Being Fulfilled And Profitable With Briana Wilson Of NYLA Influencers (@brianawils)

Today we’re speaking with Briana Wilson of NYLA Influencers. Briana is an entrepreneur, influencer manager, and mentor based in NYC. She has secured over $4M in brand deals on behalf of her influencer clients, has managed over 400 influencer programs, and has over 10 years of experience in the influencer-marketing industry. Briana's mission is to help content creators get unstuck, elevate their personal brand, and implement strategies to land their dream partnerships.



[00:00:00] Jessy: Hi everyone and welcome to the WIIM Podcast. Women in Influencer Marketing is a first of its kind exclusive networking group made up of inspirational women. This podcast is where we explore influencer marketing and get real about women in business. Find us wherever you download podcasts, and of course, you can always find us at iamwiim.com.

That’s iamwiim.com. Hey guys, and welcome back to the Women in Influencer Marketing podcast. My name’s Jesse Grossman. I’m so excited for you to be introduced to today’s guest. So she is an entrepreneur, an influencer-manager, a mentor based in New York City, and a friend. She secured over $4 million in brand deals on behalf of her influencer clients.

She’s managed over 400 influencer programs and has over 10 years of experience in the influencer marketing industry. I’m gonna keep this intro today short cuz we have a long, really interesting conversation. Without further ado, Briana Wilson, the founder and CEO of NYLA Influencers. Enjoy guys.

So today we have a super duper special guest. She is a friend of mine, a fellow New Yorker, and just a wonderful human to know. So Brianna, I’m so excited to have you here. Huge, heartfelt welcome. How are you today?

[00:01:42] Briana: I am doing well. Thank you for asking. How are you doing?

[00:01:47] Jessy: I’m good. I’m like, I’m good. I’m excited to talk to you.

There’s like, you know, stress that always happens and everyone’s businesses, so it’s like a busy day. It’s a busy time of year, so honestly it’s like nice and refreshing to get like, I don’t know, 30 to 45 minutes or so time to just like chat with you today and I’m just excited to learn more about you and like your journey.

I know parts of it for sure, cause we’ve been friends for a while, but I know there’s parts of your business and about you that I don’t know, and so like, I wanna ask you about those things. I also wanna learn it’s more about like your business and also just like reconnect with you. So I’m really excited to get into it.

I think a great place to start. I always think it’s good to start at the beginning. I wanna learn more about like younger Briana, like Briana, who, you know,, what were you like as a kid, you know, as a teenager? Were you the studious type or were you the rebellious type? Let’s start there.

[00:02:59] Briana: That’s a great question. I was a combination of both. So as a young child, I think I was very curious about the world, why things were the way they were. I grew up in a very religious family and I didn’t really understand why we were doing what we were doing. So that was my first, I think, journey of being my own person and choosing my own path.

We were Christian, my dad was a pastor, my mom was a worship leader, and in seventh grade, I just told my parents that I didn’t want to go to church anymore because I felt like I just didn’t resonate with what was being spoken about and the specific church that we were going to.

And at a young age, I think my dad really taught me and inspired me, or to be empowered to make my own choices. So like even as a young child, there were dynamics in my family where my mom wanted to control what I did. And then my dad was like the opposite where he was like, I want you to be open to new experiences and I want you to be open to like just having your own decisions and your own choices.

And so I rebelled and I left the church and that was a, I think a big deal just because my dad was a pastor and so there was a lot of, there were a lot of difficulties within the church because I left. So I feel like my dad also made a sacrifice on his end as having a child who didn’t attend.

And I think that’s when I started my journey of, I just wanna do my own thing. I wanna be my own person. I don’t want to follow what, you know, they are teaching me in school. You know, like the structure of life, if that makes sense.

[00:05:15] Jessy: Yeah. And were you an only child or do you also have siblings?

[00:05:20] Briana: I have a younger brother, he’s five years younger than me, and my parents were a lot more strict with me than my younger brother. However, I feel like I got really lucky with my dad just being teaching me how to be curious.

[00:05:35] Jessy: Do you think that he was more strict with you because you were the daughter and not the son?

[00:05:39] Briana: My mom was strict with me. My dad was not. He wanted me to be careful and to be smart with my decisions, but he was the opposite of strict.

He was like, If you wanna study, you study. If you don’t wanna study, you don’t study, do what you want to do. So when I was in high school, he actually told me like, you should live your high school life. Live your life, like this is the only time you get to live your life. There are kids who spend their entire high school experience literally just in the books.

And they never get that back. And you can always go to community college and if you wanted to go to a top school in California, just get good grades and do the things you need to do in community college or high school is like the only time like you have to be like free. And so it was interesting because my friends like didn’t understand.

They thought that I was like very DGAF with my life because I wasn’t studying like they were. And then when I told them that I wanted to go to UCLA, That I wanted to attend community college and then transferred to UCLA and my friends like laughed at me. They were just like all you do is go out and party and hang out with friends.

And I told them like, no, this is my plan. This is purposeful. I’m doing this because I want to live my life now and I wanna spend my adult years working towards my career, but not my 13 to 17 years. I mean, just so young, like, how do you even know what you want at that age? I mean, we don’t even know what we want in general. Like, as we get older too.

[00:07:32] Jessy: I was gonna say, do we even know it now?

[00:07:35] Briana: Like, yeah.

[00:07:36] Jessy: No, I don’t know. And so , I don’t know, It’s really interesting. It sounds to me like you have like wisdom beyond your years and like certainly guidance from, it sounds like your dad in particular to help guide you throughout the way. But I’ve always appreciated your aura. I feel like you are somebody who’s like very grounded. I feel like you’re somebody who’s very thoughtful. And it sounds like in this instance you’re somebody who had wisdom a little bit beyond your years, like a little bit of an older soul. Like where do you think that comes from, and do you agree with that you are this type of person?

