Virginie Bauman (MSc Strategic Marketing 2014) recording a podcast

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Frustrated by the lack of podcasts produced in her home-country to showcase the incredible local talent, Virginie Bauman (MSc Strategic Marketing 2014) took matters in to her own hands. In the summer of 2020 Instant Cactus took to the podcast-airwaves for the first time, featuring Switzerland-based inspiring individuals with remarkable stories to tell.

Website image of alumni business, Instant Cactus

Background

I am a huge fan of podcasts. My favourites are about entrepreneurship and social change, and I follow mostly French, American and British podcasts. About a year ago I realised I was discovering inspiring individuals and fascinating stories, but all from abroad. I thought: ‘hey, there should be equally amazing people in my homeland, right?’. I wanted to listen to people I could relate to and discover projects that would matter locally. So I started digging a bit, but I realised that the podcast landscape in French-speaking Switzerland was not very developed, or at least there wasn't what I was looking for. And that's how Instant Cactus was born, filling the gap of what I wanted to listen too.

Developing a theme

At first I planned to host a podcast with entrepreneurs as guests, to discuss their startups, the successes and failures, etc. But then I crossed path with Taline Bodart, who is a brilliant young woman working in the humanitarian field. Her story is truly inspiring and that’s what led me to broaden the theme to interview individuals with diverse backgrounds, life paths and projects.

The tagline for Instant Cactus became “a podcast that highlights inspiring individuals from French-speaking Switzerland with remarkable projects and life stories”.

One of the standout episodes I am most proud of was with Celine van Till. Her story is very humbling. Celine is my age and had a terrible accident when she was 17, one that changed her life forever. While training for a horseriding competition, she was thrown off the horse, causing a massive head injury. Partially tetraplegic and visually impaired, she had to re-learn everything. Not only did she ride a horse again (she participated to Rio 2016 Paralympic Games) but she re-learnt how to run and became a sprinter, taking part in many competitions. She says “anything is possible” and I believe her, her story is a miracle.

To date, I have produced 33 episodes, with more than 7,000 listens.

Reflections on lessons learned

This has been an amazing journey so far. I think the key lesson I have taken from this process is that whatever you want to do, just go for it. It makes no sense to wait for the right time to start something new; we will never be 100% ready anyway. So start, go ahead, even if you feel uncertain, unprepared or unqualified. Trust your gut. If you wait too long someone else will do it first, and you will regret it forever.

Another great learning is that curiosity is everything. This is how you grow as a person and this is how you innovate as an entrepreneur. I have always been curious, but being in touch with so many fascinating people through the podcast has further boosted that personality trait. Learning and being challenged keep my mind going, and that in turn helps me generate fresh ideas and make new connections that are highly relevant to my projects.

This has been an amazing journey so far. I think the key lesson I have taken from this process is that whatever you want to do, just go for it.

In parallel to Instant Cactus I had the chance to become a host for another podcast, developed by a Swiss-based association for female entrepreneurs called Genuine Women. The mission of the “Genuine Podcast” is to share insights and advice related to the entrepreneurial journey, while giving visibility to network members. This is a great opportunity to hear from like-minded entrepreneurs who are currently building or growing their businesses.

I love crafting my own career, and hope in the future I will be a successful entrepreneur. I picture myself developing a couple of business ideas, making them grow and turning them into profitable ventures. Let’s see what the future holds.

Your Imperial days

I have a lot fond memories of my time at Imperial. I remember the first day of my Master’s degree and the adrenaline rushing; we were all like “This is it. This starts now”. Our daily walk through Kensington Gardens. Our first time at Imperial College Union Bar. The time spent brainstorming with my work group at the Business School. I could go on and on.

Attending Imperial was one of the best life choices I made. Not only did it make me more skilled and confident (both as a marketer and as a person), but it also opened doors I wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. It taught me there is no limit to what we can accomplish – as long as we think we can. This mindset is not so ingrained in the Swiss culture, so maybe I wouldn’t have launched Instant Cactus if I hadn’t been a student at Imperial.

Group of classmates outside the Business School Virginie with some of her fellow students

I still have close friends from my time at the Business School. From Barcelona to Hong Kong, Paris, Boston… they are located all around the world. The bond we created is strong and these friendships are very important to me. Beyond the actual friendship, I know I can reach out to discuss business-related issues and they will always be supportive and share some good advice –  and perhaps even collaborate together on future projects!

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