One might naturally assume Girls Gotta Eat is about food. Co-host Rayna Greenberg does have a background in the food industry, and she created the One Hungry Jew food, travel, and lifestyle blog. Plus, she has one of the biggest food-based Instagram followings in the world. So, it seems a safe assumption.
As co-host Ashley Hesseltine explained, “The title is open to interpretation. The phrase encompasses various ideas: literally, girls gotta eat food. But it could also mean they gotta get laid… or get their money. But food itself is a big part of our life, and while I initially thought we might discuss it a little more on the podcast, it just turned into something very different.”
That “different” is clearly apparent in the podcast’s description:
“Why do guys just want to f*ck you once then stalk your Instagram forever? Should you ditch the apps and meet people in the wild? How do you get over a breakup when you feel like you’re gonna die? These are all topics discussed on Girls Gotta Eat—a comedy podcast about dating, sex, and relationships.”
Covering everything from “sexual fetishes to finances,” Rayna described how, despite being in the Comedy category, “We’ve done every type of episode, from politicians to porn stars. We also run the gamut of really serious topics, like sexual assault and abortion. But we’ll also talk about how to have better butt sex. We do it all… and that has really allowed us to fold in different topics every single week.”
With over 26,000 reviews averaging 4.7 stars on Apple alone, there is little doubt that this show has reached the level of success many podcasters only dream about. Rayna and Ashley attribute that success to several factors—including skill stacking.
Ashley’s background is in writing. After attending Clemson University, she was the social nightlife editor for a magazine in Atlanta. She then went out on her own as a freelance writer and blogger before her comedy-based Instagram account led her straight to influencer status. Along the way, she did standup comedy and appeared in several gigs in radio and on television, including on HLN–CNN, where she weighed in on “lighter” topics.
“Honestly, though, I just went for the hair and makeup. It was incredible! I would go on a Friday and just get all dolled up for the weekend,” she joked. “As far as radio goes, I had a podcast with a station before people even knew what a podcast was.”
After attending Indiana University to study marketing/PR, Rayna moved to New York in 2008. As excited as she was to work, it was right during the market crash of 2008, and “No one would hire me,” she said. So began her longtime employment in the restaurant industry, including working for Danny Meyer—who Rayna described as “one of the greatest, most prolific restauranters in the world.” She credits him with teaching her all about management and business growth.
From there, Rayna went into tech, working with startups through Amazon and Groupon while pivoting to food blogging and Instagram—before everyone jumped on the bandwagon of posting food-related content on that platform. Her account quickly became one of the largest in food, beverage, and travel.
“I wasn’t under a magazine or anything like that,” she said. “I did all the photography myself. I built the website. I did all the writing on the website. I did all the outreach. I tried to forecast what the trends would be and what people wanted. With my background in restaurants and my love of food, it just made sense that people would want my advice, since I could really speak to it.”
Combining their skills, Ashley and Rayna joined forces to create the truly dynamic Girls Gotta Eat podcast four years ago.
Each had her own healthy following already, so when they launched the show, the pair had a warm audience—including Ashley’s hundreds of thousands of followers of her hilarious Bros Being Basic Instagram account, through which men spoof cliché photos women often post.
“I got 100,000 followers in five days,” Ashley shared. “I mean, it just skyrocketed. It’s since peaked at around 900,000. A lot of that success was simple timing. I started in 2014, when there really weren’t a lot of humor or meme-based accounts. There was really nothing like it at the time. I don’t think you could achieve that same success today.
“The same goes for the podcast. We weren’t the first humor podcast about sex and dating, but we were early enough to get in there and achieve a lot of success.”
In fact, the pair knew they had something special with their podcast the very day they launched.
“Honestly, we knew immediately,” Ashley said. “It was pushed out to about 1,000,000 people on day one, in large part thanks to Rayna’s following on One Hungry Jew. Prior to that, we had spent hours and hours recording, editing, planning, doing photo shoots, branding, teasing on Instagram… all those things. We treated this as a brand we were launching, as opposed to just tossing a 40-minute podcast out into the world to see if anyone liked it.
