Dowagiac woman launches podcast highlighting women in media, entertainment, technology

Published 2:57 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

DOWAGIAC — A Dowagiac woman with more than 25 years of experience in media, entertainment and technology is using her voice and platform to highlight women in those industries.

Zena Burns, a Senior Vice President of Content and Special Projects at Futuri Media, recently launched her new podcast “My 23-Year-Old Self: True Stories From the Come Up”, a bi-weekly podcast featuring women in media, entertainment and technology talking about the advice they’d give their younger selves when they started out. 

“I’ve always been passionate about the concept that no one gets to where they are on their own,” she said. “Whether it’s family, friends, colleagues, bosses, I’ve always been very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are willing and able to share their wisdom.”

Burns rose through the ranks to become a prominent name in media and entertainment, including stops as Entertainment Director at Teen People and Senior Vice President of Programming Partnerships at iHeartMedia. From Prince to the Backstreet Boys and many more, Burns has been able to share stories and ideas with some of the biggest names in the industry. For Burns, the podcast was created to help encourage and inspire the next generation of women in media, entertainment and technology.

“These are industries that have historically been very male-dominated,” she said. “Women have made great strides over the years but these industries still have a way to go. I wanted to have an outlet for successful women in these industries to share their stories about their come-up and what they would tell their younger selves so that younger women could learn from those stories. Even if you aren’t in these industries, you’ll get something out of these conversations.”

To date, Burns has released two podcast episodes, the first featuring Radio Hall of Fame inductee Ellen K. The second episode, a conversation with National Association of Broadcasters executive April Carty-Sipp, was recorded live in Las Vegas at the NAB Convention.

She said what she has enjoyed most about creating the podcast is the feedback from listeners.

“From the time I published a teaser trailer late last year, I’ve been lucky to get a tremendous amount of feedback from people who say this is a concept that is really needed,” she said. “To get feedback that content is meaningful to people is by far my favorite part about the process because that is the reason I created the podcast.”

Burns has also enjoyed having the opportunity to speak to women about their experiences in the MET industries.  

“Some of them are personal friends. Some of them I’ve gotten to know through the podcast process,” she said. “When you ask them to take time to think about what you would tell your younger self to make your path easier, it really opens up a lot of stories they may not have thought about and opens up a lot of passion for wanting to help other people learn from their mistakes. It has led to engaging discussions that I love being a part of.”

While Burns has learned much from the conversations she has with guests, the podcast process has also taught her things about herself.

“I have learned that I should not be so hard on myself when I make a mistake,” she said. “I don’t need to beat myself up over everything. It really helped remind me that if you’re human, you’re making mistakes. There’s no growth without making mistakes.”

Burns is the co-owner of the popular Dowagiac short-term vacation rental 1870 House and a founder of the Stay Dowagiac Collective, a coalition of property owners with the goal of providing unique capabilities and elevated experiences while helping guests explore what Dowagiac has to offer.

She encourages those thinking about creating a podcast of their own to take the plunge.

“Just do it,” she said. “There’s never going to be a perfect time. You don’t need a lot of high-end equipment to do this. There’s no time like the present. There is such an incredible group of people in Dowagiac and there is so much talent in this town that I would love to see more podcasts coming out of the area.”

“My 23-Year-Old Self” can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio or wherever podcasts are available.