondered if that would have been me, had I been born just 10 years later.
Who were some of your influences?
My mom, absolutely. My mom and dad divorced when I was around four years old, and he was out of the picture for most of my life. She was responsible for raising all three of us. I don’t think it hit me until I had my own kids how incredible it was that she raised twins and a toddler by herself. Even as I was growing up, she was my hero. She’s fostered us in every way and encouraged our education and extracurricular activities; somehow, she found a way to make that happen for us. She instilled in us a sense of [believing] you can achieve great things.
She was, and still is, a wonderful mother. And she gave me so much positive affirmation. I know many other kids don’t get that level of support. She also fostered great emotional components in me that have allowed me to grow up not being afraid to try [new] things. I’m not afraid to fail, to try something, experiment, and put myself out there. I think a lot of that’s due to my mom’s influence. It was a very female-empowered household.
What did you do after high school?
I went to college in Chicago, which was a big change, as I grew up on the coast of North Carolina. I was starstruck by the idea of living in a big city, so I went to the Art Institute of Chicago. Nevertheless, after three semesters, I lost my confidence in so many areas, had a little breakdown, and wasn’t sure why I was there. “Do I want to be an artist?” I dropped out of college and moved to New York City, where my twin sister was going to film school.
Being away from each other for the first time in our lives was very challenging for us. So, there was that moment, and it was probably the best decision I ever made. I can’t imagine what my life would look like had I stayed in art school, and not had all the experiences I did when I dropped out. That’s not to say everyone should drop out of college. It’s a great thing for a lot of people. But, careerwise, it took me longer to know what I wanted to do. It took real-life skills outside of growing up in a safe, almost sheltered environment. Being out into the real world for the first time lead me to question myself: “What do I actually want to be doing? How do I get there? How do I manage money on my own?”
So, I lived in New York for a while and worked for The Onion doing stuff for their television [show]. Then I went through a big, big hippie phase and bounced around the country for a bit. I made my way back to Chicago for a boy—who’s now my husband of 15 years.
When I came back to Chicago, we knew we didn’t want to stay there, so we eventually found our way to where we are now in the mountains. We’ve been here (in Boone, North Carolina) for 13 years; we got married, had babies, and have totally different careers and lives here. But, the years from high school to parenthood were a whirlwind of lots of adventure.
Tell us about some of your side hustles and how you stumbled upon creating a podcast for essential oils.
My boyfriend and I had been traveling cross-country together in our veggie oil truck. We had converted our diesel truck to run off of vegetable oil, even though neither of us is mechanically minded and knows nothing about car maintenance. That was mistake number one. But, we managed to get across the country and back, bouncing around to different places where people teach primitive skills on the way. We call it our hippie-dippie tour of the United States.
We went to a permaculture workshop trying to find our home; because we wanted to be closer to nature. Both of us were young and naive with no knowledge of how far money can go when you don’t have real jobs. We thought, “We’ll make it work. We’ll find some hippies to live with, then live off the land.”
We went to California and Oregon, and it was wonderful, but nothing felt like home. A high school friend that went to Boone for college told me, “There are lots of hippies here. Why don’t you come to check it out?” We pulled the truck into the first apartment I could find that would let us rent from month to month —because we didn’t know if we were gonna stay— and it broke down in the driveway so we were like, “Alright, I guess we’re gonna live here for a little while.”
Luckily, we had enough savings to buy another car that actually worked and didn’t run off of vegetable oil. We bought the car from a dermatologist who said her office was hiring. My husband worked on a woman’s llama farm as a carpenter. She asked us to live on her farm for work/trade. “Okay, that sounds fun. Can we put up a teepee in your yard and live in that for a while?” and she agreed. So, we lived in a teepee on a llama farm for about a year. Down the street was an artist couple. My husband did woodworking with the husband and I worked with the wife as an artist assistant.
I found a huge passion that came out of nowhere and wasn’t childhood-influenced. I became fascinated and fell in love with the world of birth, childbirth, and midwifery. So, I became a midwife, which led me to teach childbirth education and become a doula. Then I worked as a medical assistant at an OBGYN and midwife practice. However, things changed quickly when I got pregnant and I had just been admitted to nursing school. I was juggling night school and these side jobs.