[00:08:12] Briana: Could you tell me what you feel an older soul is?

[00:08:16] Jessy: Yeah, no, great question. I think to me, an old soul is somebody who, it’s sad. It’s not like they have wisdom beyond their years. It seems like you have a sense of how you wanna live your life, but you would assume that you would have to have experienced things in order to have learned those lessons.

So to me, and maybe this is a different definition from how other people think of an older soul. So I actually, I appreciate that you asked the question. That’s what I mean when I say it. It’s like, how did you know to enjoy your younger years and then like when you’re older you could just get to business. Where does that come from?

[00:08:55] Briana: I think at a young age, I didn’t know this in terms of like, I wouldn’t be able to label it if someone asked me, but I felt like I was closer to my values. And so my top two values are growth and purpose. And that’s remained consistent throughout my life. So when I choose to do something, it’s purposeful.

It’s not like I’m just gonna go and you know, it’s with my high school years, like doing nothing at just because like that was because I wanted to enjoy it. And honestly, I had the best time of my entire life in high school and my early years as in my early twenties. But basically I did what I planned to do.

Like I did do a lot in high school. And intra-academically. I got a 4.0 a community college and I did a lot of extracurriculars. I worked my butt off and I got into every school that I applied to, and then I got into my dream school, UCLA and my friends were like, what? You? They still couldn’t believe it. There was even just hard times with that too, just because I grew up in a primarily white community and so a lot of people were making excuses for why I got in based on my race.

[00:10:17] Jessy: Saying what? Saying that you’re like filling a quota essentially? Yeah.

[00:10:22] Briana: Like you only got in cuz you’re Asian. And these are not friends currently, but they were at the time. But, I did everything I could to get into my dream school. I knew that if it wasn’t possible out of high school, it was like two people from my high school got into UCLA. They had 5.0s. So it’s like the likelihood is so low.

So I saw the numbers and I’m like, okay, well the likelihood is really know them now. Why would I try now? The likelihood is much higher here and I’ll still get the same education. I’ll save on student expenses and I’ll still have a great experience. And so that was how I went about college. But I always thought of college as not a place that was gonna teach me the way of life.

I thought of it as this is what I need on my resume just to get to the next step for my career. And like my husband really struggled with going to school and then becoming a young adult in their twenties and quarter life crisis of, I followed the rules, I followed the structure and the path, and they followed what they told me to do.

And it’s not true. And I always knew that it wasn’t true. So I guess, I don’t know if I would call it beyond at that age, I was beyond my years, but it just seemed so obvious to me that like these are just subjects. They’re teaching us just to teach us structure and history and facts. But like in the real world, that’s, this is not how people operate.

And something that I’ve always wanted in schools, and I don’t know how schools teach now, but is like teaching real life skills, personal development skills, finance skills, things that they just don’t teach you. I’m like, I gotta get an A in history just because I know this is a checkbox, but this is not like gonna help me in life.

[00:12:27] Jessy: I completely cosign that because I didn’t learn those things either. I was a theater major, so I was the last person to learn about the things that I currently use in my business to this day. So my question to you is, how did you fill in the gaps of where your schooling didn’t teach you things, but there were still things you needed to know?

So if maybe you were lucky, maybe you did learn some stuff about business finance. I know I didn’t learn those things cuz that wasn’t my degree, but you’re running a really successful business today and there are certain things that you’re like, I know this now, but I sure as hell did not learn this from school. Where did you learn those things from? How did you acquire that knowledge?

[00:13:18] Briana: So in school I definitely didn’t learn anything about finances, but I did learn how to build a business so when I was rushing to be in the Greek system, I ended up joining a brand new sorority and it was an existing house, but they just hadn’t had a presence on campus for many years. So they were relaunching and I joined as a founding member and I was the vice president of membership development. It was extremely hard, like it was hard. I think that was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life, because not only are you building a sorority without having a lot of business knowledge and recruiting hardcore, but you’re dealing with the stigma of being a new sorority and what that comes with.

A lot of judgment and criticism from men and women, because unfortunately with the Greek system, a lot of it is looks, especially at UCLA. When I was there at UCLA, that’s how it was. And at the same time, it was a very fulfilling experience to know that I helped launched a sorority that now is at full capacity at UCLA.

It’s called Alpha Chi Omega, and have a full house and. The core values that we implemented are still a part of, the sorority, and it’s like the core values that I have now in terms of my business, like representing women who haven’t up underrepresented representing women of color. It was very divided at UCLA.

It was like all of the top houses were the houses with the white women, and then the bottom houses were the women of color. And that’s what they say, like top and bottom who’s really to really judge that. But that’s how it was in the internal Greek system in terms of fraternities, how they ranked us.

So, it was extremely hard on my mental health, I think, because it made me feel like I was worthless at times. But I stuck through it and we really built it. We built it out. I was in charge of developing the members, working with the members and helping them understand what our goals were, our values, and then also organizing all of the social events with the social chair, like networking with the fraternities a lot, trying to represent us in the best way and like advocate for us, like we deserve to have. Events with you guys. This is crazy. When I say this out loud, I’m just like, why is this even a thing with college? But so that’s where I really learned that and knowing that launching something on your own is extremely hard.

[00:16:37] Jessy: And I can personally vouch, I know and we’ve talked, throughout the years when like times have gotten tough, things have gotten hard. But you persevered. We all persevered and that is the real marker of somebody who is built to be a business owner. That is the marker of a person who was built and wired to be an entrepreneur, in my opinion. But I don’t wanna ever make assumptions. Do you feel like you are, there’s a spectrum of things, right?

