PICTURED: Stephanie James and Melissa Lamb

There’s a podcast in town highlighting the faces and businesses of Ventura County.

“Hi, this is Stephanie James. This is Melissa Lamb. And you’re listening to Topa Talk,” the duo say in each opening of a new episode.

James, 27, of Ojai and Lamb, 29, of Ventura met two years ago at their place of employment and immediately hit it off. James, a communications major who enjoys public speaking, and Lamb, who grew up performing in theatre and participating in speech and debate, were encouraged by their friends to start a podcast.

“We have a great banter back and forth and we had close friends continuously joke that we should have a podcast,” James said. “We want to shine a light on our community and have them learn more about the businesses that they already see and love and give them something to be proud of.”

In March, the Topa Talk podcast was born. James and Lamb began their journey by reaching out to Ventura County business owners, entrepreneurs and local personalities who wanted to be featured for an episode. As more listeners started tuning in, the duo received more requests from community members to be a part of the show.

“We want to give people some inspiration to go out and pursue a side hustle or a big dream they’ve always had and provide encouragement,” Lamb said.

James and Lamb went a step further by recording the musical introduction and ending jingle to Topa Talk, with James on guitar and Lamb on the keyboard.

“My boyfriend is in a band called The Junglecats,” James said. “He was writing a song and I asked, ‘when are you going to release it?’ [When he told me] he didn’t want to do anything with it, I asked if we could steal the first eight seconds for the podcast.”

Every Saturday, a new episode ranging from 20 minutes to one hour is released with raw material.

“We don’t edit anything because we are very open and fun,” James said. “We had talked about being a podcast for a while and started off recording aggressively.”

James and Lamb record their episodes using full board mixers with cable inserts, microphones and headphone jacks. Recording might take place in their own residences, or at an interviewee’s home or business. Past guests have included film director Josh Tickell (The Big Fix, Pump), Topa Topa Brewing Company co-founder Jack Dyer and Jake Adams and Luke Arreguin of the Ojai Comedy Festival, which will debut in 2020. (Adams is also involved with the Ojai There comedy show at Greater Goods.)

“Guests have taught us that community is key,” James said. “We’ve learned Ventura County is a special place full of people who want to support small businesses and make an impact on people’s lives.”

While Lamb is the question master, James relates more to the guests and also manages the Topa Talk social media pages. Both also carry notebooks during an interview to write down ideas for future episodes.

“I feel very lucky to have Stephanie as a partner, she has made this come to life,” Lamb said.

Since the launch, James said about 500 individuals between the ages of 25 and 38 from across the world tune in, with an average of 60 to 120 listeners per episode. James and Lamb said that they want their audience to feel inspired and empowered all while having a few laughs in between.

“Our listeners have shared our podcast with friends and family and have helped make us successful,” James said. “We are just so grateful.”

The most important lesson James and Lamb have learned from launching a podcast is time management.

“We both like the idea of the audio-visual medium. It gives us the flexibility to do things on our own schedule,” James said.

For Season 2 of Topa Talk, the duo plans on expanding the podcast with bigger interviews.

 “We are coming up with creative ways to switch things up slightly,” James said. “This year focuses on Ventura County and bringing those stories to light. In 2020, we want to get some people that hold more weight. We also want to release two episodes a month versus four.”

To listen to Topa Talk, visit iTunes, Spotify or www.topatalk.com.