I found ways to work from home with no college degree and career to speak of. While I wanted to stay home, I also needed to make money. That’s when I was introduced to essential oils as a side hustle. It required teaching classes at night, hosting events, and a lot of one-on-one work. After a year and a half, I was tired of leaving the house all the time. I was listening to podcasts with entrepreneurs who were making money online and staying at home. They have time, freedom, are making good money, and are in control of their finances and their lives. I thought, “I’m pretty smart. I could figure this out.” And that’s what really sparked wanting to start a podcast.
All it takes is a spark of an idea. One of the most powerful questions anyone can ask themselves is, “Why not me?” So I did, and the rest is history.
Why is it important for you to share your family’s previous financial struggles with your audience?
You see success stories all the time online, but it takes a lot of work. One of the most life-changing things for me and my family was when we were able to get off of food stamps, pay our bills on time, go out to eat, and have money to buy groceries. As a family of four, we were living off of $17,000 a year. That was when my babies were little while my husband was working in construction almost full-time. While it is a good job, it’s also a seasonal job with no benefits or guaranteed hours. Also, that included me working the occasional side hustle; it just wasn’t enough. To live below the poverty line, it’s a whole second level of stressors.
Having that burden lifted and being able to say, “We’re doing okay,” was transformational for me. It was such a proud moment. I want other people to see that it’s okay to admit that you’re struggling; it’s okay to admit you’re on food stamps, Medicaid, or in government housing. We live in a society where those things are often hidden or shamed. When you look at the reality, it’s very hard to make a living in this country unless you follow a certain path or you have certain advantages. I like to be transparent and I’m transparent that I built a six-figure business. People define success in different ways. I don’t like when people have misconceptions about who I am or where I came from. Neither do I like it when people are deceived into taking a program that will make you a million dollars a year.
What were some tools and resources you used to learn about podcasting and build your following?
I had the idea that I wanted to start a podcast. And, from there, a lot of people get stuck not knowing what the podcast should be about. “Should it be interview style? How often should I publish? Or, you know, how does it all work?” They get so intimidated by those questions that they don’t move forward. I’ve been really grateful that from a very young age, I’ve never been afraid to just do it. That’s how you learn. You don’t learn to podcast just from reading a book or just taking a course. You have to take the steps and do it. Most of my education came from trying it. When I came to a step where I wasn’t sure, I pretty much went to Google University for my entire podcast.
One of the podcasts I listened to was Entrepreneur on Fire by John Lee Dumas, which offered a free podcast course that was seven lessons long and very basic. But it was my lifeline and it was free. I took the next step forward, and when I would get stuck, I’d go to Google, YouTube, and get the answer on the internet. I made lots of mistakes along the way and learned better ways to approach certain aspects of podcasting. For anyone who wants to start a podcast, don’t be afraid to put something together and put it out there. Try, and you’ll find the answers.
How did you differentiate yourself?
There were some podcasts out there, but none of them had what I wanted. I thought maybe I could make that podcast because, to me, the true testament of a great podcast idea is if you want to listen to it, then you’re on the right track. It’s amazing how few people ask themselves that question.
I noticed that a lot of podcasts were deep into health and wellness, but these only had an occasional mention of essential oils or a guest to talk about oils. If it was an all oils podcast, the sound quality wasn’t quite up to snuff, the production value sounded slapped together. So, I approached my podcast with a focus on top-quality sound. I took my time to create those little bells and whistles that make it sing—like an intro, music, sound effects, and clear formatting. I carved out something no one else was doing, and because I knew that community so well, it was easy for me to share it organically—in Facebook groups I was a part of and with friends I knew.
“What does my audience want from me?” It’s an honored place that I get to be the voice for so many essential oil lovers out there. I find it humbling that it’s not just for me, but for millions of people who love this one thing. How can I do them justice? I don’t do anything on the show that doesn’t serve them. That’s something any podcaster should keep in mind. Who are you creating the show for? Picture that person and treat them like the treasure they are by providing the best quality content you can.
When you were researching and analyzing the podcasting market, did you see a lack of female advisors and mentors?
There’s a mix of females and males because the essential oil space is very female-dominated. Health and wellness are a little more male-dominant. That’s echoed in the health and wellness world, when it comes to alternative health. You see a lot more male chiropractors, naturopaths, health coaches. Nevertheless, I believe that’s shifting pretty quickly.
What about learning the technical aspects of podcasting?
All of the mentors—people online who were sharing technical information about podcasting—were all men. I can’t think of a single female. When I was searching what microphones to use, what media hosts use, how to do sound editing, use GarageBand, and interview online . . . yeah, those were all men. There are other people who offer online programs to teach you how to podcast, and 99% of them are men as well. From the very first photoshoot I did when I created my podcast academy, I wanted pink and bright colors. I wanted to throw it in people’s faces that I’m a girl and I’m teaching podcasting. That was very important to me. And I don’t mean that I want to prove that I am different from other people teaching the subject. No, I just want to put it out there that girls can teach tech too.