Do you feel like you’re more wired on the spectrum to be an entrepreneur and be a business owner? Or do you feel like you’re somewhere in the middle? Or do you feel like you’re on the other side where sometimes I wonder if I’m in the right place. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to work for somebody else again. Like where are you currently on that spectrum?

[00:17:36] Briana: I love this question because I’m a hundred percent on the entrepreneur’s side, like a thousand percent. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Colby assessment, but I love that assessment because it is an assessment that shows you or helps you learn about your mode of operation.

And I took the test and it’s a test that they use within companies. It’s a legit test to help like teams work together and managers understand their teams and what their strengths are and how they operate. And I scored in the quick start category, a 10, which is the highest that you could score.

And a quick start is someone who just takes action, doesn’t wanna go through all the hoops and all the process and all the weeds of things. Someone who wants to do things on their own, someone who is very entrepreneurial. And the majority of entrepreneurs that take this assessment are high in the quick start category.

And it was very validating for me because I realized at that moment, Oh my God, I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. No wonder why it was so difficult for me to work for companies because going through my boss who had to go through her supervisor, do I go through this person, get this thing approved just to do his tiny little task.

And I love building my own things. Like this is so fulfilling to me. I will work day and night because I’m just, I just love what I’m doing and I’ve never experienced that before. I mean, the only time I really experienced that was when I was in, when I was trying to get into UCLA because I just really wanted to go to that school and I would never go back.

I would literally only go back if I was in the worst situ, if everything crumbled, maybe. But even in that case, I think I would still try to start something new. I would choose that over going to a full-time job.

[00:19:41] Jessy: Love that. It’s interesting that like, and it sounds like it was what you said, you’re like, Oh, it’s so validating.

[00:19:48] Briana: Cause I was like, makes sense now.

[00:19:51] Jessy: Makes sense now. Yeah, to take some of these tests are really great. I know we’ve talked on this podcast about like disc assessments before. I haven’t heard of that one that you mentioned. What is it called again?

[00:20:02] Briana: Kolbe. K O L B E.

[00:20:04] Jessy: Oh, so cool I would take, I’m gonna take that one.

That sounds really interesting. But there are some of these tests that like you might not be exposed to, but I know when I took a disc assessment, it sounds like I had a similar experience to you. I was like, oh my God. Like it felt validating. It felt like it unlocked this knowledge about yourself, which is a really powerful thing. So you know that you are an entrepreneur, you know that this is where you’re meant to be. So tell the brief story of just your professional journey so people have a full understanding of how you got to where you are today because you didn’t just graduate school and become an entrepreneur.

You went through the journey of working at other companies, just give us a little bit of context of your professional journey. If you don’t mind

[00:20:52] Briana: So I started in entertainment, And then, when I worked in entertainment, it was 2011, I worked for a reality TV competition show, the XFactor USA, and they had hired a YouTuber to cover, behind the scenes of the show with the contestants. And her and I, you know, I was very curious with her. So I started asking her questions. I started becoming her friend and I became colleagues and she told me what she got paid. She told me who she was represented by.

And I had no idea this world existed. And I thought it was so interesting. And I think when that happened, I just knew that I wanted to go in that direction instead of being in traditional entertainment. I felt like the traditional space was just a little bit too old school for what I wanted. I wanted something again, new growing social media was like, Instagram wasn’t even around yet. This was like only YouTube existed. So from there I started to look for digital media roles within entertainment to transition. When I worked in digital media and entertainment, I ended up becoming friends with a lot of creatives when I worked at Bina Murray Productions and these creatives ended up blowing up on Vine, blowing up meaning like 10 million followers on Vine.

Like over time it was just crazy to just watch it and like literally be there with them. They’re like working at their desk and I’m like, Oh my God. Like you literally just grew $200,000 overnight. They started to get brand deals and I was like, hm. What’s that about? So eventually recruited by Full Screen and I worked in the talent department there, and then I switched to the sales department.

I was working on their influencer marketing platform, recruiting talent to sign up for their influencer marketing platform at the time. And then I transitioned to managing campaigns, and that’s when I started the whole journey of managing campaigns for influencers, booking talent, casting talent. This is 2014.

And then at there was a point when I realized, you know, I kind of always knew that I wanted to work on the talent side, but I just didn’t know how to do it. I was, how do I switch? What do I do? And I ended up making the switch. I worked for a talent agency for a brief period. I was very, very excited that I had pivoted.

Because I thought the pivot was honestly gonna be impossible. I was like, it’s really hard to switch. It’s not the switching industries, but it’s like you’re changing your job entirely in a sense. And they let me go and they didn’t feel like it was a fit. And when I look back on it, it definitely was not a fit in terms of their values, my values, what I want.

And at that point, I just had, I was like, what do I do? So I started interviewing at companies again, everything just felt so wrong. Just interviewing. It was just like, ugh. Like if I had this feeling of being trapped, like at interviews, I’m like, I’m gonna be trapped into this company. And I was scared.

And so I had a conversation with my fiance who is now my husband, and he was like, Why don’t you just try to do your own thing? Like honestly, I feel like you could really be good at it. Like he, he knew me better than I did, I think at the moment, in terms of me connecting with myself. And I did. And I just reached out to low hanging fruit, like clients who, or talent that I had worked with in the past that I had relationships with, and two of them are still clients today.

And that’s how it started. And it really grew into something else. And I’m very proud of what I built. And, I feel very lucky that things happened the way they did. Even though it was very hard for me. When I got let go, it provided an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had if I continued to work there.

