In a consumer driven world, influencers seemingly have more influence than brands these days. YouTube Influencers help to drive consumer purchasing decisions by providing tutorials and unveils on virtually everything from music to fashion and beauty. That being said, in a world of YouTube and influence, there has to be someone helping these influencers grow their platforms and their career, and that’s where Los Angeles based entrepreneur Ashley Villa fits. Ashley is the owner of Rare Global, a 360-degree management company helping drive the careers of some of the world’s biggest YouTube beauty influencers, like Jackie Aina and Jenn Im (just to name a few).
We had a chance to speak with Ashley about her interesting career trajectory, the importance of mentorship, her latest venture The Be Rare Foundation, how she sets goals for clients, and more.
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
For my first job out of college, I was second assistant to what I know now was a really big music attorney in Los Angeles. I actually landed it, crazy enough, through a temp agency — because when I finished at UCLA, to be honest, I was very entitled. I went to UCLA and had a major and a minor and thought I could get any job I wanted. Then I started to realize I actually had zero job skills. I think I only temped at two places before I started working with Darrell Miller. I answered his calls for a week. The next week, he hired me as his second assistant, which was really cool and I still keep in contact with him now. I hired him as a lawyer to some of my clients now — so ten years later, our relationship has changed.
Throughout our careers, we meet people who could be beneficial to our career growth in the future. For you, how important has it been to make sure that you nourish the relationships you may have cultivated along the way?
For me, it came pretty organically because Darrell Miller was my first boss and I looked up to him, so I just kept in contact with him. He was my mentor in many ways, and it just so happened that with my client Wengie, who is pursuing a music career, Darrell became her music attorney. I think for me, it’s been easy to maintain those relationships, and I’ve done that with a lot of my mentors and bosses — I think it comes naturally. One of my mentors’ names is Virginia — and every six months, I’m like, “Shoot, I haven’t caught up with Virginia, we need to go get lunch.”
That’s great because with mentors, sometimes I think people think that their mentors need to reach out to them vs. you reaching out to them to keep the relationship existent, so it’s really cool to see how you do that.
I have an opinion about that too. Here’s the thing: I’ve had a few mentors who have been very vital in changing my career or how I work in general. At the end of the day, your mentor is adding value to your life. To be honest, when you first meet your mentor, you’re not adding much to their life — they’re doing you a favor, so you have to be the more aggressive one. You have to be like hey, I want to stay connected to you or I want to spend some time with you. You can’t expect them to constantly hit you up all the time, forcing their help on you. If you’d like to keep contact with your employer or your boss, you’re going to have to have to keep up with that. Like obviously don’t do it in an aggressive way because these people are busy, but in a way that you’re just maintaining the great relationship that you’ve had all along.
If people were interested in having you as a mentor, are there some things that would be helpful in them reaching out? What are some things that you think are vital or important for someone you would consider mentoring?
The people who I mentor are the people who work for me. I set an expectation for myself that within my company, for my coordinators who work for me, my assistants, I plan to mentor all these ladies because I’d like for them to move around and do well in my company. I get asked quite often to mentor other women outside of the scope of my company, but I just don’t have the bandwidth, to be honest. I already mentor three to four women within my company so it’s difficult to take on a new relationship. These types of mentorships take a lot of time — probably a few hours per day I’m sitting with my assistant teaching her how to read contracts, telling her the right way to reply in email — it’s a really hands-on experience with me — that’s the kind of mentorship position I have taken in terms of who I am actually mentoring.
I would urge other women who are seeking mentors to find them within their company. My most amazing mentor is Virginia Longmuir, and she was my boss. It was just natural that she would help me grow in my career. She taught me how to do a redline contract. She taught me how to write representations and warranties. It was all a part of the job, and it was easier to mentor me within that capacity — so finding someone at work is very vital.
The people who I mentor are the people who work for me. I set an expectation for myself that within my company, I plan to mentor all these ladies because I’d like for them to move around and do well in my company.
You’ve had an interesting career trajectory from working as a Business and Legal Coordinator at Lionsgate, working as an attorney, to now being the Founder and CEO of Rare Global. How do you think all these experiences have shaped who you are now in terms of your career? Also, if you had to give advice to women looking to make career transitions or pivots, what would you tell them?
I have had different types of jobs, but to be honest, my career has always built upon itself. I worked in a law firm with Darrell, which inspired me to go to law school. I had a summer associate position during law school where I learned about not just contracts, but also litigations and kind of just moving along in terms of law. Then, I ended up working in Lionsgate in the corporate office and I learned a lot about operating agreements and how entities work together in corporate and how production works. Then, I started working at a film field agency where I learned about licensing and contracts, and that’s when I started working with Jenn Im. She needed help with contracts that were licensing based because she was licensing her content on her YouTube channel to be used in various ways. A lot of my career and the skills that I’ve had, how to draft contracts and how to be detail oriented, have kind of built upon my career.
