Oct. 27, 2022

Mistakes to Avoid as a Creator and an Entrepreneur

How to protect your IP from the very beginning

What do you absolutely need to know when starting your own business or building a brand? Nora speaks with V Spehar, creator and host of the podcast V Interesting and Under the Desk News on TikTok, about when it’s time to hire an accountant and why it’s okay to get help from a lawyer when it comes to contracts. Then, Victoria Bachan, managing director at Whalar Talent, a top influencer marketing agency, shares insights from her work launching brands, events, tours, and careers for some of the industry’s biggest names. 


Host: Nora Ali

Producers: Bella Hutchins and Raymond Luu  

Video Editor: Sebastian Vega

Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus

Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder

Fact Checker: Kate Brandt 

Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop

VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer 


Full transcripts for all Business Casual episodes available at https://businesscasual.fm


Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, bringing you convos with people you know, and some you may not know yet, to make business less intimidating. Because money talks, but it does not have to be dull. I'm your host, Nora Ali. Now let's get down to business.

The creator economy has come a long way in the past 15 years. Gone are the days where content creation was seen as a frivolous side gig. Nowadays, being a content creator can mean a full-time career, requiring all the necessary skills to run a business. According to a study by Influencer Marketing Hub, the creator economy is estimated to be worth more than $100 billion, and more than 50 million people worldwide consider themselves a creator. And if you're considering becoming a creator yourself, or maybe just interested in what goes into professional content creation, our guests today will give you the "behind the post" look into the business side of things. V Spehar is the host of the wildly popular Under The Desk News, which currently has about 2.7 million followers on TikTok. V also hosts a podcast called V Interesting, which is described as part explainer, part thought-starter with a heavy dose of quirky personality and wit.

V spoke with us about the idea behind f and shared their approach to delivering news in a way that is not polarizing, and how to connect with audiences on both sides. The secret? Listening. If you're ready to take that next step on building your brand, V also advises a key step you need to take: Protect your IP. 

Then we hear from someone who can tell us how to actually make money from being a creator. Victoria Bachan is the managing director at Whalar Talent, an influencer marketing agency that connects brands with creators. How can creators tap into brands to make money? And how can brands tap into creators to convert customers? What even makes a creator appealing to a brand in the first place? Victoria gets into all of that, and so much more. That's all next, after the break.

Well, I love getting to interview people who pop up on my For You page. You've been on my For You page many a time, so this is very exciting for me, V. I would like to start with an icebreaker just to warm us up.

V Spehar: Sure.

Nora Ali: So keeping in mind that I used to be a news anchor, my icebreaker for you is, what is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to news anchors?

V Spehar: Oh my gosh. That's such a tough one.

Nora Ali: Or maybe how news is traditionally done. You don't have to pick on news anchors specifically.

V Spehar: Yeah, because all the things people would pick on, I love. Like I love the pageantry of news anchors. I love the hair, I love the dress, I love everything about it, right? The thing that I don't like, though, and that I've definitely tried to address with Under The Desk, is sometimes I don't like when they're snarky. I know a lot of people do like that, but I already have like a hard enough time understanding what's going on. I don't need folks adding layers of sarcasm. Sometimes that makes it, like, impossible. So sometimes I'll love the way somebody covers a story, but I can't always tell when they're like interjecting snark. And I'm like, "Oh geez." Yeah. So I would say that.

Nora Ali: Yeah, it's snark and there's unnecessary puns, too. That's one of my pet peeves.

V Spehar: Yeah. Or like, super big words. I'm like, "Girl, just tell me what you're trying to say."

Nora Ali: Totally agree with that pet peeve. So V, it seems like you're involved in a lot of projects. How do you figure out the portfolio of what you're doing at any given time? You're spending a lot of time on your TikTok, you're a keynote speaker, you talk about food insecurity. How do you balance all of those things?