[00:25:19] Jessy: I mean, hindsight, not even hindsight’s 2020, but like I can relate to so much of what you were saying and I’m sure people listening can too. Like inevitably things are not always gonna go as planned. You, it sounds like you started this agency and it was what you thought you needed as your next step and that it like allowed you to be able to transition in, from working on the other side to working in management.

And I’m sure like starting any new job, you’re just like super stoked and there’s all these like.

[00:25:49] Briana: I was like, Yes, this is, I finally did it. I’m here.

[00:25:54] Jessy: Exactly, and you just, there’s hope, you’re hopes sick a little. You’re just excited you’re making this transition and for it not to necessarily go your way.

It’s crazy cuz we all live, especially working what, in what we do, We live in this like Instagram generation where everything looks beautiful and perfect in online and our perceptions of everybody is that everything just goes perfectly. So like what happens in that moment, in real life in your life? When it doesn’t go according to plan. And when you really are in a bind or you really bind, feel right, like you’re in a bind, you feel as if, what do I do right now? And it gets really, really real.

And, it’s a wonderful thing in your life that it sounds like you had someone in your life who could help you through that moment.

What else would like looking back on it now, I can imagine it’s a little easier to talk about cuz time heals, things like that. So now that you’ve had a little bit of breathing room from a really challenging time in your life, looking back, what do you think helped you get through it to the point where you could overcome it and you’re like, all right, I am on to the next thing and I’m gonna actually, I’m gonna take the more challenging path, which is I’m not gonna get fired. Let go from this company and go work for somebody else. I’m gonna do the more challenging thing, which is I’m gonna actually go start my own thing. How did you arrive at that? Now looking back at it?

[00:27:35] Briana: First I wanna say I really appreciate you saying what you said. I feel like it was very validating and I felt like you really understood what I was going through at the time. And yes, it was very heartbreaking. I think, I feel like I still am healing, like I’ve done a lot of work in therapy to get through the things that I experienced at professional or at companies in terms of past supervisors and environments and things like that. And so it was really, really tough.

I think what the driving factor was, I had worked on so many campaigns in my life that I knew if I did this on my own, I would make way more money than I could ever imagine and that I could create my own wealth. And that’s always what I’ve wanted, is to be in control of my income versus like, it’s in the hands of one or two older men.

Cuz that’s always what it was, you know? And so the thought of I have the opportunity to create my own money was very exciting to me and I really had that in my head on a daily basis. And knowing that I would make more doing this than I could ever, even as a top agent at a company. They make a decent amount, but they’re much, much older, and seasoned.

But I could make that now as a person in my early thirties. And wealth and financial independence is a top volume of mine. And so I think the values really took a huge play. And also thinking about how I could create a business and the way that I wanted to create it. I could sign clients that I wanted to sign, not that my boss wanted me to look for or sign, and that I could do what I wanted with my company.

So at the talent agency, like I wouldn’t be able to really work on the things that I wanted to work on because talent agents are more. They’re doing a lot of, it’s just a lot of booking deals and it’s a little bit more transactional, whereas I wanted to do more personal development, brand development strategy, content strategy, brand partnership strategy.

I wanted to be more and really truly involved in my client’s careers versus, hey, I got this deal for you and here it is. So thinking about the future is what really motivated me, and I envisioned that I think on a daily basis, and I still do. That’s what motivates me. I think, what could I have in six months from now? And how do I get that?

[00:30:31] Jessy: I love that so much. And like I relate too, I’ve also gone through like really challenging things in my career that like were entirely unforeseen. I feel like the definition of entirely unforeseen is like, you thought this would be the best thing ever. And it turned out being in the moment, a nightmare.

It feels like a nightmare, right?

[00:30:56] Briana: Right.

[00:30:56] Jessy: It’s cliche perhaps to say like, well, everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it feels like it’s true, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it feels like we’re just humans who are incredibly perseverant and can withstand a lot of shit. And can get on the other side of it.

And then we have the luxury of saying, Well, things happen for a reason. Cause I wouldn’t be where I was today if I didn’t go through that. How do you feel about that sentiment? Do you believe that things happen for a reason or do you feel like we’re just persevere type people?

[00:31:34] Briana: I feel like I said this in the beginning, I was like, if I didn’t let go, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

It’s not necessarily totally true because I don’t know what would’ve happened. I don’t know the future. It could have ended up this way regardless. Right? But I feel as though if something happens to you and it is unforeseen and very difficult to manage, you have choices. How do I move forward with this really big situation, right?

So like if you get let go from a company that you really want to work out for a long period of time, or for me what the case was is, I was so excited for this job and I was like, this is the best thing ever but one of the agents there, I just really felt so invalidated and criticized constantly on a daily basis and it was not healthy for me.

And so I couldn’t have been there long term because I don’t like to work with people like that. You know, some people don’t mind it. It doesn’t matter to them. But for me, I wanna work with people who are a little bit more connected and understanding and empathetic, and also growth oriented and live with purpose, you know?

Versus like just trying to get numbers, numbers, numbers, and like get more money, money, money. You know what I mean? So I feel like you have the choice to take that, whatever that happened into something that you want or you could let it defeat you. And so I wouldn’t say everything happens with like for a reason because really, we just don’t know what’s gonna happen and it’s just things are just sometimes completely random, you know?

But it’s up to you to make it purposeful or not. And what I mean by purposeful is like purposeful for it to create purpose in your life in the future.

[00:33:41] Jessy: Yeah. I mean it’s, well, our life is filled with choices, right? And you could let things get to you, and we would only be human if we didn’t take a moment to let things get to us. Like yeah, you take that moment, it’s real and you’re experiencing it and don’t feel like you have to muscle your way through that. I think it’s actually healthy to feel things, but then you have a pivotal choice. Exactly what you described. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

And we talk a little bit about, on the show also even about like mental health and that’s like a whole other conversation. How to navigate through life with mental health being a priority, how to navigate this industry in particular. How to navigate like being a woman in the workplace.