“The feedback was immediate and so positive. We could feel it, and we were right. Personally, I consider myself so lucky to have met Rayna when I did. I already knew I wanted to do a podcast, and she was the right person to do it with me. It was literally a perfect storm of all the key factors for success. The entire trajectory of this show has only ever been upward. Of course, there have been times when it’s flatlined a bit, but it’s always regained momentum.”
“People continuously suggest us to their friends,” Rayna added. “We have a fantastic website that has the full catalog of episodes, which we want new listeners to be able to come and listen to. This certainly has been a factor in our continuing to grow.”
In terms of that growth, Rayna added that leaning into what they both knew as single women in their 30s for content contributed significantly, as well.
“We just dialed into what we wanted to talk about. It was like, how many different topics can we do around sex, dating, and relationships? What type of guests will be fun for us? At the same time, we looked at it from a business perspective—it was important to us, and we wanted to treat it with respect. We respect our audience’s time every single week. We think a lot about our content in terms of what we know they want to hear from us.”
The podcast was so successful, so quickly, Ashley and Rayna soon added a live tour to the mix, resulting in what can arguably now be deemed a media enterprise.
“So much of the live show is Ashley’s vision and creation,” Rayna said. “I had never been on stage a day in my life—not even for a talent show. But I was always the girl who said the crazy stuff people didn’t really expect. I never knew where to put that! Now, I do. And it’s not a straight standup show. It’s this crazy, fun, interactive thing. We get to be funny and do so much improv, and we’re so good together on stage, because really, we’re just trying to make each other laugh.
“It’s gotten bigger and bigger every year, too. Every time we go back to a new city, we do a larger venue. We spend more money, adding more dancers, strippers, jets, t-shirt cannons… it’s gone from what was a show at Caroline’s in 2018, where there were two chairs on stage and we read emails, to this giant ‘circus’ at the Chicago theater. To see people so excited about the brand that they want to spend their birthdays, bachelorettes, and parties with us is really special. I’m so proud of it!”
“We joke that it’s a safe space for thousands of people,” Ashley added. “It’s like, ‘Don’t let this leave the room!’ Our live audience wants a party, and we have leaned into that more and more over the years. It’s just wild… we have dancers, music, drag queens… and there’s so much crowd participation. You truly never know what’s gonna happen. What we have created is a unique, one-of-a-kind experience you walk out of and just go, ‘What the hell just happened?’”
With a full tour schedule beginning in 2023 and a weekly release of podcast episodes, it seems these friends and co-hosts have their hands full. Believe it or not, there is much more on the horizon for this forward-thinking power duo.
“Rayna wants to start a Girls Gotta Eat real estate portfolio,” Ashley laughed.
“She says that like it’s not an amazing idea!” Rayna interjected. “I’ve been trying to start it for years already.”
In the meantime, the ladies have started an entirely separate, self-funded company, Vibes Only.
“It’s a tech company; it’s an app; it’s a sex toy company,” Ashley elucidated. “We invented the first Bluetooth devices that pair with the audio in an app in an erotic content space. And we plan to take over the world with it! The plan is to make it f*cking huge.
“This is our current pivot, which was born out of the question we constantly ask ourselves—what’s next? Ashley and I never want to get comfortable in any type of success. We never have. We’ve always thought about next steps. What can we do better? What can we give our audience that they’re gonna love?
“We could have partnered with any sex toy company, but we didn’t. We designed every single product. We picked the colors. We designed the boxes and took care of the social media, and every person in the company is in-house. It’s really just us from the ground up. And that’s the pivot for now—we’ll continue doing Girls Gotta Eat, and we’re adding Vibes Only to the full-time mix. We’re basically exhausted!”
“Right out of the gate, the response has been phenomenal,” Ashley added. “As far as what’s on the horizon, we never really know. Neither of us are really five-year-plan kind of girls. My life has just been about staying creative, pivoting, working hard, being nice to people, and just seeing what happens.”
“We’re more like, ‘Let’s plan the next six months to be really f*cking great. And then, we’ll see what the world looks like,’” Rayna agreed. “But I would love for us to have a Netflix special or be on the cover of Forbes as tech/sex moguls.”
“Either way, as long as we keep getting ideas and people want it, we’ll keep doing the show,” Rayna concluded.
As Ashley and Rayna continue selling out their live shows and perpetually growing their audience, Girls Gotta Eat clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.