Meet Kinsey Grant. Or, maybe – you already have.
As the charismatic host of Morning Brew’s podcast, Business Casual, Kinsey interviews some of business’s most influential leaders and entrepreneurs of today. Each episode gains millions of streams, and Kinsey has recorded over 100 episodes in just a year. In addition, Kinsey has been a Business Editor for the groundbreaking newsletter Morning Brew for several years, and both projects have flipped business conversation on its head by unlocking the gates to financial news and modernizing the way we discuss work: with wit, humor, and ease.
To be transparent, sitting down to interview one of the most influential podcast hosts of the past year was a bit nerve-wracking. But the conversation with Kinsey was anything but. It’s true: when the camera isn’t rolling, Kinsey is just as engaged in discourse and prepared to dig deep.
Kinsey is a 26-year-old New Yorker, and demonstrates written and oral communication mastery through not only her work ethic, but her social lifestyle.
“I have always been very precocious. From a young age, I was a talker. I've always loved to communicate with people and ask questions and write and was very much a right brain person growing up.”
She owes her communication success to her parents, as they put her in mock trial, debate, acting, and dancing from a young age.
I have always been put in situations where you have to get up in front of people, communicate extemporaneously without a script, and translate your thoughts from your brain to the person in front of you. That has been incredibly influential in my career.
Kinsey first onboarded at Morning Brew only two and a half years ago to join a team of 5. The newsletter publication has since grown enormously, evident of Morning Brew being acquired by Business Insider for a stake of $75 million this past month. But the path to creating the best business newsletter in the country was not easy, even if it was swift.
“When I started, it was just getting a newsletter out the door every day. It was really our only objective. We needed to make sure that we had a product. Once we felt like we had that competency totally nailed down with the daily newsletter, that's when we started to expand.”
And expand they did. In no time, Kinsey was helping incubate other offshoot newsletters under Morning Brew’s umbrella like Retail Brew and Tech Brew. Despite the rapid expansion of the startup newsletter, Morning Brew has always remained grounded in their core intentions.
"We are at 50 plus people now. So as we’ve grown as a team, the kind of content that we’re putting out has grown, but we’ve also stayed really true to the mission that our co-founders had from day one, which is essentially to make business news engaging and relevant for young people or modern business leaders. That is evident in everything we do. Not only our pure play editorial content, but the way that we approach traditional brand partnerships and those relationships and the way that we approach growth. It’s really pervasive at every level of the business.”
What’s made Morning Brew so successful is clearly their commitment to inclusivity and brand trust, which Kinsey describes as being a part of people’s “morning routines.” Get up, check you email inbox, and read the news by looking over Morning Brew’s daily newsletter.
“It can be for everybody. And we think it should be for everybody. And it should be fun. You shouldn’t have to view being informed as a chore. It should just be a part of your routine. We have rebuilt our way into that morning routine with short and highly curated newsletters that are very specific and very to the point, and make it so that you can trust us every day…You can trust us to be the people who give you what you need to know, and it might look different from day to day, but the core competency is always going to be there. That we’re going to make it fun. We’re going to have fun doing it. And I think also a huge part is that a lot of the editorial team are younger people. We are our core audience in a lot of ways. It’s a source that you can trust.”
Morning Brew’s subscription list hovers around two and a half million people now. It’s clear that they have done an excellent job in making that news relevant and exciting to a large audience.
You don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way, or have a certain job to find business news relevant and engaging.
Overall, Morning Brew and Kinsey’s editorial direction has shifted our attention to active news consumption. No longer are young business leaders turning on Fox or CNN in the morning to catch up on the latest.
“...We think about [active versus passive news consumption] a lot at Morning Brew. We in a lot of ways are our own unwilling participants in things like passive news consumption all the time, because you’d go on Twitter or turn on the news or what have you. Our mission has always been: this is going to be five active minutes of your day, but this is all you’re going to need. You don’t have to worry about trying to know everything, because it’s impossible to know everything. We get so overwhelmed feeling like we’re not caught up or that we’ve haven’t read the front page of CNN every hour for the past five years of our lives. It doesn’t have to be so overwhelming if we just dedicate a couple of minutes to that active consumption.”
Business Casual describes its content as a “weekly podcast answering business’s biggest questions.” Since jump-starting this effort, Kinsey has interviewed big names such as Netflix founder Reed Hastings, Shark Tank’s billionaire Mark Cuban, and the various CEOs of Quibi, ClassPass, and SquareSpace.
Kinsey spends a productive 7 days a week working on the podcast. Podcasting requires a whole lot more than hitting the record button and talking to a guest for an hour.
“The prize that I got from the shift to podcasting is how much crossover there actually is with newsletter writing. I was prepared to totally forget everything I knew. To an extent, you have to do that anytime you're trying out a new medium, but with podcasting, I think there certainly is something to be said for relationship building.”
Morning Brew’s shift from written newsletters to the podcast platform was evidently seamless, as their audience resonated with voice rather than medium. Turns out, readers wanted to listen to Kinsey weekly too, not just for the business low-down, but for her trust-worthy repertoire and invigorating personality.
