Soulard Podcaster on Passion, Place and Purpose

Marcus Boston is a Black Business Entrepreneur in St. Louis who is building a podcasting network from Soulard. His first show Cognac Corner is hosted in a bar, where he chats live with guests about love, sex and relationships while sipping cognac.

Marcus Boston is a Black Entrepreneur in St. Louis who is building Always Forward Media (AFM), a podcasting network from Soulard that is helping people become podcasters. His first show Cognac Corner is hosted in a bar, where he chats live with guests about love, sex and relationships while sipping cognac. 

Marcus’ vision is that podcasting holds the creative potential today as was unleashed when Hip Hop first exploded in popularity in the late 80s. His goal is to become the Def Jam records of podcasting and, uniquely, use the medium to give voice to “the streets” and take it out of it’s pure digital quality and confer a sense of reality. 

To me this sounds a lot like what the Humans of St. Louis did with digital photography for the Instagram generation and it also reminds me of neighborhood storytelling projects like Smoke City and the Unheard of STL. I can easily imagine an audio compendium that brings hyper local stories even closer to us.

Thanks to Marcus for letting me interview him for EQ and get his perspective on St. Louis and as #STLmade would say, what makes it a place to “start up, stand out and stay.”

Your Passion

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Curiosity for human nature. I have been given the grace of time and perspective to see what and who deserves my precious energy. 

The love/hate relationships I have with humans fuels me to show that there is more than one way to live an impactful life. It’s the opportunity to be an example to others that gets me out of bed.

What keeps you up at night?

Who will I lose the more I focus on being impactful to more people? Not everyone that started with me on this path will be there once the destination is reached. 

I can’t be naïve enough to think all my friends and family will be with me when I really reach my potential. A lot of people want you to do good, just not better than them. 

So, who are those people in my life? I have seen many people make choices that were best for them and their goals. 

The people they look to for support can’t see the vision, so they lose sight of the valuable relationship. Losing people while gaining the world worries me the most on this journey.

What’s one thing you’d love to learn and why?

What I would love to learn is does compassionate capitalism work to lessen the cost on humanity? I feel compassionate capitalism is the only way to make money and lift up humanity. 

Compassionate capitalism in my version is a vocation that creates the ability to obtain success within the confines of capitalism but reduces the human cost to get there. Side effect or consequence of capitalism has been the cost to humanity by ignoring the value of compassion and empathy to make more dollars. 

Often success means putting money before humans. I feel there must be a better way.

What can people find you doing when you’re not in “work-mode”?

When I’m not in work mode, I’m checking in on my tribe. I believe we get further together than we will ever get alone, so I like to check on my friends during my time not thinking about AFM. 

I like to have social cocktails at my places of comfort in Soulard and throw some darts to keep a competitive edge. After checking on the team, I like to read nonfiction books like The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Green or watching historical documentaries on YouTube or another DSP. 

Engaging with humans depletes my social battery over a day’s work so, to recharge, I invest in understanding how and what factors play into people being what they are.

What places would you recommend newcomers to the St. Louis startup ecosystem and innovation scene should go and explore?

I would say the neighborhood of Soulard is a great place to meet diverse people and find great eating establishments.

Your Purpose

How did you first get involved in the local startup community? Were you involved in other entrepreneurial communities before this one?

When it comes to being in the podcasting community of St. Louis, once we started recording and enjoying the process of the work, we went to look for more creatives like us. When we started podding, we had no idea that the community was simmering but wasn’t quite cooking yet. 

Before I got in the podcasting community, I worked side by side with my close friend Sebastian on some startup companies that didn’t pan out, but it gave me a taste of being a confident creative. It was working on building the content company which opened the door for the idea for my own content imprint.

Would you consider yourself a startup entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur means knowing or having an idea of what your purpose is and being open to do the work to reach the vision fueled by that purpose. It took me a long time to find the words to match my feeling of “I’m here to do something bigger than myself.”

I was never sure what it was growing up or as I entered adulthood, but I knew if I was given enough grace of time and didn’t fall for the traps of society then maybe the spark will happen. Lucky for me, it did. 

Being entrepreneur is a selfless and selfish pursuit of happiness. As much as we work for the betterment of the community, we also enjoy seeing the impact of our labor. 

There is a high level of peace when giving back to humanity…I think that’s the lasting impact entrepreneurs can have.

Name three qualities of character that you feel really make a difference in business:

Compassion, flexible communication style and hunger. Compassion in business means to be prepared to embrace your client or partner’s path to the moment being shared between you.

Everyone’s path to achieving their goals is different and valuable. Being able to appreciate and find value in their hard work and ability to overcome challenges to arrive at the point of being able to work together is epic. 

