‘The build becomes very natural’: Shameless co-founders talk growth and the future

After expanding its leadership team last month, Shameless Media has managed to strengthen its business and diversify its portfolio exponentially. Reflecting on the company's growth and talking future possibilities, co-founders Zara McDonald and Michelle Andrews sat down with Mumbrella's Lauren McNamara.

Last month, the female-founded youth-focused media company announced a number of promotions and new hires to strengthen its team. And it has done exactly that.

Former marketing and partnerships director Rhiannon Joyce was promoted to head of business development; ex-Broadsheet talent Emma Beevor joined to replace Joyce’s partnerships role; Emily Li joined as content coordinator; Sohani Goonetillake was promoted to multimedia producer; and London-based Lucy Hunt relocated to Melbourne to join as head of podcasts.

Now, with 14 full time staff members, as well as engagement with casuals and contractors, the company is going from strength to strength.

“It wasn’t that long ago it was just myself and Zara,” Andrews tells Mumbrella.

“It’s funny, we have moments where we walk into the office and get emotional sometimes. We have these moments of ‘wow, this thing is so much bigger than just the two of us’, and that brings us so much joy.”

Founded in 2018 when the pair were only 23-years-old, McDonald and Andrews wanted to created content they always craved – “clever, thoughtful, entertaining shows that do things differently to what’s already out there”.

With four key pillars – Shameless Podcast, The Shameless Book Club, Everybody Has A Secret, and recently unveiled Style-ish – Andrews stresses the point of quality over quantity.

“We keep to our mantra of never being a fast fashion factory for podcasts,” she explains. “It’s not in our wheelhouse to churn stuff out.

“If people are sacrificing 45 minutes of their lives, like, they could pick any podcast in the world. They could pick any bit of content.

“But if they’re choosing us, we promise to entertain them. That is the one thing we always promise as a brand, that entertaining people and giving them that little tiny extra bit of information, that little bit of extra insight, making them feel that little bit smarter after they listen to something we do, that’s our goal.”

McDonald adds: “It’s important to acknowledge here that we are very lucky to be in a position where we can work slow and be selective.

“It’s not easy building businesses in digital media, but we’ve built up a business model where we’ve got the cash reserve that allows us to work a bit slower and more deliberately. And we’re, truthfully, so lucky to do that.”

She says that when they started the media company, they’d always said they wanted to keep the business intimate.

“We’d always said, we’ll never have more than 10 people,” McDonald explains.

“We’re not those kinds of people. We cannot run a business any bigger than that. We have no desire to. But the truth is, once you start building it, and you get really excited about it, and you know that you need other hands on deck, it just becomes very, the build becomes very natural.”

The Shameless leadership team at their Melbourne upfront this week. (L-R): Rhiannon Joyce, Michelle Andrews, Zara McDonald, Anjana Khallouf, Lucy Hunt

Along with the recent new hires, the pair expressed their gratitude for managing director Anjana Khallouf, who joined six months ago.

The former Thinkerbell head of earned “saved” McDonald and Andrews and let them get back to what they most enjoy – creating content.

McDonald explains that she and Andrews were proud of what they’d be able to achieve until Khallouf came on board, but it got to a point where they needed someone more experienced.

“Our expertise is in content. That’s our strength and our passion,” she tells Mumbrella.

“So it was this obvious decision to bring in someone who has got more experience than us in running a business, and Anj has been fantastic.”

As for future growth, Andrew says they’re not huge ‘five-year planners’ and are only interested in expanding if they physically need to.

“We’re not planning on becoming the next News Corp or something, we’re not planning on becoming a company with 500 employees,” she says.

“We’re planning on being the media company that puts out cool, engaging, entertaining content, and whatever the size of the team we need to realise that goal and do it well, we’ll get.”

McDonald adds that expansion to Sydney, Brisbane or elsewhere, would be happen for lifestyle reasons.

“If there was a lifestyle need to move, then yes we would probably expand to Sydney or wherever that may be, but I don’t see that need any time soon,” she concludes.


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