I think part of why people love podcasts so much, is because the listener has a relationship with the person they’re hearing from...you have no idea who [the guest is] going to be week to week, but you know that I'm going to be there every time. I'm going to ask similar questions or I'm going to have this personality that you feel like you can resonate with. That is evident in podcasting as much as it is in newsletter writing: that you have to create that relationship with a familiar voice that you're used to hearing a certain number of days a week.
The road to podcasting was not short, or easy. There’s truly something to be said about experiencing the ebb and flow of life’s tribulations before taking on a massive creative challenge like Business Casual. Kinsey graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2017 and started her first post-college position only four days after commencement. Under a different name now, Kinsey worked at one of Jim Cramer’s media publication companies once known as The Street, where she covered business breaking news.
“Because I was the youngest editorial employee by a wide margin, they gave me a lot of beats that I probably would not have gotten elsewhere. I was covering breaking news, but I was also covering things like cannabis and crypto and tech, because these are the young people things to cover. It was a really cool experience, but I think at a certain point...I was shouting into the void with the stories I was writing. I felt like the audience I was writing to wasn't necessarily like me and I wanted a little more accountability instead of cranking out 20 stories a day that don't have a ton of impact. I preferred to do something that I felt was really impactful and maybe took a little bit more time to put together.”
Kinsey’s resistance to short-term news snippets is not abnormal. The “shouting into the void” effect is rampant among media publications and news companies because of its fleeting temporality. Her creative and professional journey evolved into something more tangible and long-term, and thus led her next job search to Morning Brew.
“I was 23 at the time when they hired me and I had the ability to take a risk and it obviously has paid off since then, but to work for a media startup is not exactly like a risk-off kind of opportunity. So I figured if not now, then when? and I'm glad I did.”
Kinsey’s job is to literally “ask people good questions.”
I want to ask the questions that the listeners want to ask themselves if they were sitting in front of the CEO of Netflix.
Kinsey’s success on Business Casual is attributed to this humble approach to curiosity and broadcasting industry knowledge.
“Pushing other people around you to also ask questions is important. No matter what you're doing. Number one, just think differently. I go into every interview, obviously having my own preconceived notions of what I'm talking about and how I interpret it. But being willing to have my mind changed in the span of an hour has been really cool. It opened us up to a lot of conversations that maybe we weren't prepared to have, or were planning to have prior to recording that has gone.”
With 2 to 3 episodes coming out every week, the podcast’s turn around and work load is a highly efficient machine.
“I am pretty much completely bought into Business Casual. It's my life. At this point, I love and I am really passionate about the work that I'm doing and I'm excited about it all the time. I think it's incredible that I have the opportunity to talk to different people every day of the week. Because I work at this awesome startup that has this great value proposition for people, they're willing to take the time to come on the show.”
While the year is 2020, Kinsey can testify that sometimes her audience is still living in 1950. The financial and news journalism industry has historically been male saturated, as most other industries. Kinsey’s bright questions and invigorating mission to push people farther in conversation has drawn attention to a door that needs to be opened a lot more.
Accessibility to finance and finance news has always been something I've been really passionate about, especially being a woman. Part of it is coming from a more traditional media background and not a finance background. I think that we're not doing anyone any favors when we gatekeep finance news.
Think Wolf of Wall Street. The men in suits are the ones handling the numbers and transactions, and the women fetch the coffee. If you’re assuming that men and women have the same access to financial jobs and news, think again. The industry has historically prioritized male leadership and job openings, and Kinsey identifies this as “gatekeeping” information from women at large, and it’s clearly rooted in antiquated ideas of women being competent enough to understand and handle financial concepts.
There's no point to [gatekeeping financial news.] The more people know about money and the economy and the stock market, the better off we all are. Expanding that network of people who can understand and can have conversations and be informed about the business and econ worlds, the better.
Churning out several podcast episodes a week as well as a newsletter requires time and an investment in conscious consumerism. When it comes to inspiration and consuming the right content, Kinsey is deliberate, yet spontaneous.
“I'm a bit of a podcast voyeur. I like to sample a little bit of everything. But I don’t want our voice to end up being a carbon copy of anything. And I don't want to be over-influenced. How can I borrow from that in my own work without becoming that person? I definitely look to other media for inspiration, but there's a reason that The Daily is so successful. They figured out something really great and they ran with it and if you can figure out the next something that's really great and run with it, then you do it.”
And there is also an emphasis on diversifying her media consumption to maintain a longevity to her own work:
“Our goal is to create this evergreen content where it's timely and relevant….It will have a shelf life and borrow a little bit from the new Gen Z part of things and a little bit from the evergreen part of things at Morning Brew, to strike a middle ground in between the two of them.”
In terms of producing content, Kinsey emulates Morning Brew’s mission and dynamic ability to transcend platforms. Morning Brew has seen a lot of success on social media platforms like Twitter, a platform that specifically finds avenues to blend financial and business news with humor and light-hearted discourse.