And there’s so much to be said about that. I’ve been very candid in this show about, I see my therapist once every two weeks and it’s like, therapy I say is like the best gift that you can give to yourself personally.

[00:34:43] Briana: Hundred percent.

[00:34:44] Jessy: And I co-sign anybody who wants to give it a shot and take care of themselves.

I think it’s incredibly important to be able to do so. And I also just think that going through a tough situation, that’s the moment that if you have that support system and that network that it’s really gonna come in most handy. I would love to pivot just a little bit because I also have seen you achieve so many things over the past many years of having your company representing really dope clients, growing, evolving, retaining wonderful clients, which is an art form unto itself.

For any other managers who are watching this, that takes a lot of skill. I would just ask you, of all the achievements that you’ve had, what do you feel like is the thing that you’re maybe most proud of, that you’ve achieved in your company?

[00:35:42] Briana: Wow, I’ve never thought about this before. I think branding my company, and my personal brand. So I have the N Y L A influencers website, which is my management company, and then I have my personal website, Brianawilson.co. And creating the brand behind both companies, the vision, the mission statement, the values, what we do, what we don’t do, the ideal clients that we want, how we work with our clients, what services we provide to our clients, and being honest about that.

Like actually saying, hey, if I provide on my website brand partnership strategy or personal branding development, that’s what we’re doing actively. Cuz I feel like I see a lot of websites and it like lists a thousand things that they’re doing and I just know like they’re not doing all these things because.

It had to have a lot of people working there for them to be able to provide all this support and just creating that from scratch was extremely difficult. I mean, it took, I think nine months maybe to even a year to do both websites and I had no idea that it was gonna take that long. And it was like constant work.

And also just being intro, constantly making my, I had to really be introspective and think about like, what do I truly want for my company? Not like, oh, I’m just gonna sign clients and be a talent manager, but what do I want to do and how do I display that? And it’s evolved into something from where I was just doing brand deals in the beginning and people were coming to me and they were like, oh, like I heard that you’re a great negotiator and that you’re great way brand partnerships and I want someone who’s gonna gimme more brand deals.

And that didn’t sit right with me. I was like, I don’t wanna be just doing brand deals. I don’t wanna be like the brand deal girl and like the negotiator person. Like I wanna do that plus other things. And so the branding is what really helped me grow my company into something that it wasn’t originally and attract clients that I want.

And so that is, I think, the greatest accomplishment. And I think also another, I mean, this is sort of a personal accomplishment, but that has affected my business greatly. I do a lot of therapy on a regular basis, and without that, I would not be where I am with my company because it is extremely stressful having this job, you know, past experiences with working at companies, creating some trauma, like created some trauma for me that I had to really work through.

And working with my therapist and being challenged by my therapist helped me learn how to like also work with my clients and challenge them. And it’d be cool, ask me like, what has helped you with your clients? In terms of client retention and I’m like therapy like a hundred percent.

That’s the one thing that has helped me retain my clients, aside from like brand deals and, things like that being, you know, connect in that space.

[00:39:15] Jessy: No, that’s so good. I appreciate that’s all so much. I love that your two things, it’s like great mental health, and therapy and also the personal branding aspect and it’s so noticeable too.

So like you really should be proud of that because I mean we’ve talked about it. I’m like, who did your website like, and we’ve talked about before, like, but also like your Instagram and all that. It’s like very much on point. Not every talent manager needs is gonna feel comfortable being

[00:39:46] Briana: Yeah. Yes.

[00:39:47] Jessy: In that position. So I don’t think it’s for everybody, but for those who like are on board with it and are comfortable with it, there is insane amount of value that can absolutely come from it. I can imagine. I would love to talk more about that because I think there are more solopreneurs or small business owners who feel uncomfortable being in front of the camera. And being the focal point. They’re more comfortable with that negotiator role. They’re like, oh, I’m just gonna be behind the scenes. And that’s fine, no judgment, but I wonder if more women could hear the benefits of what you received from being in front of the camera and from prioritizing personal branding.

I wonder if more women would be like, hmm, maybe I should explore that. So talk to me a little bit about Some of the more really tangible things that you’ve received from having a beautiful Instagram, from having a great website, like what are some of the benefits and the ways that you’ve seen all of that unlock things in your business?

[00:40:55] Briana: I love that you brought this up because when I first started my company, and this has always been a thing as I’ve just worked professionally, is like being afraid to really express myself online and create content in the way that I want to create it because I’m a professional. I’m not supposed to do that.

That’s kind of a stigma and it’s not true. I realized, and again, my fiance. At the time, so, well, my husband now, he has always been so supportive of helping me just understand that things are not as big of a deal as it seems like. When I first started my company, I was very afraid to create content and post, and I love photography.

I love video, and it’s something I’ve always done since I was a child. And he was like, who cares? Like it’s Instagram and if your clients are anti about that, then maybe they’re not the right fit for you. It’s like, that’s a really great point. So I feel like if there’s any influencer managers or managers or agents out there that also love creating content, it’s more of a matter of like how you position yourself online.

My content is branded as someone who helps content creators get unstuck. And I believe in that because that’s what I love doing. And so a lot of the stuff that I post is motivational and educational and is very related to my industry. And so it has created a community for me in terms of developing relationships with micro talent and growing those relationships over time.

And, then being able to have conversations with those clients or with those creators who could potentially ble be clients in the future. And then I’ve also had many times where my clients have come to me and we’re like, we have regular meetings. And they’ll say like, we’ll be having conversation and they’ll be like, oh yeah, you posted about this topic the other day and I read it.