Everyone is fighting a battle that no one knows about. So leading with the idea of ‘wanting to understand more’ than simply ‘looking to reply’ is a level of compassion that builds bridges  between people, which might lead to a higher ROI than just looking to make a profit.

Everyone doesn’t always know the words to express how they feel or how they see the world. Being able to listen and interpret all levels of communication allows for more opportunities to enter rooms and build bridges because the attempted message is being understood. 

People come from different walks of life that shapes people’s communication style and that should not be a barrier to success. What is accepted in one environment or culture might be misunderstood by another but the delivery of the message shouldn’t cancel out the value of the message. 

We don’t know what we don’t know till someone helps us understand. There is a time and place for everything but we all need to be flexible with our methods but committed to our goals.

Hunger for life and growth is a must in business and life. We can never know everything or meet everyone but we should stay hungry to want to. 

“Hunger” in business is the value of always looking to do more and wanting to give more to the communities we are looking to impact. Hunger leads to growth and without growth in thoughts and actions there is no progress. 

Once we allow ourselves to become comfortable in our success or situation then we quit pushing the boundaries and developing into the person we need to be for the next phase of our human growth. Staying hungry keeps your mind, body and soul growing.

Who are your local role models in the St. Louis startup innovation community?

My local would be my friend Sebastian because he has done it and is doing it again. Sebastian has been up and been down but the goal of abundance for black people has never changed. 

His personal and professional growth is what I most admire. Most of my friends are at peace with the expected roles of life in St. Louis but thank god for a friend like Sebastian.

Who do you think are the hidden heroes of St. Louis?

The list of hidden heroes is so many since I’ve been into podcasting and met so many people on this journey. 

Deonne Moore is one, she is a local artist and mother of three. The way she creates, and uplifts is a breath of fresh air. Deonne is just pure amazing with her ability to turn anyone into a piece of art for a museum. 

Celeste Greyer owns the true trifecta brand and is also an amazing artist. I love what she does too. How she gives back to her community in all the creative ways she can. 

Dwayne Perry is an entrepreneur that does so much for people, and no one knows how impactful he is. Dwayne is launching a consumer product soon and the streets is going to love it.

Your Place

What put St. Louis on your map as a place to expand to?

St. Louis is home for me but with the given grace of not having many bad experiences while living here, I don’t hold a grudge against it. Some people that are born in St. Louis have growing pains or negative experiences and never give the full offering of St. Louis a chance. 

I was blessed to stay out of the way of most danger and was able to find my environment to grow and develop in. I feel St. Louis is as good or as bad as you want it to be but again, I’m speaking from a position of privilege. 

I believe in winning home first while knowing your worth in it and beyond it. I like the diversity of Soulard where I mostly spend my time and that environment has added to my commitment to being and living a diverse life.

Can you describe the moment you decided to really commit to what you’re doing now?

I decided this was my vocation when it gave me peace plus an identity that I control. I knew I was meant to do more than what I was doing with the mundane working and foolishness. 

My goal when I was entering adulthood was to not fall for the traps of life, so that “what is for me, will find me”; and that was podcasting.

What are the problems, issues or opportunities that you’re addressing?

The problem now is how to reach more people in an organic and consistent way. Also figuring the true value of what I have created and how to bring in financial resources so we can scale up. 

I am fortunate to have a dope team of hungry and talented creatives around to push the dreams forward. Long term goal is to build this content company with the idea of compassionate capitalism as the north star of success. 

The issues I’m conquering is establishing a podcast network and not just a show for self-indulgence. From day one I wanted to build a podcast family and create a standard for how podcasts should be done. 

In my view, podcasts are in the same lane as the start of hip hop. Podcasting now is like hip hop in late 80s and early 90s those with the biggest vision become legendary. 

We can always do more together than ever apart, so my individual show is cool but being able to offer options is better. Starting a podcast network is starting to feel like early Def Jam and that is what keeps it all exciting. 

The opportunities I’m addressing is a reimagining of podcasting. Most of the interpretation of podcasting I have seen has a heavy digital focus and no interest in getting in the streets to touch the people. 

I feel both can be done in a successful and profitable way. There is known value in youtube/streaming numbers but there is soon to be proven value in doing live podcast shows at a bar with better audiences than the local djs or band.

Where do you see it going in the next five years?

The startup community needs to be more known amongst the POC (people of color) community. I know there are a lot of people of color that have no idea of the resources that are available to their growth. 

They don’t have to run out to Cali or Indy to get into tech. The startup leadership in St. Louis should do more to connect to the culture that will eventually be the consumer base they will need to strive.