“I would not be where I am without Twitter….Of course, you speak in different ways given the platform. To me, nothing that we put out should feel too stodgy for social media or too intricate to somehow deliver on social. We can call it the content flywheel. We want it to fit everywhere in some way.”
Approachability, then, permeates every layer of Kinsey’s work and the direction that the company takes.
We are big believers that people like people, people don’t like brands.
The tone in audience messaging that is evoked from Business Casual and Morning Brew is friendly, approachable, yet investigative. Kinsey’s uber-social disposition and keenness for conversation is evident through her work, and portrays her passion for people. Working closely with a team of 5 on Business Casual, she claims that liking the people you work with makes the work environment more worth-while and enriches the actual work.
“There’s a lot to be said for just liking somebody outside of them being able to fulfill their responsibilities.”
Especially in the tumultuous year of 2020, liking the people you work with, and interviewing, are essential to finding positivity in the world at large.
“We’ve always aimed to make episodes that felt like our listeners were just overhearing me getting a beer or coffee with a really smart person and asking them a lot of questions. That eavesdropping vibe has always been the goal. Who would you want to hang out with? Whose story would you want to hear and who do you feel like is going to tell you something that you’ve never heard before?”
Kinsey’s work with Business Casual has acquired Morning Brew thousands of more avid readers and listeners. Her 7-days-a-week work ethic and friendly approach to working with others is commonly seen as idealistic characteristics for a podcast host and employee. But earlier in her journey, being the confident and competent woman she is did not always serve her justly.
As a woman, it's really important to be able to communicate your thoughts clearly and concisely, because unfortunately, we have to be able to do so to be taken seriously by the less progressive audience.
For awhile, there were not as many women on the Morning Brew team as there were men, and now we’re much more balanced. But men would never think twice about asking a stupid question in a lot of settings.
Alluding to this gender-oriented effect, Kinsey points out how the expectations for women in her position are drastically different than men.
“As women, we overthink everything. We overanalyze everything. And of course, think before you speak, everybody should, but also: never be afraid to ask a question.”
“As a woman, we have a lot of expectations to meet both in terms of doing our jobs well and meeting the responsibilities that are given to us, but also to look a certain way and sound a certain way, have certain thoughts that men probably wouldn't be expected to think or say, or do. A lot of the negative comments that I get have to do with my appearance or the way that my voice sounds. No one would ever accuse a man of having vocal fry, but for me, it's something I get all the time. It's just the way my voice sounds.”
That unwavering confidence in our ability to be taken seriously on an equal playing field as men is essential in executing your goals and communicating your opinion.
“I've been encouraged by how much the conversation has evolved and become an important part of understanding business. Understanding business is understanding psychology and mental health and mental wellness. I wouldn't say, though, that my mental health has suffered since I stepped into a more public facing position. I have definitely grown a lot in the last year in terms of internalizing that understanding of why I feel the way that I feel and how I can move forward from that. And also understanding the motivations of people who say really mean things. And understanding why trolls are being trolls.”
As naturally emotional beings, Kinsey taps into that ability to own your feelings and feel empowered by them.
From speech and debate growing up, to sweeping all of the Gen Z topics at her first job, to fighting for an equal access to financial news, to hosting and leading one of the top business podcasts in the industry today, Kinsey is a model for envisioning better and more productive communication in our work and everyday lives. Positive communication can come with hiccups of course, with people having differing opinions to those who hate to see women in a seat of power and influence.
Kinsey defies all with her unwavering openness to disagreement and commitment to resolving issues through communication.
“I have been writing and putting out content for three plus years now...If you disagree with me, I want to hear from you. That is how we grow and that’s how I better my questions and write better columns. I try to take every criticism in stride and understand that there’s a reason somebody is writing it. It might not always be a great reason. It might be a sexist reason. It might be that somebody had a shitty day and they want to take it out on me. And you have to understand that. But responding to everybody has always been my motto. It takes just opening that conversation with somebody to resolve issues.”
Just like most modern relationship issues, communication can be the key to resolving and bringing about positive change. Her commitment to this mission always proves true with the future she envisions at Morning Brew:
“Especially for any growing startup, I would put more of a focus on inter-company communications, especially as we’ve gone remote….When we were all in one big open floor plan office, it was really easy to see ideas trickle down and disseminate where they need to go. With remote work of a rapidly growing company that’s going through a lot of changes right now, it’s been a huge challenge.”
As we move into a year that holds a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, Kinsey gives us a beacon we can stand on, no matter the circumstance. From pulling back the curtain on financial and business news, to continuing her quest to push conversation and ask good questions to the enigmatic and innovative leaders of the industry today, we will most definitely see more content that challenges and investigates from our favorite podcast host. Sometimes, the solution is simply pouring a cup of coffee and sitting down to listen.
Dialogue is important to me. People just need to talk to people. We would solve a lot of our problems if we just talk more.