Why Pineapple Podcast Academy?
Well, there’s the saying I love that says, “In a world full of apples, be a pineapple.” That’s one of the struggles I see a lot of aspiring podcasters run into. They have this great idea, but they don’t know how to stand out from the other podcasts out there, and I love teaching people how to stand out.
There’s this other saying about pineapples, “Stand tall, wear a crown, and stay sweet on the inside.” With my book and the academy I offer, I like to stay true to those testaments. We’re going to help you stand tall, find your path, and be different. Wear a crown. Own it. And then, stay sweet on the inside. I want you to have fun with it because there’s a stigma for entrepreneurs that they have to hustle all the time. Be tough and not personal. It’s just business. No, this business is personal. This is your life.
What is the male-to-female ratio of the people you coach?
I’m thinking it’s fairly split down the middle. A lot of my first students were from the essential oil world, which is 96% female-dominated. So, my first crop of students kind of came in from that arena. But the more I’ve been marketing it, I’m getting an almost even amount. It’s interesting, because the number of students I have and the different phases they come in depends on how they found me. I shared my story at a tech event the other day and there were a lot of men there. Afterward, they said to me, “I’m so glad you were here tonight. I want to start a podcast and I want to take your course.” So, I get a big crop of men coming into the course.
I think podcast ideas are gender-neutral. However, I see more men less hesitant to come in due to a lack of preconceptions or issues a lot of women grow up having, [which] lead them to feel like their voice doesn’t matter as much. After all, podcasting is about sharing your voice. Your voice matters. I think, unlike most women, a lot of men have an easier time internalizing that fact. It reminds me of why we’re having this conversation today. Sometimes it is a challenge for women to have that confidence to own their voice and put it out there.
What’s the fear you hear the most?
“Who would want to listen?” Which you could interpret as, “Who would want to listen to me?”
When you think of it from the lens of men-versus-women and gender stereotypes, it breaks my heart to think that is the thing that could stop women from taking the next step forward.
What’s your advice to parents on encouraging their children to explore their passions?
I will never proclaim to be the expert parent; I’m fumbling through it just like other parents. My kids are almost nine and seven now. At such young ages, they’ve taught me so much about the pressures and expectations we put on children to know what they want to be when they grow up. I was kind of pushed into being an artist because that was something I was good at. And that’s partly what contributed to my meltdown in college, when questioned if I was supposed to be there. I try to be mindful of that for my kids. But, you have to prepare your kids for the realities of growing up in a capitalist society where you need money to survive.
Coming from a time in our lives where we were in poverty and knowing how much your life is affected by money, I try not to villainize money and create a realistic picture of the real world where you will have to earn money. When our kids are interested in something, we try to foster that. My son has an obsession with snakes right now and I’m not. Thank goodness I have a co-parent who is also an amazing father who has taken charge of the snake arena. We try to paint a picture for him of what a future can look like career-wise for people who love snakes. We view any of their interests as legitimate potential careers, no matter how crazy that sounds.
My daughter wants to be a ballerina. If you want to become a ballerina, that’s fantastic. But it’s important for children to recognize that to become a successful ballerina, that’s an outlier. So, I point out to her different careers that involve dancing: that’s what your dance teacher does for her career, or a choreographer. I hope it pays off one day, and they find happy and successful careers.
What was a piece of advice that motivates or inspires you to keep going?
When I was struggling with a decision, someone once asked me, “When do you have to make this decision? What happens if you wait and think [about it]?” I’ve applied that to so many things. Before, I had this mentality I had to have it all figured out right now, and that’s rarely the case. As humans, we think about all the different possibilities and ways that things could go. But, if we wait to make a decision, we get so much more information and time to think creatively. We might realize there’s an option we didn’t even see before. That’s helped me in my work, parenting, health, and other areas of my life.
What are some upcoming projects you’re working on?
Right now, my energy, love, and passion are in helping my students at Pineapple Podcast Academy. In order to help get that academy in front of more aspiring podcasters, I’ve been working on a few fun projects, such as a quiz funnel that people can take to help them get past that first step. People have a misconception of what a podcast is, and there are so many possibilities in the world of podcasting. I’m hoping it will be done—and available on my website—by mid-October.