V Spehar: It's all good stuff. I was like food famous before I was TikTok famous, which are both great kinds of fame. Neither one pays especially well, so you have to do both. And folks will ask me, like, "How do I become a professional TikToker?" I'm like, "You have to have an in real life talent." I worked full-time for the first year and a half of doing Under The Desk every single day, until I got to a point where I was like, "Okay. I have enough opportunity that I could start to pick and choose just a little bit more on what I'm going to do." So instead of working full-time in food, now I just do my consulting contracts.

And there are always those opportunities. I just have to take less of them than I did when I was doing it full-time, and continue to work on educating other people. Before I was willing to quit working in the food business, I really wanted to make sure that I had trained and given away all of the institutional knowledge I had to as many people as possible, so they can continue to do that work in their communities, because we learned this with me working in Baltimore. I could show up some places and folks will be excited to hear from me and they'll be like, "Okay, great. Yeah, this person's going to help us." And I could show up other places. And they're like, "Uh-huh, kid. No, you're not a part of this community. I don't believe what you're saying. I don't need that." And that is so true, though.

So you have to understand you can't be everything to everyone, but you should share everything you know with everyone, because that's how we actually just make the world a little bit better place for everyone. So the thing I like doing the most is definitely showing up at the food events. I also, I freaking love TikTok, man. I've never loved anything as much as TikTok. I'm addicted to it. I wake up every day and I'm excited to make the videos and see who's in the comments and talk to the people I care about, watch other people's content. So it's very fulfilling on both sides.

Nora Ali: It's such a fickle platform. And to your point, you do have an IRL skill. You're an expert in food. I'm an expert in a lot of things. But at what point as you're growing your TikTok do you decide, "I need to do some financial planning?" It's not a very predictable stream of revenue necessarily, I would imagine. But take me to that point, if there was a point, where you were like, "I have to figure out my finances and sort of plan for the future."

V Spehar: In addition to the food security work I did, I was the director of entrepreneurship, women's leadership, and LGBTQ inclusion for the James Beard Foundation, which for folks who might not know is like the Oscars of food. It's the governing body of all things high-end chefery. And so I had spent years basically telling women who had cupcake shops out of their home, "You need to secure your IP. You need to trademark this. You can't copyright a recipe, but you need to publish it somewhere so it's protected, so people know that it's yours. You need to get that name of every single social media channel. You need to file an LLC even when you're just a home cook," because we knew that these were going to be folks who were going to transition to being major brands. But if you don't get that lined up first, you could kind of screw yourself.

So the very first time that I had a video go off, my friend Randy actually called me, who runs this group called Fab, which is another women's entrepreneurial conference for food entrepreneurs. And she was like, "Yo, you better file right now, Under The Desk everything, every single version of your name, trademark it, copyright it, make it an LLC, DBA it, so that even like...Venmo culture is big on TikTok. People will send you a tip or they'll send you five bucks for coffee or whatever. Put that all through a business account, like run...it is a business now." So I think I had a head start on that, and had filed all of that paperwork up front, even before I knew it was going to be a thing because, one, I had the financial means to get the trademark, which was between $1,000 and $3,000 if you have a decent lawyer.

And I just was like, "You know what? Even if it's just for me to put on my wall, my little certificate that I own Under The Desk News, like, what a fun thing." I didn't know it was going to be a business at the time, but "What a fun thing. That'll be a fun thing to have, like a diploma or anything else." So I strongly suggest you do not tell people what your dreams are or where you're going or your names or ideas until they are locked up as yours. I think that's the most important thing in this game.

Nora Ali: Mm. That is such good advice. V, I'm so glad we're talking to you.

V Spehar: And your name.

Nora Ali: Yes. And your name.

V Spehar: That was actually advice I got from Sara Moulton, who was Julia Child's assistant back in the day. She had a television show on Food Network that her name wasn't in the title of, it was like Weekend Meals. And Food Network like cut her from the show after a while, and they were able to keep the name. And so her advice to me when we were starting, she's like, "You better get every version of your name in every single thing you do and make sure you own it so that they can't ever take it away from you."

Nora Ali: Did you have lawyers helping you? How did you navigate this? Because it could be intimidating if you're just starting out.

