By Becky Yerak
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Suzanne Muchin, one of the principals of branding/marketing firm Mind + Matter Studio. She also does a weekly 10-minute business segment on WGN and is on the board of 1871, the Chicago Children’s Museum and fabric-maker Piece & Co., and is a limited partner in MATH Venture Partners.
Suzanne Muchin, a marathon runner, parent of five, mentor, careerlong entrepreneur and branding consultant whose client roster has included billionaires and a Nobel laureate, has something new to add to her resume.
Her podcast, “The Big Payoff,” has formed a partnership with DailyWorth, a Philadelphia-based subscription email with more than a million daily subscribers. “The Big Payoff,” which Muchin produces with longtime business partner Rachel Bellow, is creating a monthly show for the women’s guide to money, career and business.
Muchin already does a “Big Payoff” podcast every other week that’s hosted on Acast, a major podcast network, and recorded in New York and in Chicago, at WBEZ. One of the show’s most recent guests was Daymond John, founder and CEO of Fubu and one of the investors on TV’s “Shark Tank.”
Muchin grew up in Highland Park. Her dad is labor lawyer Arthur Muchin, whose clients have included the Chicago White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks, and her uncle helped found the Katten Muchin law firm.
Her day job is being one of the principals of branding and marketing firm Mind + Matter Studio. She also does a weekly 10-minute business segment on WGN and is on the board of 1871, the Chicago Children’s Museum and fabric-maker Piece & Co., and is a limited partner in MATH Venture Partners.
Muchin, 48, ran the Chicago Half Marathon last month and later this month will run the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K. She has run the Chicago Marathon nine times, with her best time being 4 hours 2 minutes, but is sitting it out this year.
She sat down with the Tribune to discuss some of her work and activities. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How did you develop the skills to be on the radio and do podcasts?
A: We were so bad early on that when we took callers, they’d hang up on us. Rachel and I, because we’re best friends and business partners, have a way of talking to each other in shorthand. That might play well if we were just in a room, but when you’re talking to thousands of people …
We had a training coach, Hank Norman, who said to us, “You two need to, first, take the gloves off with each other.” We were protecting each other too much. Good radio is more raw. He said, “The second thing you need to do is … face the listeners and essentially say, ‘We’re talking to you.'” One day, we started doing that, and people started calling in.
We’d listen back to every show. Hank Norman was often in the studio with us. I cried a lot. It was hard to hear feedback. I cried because I was frustrated that I couldn’t make the change. I’m good at speaking. I thought radio would be easy. It’s not.
Q: What tips would you give people who think they want to run a marathon?
A: If you can run 5 miles, you can run a marathon. You have to train. I keep an identity chip on my shoe that you can buy. It’s like a tag that has your emergency contact information. You can put a quote on the back of it. Nobody ever sees it, but the quote that I put on it is, “There are no shortcuts.”
Q: What’s your most-valued skill as a mentor for startups at 1871?
A: Helping them tell their story. The interesting thing about my role relative to the rest of the tech community is I won’t be helpful with, say, their coding. What I’m good at is the thing most of them are weakest at, which is, “How do we communicate our story to investors, internally to our team, in a way that people will pay attention, they’ll understand what we’re talking about, they’ll want to be a part of it.”
Q: What is your favorite tool in staying super organized?
A: I’m using EasilyDo. In one place it’s your hotel and flight reservations, any emails that you have not answered that seem to require an answer. I’m still addicted to my inbox, meaning when I need to remember something, I write myself an email because that, all day long, is what I scroll through.
Q: What has been your most rewarding project?
A: (Hyatt billionaire) J.B. Pritzker is funding a Nobel laureate at the University of Chicago. James Heckman had uncovered data, through his research, showing that there was a 7 percent to 10 percent return on investment to society when children, particularly disadvantaged children, were put in quality early childhood programs. That return came in the form of higher graduation rates (and better) health outcomes (and lower) incarceration rates and teen pregnancy. J.B. hired us through his foundation.
We created a brand called The Heckman Equation. It’s HeckmanEquation.org. It contains all of Professor Heckman’s research, but translated into easily accessed and understandable tools: videos, Instagram pictures, slides. Anything you would ever need if you were an advocate for early childhood programs. It’s now nine years in, and we’re still doing the work. It has changed the narrative around why investing in early childhood in America matters.
Q: Any other notable clients?
A: (Philanthropist) Susan Crown has been a client. She launched what is now the Susan Crown Exchange, which we helped her name and think through. Matter, MHub, Killerspin, the Muhammad Ali Center, the University of Chicago, UI Labs and New York’s Culture Shed have been clients.
Q: You once did a blog post saying, “Stop the ice bucket challenge.” Do you still feel that way?
A: I would say it all over again. I hated it as someone who has spent my time trying to convey why things matter to a mass group of people. At the end of the day, you don’t do that through memes or hashtags, or videos that, ultimately, if you asked the person what ALS was, they had no idea.
Q: You said on a podcast that your life goal is to be on “Survivor.”
A: I’m in a fantasy league with my son, and Amanda Lannert (CEO) at Jellyvision and her daughters, a rabbi, and our very good friend and her son.
I said to Daymond John — because (“Survivor” producer) Mark Burnett is producer of “Shark Tank” — now that my last child at home is a teenager, I can see myself being able to film for the 40 days.
Q: You said in a podcast that you wear high heels virtually every day until you go to bed. Why?
A: I’m 5-foot-1 on a good day. Somehow, when I put on heels, I feel that I’m in a conversation at a different eye level that makes me feel more confident.