After I was helping Jenn on the side doing her contracts, I started working at StyleHaul, which is a multi-channel network focused on YouTube and digital media. I learned a lot there about everything you need to know about YouTube, analytics, how brand deals work, and those were still contracts. It’s been a lot of different types of positions, but they’ve all been very helpful to what I do now, which is talent management and the legal work behind closing contracts as well, because I’m a manager but attorney to all my clients.
You were also a judicial extern to a female U.S. district court judge early in your career. What was that like and what did you learn?
I don’t think I understood the value until someone brought it up to me. I had to take a step back because I really, really enjoyed working for Judge Morrow. I always knew that details were important, but I really learned firsthand with being in her office for six months how important it is to be detail-oriented and an effective communicator. She was the boss lady judge who was trying to get it and who was trying to move up in the Judicial system — she wanted to be a Circuit Judge, so everything that she wrote and every decision that she made in terms of being a judge was very concise and explained everything about why she was doing things.
Both of her clerks were women. All of her other clerks — we were all doing externships — like four of us were women. It was just a lot of boss ladies working together, and I don’t think I knew at the time how much that shaped where and how I feel now. All the people that I hire are women. My company is by women, for women, and with women literally — all my clients are women. I don’t think I realized how much working for Judge Morrow shaped me in terms of super appreciating how amazing it is to work in an all-female environment because I had never done it before. I worked at a law firm prior to that externship and, to be honest, it was all men. It was a law firm of all men, there was one woman aside from me — one out of so many people in the office and all the partners were men.
With your company, Rare Global, how did you come up with that business and for those who may not know, can you kind of give a background on what you do?
Rare Global is a 360 Management Company and we mostly focus on digital media clients on the YouTube platform. The thing with YouTube now is that any YouTube personality with a great platform and following can do anything they want because they have a platform and a voice to start off and they can transition it. For instance, Jenn Im launched a fashion line last year, or my client Jackie Aina just won the NAACP Influencer of the Year Award. There are a lot of things that can happen from this particular platform.
The moment that this whole journey started for me was when my sister — she’s on YouTube, her name is Stephanie Villa, SoothingSista — called me and said she had a friend named Jenn Im who’s on YouTube. She said Jenn’s been doing YouTube for a couple of years now and she’s starting to see a lot of deals coming in, so can you find her a digital media attorney. I started looking for one and I couldn’t find one.
So I was like okay Stephanie, as a favor to you, I will help Jenn. I started helping Jenn do her contracts and they were really cool, and they were really fun and they were interesting. I remember this one Lacoste campaign where she appeared in a music video and one working with BareMinerals (a brand that I’ve always loved and used myself). I started representing other YouTubers on the side as a side gig, helping other YouTubers with their contracts, because there was no one to help them. Eventually, I negotiated so many contracts while at StyleHaul, which is a network for YouTubers, that they asked me to come work for them in house — and I decided at the time that, that would be a really good opportunity for me to learn the ins and outs of YouTube. I learned all about AdSense and brand deals and distribution deals and really, really how Youtube worked and how the whole YouTube space focused on fashion and beauty, for like a year. By the end of the year, to be honest, I decided that I wanted to be more focused on Jenn and I wanted to sign other clients, so I went on and had my own management company.
A lot of pressure comes with being a YouTube personality. How do you help keep your clients’ careers on track, and also, with negative comments that come, how do you help keep their confidence and sanity in check?
I feel like I’m very in the know with what’s going on in the YouTube space as well as the digital media landscape, and so is my business partner Ivy Cavic — she’s been working for ten years as a manager focused on television and movies. In terms of guiding their careers, we make a plan, a step-by-step plan that will eventually get you to the goal that you desire. The steps are super important to me because you can’t just say I want to launch a fashion label — what are the steps needed to get you there? We have very calculated brand partnerships, the content is focused on fashion and there are lots of steps that are needed. What we do is we assess your goals and from the end goals, we make a step-by-step map of how to achieve those goals. We review these goals like three or four times per year, because a lot of times, my clients are achieving these goals faster than they think and we need to find new goals.
There’s this one year where Jenn had like 10 goals, and we accomplished them all in February so we sat there again at the end of February to set some new goals. We are very calculated with the brand partnerships and we are incredibly careful. Every single thing that you do needs to be thought out, not just jumped into. We have very intense conversations about the meaning of every single thing that we do with these women’s careers.
With the negativity in social media, the thing about these women’s careers is that their personalities and careers coincide. Unlike celebrities, where you appear in a film and that’s you and then you might get an endorsement with Smart Water, cool. In the influencer space, your life is your career. If one of my clients promotes Dior, she will actually love Dior. Or if she’s promoting a fitness app, she actually uses the app and she likes it. That’s the only way these kind of partnerships are able to move forward and luckily my clients have very large platforms where we are able to be picky with who we work with.
