Entrepreneur: Claire Bartholic

Biz: Planted Runner

Tilt: Running and plant-based nutrition

Primary Channel: Podcast (30K+ downloads) Instagram (56.5K)

Other Channels: Website, newsletter (6.3K) 

Time to First Dollar: 3 months

Rev Streams: Customized running/race plans, one-on-one and group coaching, book, podcast, newsletter, event

Our Favorite Actionable Advice

  • Get paid to learn. Claire worked part-time as the host of the Run to the Top podcast, where she learned most aspects of the medium before launching her own. 
  • Focus on a single social marketing platform. Instagram is her channel of choice. It helped propel her to earn six figures in just nine months.
  • Recognize the real value of a book. Claire wrote her book to position herself as an expert, not to earn a lot of revenue.
  • Find what works for you. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Claire uses a third-party app to host her community, so she doesn’t have the tech upkeep and maintenance required if she created it. 

The Story of Claire Bartholic

Claire Bartholic hated running. She only started to get in shape for her upcoming high school reunion. “There was never one day where I was like, ‘My god, I love running! I went to the reunion and then was just like, ‘Now what?’ I don’t want to waste all this fitness.”

So Claire kept running. She ran the same half marathon she did in her 20s to see if she could still do it. Not only did she complete it, she improved her time. Her next goal? The Boston Marathon.

She trained for a 2014 Boston Marathon qualifier event 2014 near her home in Asheville, North Carolina. However, running in the mountains of North Carolina did not serve her well, and she took longer than the qualifying times. A few months later, she flew to Salt Lake City to run and qualified, further hooking her interest in running, especially marathon training.

A student of running, she immersed herself in reading on the subject and online forums. Admittedly a little obsessive, Claire connected with a company called Runners Connect.

From passion project to side gig

Runners Connect had a huge library of information. Ten years ago, someone who did a Google search about running would see its blog content at the top of most results pages. Claire found the content valuable. 

Claire joined the site’s group coaching program, the first step in her entrepreneurial journey. In 2015, she attended its retreat in North Carolina. Since Claire had been an active and engaged online community member, everybody at the retreat knew her, and she asked Runners Connect for a more active role in the community.

Two weeks later, the then-disillusioned real estate agent got an offer from Runners Connect to work as a part-time coach. Claire helped manage the community and set up running schedules for people. One week a month, she took her turn hosting a daily feeder podcast for Runners Connect’s premier podcast, Run to the Top

The Big Break

When the original host of Run to the Top left, Claire auditioned. They chose someone else. “I was bummed,” Claire says. 

The new host left shortly after deciding, and the company chose a podcaster with an established audience but wasn’t part of the Runners Connect community. Ratings declined, and Claire landed the gig in February 2020, serving as the “pandemic host” for Run to the Top while continuing coaching and doing her real-estate gig. 

Though a part-time independent contractor position, hosting the podcasting was full-time work. Claire didn’t mind because she was getting paid to learn how to run and grow a podcast. She did everything – the interviews, cover image thumbnails, publishing production, marketing, etc. The only thing she didn’t do was edit the audio. 

In her tenure as host, Run to the Top grew its audience by 40%, and Claire fell in love with podcasting.

The business takes shape

When she took on the part-time running coach role, Claire began her blog, The Planted Runner, to share what she was learning as a coach and member of the running community. Runners Connect encouraged this activity because they believed that when their coaches grew a following, it also helped its brand.

“It was just for fun to kind of share things that I learned. I was not trying to create a business. I just needed a creative outlet because there’s not a whole lot of creativity in running or real estate, and I’m a creative person,” Claire explains.

In 2018, Claire expanded Planted Runner by taking on one-on-one coaching clients. Two years later, she ramped up her coaching services.

But while Claire had been paid to learn podcasting and general marketing, she hadn’t been paid to do social media – something she realized she needed as part of her growth strategy. She taught herself how to use Instagram to grow her business, and it’s become a big source of leads for her business. Claire sees value in focusing on a single social platform rather than spreading herself thin on multiple platforms.

Going full time

Once Claire put her energy behind Instagram, growth happened rapidly. “I had started to reach a tipping point. I was at the point where I felt like I was giving this other show (Run to the Top) the best of me, and I was just like, ‘What am I doing? I want to do this for myself.’”

The Planted Runner podcast debuted in August 2022. Her audience from Run to the Top followed, and a week later, her show hit No. 1 for running podcasts in the United States. Listener reviews also propelled the top rating. To incentivize reviewers, Claire offered to send a gift with a personal note to the first 100 people to write one. (Claire continued to host Run to the Top until the end of 2022.) 

Now a full-time entrepreneur, Claire capitalized on her podcast and Instagram success by adding two products to her service line in October 2022.

She sold custom eight-, 12-, and 14-week running plans. Prices ranged from $95 to $115, with the option to purchase additional weeks at $10 per week. Claire individualizes the plans after the client completes her questionnaire. It’s customized to their goals, abilities, and schedule. At first, this customization took a lot of time. But now, Claire has made over 100 templates that she easily tailors to each client. 

Claire also added a paid quarterly or annual membership training group to her revenue streams. Membership includes a customized training plan, access to Claire twice a week, and community access. Members also can access a member-only podcast every Friday. The unscripted format includes Claire answering questions and cheering on community members. Her members love it because they feel like they are getting the inside track with the less-polished, more personal product. 

Operating a content business

Claire uses the coaching app Final Surge as her community platform. She pays a hosting fee, but members can use the app for free. Claire says using a third-party app means she does not have to worry about technology upkeep or maintaining community software on her site. 

The weekly Planted Runner newsletter, once sent only when a new blog article was posted, now counts 6.3K subscribers. In 

In January 2023, Claire published her first book, The Planted Runner: Running Your Best With Plant-Based Nutrition.  “I wrote the book because it’s a bucket-list thing. I wrote the book to be an expert. I wrote the book to give away as presents and prizes, and (it) would be an entry-level product for my business. I did not do it to make money.”

Claire signed a contract with a sports publishing company in December 2020. She spent 16 months writing it, using old blog posts to help structure the book that didn’t debut until January 2023. But, she says the traditional publishing route is tough because the author doesn’t control the outcome. “I have no idea how many books I’ve sold, etc. I would not recommend it,” she says. 

In September 2023, Claire added an event that she could control. The Planted Runner held its first running retreat in Asheville, North Carolina. A success for the community and the business, Claire plans to make it an annual event. 

Advice for content entrepreneurs

Claire offers the following advice for her fellow content entrepreneurs:

  • Don’t be afraid to give away your knowledge and expertise to establish yourself as a thought leader. People will pay you for putting together the puzzle pieces of knowledge and helping them figure something out. 
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself. If you think you’ve said something, say it again. You may have published a blog post last year on a topic. It’s OK to publish it again with updates. Your audience has grown since the original post, and your audience can benefit from hearing the valuable content again.
  • Grow through collaboration. Reach out to people who are your competitors and do swaps with them. Be a guest on their podcast. Guesting on other podcasts is a huge growth tactic. Say yes to every invitation to be a guest on other podcasts.

Claire will share how Instagram helped her make six figures in nine months at the 2024 Content Entrepreneur Expo. Register today to join her and dozens of other experts who can help you turn into a successful content business owner.

About the author

Marc Maxhimer is the director of growth and partnerships at The Tilt. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and mathematics education and a master’s degree in educational administration.  He previously taught middle school for 16 years.  Marc lives in (and loves all things) Cleveland with his wife, two daughters, and dog.