And I like totally agree. And so we’re on the same page, and it’s helpful for my clients too. If I’m writing stuff that’s, educational and motivational for them. It’s helpful for them, it’s helpful for creators. That’s what I wanna do online. Like I just wanna help young creators. Help them understand and overcome those roadblocks and take the leap and start their own company and become a full-time influencer.

That’s something I’m really passionate about. And yes, it has absolutely helped me gain new clients. Like before I was like so hard for me to get new clients. Like I was just like, cold outreach was impossible. But now it’s pretty good, you know, I reach out, if everything lines up, if my values line up with theirs, they’re interested.

And then they see my Instagram just DMing me on Instagram and they’re talking to me about our conversation that we had on the phone. So it’s kind of like this is something that needs to be debunked in our industry. Like you don’t need to be this like behind the scenes girl. If that’s not what you want to do, then like do what you wanna do, girl.

Live your life. If you’re independent, live your life. If you’re at a company and you’re a talent manager, maybe you need to be a little more careful, but I just feel like there’s really no point to be afraid of what you know, unless you’re posting, weird stuff, but

[00:44:52] Jessy: Or like make that your brand. You know what I mean? Like just lean into it. I don’t know that there is weird stuff. I agree with you. I think that like how many people out there in the world can say that they even manage influencers? The tiniest, tiniest of tiniest percent. And I think that maybe because of that or just because we’re scared and some of us let like fear naturally dictate some of what we do because it’s like natural to feel nervous and scared. They like a lot of us try to like fit into the mold of what’s been shown to us. So we’re like, Okay, well I’ve seen this person be successful at being an influencer talent manager. So, I don’t know, I’m gonna like follow some of what they’ve done.

They didn’t know what the hell they were doing and in fact, like that might be beautiful and perfect for them, but you could like, that might not be a fit for you at all. In fact, maybe some like it would, you would feel friction with that. Perhaps, it would just simply be way more fulfilling to do it a different way.

And I just think as women we also need to be hopefully brave enough to be able to show that there are so many different ways of doing things and we work in influencer marketing. So like we’re online all the time, and again, like we’re seeing the pretty pictures and we’re seeing the examples of what other people are doing and whether it’s conscious or not, there are parts of that that we feel maybe pressured into emulating or were just like, oh, well they were successful.

So like, yeah, that’s a roadmap that I could follow, great like it doesn’t matter the reason, but I think that instead of maybe looking outward as much, perhaps we can be brave enough to instead look inward and be like, what is a better fit for me? Because I have been on a personal journey over the past like year or two to try to get more and more comfortable being on camera and like putting out my thoughts, right?

And I look to someone like you where I’m like, oh my God. Like I wish I could hire a photographer and go and have them take photos and have that be the photo that I put on my Instagram and then just like share my thoughts below it. I don’t have the balls to do that currently. I’m working on it. It’s a process. But I look at people like you and I’m like, ugh, look, it’s unlocking things in her business and I should at least explore it. Maybe it wouldn’t work for me, it might not, but I know the reason that I’m not doing it is because I’m uncomfortable,

[00:47:34] Briana: Right.

[00:47:34] Jessy: And the reason that I shouldn’t do it is because I make a conscious decision not to, not just because I’m uncomfortable with it.

So I love the personal branding piece. I think that also maybe worth noting is that like, personal branding can be interpreted in a number of different ways but essentially maybe it’s going and taking photos and being like very Instagram focused, but perhaps it’s having a podcast.

You’re like, you have an incredible, you know, you’re a blogger and you put together this like regular newsletter that people are like, oh my God, I love this thing. I always wanna open that up. So maybe it’s just finding what, medium feels good to you?

[00:48:19] Briana: Yes, absolutely.

[00:48:20] Jessy: And lean into that. Right?

[00:48:22] Briana: I love being on camera, not in all instances, but for photos and video.

I actually take most of my own photos with my husband. I kind of do the whole thing. It’s very complicated, but I love doing it and that’s why I do it because I love it. I love creating outfits and I love getting ready and like the looking cute and doing the whole thing. And I didn’t wanna lose that part of myself just because I was a professional, you know, like dressing more, when you go to like work full time at company, you kinda have to dress a little bit more manly, so you can’t like really be a woman in the workplace in terms of you’re attire.

And that was something where I felt like I just didn’t. It didn’t resonate with me. And so, I totally agree with your statement of just finding what you love in terms of marketing and going with it, because being on camera is not for everyone. I just know some people just don’t enjoy it.

It’s just not something you wanna do. It’s a very specific hobby. There’s so many different ways that you could market yourself. I mean, you could do a podcast. You could do blog, you could do email list, you could do ads. There’s just thousand different ways. But I chose Instagram, you know, social media and website, and I used my fashion as a way to just express myself and my brand.

[00:50:06] Jessy: And I love that that is what works for you and you’ve been able to articulate that. Like I think it’s so incredible to, I think it’s impressive to be able to like not only be the one on camera to be like producing it.

I mean, I see your Instagram feed and it’s beautiful and like to be able to also say that no, I’m the person who’s like artistic directing that. Like, you just got married and I saw your beautiful content from that. And I’m like, Oh my God, I have this like vision for months. What I wanted this to look like, and I’m like, oh, it’s so cool that you can see something in such a 360 way I can see how that could also translate to your business and perhaps that is a way that you look at your business. I can imagine if you’re able to do that for your wedding and see something in such a holistic way that you would be able to look at your business and see it in such a holistic way.

Do you feel like that’s a translatable thing. Do you look at your business from multiple vantage points, or do you struggle with that at all?

