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Industry Interview – Don’t Touch The Cat

Although podcasts have been an established form of entertainment for nearly 20 years now, it’s only in the past half decade or so that the medium has found the enormous mainstream popularity it enjoys today. For those who aren’t aware, a podcast is a bit like a digital radio programme, available for download over the internet, featuring one or more hosts talking about a particular topic.

The recent explosion in global listenership has led to an influx of high-profile podcasts from more traditional media personalities, however thanks to the relatively low entry barrier, there has been an even greater number of non-commercial podcasts started by hobbyists, catering to nearly every niche topic and interest imaginable – even tiling!

This month, TSJ spoke with Shane, founder and host of Don’t Touch The Cat, a podcast that aims to cover “all aspects of trade life”. We discussed the inspiration and aims behind the show, some of Shane’s highlights throughout the podcast’s run, and even some of his plans for the future.

Don’t Touch The Cat (DTTC) began in October 2022, during the latter stages of the pandemic, which had been a period of significant personal and professional upheaval for Shane. He had been active in some of the tiling and trade-focused social media groups online (such as Tilers Community) for some time when he began to notice a pattern. “Some of them are brilliant, there are good communities, and there are literally thousands of people that talk to each other every day,” he says, “and some of them will know each other better than they know other people, but they don’t really know each other.”

On TikTok, for example, there are thousands of tradespeople active on the site every day, but because of the inherently short-form nature of TikTok clips, you can only see these people in “snippets” Shane says. The purpose of DTTC, he explains, is to sit down with some of these interesting people for full, unedited conversations, and to get to know them a little better. “It just gives them a lot longer to tell their story, like who they are and how they managed to get where they are.”

As a sales representative for a business within the tiling industry Shane is particularly well-positioned to talk openly and empathetically with the guests on the show. “I speak to hundreds and hundreds of tilers, bathroom fitters, tradesmen and tradeswomen, every single day. Hundreds and hundreds. And it just got me thinking, I could get these people on – because some of them are really good talkers!”

The podcast also addresses a longstanding frustration for Shane from his time in the corporate world. “I’ve always been straight talking,” he says. “And I don’t see why that’s an issue in some businesses, but it does seem to be, which is a problem.” He recalls one instance where a senior businessman happened to mention that he was in a band that charted in the ‘60s. When Shane tried to strike up a conversation about it later though, the businessman was too busy for a lengthier chat.. It seemed clear that, within the carefully managed world of big business, personality and individuality couldn’t be allowed to flourish.

On DTTC, then, Shane allows his guests to talk at length, sometimes for several hours at a time, without imposing any restrictions on how or what they talk about. The description for his show even warns the listener: “Marked as explicit as there may be a bit of bad language, i.e., normal people talking.” In reality, this “straight talking,” long-form quality of the show helps to separate it from some of the other trade podcasts out there, which tend to focus much more heavily on direct business advice. “They kind of preach,” he says. “You should be doing this, you should be getting paid this. I’m not really into that, I want to speak to people and say: you just tell me what you do, I’m not going to tell you what you should do.”

Instead, DTTC is a platform for more natural conversations between Shane and his guests, allowing them to talk about their life, their job, and their stories. If any advice naturally comes out of that, or if the listeners can take anything away from the conversation, Shane says, that’s just a bonus! One particularly poignant example came when he received an email from a listener to say the show had helped him through some serious mental health struggles. Despite the fact that the show tends not to address those kinds of topics, it’s been surprising for Shane how people can feel supported “just by literally listening and being able to relate to the person that’s talking – that’s what helped them.”

As for the interviews themselves, a few stick in Shane’s mind (although he admits: “I like all of them, to be honest!”) Darcie Richards, for example, was DTTC’s first female guest. Her success on platforms like TikTok and YouTube has led to featuring in Google adverts and BBC articles, but on the podcast, Richards was able to go a bit more in-depth. The episode covered not just her personal journey in the bricklaying industry, but also how the increasing number of women entering the trade may just be what saves it from the widely publicised skill shortage. “You would have to listen to the episode, I suppose,” he says, “What Darcy had to say, I think it was brilliant.”

Other highlights for Shane include his interviews with Isa Celik (of Opus Tile Restoration) and Alex Rocha (of SRV Group) who told “wild stories” on the show. “Both of them had hard lives, like starting in different countries and making their way to where they are now,” he says.

Unlike many podcasters, Shane doesn’t really have any dream guests – purely owing to the nature of the show and who he invites on. “Nobody’s really famous in the trades world, but I genuinely think everybody’s got a good story,” he says. “The only problem sometimes is some people are just better talkers than others!”

So what does the future of DTTC look like? Interest in the show has steadily grown, and Shane’s biggest aspiration for now is to get it to pay for itself. “I’ve set up a Patreon,” he says. “So people can subscribe only if they want to, but the show is totally free.” Shane is also working with Tilers Community to release a few episodes with experts and admins from the group to cover specific topics from an informative perspective. “They’re going to be educational episodes, like Bite Size,” he explains.

Beyond that, he intends to carry on interviewing different guests from across the tiling industry and trades as long as he can. Shane typically finds his guests on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, but he wants to share stories from members of the trade, no matter who they are or how many followers they have. “I tend to target tradespeople because they’re all my contacts. The podcast is for them, really.”
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