Arlington Heights man tells suburban businesses' stories through podcast
It was a hot Thursday morning when Steven Weirich recorded the 88th episode of his "Arlington-Prospect Advice Givers" podcast inside an Arlington Heights frozen yogurt shop called Berry Yo.
Fumbling with cords and moving recording equipment, Weirich prepared to interview Berry Yo's owner, Sheila Henneman.
"We're going to Facebook Live the first two minutes of our conversation," he explained. "And this episode will come out right before Arlington Heights' Mane Event, to bump up Sheila's business."
While there's some entertainment and educational value to the productions, Weirich's podcasts are mostly about letting local businesses tell their stories.
The three-year-old media platform highlights local business owners and entrepreneurs. New episodes are posted a few times a month on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or his website, arlington-prospect.localadvicegivers.com.
Weirich, a 42-year-old Arlington Heights resident, said he doesn't believe in traditional advertising for neighborhood and family-owned businesses. Instead, giving entrepreneurs a platform to share stories makes their businesses more customer-friendly, he said.
He often tells his own story that started on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, where he traded 30-year Treasury bonds. Things soured when the industry began trading electronically.
"I lost everything," he said, "I kind of lost my drive and focus for a good six years."
A moment of clarity put Weirich back on track. He obtained his real estate license, and soon found a group of people online who use storytelling to sell real estate. The concept stuck.
Through storytelling, he said his real estate business has grown significantly -- much more than when he used a traditional sales pitch, he said.
Arlington-Prospect Advice Givers was born out of an interest in hearing business owners' stories about their struggles and successes.
"The way I make money is through the real estate business. But the way I make connections and create relationships is through the advice-givers platform," he said.
His podcast is reflective of the struggles his guests often experience in starting their businesses.
"In the beginning, I was cold-calling people to come on," Weirich said.
Now, most of his guests come on to the podcast as referrals or have reached out to him, he said.
Through the podcasts, Weirich said he has amassed a Rolodex of business contacts that he uses to further his network and help peers.
Recently, Weirich helped three high school girls who created Skunk Aid sell their de-skunking kits in Bentley's Pet Stuff.
Weirich is a storytelling coach and mentor for the girls' Buffalo Grove High School entrepreneurship course and had previously interviewed Bentley's CEO and Founder Lisa Senafe for his podcast. He saw the connection and coordinated a meeting.
"The show is bringing local business owners and community leaders together," he said.
Woodcrafters Do It Yourself Studio owner Jim Bolash was Arlington-Prospect Advice Givers' 54th guest. The podcast connected him and his neighbors, he said.
"If nothing else, it gave our name some more traction in the neighborhood. I don't know if we got business correlated to it, but he's got a nice following in the neighborhood," Bolash said.
The podcast also highlights how local business owners give back to the community. Henneman used much of her podcast time to talk about Berry Yo's community service.
"Every Memorial Day for the past six years, every soldier eats yogurt for free. We also help fundraise for schools and churches in the area," she said.
The end goal of the podcast? To create an army of storytellers who can impact their neighborhoods.
Weirich hopes his podcast will be self-sustaining media company in the coming years, although doesn't have a definite estimate.
"There's a whole charity-like foundation that I'll be co-founding with people that I work with around the country," he said. "Eventually, we'll have a group of storytellers who can really create an impact in their communities."