[00:51:08] Briana: Oh, a hundred percent. I think about all different vantage points. Like how are people gonna feel when they see my website? How do I want them to feel? What are they going to think? What kind of questions are they gonna ask? Like, I’m just thinking about all the possible scenarios of how the other person might see it. And then as I get more feedback, I like just kind of add on. I do that in almost everything that I do. You know, when I like direct a shoot, I create a whole brief, usually beforehand of what the vibe is, what I’m going for, what the story is behind the video. Cause now it’s all reels. And I try to do everything with purpose and to also think about the marketing behind it, which is the heart, honestly, it’s like, it’s not natural for me, but it’s so necessary when you’re a business owner. Like it can’t just be like posting a photo of myself and saying, Happy Monday, have a great week. Work hard. Like it’s just not valuable. And so I have to, it just takes so much work to like really think about what you’re gonna put out there and make it valuable for other people and have it also market back to your business

[00:52:29] Jessy: Entirely. I saw a little update on LinkedIn in the past like 24 hours that said that you’re now, in addition to all the really great work that you’re doing, you are now part of a new network as well, which I found really timely for this podcast. Cause I wanted to ask you a little bit more about it cuz it sounds really interesting. Can you share just like a little bit about like your involvement in that and like, I don’t know, what’s the gist of it? What is that at all about?

[00:52:58] Briana: Yes, this is very exciting. I was so excited when I found out about this opportunity. But basically, Phil Ranta, who is a veteran and thought leader in the influencer marketing space, I used to work for him at full screen like many years ago, eight years ago, and we’ve kept in touch throughout the years. He and I connected and he asked me to be a founding member of a group of independent talent managers who are basically, we trust each other and we are able to help each other get through times where we just don’t know what to do.

So the premise behind the group is like, there are a lot of reasons why managers end up working at companies is because of the resources. There’s so many resources that you get when you work at a big talent managing company or an agency, right? You got people working next to you every day. You can ask this, you can, that you have systems.

All this stuff is provided to you. As an independent manager, you’re usually working by yourself. And now it’s, a lot of it is virtual. So like you’re not physically around people. And we wanna solve that problem by creating a group for independent managers who can share resources with each other, make referrals for deals for each other’s client list and rosters, and just help each other grow from a business perspective.

Cuz there’s a lot of things that we are doing and we’re doing it all by ourselves kind of. And once he approached me about this, I was like, this is what I’ve been wanting for a while, like a small group that I trust that I can go to and share resources and also ask for certain resources, and also be able to get more deals from my clients through their referrals and vice versa.

Because that’s how it works in the agencies, right? Like you have someone sitting next to you, Hey, this brand reached out to me and it doesn’t work for my roster, but it could work for yours, right? And so, we don’t have that as to independent talent managers, and that’s the problem that Phil wanted to solve when he started the group and it just launched. It’s called Digital Associated Manager Network, AKA DAMN, because it’s a damn good group of trusted managers.

[00:55:40] Jessy: That’s such a cool concept. I mean, it’s definitely unique. I was reading a little bit about, I was reading his post on LinkedIn. I love a good like innovative idea. I love a way of bringing people together.

From a lot of people’s perspective might feel like competitors. To me, that feels like such a missed opportunity to look at people more as competitors and less like how can we collaborate though? Like how can we help each other? Building networks of people who are doing similar things. I also love the idea like bringing small businesses or solopreneurs together, because your resources are low when you’re by yourself, by nature of the size of your company. But by collaborating, there’s so much more resources that are now at your fingertips.

[00:56:29] Briana: You are all about this. This is what you do.

[00:56:32] Jessy: This is what I do. And so it’s cool to hear that he’s doing this, but specifically for talent managers. So that’s really, really different and I think like my final question for you today. It’s, related to that, it’s related to your company in general though, like what are some of your goals for your company looking forward over the next like, few months? Where are you looking to take your company?

[00:57:06] Briana: It’s a great question. I have been actually really thinking about this post wedding. Pre-wedding, I was just, in a whole whirlwind of things after the wedding, I started to go into like growth mode again where I was like, okay, how do I take this to the next level? Where I am right now is I want to focus on bringing on talent who are semi established and need more support in really fine tuning and elevating their personal brand.

I’ve talked about this like five times on this podcast already, but I’m really passionate about branding and the power of it and how it really helps with marketing. And so for each client that I have, and then I’ve been bringing on, recently, I’ve been working with them really closely on developing them as a personal brand and as a business versus just a creator who is creating content.

I mean, they’ve gone really far to get where they are right now, but it’s like right now I feel like they are creators and I wanna build them into businesses that have all of the checks going on. You know, especially, it helps them grow. It helps them also understand and have more guidance in how they want to post and post with more purpose.

And it also helps them do brand integrations that are more aligned with their personal brand, right? And I’ve seen, this is proof of it because when I started working on branding with my clients in 2020, brands came to me and they were like, we really love your client, Raven and how she’s built her personal brand.

We feel like it’s amazing just seeing how everything is so connected and like really matches and it really resonates with us as with our brand. And I’ve gotten that feedback like so many times. And so I work with each client in that way, and it’s very hands on. It’s not like they come in and I’m just doing brand deals.

This is like a lot of work from me and my team. So the goals are to bring on, I recently signed three new clients. I have a fourth one coming in as well. And then I am planning on launching the micro division of my company because right now I only manage macro and mega creators. But I see the power in micro creators and what they can do and also the opportunity for development.

And so I would like to bring on a talent manager to really be a leader in the micro division of my company and just really grow it into something bigger than what it is. Like we represent Bipoc creators who have been underrepresented who need guidance, who want the things that we want. They want to have, you know, a personal brand.

