Story In A Bottle Podcast

About the Guest(s):

Polly Rodriguez is the co-founder and CEO of Unbound, a groundbreaking sexual wellness company that focuses on the design and manufacturing of vibrators, lubricants, and accessories. An advocate for women’s health and empowerment, Rodriguez’s entry into the sexual wellness industry was fueled by her personal experience of being diagnosed with cancer in college and facing early menopause. Following stints in governmental policy work with Senator Claire McCaskill and consulting at Deloitte, her journey led her to the startup realm with Grouper before spearheading her own venture. Under her direction, Unbound has committed to removing stigma and delivering quality products while championing female sexual health and education.

Episode Summary:

In this engaging episode of Story in a Bottle, host Dan Maccarone sits down with a driving force in the tech, media, and entertainment industry—Polly Rodriguez, the co-founder of Unbound. Over an old fashioned, Polly shares her journey from a cancer diagnosis to the realization of sexual health needs and the inception of her own company. The conversation dives into the nuances of healthcare policy, Polly’s role in shaping a dating startup, and how her experiences led her to focus on transforming the sex toy industry.

Polly discusses the challenges and triumphs of leading a sexual wellness company. She brings to light the stark disparities between the offerings of the sex toy industry and the actual needs of women. The episode not only explores Polly’s professional endeavors but also brings forth her personal challenges, her battles with cancer, and her introspections into the ever-evolving landscape of sexual identity and health.

Key Takeaways:

•      Polly Rodriguez’s journey from battling cancer at 21 to founding Unbound is a testament to her resilience and commitment to women’s sexual health.

•      Despite the challenges and stigma, Unbound has made significant strides in mainstreaming sexual wellness.

•      The episode highlights the complexity of advertising sexual wellness products and the role technology plays in sexual education.

•      There’s an emphasis on the impact of societal discomfort with sex, sex education, and how businesses navigate these limitations.

•      Polly’s experience with Grouper, her insights into the dating industry’s algorithms, and her passion for customer experience stand out significantly.

Notable Quotes:

•      “Unbound is a sexual wellness company. We design and manufacture over 30 vibrators, lubricants and accessories.” - Polly Rodriguez

•      “It’s been kind of difficult to navigate to figure out that customer is a lot more price sensitive and generally, I think, less brand motivated.” - Polly Rodriguez

•      “Every time I fall in love, anecdotally, it’s like when I’m not really looking for it. I’m really happy as a person, and I think that was our philosophy, and that’s why I loved so much of what Grouper was.” - Polly Rodriguez

•      “less than 2% return rate. And if you’re not happy with your product, if it breaks, if you don’t like it, if anything happens, email us, no questions asked returns, we will refund you your money.” - Polly Rodriguez


Tune in to the full episode for a deeper dive into Polly Rodriguez’s inspiring story. Discover more about how personal challenges can pave the way for innovative solutions in unexpected industries, and don’t miss out on other enlightening content from the series.


Direct download: Polly_Rodriguez.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:41am EDT

In this episode of “Story in a Bottle,” host Dan Maccarone introduces us to the multifaceted life of Mark Wystrach, lead vocalist of the renowned country band Midland. Wystrach delves into his journey from growing up on an Arizona ranch, through his modeling and acting career, to his pivotal role in shaping the success of Midland. Engage in Mark Wystrach’s recollection of the band’s birth, insights into the music industry, and the synergies of Midland’s teamwork that catapulted them to stardom.

Wystrach’s story is an inspiring tale of shifting gears and finding one’s true calling despite the odds. We explore his personal foray into show business, detailing his ventures on screen before embracing his passion for music. His narrative underscores the importance of dedication in honing his craft, whether it’s in front of a camera or a mesmerized crowd at Red Rocks. Throughout, Mark shares the band’s organic chemistry, their creative process, and why every performance is approached as a chance to deliver the best show of their lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Personal Drive: Mark’s ambition to succeed in the arts and help his family underpinned his leap into acting and later, a full-fledged music career.
  • Creative Journey: Transitioning from an acting career, Mark emphasizes the transformative process of co-founding Midland and their collaborative approach to music.
  • Live Performances: Mark reflects on the electrifying experience of live performances and how they feed off the crowd’s energy to create unforgettable shows.
  • Health and Fitness: As a performer, Mark discusses his commitment to maintaining fitness, flexibility, and mindfulness to tackle the physical demands of touring.
  • Midland’s Essence: Key to Midland’s allure, according to Wystrach, is the trio’s authentic and collective efforts to resonate with fans across a spectrum of life experiences.

Notable Quotes:

  • “I’m always looking at what I put in my body because of my schedule… I’ve got young kids, so I want to be around for a long time, but I also like to have fun.”
  • “It’s a privilege, it’s an honor, and it’s a gift… to create this thing that’s so magical. And there’s nothing like creating live music.”
  • “I do think that you should kind of be nervous. But I also think that we’re so locked in now… it just feels like being part of a squadron.”
  • “If you don’t learn anything, then you’re a fool. And it was all a waste of time. And luckily, I’m probably just half of a fool. And I was smart enough to learn a lot of lessons from that.”
  • “What a job we get to do every day.”


