Erika Ayers Badan is the CEO of Food52. Prior to that, she was the CEO of Barstool Sports, one of the most influential sports, lifestyle, and entertainment media brands on the internet. From 2016 to 2024, Erika led the company from a regional blog with 12 employees to a national powerhouse with over 300 employees. She has been named one of Forbes’ Most Powerful Women in Sports. She’s also held leading roles at Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo. She’s the author of a great book called Nobody Cares About Your Career – Why Failure Is Good, the Great Ones Play Hurt, and Other Hard Truths.

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The Learning Leader Show

  • What Erika learned from her dad: “He loved his work and was so full from it. Three weeks before he died he was doing Zoom calls with students from the ER even though it was beyond unnecessary and impractical to do so. If you love what you do it can add so much dimension to your life and the lives of others. He liked people and to learn from them. There’s something to learn from everybody. And the best control was no control – let things happen and learn from them & adapt.
  • Career advice: Know what your company is paying you to do. And the better you make your boss look, the better it will be for you. Find problems and clear the path for your boss. Make their life easier. Make them look good. That’s the role when you have a boss.
  • Must-Haves When she’s making a hiring decision:
    • Be able to share stories of how you’ve gone for something that failed, and learned
    • Be curious, ask thoughtful questions
    • Do research on the company. CARE. 
    • Test the product. Be able to demonstrate that you know what it does.
    • Bring a point of view. Articulate what you could bring to the role and how you could make the company better.
  • JoanneI wanted to be you until I realized I couldn’t, so I decided to be me. I studied you for twelve years. You are the architect of all my work dreams, and you are the scaffolding I built myself on. You put force into my nature, and for that I am so grateful.
  • Getting the Barstool CEO role: She earned the job over 74 male candidates. “I wanted this job because they were considered too rogue, too untouchable, too badly behaved, too unproven. Dave Portnoy (the founder) was powerful, seemingly unmanageable, and volatile.”
  • In 2012, when Chernin bought a majority stake in Barstool, the company was worth $12 million. You sold it to Penn Entertainment seven years later for $550 million.
  • Make Your Own Luck – When Erika was nearly graduating college, she applied for an internship at Converse no less than 45 times. She never got an interview. Why? “I didn’t do anything unique enough, passionate enough, or memorable enough to deserve a chance at the job.”
  • “It was a heart attack every day for nine years,” Erika said of being Barstool’s CEO.
  • As the first-ever CEO of media magnate Barstool Sports, Ayers Badan led the company through explosive growth (+5000% in revenue and significantly more in audience), expanding the company from a regional blog to a national powerhouse brand and media company. During her 9 years steering the company, Barstool became a top ten podcasting publisher in the US, with the world’s #1 sports, hockey, golf, and music podcasts, and a top 6 brand globally on TikTok.
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Time Stamps

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