V Spehar: Yes. So the first hire you should ever make is a lawyer. Well, an accountant and then a lawyer. Both of these things cost money. So that's where it gets tricky. So sometimes you might have to, like, read a ton about how to do this on the low, until you get to a point where you have any expendable income. I think one thing we've learned about people who get money quickly or money that they didn't have is we see it as extra. And I remember that from my first sponsor deal. It was like $400 for a pillow and I was like, "Well, I'm going to do it because this sounds fun." And also it was my friend's company. So I was like, "Sure, I'll take your 400 bucks and we'll do the pillow." And I wanted to like see what it felt like, you know, just try it out.

So I treated that $400 like extra money. I didn't do anything with it. I like went to dinner, bought shoes, or something. And that could be the risk when you start to get that kind of what we might consider easy money on sponsorship deals. You start to creep up into like, "Okay, well, I want to improve my life or I want to buy this thing." When people get money up front, they spend it on stuff that proves they have money. Then you get to a point where you're like, "Okay, now actually I don't want to spend any money because I understand I have to save it, right, because there's other bigger plans I have for it." I think both are healthy, but knowing that you're doing that is where you can really help yourself. So in the beginning I kind of goofed off, spent money on fun stuff just to have a fun experience, because I didn't even know where it was going to go.

And then the second I realized, "Oh, this is something I want to do," I started to spend money on things like an accountant to help you set up the way that your incoming money is going to go and how it's going to be invested. And then it was a lawyer because I was doing so many contracts that, I mean, I know how to read a contract, but do I really know how to read it when I'm not excited about doing that deal? No, right? I have my own bias. I'm looking at everything like, "Well, that's fine." It's not fine. Have somebody else read your contracts. And those are the things you gotta invest in early because those are the people who are really going to protect you before you have a manager, before you have an agent, a good accountant, a good lawyer.

Nora Ali: I cannot agree more. I am in that bucket too, starting my own company. And the second that I got an accountant and a lawyer, everything just felt easier. It just felt like, there's someone else who is an actual expert in these things is handling it and I don't have to read legalese because I don't know how.

V Spehar: Exactly. Protect your IP. It's like a kitchen, right? You don't expect the guy on grill to be a great pastry chef. Like, don't expect yourself to be an IP lawyer if you're not. That's okay.

Nora Ali: Exactly, exactly.

V Spehar: There's somebody who loves to do that.

Nora Ali: Yes, there is. There always is. But you have figured out how to share news in bite-size form, making people feel less anxiety when they get the news from you.

V Spehar: Thursday night and time for some good news only. Dank Brandon is gonna pardon all federal simple possession of special broccoli charges. He's encouraging all the state governors to do the same. While he's not decriminalizing special broccoli just yet, he is having the Department of Justice look at how it is scheduled. The Onion, no joke, filed a brief with the Supreme Court to protect your right to parody. TikTok's favorite baseball team, the Savannah Bananas, are going on tour. You can check out all their tour dates on their site.

Nora Ali: So for those who aren't familiar, what exactly is Under The Desk News, for which you've become so popular?

V Spehar: Yes. So it is literally news delivered from underneath my desk here in my house.

Nora Ali: You know, it took me a second to figure out you were actually under a desk. And I see that in your comments too, where people are like, "Oh, you're actually under a desk."

V Spehar: People have asked me, like "Why are you on the floor? Are you okay? I didn't realize you were under the desk. I thought you were just leaning forward or something." And I'm like, "No, I'm actually underneath this desk seven days a week." I liked the idea of taking us to a place that we wouldn't expect. So I have a lot of respect for the folks who are at the desk and the professionalism that they bring to the craft and the way they deliver news. And these people are often titans in their field. They've gone to Columbia Journalism School and they've done years of this type of reporting, and I didn't have that background.

So I didn't want to start an account where I was like cosplaying a real news anchor. I wanted it to be exactly who I am, which is like your friend who knows a little bit too much about these things, and we are just meeting under the desk. I suppose if I had a water cooler in my house, I would've done that, but I didn't have that. So we're just here under the desk, like almost gossiping about what's going on or just it's like a secret what's going on.

Nora Ali: I want to learn a little more about your approach to what you're covering, what your tone is, because one user commented, "As someone with really bad anxiety, I just want to say thank you for being able to tell us the news in a way that doesn't invoke fear." What is that approach that makes your delivery resonate so much with your followers?

V Spehar: My mom was a nurse and didn't have a whole ton of time for us to tell stories when we were kids. And so when we would want to tell her something, it was usually something bad we had done or gotten in trouble at school or whatever. And you know how there's all that lead-up of like the backstory? She'd be like, "Just tell me what happened." And so that is truly how I've been talking my whole life authentically, which is like, "Here's what happened and that's gonna be okay." And so I think a lot of the way we grow up influences the way we behave as adults. And for me, I think having very busy parents who were always on my side but just wanted me to cut to what it was so we could deal with what it was, was helpful in developing just the way I speak.

Nora Ali: That's so valuable because there's so much information, there's so much clutter. It's like, I find myself doing this under the desk sometimes when people are just talking and talking and talking. I'm like, "Get to the point." So I appreciate that that's what you do first and foremost. So when you're picking the stories, how does that happen? Because I know it's one big story that you'll cover, or on Thursday night, you'll do just a piece of good news. So how do you go about picking what's most important for that day?

V Spehar: So I only have a minute, and I try to get in what folks need to be conversational about, and that's how I start it. I also pick things that I'm actually genuinely interested in as a person. So it's not like, what should be the news, but like what I thought was interesting that day, or what I'm going to be talking about with my friends on the phone or like with my wife over dinner. And that's how I truly pick the stories. I'm monitoring, you know, a bunch of different newspapers. I don't watch cable news television for the same reasons that I'm under a desk, which is, it is so anxiety-inducing. It is a craft and I will watch like specials and things. But I just, every night when I was doing it during the pandemic, especially in the beginning, I was finding that I was tuning out so much because it was just too much information.

And I'll pick anywhere from 12 to 15 stories and then I'll kind of test them out on myself and be like, "Was that fun to say, or did I hate saying that?" And if I hate saying it, I cut it, right, because if I hate saying it, you're going to hate hearing it. And then I always try to add in something from a place that doesn't get a lot of attention. So I'll pick a story out of Northwest Arkansas or I'll pick a story from Missouri, or I'll relate something that's happening nationally back to an interest piece in Indiana, so that folks feel included and it makes sense for them. So I think if the news wants to be a place of storytelling, of where the truth is, then they have to be more inclusive of the way that people are receiving information and trust them more. I think it's easy...it would be easier for me to be super hardline one way or the other. But I just don't think that's how people show up truly in the world. You could have the most liberal person with extremely conservative parents. Well, how are we both going to talk about Roe v. Wade being overturned without throwing the turkey across the table at the holiday? We just can't do that anymore. There's been such a loss of family over the ways that we've been told we have to align ourselves with one version of storytelling or one version of politics only.

Nora Ali: How do you go about making people feel included for topics like Roe v. Wade, where it's inherently polarizing? How do you keep people engaged even if they might not agree with you?

V Spehar: People are very comfortable being extremely rude to me, and I am a very good listener, and I think that that is a superpower in that I don't expect that other people have the conversation skills of someone who's been trained to like debate, let's say. But they want to get their point across and they want to be heard. And oftentimes they're looking for an outlet to sort of soundboard those ideas. And there's gonna be some folks who are going to take what one news pundit has said and they're going to make that their lot and they're going to parrot those terms right back at you. I don't worry about that. I let them do their thing and then I just kinda move on, because that's not a person that actually wants to have a conversation. That's a person who wants to push that same thing that they heard someone that they respect say, and they think that they will get the same respect for. And then they of course find out that they don't, because we have to exist in the real world and these people are on TV. They don't have to answer for what they said, right, in the way that we do.

And then there's folks in the middle who will come out with something really strong like, "Well, I think that fetus lives matter." And I'm like, "I do, too." My sister had a baby. I cared so much about that baby from the very moment that before she was even trying, we had love for what this was going to be, the potential of this entity that was coming to our life. So I can understand where people think life starts at that spark, right, because we've all had that experience of loving something so much that's not here yet. But when you talk to them about quality of life and you talk to them about the fact that women can't just be incubators for the potential of life, they are actually already alive, sometimes folks will be like, "You know what? I hear that. I hear that and I can get that. That makes sense to me too." And while we're not going to have a complete conversation, maybe we had like a little seed of understanding each other a little bit better.

Nora Ali: This listening and understanding is so much more important now, because to your point, you're on social media, you have comments and you're sort of expected to respond to the people who are commenting on your content. Whereas in the old days of the news, you'd have Walter Cronkite or whomever and you'd turn on the TV, it's just their face, and they get to go home and not even know what people are saying. What stresses you out the most about being in the public eye in the world of news, in the world of inherent controversy? I heard another creator say, "I'm not afraid of getting canceled. I'm afraid of getting canceled for something I didn't do." So there's this fear mentality around it, but is there anything in particular that stresses you out about being public?

V Spehar: So I think, like you said earlier, when Walter Cronkite...I'm going to compare myself to Walter Cronkite, right? No, I'm not. 

Nora Ali: Of course. 

V Spehar: Why not? I mean, who's Barbara Walters anyway? But these figures, they would go on and they would have these incredibly strong conversations where they would give a lot of their opinion. They would hold this person they were interviewing accountable, and then they would go home and it was fine. And people sort of gave the benefit of the doubt that, "Well, CBS was kind of telling Walter Cronkite what to do. Or like ABC was telling Barbara..." I almost called her Barbara Streisand, that's the Broadway in me, we'll get to that next, was telling Barbara what to do. And there's all these producers and people and they're the host. But there's all these other folks who are involved. 

And so in my case, I'm the everything. And I think that's the case for a lot of TikTokers. It's not that you're on a network and you're just here to relay what's going on and give your point of view and then go home. It's, you are a person who is a friend, who is a peer, who is an equal. And I am going to take what you say that emotionally and personally. And that's hard. I think that's the hardest part about being a public figure, is there's stuff that I'm doing where I'm like telling people what's going on and it's oftentimes on topics that they have a very strong opinion about. But then I'm also just like my normal little self who lives here in Rochester, New York, who goes to the local garbage plate place to have dinner with my wife. And people are like, "Hey, I saw your Roe video and I wanted to talk to you about it." And I'm like, "Oh my god, please don't. One, I'm under my desk for the first because I'm scared of everything. But also...

Nora Ali: "I'm hiding."

V Spehar: ..."I didn't write it. I just was telling you what it said." So I think sometimes that can be intimidating. But one thing I love about it is when I see somebody who recognizes me, oftentimes they have a look of "Ah!"...and I also get excited to see them because I'm like, "Oh my god, you're a part of the conversation." And I think that's really cool.

Nora Ali: That's amazing. We are going to take a very quick break. More with V when we come back. V, I mentioned you're also a keynote speaker, which is kind of the opposite of being under your desk and making a 60-second TikTok. Are there particular topics that you love speaking about the most, and what is your approach to putting together those keynotes?

V Spehar: A lot of folks think they want to be a speaker, and then you go do it and you're like, "Oh my god, this is so scary." It's the scariest thing the first time you do one because you think, "I'm an expert in this; of course I could go out there and talk about it." Oh man, do you start to talk fast. The audience is drinking coffee or looking at their phone. Oh, it's insane. You really never know what kind of audience you're going to get. And no matter how much they pay you, there's always going to be folks that were mandatory to attend. So once you get that out of your system and you could kind of just look at it as like, "I'm here to give information to people who want to learn it," that is number one to being a speaker because that's definitely scary.

