fD Interview

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fD Interview: Dayna Steele on Radio, Space Food and Smart Girls Who Rock

May 15, 2008
by Isabel Cowles
FindingDulcinea’s new feature interviews intriguing people on the cutting edge of business, the arts, technology and journalism. This week, we talk with “The First Lady of Radio,” former rock DJ Dayna Steele, on her career in radio, her role as the “de facto expert on space food” and the importance of smart girls.

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After decades as a radio host and rock and roll personality, Steele used her experiences to write a book called “Rock to the Top: What I Learned About Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars,” with an introduction by famed rocker Gene Simmons. 

Steele’s own ambition prompted her to start an online business, despite having no experience in the world of Internet entrepreneurship. After the Space Store became a successful venture, she turned her attention to middle school girls, creating “Smart Girls Rock,” a blog written and managed by girls ages 10–14.

Steele is featured in May 2008’s Best of America Reader’s Digest as one of “35 People Who Inspire Us.”
fD: How did you get started on the radio?

DS: At 18, I took a job as a secretary at a radio station. I wanted to get on the air, so I told the program director I had a license. He laughed and threw me out of his office. That night, the DJ didn’t show up, so the program director called me and he said, “OK, you want to be on the radio? Go be on the radio.” He was laughing because it was the 12–6 a.m. shift. I was on the radio for the next 20 years.

fD: Do you think the Internet will replace radio?

DS: Radio is going to do itself in without any help from the Internet. Clear Channel is going to single-handedly destroy radio in this country. Now that corporations can own all of these radio stations in the same city, it’s nothing but focus groups and research.
fD: Does it make you sad to see the radio tradition going away?

DS: No. I’ve never been a person who looks back. I don’t regret anything.

fD: How did you turn the Space Store into an effective Internet business without knowing anything about online entrepreneurship?

DS: I researched and I asked. And I realized that if somebody is asking a question about our product, there’re another hundred people who didn’t take the time to ask. I learned based on people’s questions: I became the de facto expert on space food, for example.

fD: Do you have a special affinity for space gear?


DS: When David Crosby got out of prison and lived here in Houston, we became really good friends. And David had thrown all of his energy from getting high into the space program. I kind of caught his fever.

fD: What was the impetus behind Smart Girls Rock?


DS: To encourage preteen and teenage girls to pursue math, science and technology. I don’t want girls to do that dumbing-down thing.
fD: Does the Internet still fascinate you?

DS: I don’t even think about anymore because I just live on it. I married a geek, I’ve given birth to little geeks. The entire house is wired.

fD: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about the Internet through your work online?


DS: You’ve got to educate yourself. If you’re going to look up things on the Internet, go to more than one source. Go several sources deep because the integrity and the code of conduct that magazines and newspapers have been under for so many years is not there anymore. 
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