Welcome to Social Good Creators. In partnership with RARE GLOBAL — a boutique talent management firm to digital superstars and content creators in beauty, fashion, and lifestyle — we profile YouTubers who are using their platforms to make an extraordinary contribution to their communities and positively impact humankind. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about how they became an influencer, the causes that inspire them, and why they’re committed to change the world for the better.
Ashley Villa wants women to have it all.
Unlike our previous featurees for this column, Villa isn’t a YouTube creator. But as cofounder and CEO of agency RARE GLOBAL, where she’s also a talent manager and attorney, she spends 24/7 thinking about and working on behalf of digital creators across industries.
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Her journey with digital creators started with her sister (and previous Social Good Creators featuree), Stephanie Villa. In 2011, while Ashley was in law school, Stephanie and her best friend, fellow creator Jenn Im, were exploring YouTube as nascent beauty vloggers. Ashley expected to earn her law degree and become a top-tier trademark lawyer, but then Im (who now has 2.4 million subscribers on YouTube) received a partnership offer from a brand and asked Ashley to look over the contract.
She was instantly intrigued, especially when she tried to find Im some more specialized help and realized there really wasn’t anyone to find. Back then, brands and digital influencers coming together for sponsored content was a largely undeveloped space. And Ashley, who’d watched her sister and Im’s channels grow to become full-fledged businesses, knew there had to be other burgeoning stars — particularly entrepreneurial-minded women — who needed advice and representation to help their newfound careers flourish.
This, Ashley realized, was what she was meant to do.
Fast-forward eight years, and Ashley now helms RARE GLOBAL, which represents a handful of diverse female creators, including Im and Stephanie. But the RARE GLOBAL family isn’t only designed to support its represented creators. In 2017, Ashley launched a branch-off nonprofit, The Be Rare Foundation (TBRF), which offers $10,000 grants to women entrepreneurs in fashion, beauty, design, technology, media, entertainment, and the arts. The grant program is out to bolster women with ideas, with creativity, with a hunger for success, who simply don’t have the financial resources they need to accomplish their goals.
RARE GLOBAL is how Ashley is changing the influencer industry, but TBRF is how she intends to change the world. Through her company and her nonprofit, Ashley’s supporting this generation of female creators — and the next.
Check out our chat with her below.
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Tubefilter: So first, tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do before you launched RARE GLOBAL?
Ashley Villa: I was born in Vancouver, raised in the the Bay Area — I grew up in San Ramon. I came down to southern California for undergrad at UCLA, then went to law school at Loyola Marymount. I worked as a lawyer for a few years, at Lionsgate and Sierra Affinity.
I gained invaluable knowledge and experience by working at StyleHaul, one of the first multichannel networks in the digital media/influencer/content game. That was my foundation. Then I started dreaming about RARE GLOBAL — my own company where I would be an attorney and manager to content creators.
In 2014, I finally took the leap and started RARE GLOBAL. It was just me and my first clients: Jenn Im and Stephanie Villa (my sister!), who are both YouTube stars.
Tubefilter: You have a sizeable following on Instagram. Did you develop that platform before you founded RARE GLOBAL, or did that happen in tandem, as you started the business?
AV: Honestly, before RARE GLOBAL and the age of Instagram as a business essential…I used IG just as a personal outlet, for fun, to showcase my life and my friends. My following grew organically as many of my close friends and clients became more well known content creators. Your network definitely helps you grow.
Only after RARE GLOBAL launched — and even so, maybe almost a year in — did I start thinking strategically about growing my personal following in tandem with growing the business. It began to make sense to represent myself in connection to my company, as a female founder. Now we have an in-house publicist, Teresa La, who helps vet opportunities for our clients as well as me.
Tubefilter: What got you interested in the world of influencers and entrepreneurs? How did you become a manager?
AV: My sister Stephanie and her best friend Jenn Im started creating YouTube videos about eight years ago. At that time, fashion bloggers were king. People were still just discovering YouTube.
Stephanie and Jenn were really passionate about building their own channels, as well as creating videos together. Eventually, brands started noticing and reached out to them with deal offers…the first brand deals of their kind for most companies.
Jenn had received this offer and asked me to review the brand contract. I figured I would refer her to someone who knew the space, to advise. Funny thing was: no one knew the digital media space or how to structure deals and rates. It was a whole new world. Basically, I was her best bet!
So, I did my own research, established rates and best practices for her, slowly helping her negotiate better deals. That turned into talking career strategy. I loved it! It was exciting, interesting, challenging… Eventually I became manager to both Jenn and Stephanie, and a bigger dream started to take shape: starting a company where I would work with women content creators to achieve their dreams and aspirations.
Tubefilter: You’ve talked before about how you always intended to be a trademark lawyer. Once you had an “ah-ha” moment about female empowerment and entrepreneurship, how did you sharpen your business idea to become what we now know as RARE GLOBAL?
AV: I asked myself, What’s your secret weapon? The answer was that I was both manager and an attorney. I could provide both services, to give my clients a competitive advantage in this burgeoning space. Since I am an attorney, I feel like I truly understand the agreements that my clients are entering into, from the usage of their deliverables to timing to paid media.
I had proof of concept: two clients who were growing under my management even while I worked full-time at another job. I knew that if I dedicated more time and focus to their careers, all of our businesses would expand.
I also had timing on my side. The industry was on the precipice of change. Instagram brought eyeballs to this other crop of creators known as YouTubers, and brand conversion through YouTube videos was sparking an industry shift.