  • Insolito Tequila: Midland’s own tequila brand.

Tune into the full episode to immerse yourself in the remarkable story of Mark Wystrach and discover more about the camaraderie, music, and the ongoing adventure that is Midland. Stay connected for more insightful episodes from “Story in a Bottle.”

Direct download: MY.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

In this episode of "Story in a Bottle," host Dan Maccarone pours over the career journey and personal anecdotes of Carol Ray Hartsell, an influential figure in the comedy and digital media landscape. The introductory conversation sets an intimate tone, reminiscing about the tight-knit New York comedy circuit that shaped her early career. Hartsell shares her experiences moving from Alabama to New York, immersing herself in the city’s vibrant artistic culture, and producing critically acclaimed comedy shows. Hartsell delves into the making of her directorial debut, "Love Reconsidered," the challenges faced during production, and the serendipitous connections that led her to direct the film. The conversation also covers her tenure at "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and her role in propelling the digital content of "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," highlighting the nuanced differences in producing digital content for varied audiences. These insights reveal the dynamic and ever-evolving world of late-night comedy from a creator's perspective. Notable Quotes: "If you're this afraid to do it, just fucking do it." – Hartsell on deciding to direct her first film. "It's like, well, you could. It was actually easy to do at Ucbe’s because they had tech and they did a lot of the work for you." – Hartsell explaining the beginnings of her show "Lasers in the Jungle." "As long as I'm still working and doing this stuff, I don't need the stress of going to a theater that doesn’t want me there." – Hartsell on continuing her writing and producing career. "It felt like a little bit more of a ghost town." – Hartsell on shooting "Love Reconsidered" in the Hamptons during the off-season. "Marriage can fail, love can't." – Hartsell speaking about her and Sean Crespo's screenplay, "Divorce Cruise."
Direct download: Carol_Ray_Hartsell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:58am EDT

Brian Stelter is a prominent media personality known for his astute analysis and critique of the media industry. He started his journey with the creation of a Goosebumps fan site and then founded a highly impactful blog, TVNewser. His career took a significant turn when he joined CNN and hosted "Reliable Sources," becoming one of the youngest hires at The New York Times. Stelter is also an author, with books such as "Top of the Morning" reflecting deep insights into television and media operations.

Episode Summary:

In this candid conversation on "Story in a Bottle," host Dan Maccarone unearths the intricate tapestry of Brian Stelter's media journey. From humble beginnings to becoming a CNN host and critic of media practices, Stelter's narrative is entwined with the evolving landscape of news media.

Initially, Stelter shares memorable anecdotes from his formative years, including his adventures in early-web fan sites and blogging. This eventually led to his influential role at The New York Times and his deep dive into the competitive world of morning TV shows. The discussion transitions smoothly into the dynamics of modern journalistic standards and the interplay between media and politics against the backdrop of monumental events like the Trump presidency and the rise of Fox News.

The episode culminates with introspective reflections on Stelter's departure from CNN, his ongoing contributions as a media consultant, and his aspirations as a father. Listeners are treated to a profound exploration of the complexities inherent to balancing professional integrity with personal progression.

Key Takeaways:

  • Brian Stelter's early fascination with media led to creating one of the leading Goosebumps fan sites and the TVNewser blog.
  • Stelter emphasizes the intertwined nature of the media and political realms, particularly in the context of the Trump era and its impact on news coverage.
  • His tenure at CNN's "Reliable Sources" and the decision to transition from full-time hosting to consultancy and freelancing provides significant insights into the changing media landscape.
  • Reflecting on being a target of right-wing media, Stelter shares his experiences of dealing with criticism and public attacks.
  • As a father orchestrating a major life transition, Stelter prioritizes family while freelancing allows him to maintain his voice within the industry.

Notable Quotes:

  • "I wanted someone to be doing it... I thought to myself, I should blog this."
  • "That was a very clear dividing line. Yeah, before Trump, we used to tape the show on Fridays..."
  • "Fox News is a political machine. Donald Trump is a creature of the media."
  • "It's like nobody cared, right? And so, yes, a thousand Twitter trolls would reply to him and say, yeah, Stelter sucks. But nobody in the real world, nobody in my real world cared."


  • Brian Stelter's social media profiles (Not explicitly mentioned)
  • New York Times website (Not explicitly mentioned)
  • CNN's "Reliable Sources" archives (Not explicitly mentioned)

Engage deeply with Brian Stelter's revealing narrative of the media landscape by listening to the full episode. Don't miss out on further enlightening content from "Story in a Bottle" - tune in for thought-provoking discussions that shed light on the media's intricacies from those who shape it.

Direct download: BrianFull.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT