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The HLD elevator pitch! Tell us about your business who you are, what you do, and what you want to do?

by Wanda Rich
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HLD is an all-female led talent agency that works with some of the world’s most popular Influencers, Tik Tok Stars, media personalities and models such as Demi Rose, Georgia Harrison, Belle Hassan, Fran Allen and Anna Vakili.

With the creative industry shifting towards a digital focus, HLD connects these new-age entertainers to brands that have resulted in viral original content, collaborative campaigns and brand partnerships.

All with the values of building a strong community of women and creating authentic content. Since its inception in 2019, HLD has quickly expanded to become a 360° creative agency now launching HLD Models, HLD Studios and HLD Visionaries. Welcome to the home of female talent.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business

I’m Hannah Holland, Managing Director and Founder of a leading female lead management company, HLD. We are a global creative agency with a female-focused approach, built on sisterhood and has since expanded with HLD Studios, HLD Models, HLD Visionaries and Levelled Up: The Podcast (in association with Atlantic Records).

Let us dig deeper into your story – why did you decide to become an entrepreneur? What inspired you to start your business? We want to know about your ‘lightbulb moment’ and the challenges you’ve faced in your journey – the ups, the downs and everything in between.

I went to Manchester Met University and I left – I dropped out actually. After leaving I reached out to every company imaginable including 66 magazines. I proactively sent them over a whole pitch and was appointed Head of Marketing.

I then began working for a 66 magazine where, now a worldwide Influencer, Demi Rose was one of the first cover girls. There, I realised I loved people branding and it fueled my interest in working in the entertainment industry along with my curiosity about the power of the media.

We were talking about opportunities (or lack of) for women that enhance their careers and not exploit them. And it was just a lightbulb moment of  – If no one is out there willing to manage these women, then why don’t I do it?!

I took a complete leap of faith in my career,  I left my position and started my own management company, HLD Management. Demi Rose was my first client and whilst working my notice I signed Harley Brash in the middle of her season in Love Island.

When I left the job, I had Demi and Harley. I don’t know if I felt as if the next stage of my business was just going to boom – I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I wanted to manage talent and I just kept going.

I learnt a lot of hard lessons as I went and I spent a long time figuring out what to do next. For anyone even my age, the best advice I can give is to do your research and then start and don’t expect that it’s all going to go well straight away.

I’m far from corporate and believe that in order to get the best results mixing fun aspects within hard work is a real key. You might read a billion books or read Richard Branson’s story but everyone’s story is so unique and different, which is why your company would succeed.

What does your business do and when did it launch? What problem does it strive to solve and when did you start? Tell us what makes it unique – How does it differ from your competitors? Have you created a unique, innovative product or service?

Since its inception in 2019, HLD has quickly grown to become a leader in the talent management industry.

When HLD Management was launched, the talent management market was oversaturated however there was no one solely focusing on nurturing female talent. So, HLD was born and built on sisterhood – lifting women up in industries such as beauty and fashion, traditionally seen playing on insecurities rather than empowerment.

In the beginning, I was doing everything myself, from building the company marketing strategy, pitching to brands to contract negotiations. I never had the experience of running a business prior to starting, I learnt a lot of things as I went and I’m still learning every single day.

For anyone even my age, the best advice I can give is to do your research and then start and don’t expect that it’s all going to go well straight away. You might read a billion books or read Richard Branson’s story. Everyone’s story is so unique and different, which is why your company would succeed.

As a 360° creative agency we are able to offer our clients the total package when it comes to their brand, which includes brand campaign development, sourcing of talent and delivery of campaign assets such as photography and videography thanks to our in-house studio, based in St Paul’s, London.

With a roster of household names as clients such as Boo Hoo, ASOS, Reebok and MTV, we take the time to fully understand their USP to provide them with a bespoke growth and support plan, by creating organic collaborations and truly unique brand partnerships.

Not only do we want to empower our talent but also their audiences and we did just that with The Levelled Up: the podcast (in association with Atlantic Records). Presented by DJ and radio presenter Siân Owen, sponsored by BOOHOO and included five episodes full of open, honest and conversations on how to level up in your life, career and mindset.

Are you a diversity, equality & inclusion champion?

Our talented influencers break traditional beauty standards within the modelling and fashion industries and have been handpicked for their personality, talent and unique style meaning our fashion, beauty and other lifestyle clients, and their campaigns, are more representative of our diverse society.

We are proud to represent professional, versatile models and aim to nurture their goals into long term career opportunities. We call ourselves the sisterhood and as a whole possess strong family values which are expressed in many aspects of the leadership and amongst the women we work with.

Through our talent and the brands, we work with we can tackle difficult issues, challenging ingrained cultural assumptions and call out inequality. As seen with HLD talent, Georgia Harrison partnering as the global ambassador for Woo Woo Fun.

A brand that emphasises female intimate care. A topic is often seen as “taboo,” which means many women might be “shy” or “embarrassed” to talk about it. A campaign centred on removing Stigma and stereotypes and encouraging saying it’s okay to talk about and at the end of the day these are the ways to do it and be healthy.

As an organisation that works hard to support women around the world – we donated to female-focused charities each of our clients’ names for International Women’s Day.

With the BLM movement, we turned to our BAME talent, advising us on how to become better allies. We then promoted further education across our social media platforms, supported black-owned businesses and made donations to charities.

Are you a workplace wellbeing champion? Tell us about the environment you’ve created, any programmes or initiatives you’ve launched, and how you’ve addressed wellbeing issues whilst working remotely over the course of the pandemic.

Building the right teams and creating a positive culture is a priority and I want to ensure that they will all be attentive to the talent and team needs. Our dedication to our clients and uncompromisingly positive lifestyle is part of our success.

Alongside our work in successfully placing talent in paid work opportunities, we’ve also built a real community. We are there from every single aspect, from if there’s a death in the family if the girls have a break-up, to the highs, the lows and that’s kind of how I want my management company to be – all women, really powerful, joined together.

We do all that we can to unify and encourage the women around us by offering mental health workshops and have a door open policy, so our office is a safe space. Our team regularly encourages and promotes mental health wellbeing, as heard on BBC Radio discussing trolls and social media culture.

Each member of the team has financial incentives for targets to boost productivity and build morale. For many of us in the team, IT and technology was a lifeline during a period when our working patterns changed.

In making a conscious effort to check in with colleagues we would normally see in person virtually as well using video conferencing software.

Structured and unstructured connections with the team and our talent needed to carry on whilst people are working remotely. We also made a conscious effort to keep work channels clear for work and social topics, having space where the team can shoot the breeze or share pet pictures without talk of the virus so the team can manage their mental health and protect their boundaries.

HLD talent and Love Island’s Anna Vakili returned to work her pre-Love Island profession as a pharmacist amid the coronavirus crisis. Like so many people around the country, she stepped out to help out in a time of a crisis.

We allow free use of our studio for our staff to focus on personal creative projects. These opportunities ensure that their talent increases their confidence and skills, ensuring that they can deliver on set.

How do you feel about gender equality in the workplace?

Gender equality although has changed massively does not dismiss the feelings that female entrepreneurs have surrounding their male counterparts even words such as “darling” can feel like a move to make a woman feel inferior.

Most of my experience as an entrepreneur has never felt I have been singled out due to my gender, I feel being a woman in what is a male-dominated space is powerful and empowering.  For me, it’s about men understanding and being aware of how young female entrepreneurs can feel on their come up regardless of gender, a respect level as a whole should be counted.