The authenticity is there because we have that capability because of the strong platforms. I know that sometimes with smaller influencers, they aren’t able to be as choosey with their partnerships because, let’s be honest, when you don’t have as large of a platform, there are not that many offers coming in and you have to be okay with that and work with what you have. In terms of negativity, it’s a lot easier to deal with when the content that you’re making is actually sincere.
My life is comprised of 14-15 hour days doing contracts in front of my computer.
You just launched The Be Rare Foundation earlier this year. Can you tell us a little about the foundation and what inspired you to launch it?
The Be Rare Foundation is a foundation that my co-founder Vannga Nguyen and I started. The foundation was started to teach, educate, push, and support (monetarily through our grant) women to become their own bosses so that they can be an entrepreneur themselves. We just had a huge event with about 400 people to kick off the foundation that we called A Rare Day, and it was pretty much a day of empowerment. A lot of my clients spoke about their journeys and how to make your content super lit. I gave a 20-minute speech on how to read a contract. It was a really amazing day where we actually sold tickets to raise money for our grants program. To be honest, I launched the foundation because I haven’t had many female mentors in my life. I’ve had one, Virginia Longmuir, but outside of that, there haven’t been many female mentors for me.
On A Rare Day, I looked out in the crowd and there were so many women and they were looking at me with their pens in their hands ready to hear what I was going to say and I started to cry — I even get teary now thinking about it. I remember working at Lionsgate and asking so many women at the company to get lunch with me and I can’t even tell you the number of women that actually ended up getting lunch with me — I think it was zero. I don’t know why it’s been where women don’t help women. I don’t know if it’s because they feel there’s just so many spots to the top. When I worked at Lionsgate too, I was in the corporate suite, and there were only two women in the corporate suite out of twenty men: the CEO is a man, the CFO is a man, the General Counsel is a man.
We only feel like there’s a few women at the top, so we can’t help other women get to the top — but on A Rare Day but there were 400 women that were ready and willing to help each other. It was so inspiring to see there is a community of women that are willing and open to help other female bosses raise up. That journey is why I have the Rare Foundation and why I will continue to put resources behind the foundation and grow it not only to be a community but to also be an actual resource so that women can be connected with others and potentially start their own businesses.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, I know that sometimes there can be ebbs and flows. What are some of the challenges that you had to face and what have you learned from them?
I think that my law background has been a huge help in my launching my own business — I don’t even know how some other business owners start because it’s like payroll, taxes, employment agreements. There’s so much involved in starting your own business and that’s what I’ve learned along the way. I started a couple of years ago and I hired Vanan Nguyen who works at my company. She was my first assistant and now she’s actually a manager at my company, but we literally learned along the way.
I didn’t know how to do payroll or ADP and only recently figured out how to use ADP online. I’ve had some bad experiences with bookkeepers — it’s been a really long journey. Some of it had to do with some of those setup issues.
I think the second issue that has been difficult is hiring good help. It’s really, really hard to find good help, and I’m really close to all the women who work with me, so finding all these people who have helped me build my business is hard.
Ashley Villa is the Everygirl….
What’s one piece of advice that you live by?
Everything that you do, just do it really well. Everything that you’re up to, just do it to the best of your ability — because how you’re doing one thing is really how you’re doing everything. You can’t shortcut things because it will show up in all these facets of your life that you would not expect.
What is your iPhone camera full of?
My dog Mochi. I travel a lot so, literally, I was coming back from New York last night and was just looking at videos and photos of Mochi — she’s a little Maltipoo, and I have a lot of photos of her in my phone.
What’s your one go-to beauty product?
My number one product is the Dior Lip Maximizer, so I’ll stick with that. It plumps your lips — and my lips are really dry, so it’s great for moisturizing.
If you could have lunch with one woman, who would it be and why?
It’s not that I would want to get lunch with her, but I really have been looking up to her lately — Emily Weiss of Glossier. She actually has a quote where she talked about how fashion and beauty, the way that it’s dramatized on social media just really presents a lot of incorrect expectations of what work in fashion and beauty really is.
I technically work in fashion and beauty, but I’m not at a party every night. I may have a cool story from a party, maybe I went to a Becca event, but it’s not my life. My life is comprised of 14-15 hour days doing contracts in front of my computer. And she actually had a quote where she talked about that where it’s really not realistic to expect to have this super glam life in fashion and beauty. Like obviously she founded Glossier and I have so much respect for her and how she’s marketed and branded that company, and I think that the products are super innovative and different she’s pretty much created her own category of beauty which has never been done before.
It’s not just a makeup company, it’s actually a real makeup enterprise. I just really look up to her, so I would say that she would be the person.