Building sisterhood: Why an ex-LA resident is launching a podcast about Fort Wayne women

When Stephanie Gottesman tells people she chose to move from Los Angeles to Fort Wayne, she often gets a befuddled response.

Why? They ask.

But to Gottesman, the answer is simple. Beyond falling in love with Fort Wayne, she discovered how much the city could save her in money and time. Gottesman, left, and Traci Henning-Kolberg, right.

The income she once funneled into rent on a small apartment with five other women in L.A. is now more than enough to cover her three-bedroom house in Fort Wayne with her husband. And the time she spent stuck in traffic on the freeway is now freed up for personal projects.

The latest project she is working on is a way to “give back” to her new hometown.

Running her own business as a brand consultant, Gottesman works with entrepreneurs to help them refine their visions and market their work. It was by talking with entrepreneurial women in Fort Wayne that she discovered a gap in the city’s creative outlets.

“So many women here are working on projects, and what I keep hearing from these women is that they don’t know how to get the word out about their projects,” Gottesman says. “I thought, ‘Wait a second: What if I did something about that?’”

"Women Are: Fort Wayne" is a podcast designed to bring diverse groups of women together around big-picture issues.

So in the spring of 2019, she teamed up with her friend, Traci Henning-Kolberg, to launch a podcast called “Women Are: Fort Wayne.” The idea is to provide a weekly outlet for local women to discuss all facets of life in an open and interesting way, and to give Fort Wayne women the chance to speak out about their creative pursuits and ideas.

“Do you ever wish you had a community of women connecting you to all of the amazing things happening here in Fort Wayne, Indiana?” the trailer begins. “‘Welcome to Women Are: Fort Wayne,’ a local podcast about the big picture issues we all face as women.”

While the podcast is based in Fort Wayne, Gottesman envisions it as having a broader reach, putting local women on the national stage, too. After all, when she moved to Fort Wayne herself about three years ago, she was surprised how much was happening in this city compared to other well-known places she’s visited.

It’s time to put Fort Wayne women on the map, she thought.

“I was looking at Austin, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon,” Gottesman says. “Then I came and visited Fort Wayne, and I was entirely charmed by how much is happening here. As someone who works with entrepreneurs, I was excited by what struck me as a very up-and-coming place.”

Murals in downtown Fort Wayne's alleys by Art This Way give the city an up-and-coming vibe.

As an avid podcast listener, Henning-Kolberg was inspired by the idea, as well. She already runs a student podcast at Purdue University Fort Wayne called “Byte Sized History,” so launching a second podcast about Fort Wayne women became the natural course of action for the pair.

So far, they’ve published four episodes of “Women Are: Fort Wayne” with Gottesman as the host and Henning-Kolberg as the editor behind-the-scenes. While Gottesman has never hosted a podcast before, her background in theatre, branding, and yoga instructing make her a natural for the job.

“I’m not afraid of public speaking, and I love having conversations with people,” she says. “It’s taking all of these skills I have and combining them in a way that’s really fun.”

Gottesman records an episode of "Women Are: Fort Wayne" with SilverBirch Studios.

To prepare local women for the recorded interviews, Gottesman meets with each woman for coffee first to learn more about her work and help her draw out her story. She’s hoping to feature 10-episode seasons of 50-to-80-minute podcasts each, which will include interviews, music by local female artists, and a time for women to call in to share some love with the important ladies in their lives.

Since the podcast launched its first three episodes on June 21st, it’s been taking off.

“It has snowballed faster than any project I’ve ever worked on,” Gottesman says.

While Henning-Kolberg had some equipment to help them get started, the women received additional support from the Fort Wayne community. In May, they won $636 worth of startup funds from the organization Fort Wayne SOUP, allowing them to get an official website and podcast hosting platform. They also used the funds to purchase professional sound recording equipment, which will allow them to host podcasts onsite at events and offices around town. Artist Alex Hall speaks on the first "Women Are: Fort Wayne" podcast.

They received another boost of support from Gottesman’s friends, local musicians Steve Tyler and Mimi Burns, who are building a new state-of-the-art recording studio in Fort Wayne called Silverbirch Studios.

Gottesman says the studios will eventually help budding musicians and artists record their work so they can share their talents with the world. In the meantime, she and Henning-Kolberg are hosting their show out of a recording studio in the couple’s home.

“They have some amazing equipment, and it will eventually go into the larger space when they build it later this year,” she explains.

The first local women featured in “Women Are: Fort Wayne” include Alex Hall speaking on public art, Andie Hines on support for entrepreneurs, Nicki Meier on genderqueer feminist issues and building a culture of nonviolence, and Vyju Kadambi on teaching Montessori and positive discipline.

Gottesman says she wants to cover a wide range of topics in the podcast—from entrepreneurship to motherhood and women’s rights—allowing each episode to take on a life of its own, so it reaches different types of listeners.

“I don’t want it to be formulaic,” she says. “I want it to be conversational and broad. That’s why the concept is simply ‘Women Are…’.”

Her ultimate goal is to garner listeners from different walks of life, so she can host events in Fort Wayne that bring diverse groups of women together to learn from one another and grow in sisterhood. The Fort Wayne band "Rosalind & The Way" was featured on the first "Women Are: Fort Wayne podcast.

“My hope is that, over time, this starts to break down the walls of echo chambers, so more pockets of our community have connection,” she explains.

While the culture of Los Angeles may seem vastly different from the Midwest, something Gottesman has discovered in her travels is that women across the country are often wrestling with similar issues. Topics like how to maintain mindfulness in stressful situations, grapple with the intricacies of intersectional feminism, and judge how much time to devote to careers and loved ones cross cultural divides.

She wants to give women a safe place to come together around these topics.

“My hope is that this helps people feel less alone,” she says. “I hope there’s something relatable about each of these women’s stories that helps people realize we’re really more the same than we are different—even if we’re doing different things with our lives.”

Learn more

Catch the first episodes of “Women Are: Fort Wayne” at womenare.us. New episodes are released on Mondays. Subscribe to listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram at @womenarefortwayne. For more information, email [email protected]

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native, passionate about the future of her hometown and other up-and-coming places across the country. As Managing Editor of Input Fort Wayne, she enjoys writing about interesting people and ideas in northeast Indiana. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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