“If not me, who? If not now, when?” After meeting multiple women running for the US House of Representatives elections last November, Jenny Kaplan, CEO and co-founder of Wonder Media Network (WMN), heard this question repeatedly in one form or another. As she told Glamour, it became increasingly clear that “the arc of the universe may bend toward justice, but we’re going to have to push it.”
In fact, it was just this mindset that drove her mom to run for US Congress during the 2018 midterm elections, which in turn inspired Kaplan to quit her job at Bloomberg News as an award-winning journalist to pursue her own company. Kaplan continues to be inspired by countless women she meets through her audio-first media company, which tells stories of women and promotes women in politics.
WMN prides itself in presenting “stories we seldom hear and the perspectives we often miss.” Listening to WMN’s podcast episodes, it’s clear that the women on the show are approachable, down-to-earth and reaching for higher goals. Each episode, under an hour long, seem personal.
The podcast series that launched it all, “Women Belong in the House,” has a 4.7-stars rating on Apple Podcasts, is free and on demand. Exploring why there are so few women in office and interviewing women who were brave enough to step up to the system, the series successfully intrigued listeners who were interested in women, politics or both. Since then, WMN has expanded into “Web of WMN” and “The Brown Girls Guide to Politics” series, still centered around hustling women and the realm of politics.
Kaplan’s fluency in storytelling and the media comes from her background at Bloomberg. From being on the stocks team to covering beverages, tobacco and cannabis, Kaplan has leveraged her wide exposure to concentrate on starting and growing WMN.
Stern Oppy: Thank you for your time Jenny, we’re so excited to speak with you! We read your fantastic piece on Bustle: “How My Mom’s Run for Congress Made Me Rethink Everything.” Who else, driving change in politics and elsewhere, inspire you?
Jenny Kaplan: I feel inspired by the incredible women in elected office and also by regular women who are stepping up to enact change in their local communities. There is incredible power in using our voices — whether we’re on a national stage or around a dinner table with friends.
Stern Oppy: Did you have prior experience in podcasts? What drew you away from the paper (writing) to the mic (hosting)?
Jenny Kaplan: Yes, I pitched, developed and co-hosted Bloomberg’s “Material World” podcast while I was a reporter there. That’s where I first learned that I really loved working in the medium. I will always love writing but listening to people tell their story using their voices adds texture and nuance that are impossible on the page.
Stern Oppy: “Women Belong in the House” and “Web of WMN” have been both very successful series as well as the more recent “The Brown Girls Guide to Politics.” In this journey, what has been your biggest accomplishment?
Jenny Kaplan: I love all of our original and white-labeled shows. That said, I think my biggest accomplishment was just going for it, deciding to start the company and then doing it. I’m pleasantly shocked by what my co-founder and I have been able to build in less than a year.
Stern Oppy: Besides hosting, what are some of the key responsibilities as CEO of WMN? What has been the biggest challenge in this leadership position?
Jenny Kaplan: We are a very early stage startup, so the responsibilities of each position don’t fall neatly into a normal job description. It’s all hands on deck, so I’ve done everything from editing audio to writing contracts to building financial models. The biggest challenge is scaling. It’s impossible to keep up the sprint forever, so we need to find great people to hire and work with. There’s so much to do and not enough time.
Stern Oppy: Could you tell us about one of your key milestones for this year? Whether it’s personal or for WMN?
Jenny Kaplan: We’re launching a daily show in June. I’m obsessed with the content. It’s a five-minute show about different women from throughout history who you may or may not know — but definitely should [know]. I can’t wait to share more very soon! If you’re interested in hearing more, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stern Oppy: A daily show — it seems like you’re about to get even busier! What a challenge. Having made a brave career shift yourself, what advice do you have for Stern women who are looking to take their careers to a higher level?
Jenny Kaplan: Figure out what your story is and how to tell it. Storytelling is the way we connect as human beings and it’s the best way to seek and give support.
Stern Oppy: Thanks Jenny! We look forward to hearing more inspiring stories about women from WMN.
Find all WMN series on Apple Podcasts. Follow Kaplan through the Quartz app where she is a Quartz Pro, designated for industry leaders who share what news they’re reading and commenting about.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Wonder Media Network