They wanna have a business, They wanna be getting brand deals on a regular basis. They want multiple streams of income. I mean, they think more like business people versus like, oh, I just wanna get money through brand deals. So that’s the plan right now, like for the next six months of really building this out.

I mean, I’m still continuing to sign more clients for my personal client list. And once that is done, then we’re gonna start working on launching the micro division with the other talent manager that I bring on. So it’s all very exciting.

[01:01:11] Jessy: It’s super exciting. I did not know this about, your goals. That’s awesome. I’m so happy to hear they’re gonna be hiring someone new, that you’re gonna be expanding to different areas and there’s like so much growth and learning from that growth and so it’s gonna be an exciting process for you for somebody who is naturally an entrepreneur. So I hope that the process is enjoyable and fulfilling and I’m glad to see that you’re like boldly going to new places with your business.

It’s very, very exciting. Before we wrap today, I feel like I would be crazy to not ask you this question for the benefit of those who are listening to the show. I know there are tons of talent managers or aspiring talent managers who are listening to this conversation. And I’m sure that they would be like, what advice would you give to me?

What would she tell me to think about in terms of my business or to look out for, and I know this is a big question, but I would love to know if you could give any advice to other talent managers, something that they should keep in mind in terms of how to make their business more successful or professionally to get through it better, or however you wanna interpret this, what advice would you give them?

[01:02:36] Briana: I love this question because, I did a lot of things in the beginning where I was experimenting. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted for my business. Now I have a better idea and that part is growing, but in the beginning it was kind of just like the wild, wild west and it was like, well, I have experience in this.

I know how to do brand deals. I know how to negotiate and let me give clients. I signed a few clients that were definitely not aligned with my vision along the way. Created a lot of stress for me, and I think everybody has a different situation, so it’s kind of hard to give like general advice, but like if you have the opportunity to start your own talent management company and you have some time in terms of like, you have some money saved up and you can take a little bit of time to build it out.

The best advice that, the thing that has helped me the most was spending, doing the hard work and not being reactive, but being proactive and really just figuring out who my ideal client is. And in order to figure that out, I had to do a lot of introspective work into who I was and what I wanted and the values that I had.

Because then at that point I was able to really say, hey, okay, I know exactly what I want in a client now when I do my discovery calls with talent, like I know very quickly if they’re a fit or not based on just like what they’re saying. And before I just didn’t know how to determine those things because I didn’t know what I wanted in a client.

So really honing in on yourself, getting really introspective, which might take a lot of time. I mean, it took me like six months to really like. You know, because I was working at the same time, so it took a while cuz I could only spend so much time doing it. But that has been a game changer for me in terms of growing my business in the way that I want to versus like growing it just cuz I need money and then down the line being like, crap, this is not what I wanted.

And that, that’s exactly what I didn’t want to do going into this. Cuz that’s what I did when I worked for companies. So I hope that other talent managers out there can really, depending on your values, I guess some probably don’t care about this, like they’re just like, I don’t care, I’ll sign anybody, they don’t, that’s their thing, right? But if you do want to have a more boutique agency and have it be smaller client list, then like doing the hard work and figuring out who you are as a person and how you want to emulate that in your business, and then figuring out who you want as a client. So that would be my best advice because it is so much more fulfilling to work with people who have the same vision as you..

[01:06:02] Jessy: Yes, it is. I am so grateful to have had you on today.

[01:06:09] Briana: Me too.

[01:06:10] Jessy: Covered so many topics and had fun, did learned all kinds of things I know that all of our people, all of our members and community who are listening and watching, I’m sure they would love to get in touch with you. So, of course, Briana’s also just a member of WIIM.

She’s around the Slack community and Facebook community. But is there other ways that those listening are not yet members can get in touch with you, how would they do that?

[01:06:42] Briana: They can definitely DM me @brianawils, B R I A N A W I L S, and then they can email me, and contact me through my website, but I feel like Instagram is the best way to kind of just figure out where all things are because I have a link tree, everything’s on there.

[01:07:03] Jessy: Perfection. That sounds perfect. We’ll link all of that in the show notes. Of course, okay. You are such a gem and I so appreciate you coming on, but also just to like be able to catch up and see how you are and how things are going. I’m so excited for everything that you’re looking to do in the next coming months. I want updates and I want to know how I can connect you with others in the community that can possibly like support, and if nothing else, just like cheerlead you along the way. Cause I think you’re doing such great things and I’m super proud of everything that you’ve accomplished. So you should be super duper proud. Keep it all up and keep that head about you cause I feel like you have like such a good, rounded energy that I know that you’ll do great things. So congratulations on everything Briana. Thank you for coming on.

[01:07:55] Briana: Thank you so much. It’s so great to hear you say that, Jesse, you are a light, you are so supportive and kind and giving, and I am grateful for all of the times that you’ve helped me and have guided me and have just been there for me through different situations, and so I really appreciate it as well and I’m just excited that we were able to chat today and I’m excited to hear the podcast.

[01:08:23] Jessy: Same. All right, thank you guys so much, thank you to Briana and we will see you guys next week. Bye guys. If you enjoyed this episode, we gotta have you back. Check out our website for more ways to get involved, including all the information you need about joining our collective. You can check out all the information at iamwiim.com. Leave us a review, a rating, but the most important thing that we can ask you to do is to share this podcast.

Thanks for listening. Tune in next week.

Briana Wilson


Briana is an entrepreneur, influencer manager, and mentor based in NYC. She has secured over $4M in brand deals on behalf of her influencer clients, has managed over 400 influencer programs, and has over 10 years of experience in the influencer-marketing industry. Briana’s mission is to help content creators get unstuck, elevate their personal brand, and implement strategies to land their dream partnerships.

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