StyleHaul became the incubator where I cut my teeth. They broke ground on so many things that would come to shape the industry as we know it today.
After a year at StyleHaul, I felt ready to strike out on my own. It was scary, of course, but I had done as much prep as I knew how to. Jumping in was the only way to find out if I could do it.
Tubefilter: How did you decide to launch The Be Rare Foundation? What need did you see that made you realize the foundation is something that could benefit many women?
AV: At every step of building my company, women have helped me. My first clients were my sister and her best friend. My best friend from UCLA, Vannga Nguyen, is the creative director at RARE GLOBAL. Vanan (Vannga’s little sister), was my first assistant; she’s now a junior manager. My partner Ivy Cavic helped expand RARE GLOBAL from digital media-focused and into the traditional media space.
With the addition of more capable, smart, and driven women thereafter, we’ve grown into a female-owned, female-run company dedicated to building the dreams of female creators — an extremely strong team. Our client roster represents women of all different ethnicities, with distinct personalities and voices, from industry leaders to rising stars. We’re more than a team; we’re a family. I’m so proud of RARE GLOBAL for what we do together.
And I know without a doubt that our success has been gained through mutual investment: sharing skills, resources, network, insight, and opportunity. This is community at its strongest. Empowerment is the RARE DNA. I always knew I wanted to give back by finding a way to help other female entrepreneurs step into the same power — the chance to move their work and community forward.
About two years ago, I started noticing these amazing conferences bringing women together: Create Cultivate, BeautyCon… Inspiring speakers, insightful stories, a chance to create new opportunities by tapping into a community. These events were huge, sprawling operations, though. I didn’t see many small, independent summits.
‘A Rare Day’ to benefit The Be Rare Foundation was born. Along with Vannga, I co-founded The Be Rare Foundation, a nonprofit providing grants to female entrepreneurs with a mission to move females forward. Our grant(s) would be largely funded by A Rare Day, an annual summit and shopping event that was unique to the fashion, beauty, and digital media space.
It’s been a thrill and a gift to be able to have both come together, and yet another way to collaborate with an incredible team! We even collaborated with a like-minded production company called Ladies First, which helps put on A Rare Day, an extremely large production.
Tubefilter: Why is it important to you that you use your platform and your company’s resources for social good?
AV: Social good means different things to different people, and I admire anyone helping others through activism. For me, doing my part means empowering women the way I know how: through opportunity.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do what I love. Through hard work and the support of my friends, family, and colleagues, I’m living an experience I’m grateful for. A lot of that confidence comes from being able to support myself and pursue my own path.
Tubefilter: Tell us a bit more about The Be Rare Foundation’s grant program to support women entrepreneurs.
AV: As I mentioned, our annual summit A Rare Day raises money for our annual grant, which awards funding to aspiring female bosses pursuing mission-oriented projects across industries — fashion, beauty, design, tech, media, entertainment, and the arts. Our 2019 applications are open! (Deadline Sept. 15, 2019.)
We’re excited to see how applicants are creating the future, and invite our grant winners to be a part of the growing Be Rare community.
At this year’s summit, we invited 2018 grant winner Cassy Martinez (of LadyLab) to share her story and perspective as a speaker at the event.
Eventually, we hope to expand the grant budget to include multiple category winners.
Tubefilter: What personally draws you to philanthropy? Are there any experiences that inspired your giving?
AV: To me, it seems like a natural evolution… Having been an aspiring female founder, I know what it’s like to dream and work and strive. Once I achieved my own milestone, I knew it was time to make it about something bigger.
Our company culture, and the sense of family and fulfillment I experience on a daily basis, definitely inspires me to create more of that abundance in the world around me.
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Tubefilter: What makes you so driven to specifically help businesswomen and women creators?
AV: I feel like I know their struggles, their setbacks, their self-doubt. I’ve been on their path, either by myself or with my colleagues and clients. I know the ways in which I can help because those are the things I’ve searched for. That motivates me to help!
Tubefilter: What does your day-to-day look like? How do you split time between RARE Global and TBRF?
AV: RARE GLOBAL is my day-to-day: contracts, meetings, and ideas are largely focused on what’s next for RARE and our clients.
But as this is the second year of TBRF and A Rare Day, we know what to expect in anticipation of upcoming milestones (summit, grant process, etc.). Now we’re thinking and planning further ahead; now we’re able to connect the dots on various partnerships and supplementary events, like our new Female Founders Luncheon this fall.
Tubefilter: Do you think influencers who have large followings (or even modest followings) have a responsibility to use their platforms for good?
AV: I definitely think we should all give back, however we can, in whatever way is most authentic. That’s a different process for everyone, but it’s something that will make our communities, our world — and ourselves — better. Those who have followings are in a special position to use their platforms for good. Doing it would be the right thing. We make it a point for every single one of our clients to have some philanthropic focus, whether that focus be changing the face of beauty, bringing minority women to the forefront of entertainment, or volunteering at various nonprofits.
Tubefilter: What are your future plans for RARE Global?
AV: This year, we’ve continued to expand our roster to include more diverse, driven women and voices. We plan to not only grow their brand partnerships and form new businesses, but to help all our clients better pursue their philanthropic and activist goals.
RARE GLOBAL manages top-tier, top-earning YouTube stars and content creators, working with marquee global brands at the forefront of digital media. We nurture long-standing careers on an international scale, providing clients with next-level, 360-degree management, digital and traditional career support, media strategy, and industry-leading expertise in fashion, beauty, and entertainment.
Follow us @rareglobal.