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Maine woman launches podcast that's now being streamed around the world

Kristan Vermeulen launched her podcast at the start of the pandemic. It started as 'Makers of Maine' and has quickly grown into 'Makers of the USA'.

NORTH YARMOUTH, Maine — When Kristan Vermeulen lost all of her clients as a publicist at the start of the pandemic, she knew it was time to take a beat and figure out what her next steps would be.

She had just given birth to her son and was working to manage postpartum depression.

Those next steps would lead to the creation of the "Makers of Maine" podcast, which dives into the stories of our state's small business owners and their products. 

Each episode features a different maker or small-business owner, their products and, most importantly, tells their story. Vermeulen said storytelling aspect has become a huge part of her identity.

"When you’re thinking about buying local, I say go and visit these makers, go visit their studios, hear their stories and see the products," Vermeulen said. "The last step is to buy their products, but get to know them and their craft and who they are."

Since its launch, the podcast has grown immensely. She has interviewed dozens of creators around Maine and, now, the entire country. Vermeulen has since switched the name of the podcast to "Makers of the USA" and has broadened her focus. 

The idea for the switch came after Vermeulen was able to land an interview with a maker and small business owner based in Washington state. 

"He's a chef knife maker, but what's interesting about him is that he etches story lines into chef knives. It’s amazing. And prior to this he was a clown," Vermeulen said. "It's just amazing to kind of hear these stories. I was like, 'You know what? There is so much make and craft here in the country.' So I was like, 'OK, if he agrees to do this interview, that's when I'll expand the United States to makers of the USA.'"

The idea for the podcast has taken off and has even been featured on "Good Morning America." She said it was a big moment for her because she didn't think anyone would be too interested in the idea. 

"I think what was of interest to folks was getting to know me as an entrepreneur and being a mom. I just had my second kid at the time, going through postpartum depression, finding me again, self-identity, it was a big deal for me," Vermeulen said. "I was able to do that and find myself through this podcast."

The podcast, which first aired in 2020, has more than 300,000 downloads. Not too shabby for a pandemic project that she literally launched out of her bedroom closet. 

"When I look at the geographic of where those people are listening from, it's not just in the United States. It's in Europe, it's in Japan," Vermeulen said. "I've seen so many different people just from looking at the data. I'm like, 'Wow, people really like learning about the makers over here in our country.' I'm really, really blessed, because these makers really help tell the story of our culture and our lifestyle here."

Her experience on "Good Morning America" and other national television shows opened her eyes to how big the makers movement was across the country. 

So, what goes into making a podcast episode anyway? Vermeulen said it starts with research.

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"Research is definitely key, but then also pre-production," Vermeulen said. "It's just going through the motions of making sure you have the questions all outlined, so making sure that the logistics are lined up there. It’s a lot of work, but I would say the editing process is probably my biggest nightmare."

"At the start of it I did all my editing. All of it. I didn't have an audio engineer. I did everything through the software on my MacBook called GarageBand, and I just went and did every little detail. Everything wasn't perfect. You would have to go back to my first episode and listen to the newest one; it's way different," Vermeulen said. "So the editing, you know, it took a while to learn, but I had some great friends along the way to help me."

Now Vermeulen says there’s even a TV series in the works. In the meantime, her goal is to continue telling great stories while inspiring people to learn more about the small businesses in their communities and the people whose ideas keep them running.

As for any tips to share with others who may be thinking about starting their own podcast, Vermeulen says it's crucial to have a plan.

"My podcast isn't just a podcast anymore; it's a media outlet. It's a website, it's a social media component, it's got video, it's got photos of everything. But in order to make it successful, I had to do that, because it's make and craft. People have to see the people behind the product and see the studios and see how things are just brought to life," Vermeulen said. "I think if I didn't have a plan I wouldn't be where I am today. I set goals, I set milestones, I set a whole action plan but my ultimate dream, and part of that plan is to take this podcast and build it into a television show. So I'm hoping, fingers crossed, everything pans out. But I would say, yes, build a plan. That is my key feedback."

Vermeulen is holding a makers event later this month aboard the Victory Chimes Schooner. For more information on the cruise and her podcast, click here.

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