The stuff that I love to talk about is definitely early-stage entrepreneurship because I think that's the most fun part. It's the part where you have the dream, you're oftentimes working with your friends, you believe so much, you're learning so much, and there are some ways that we can help you just not get stuck or not get taken advantage of. And I love to just be the person who folks could be like, "I learned exactly what to do or exactly what was going to happen from V. And I know when that thing comes up, okay, this is just part of the process. I don't have to be afraid of this." I definitely, I have like oldest child energy in the way that I'm like, "Listen, learn from my mistakes. You guys are little and I'm going to help you because I love you because you're my littles." So I love talking about that.

I wrote a program called Owning It, but it was for the food industry and it did teach women who, again, were making cupcakes out of their home how to find people, like how to decide if the support team that you were hiring was the right fit for your personality, for your work style, for where you wanted to take the business. Not everybody wants to be a billionaire; not everybody wants to be a millionaire. Some people want to be a really comfortable local business owner or a really comfortable micro influencer. They don't want to go into a place where they feel like they've lost themself or they're too exposed. And so I think knowing that about yourself, I love talking about that and helping people navigate that. 

One of the other keynotes that I do is on overcoming fear. Oftentimes the thing that'll keep you from success is your fear of success. We have big dreams and we'll say, "I want to be a this." And we're pretty confident at saying, "I know that I can do this." But when it starts to come, we start to get afraid, like "What if I get too successful and my partner doesn't love me anymore because I don't get to spend as much time with them?" Or I was working with women a lot of the time. So they were like, "What if I make more money than my partner? I feel like that could compromise our relationship, or I won't have as much time for my children." There are fears that stop you, that we can come up with solutions, we can come up with ways that those things you're afraid of don't happen to you.

And the other thing that I talk a lot about is grief. Grief and fear go very hand in hand. And there are not a lot of options for how to navigate grief. And as a person who has experienced a decent amount of grief in my life, I wanted other people to not feel the insecurity and the fear and the loneliness that I felt when I went through some of these great losses.

Nora Ali: Well, V, I think you are doing a great job with all of that. And on a lighter note, before we let you go, V, I would love to play a game called This or That. I will give you two options and you let me know which one you prefer. First things first: How do you get your morning news, a podcast or newsletter?

V Spehar: Oh, news podcast. Absolutely.

Nora Ali: Do you have any favorites?

V Spehar: I mean, obviously Business Casual.

Nora Ali: That's the right answer.

V Spehar: I love this. Axios has a great one. There's a couple folks who do real...I cannot believe what Niala Boodhoo does in 10 minutes, honestly, when it comes to current event news. I think Axios and her show is very good.

Nora Ali: I agree with you on that. I brush my teeth and I put on a news podcast and that's how I get my news in the morning. Okay, second one, this or that. What you like to wear on camera: stripes or solids?

V Spehar: Oh, solids. Yeah. I'm a solid person, yeah, because I always have a tie that has a pattern, so...even though today I look like a...

Nora Ali: But look at your shirt right now. Yeah, yeah.

V Spehar: I was jazzy for the Business Casual and I came extra fancy.

Nora Ali: Yes. I love that. What is the pattern on your shirt?

V Spehar: It's like little moons.

Nora Ali: Oh, okay. Looks like acorns from here.

V Spehar: They're like little half moons.

Nora Ali: Yes. I love that. Okay, last one, last one. This or that. How you caffeinate: bottomless espresso shots or one coffee a day? Maximalist or minimalist?

V Spehar: I am an extra large iced coffee person who like gets it in the morning and then will add ice to it throughout the day and refresh it throughout the day. So gross. But it's just how I live. But I will start with this coffee and then by four my wife is like, "You're still drinking that same one." And I'm like, "No, I've continued to add ice to it," or whatever. Yeah.

Nora Ali: No. I'm the kind of person, if I don't finish it within the first sitting, it's in the trash. It's gone. It's over. I can't handle it. It's over for me.

V Spehar: See, I can't waste food. I can't. So I just add ice. I add ice until it's really just like coffee-flavored water. And by that point it's time for espresso martinis, my second-greatest passion in life.

Nora Ali: Oh my gosh. We gotta get a drink because I agree.

V Spehar: Oh, absolutely.

Nora Ali: Espresso martinis are just chef's kiss, my favorite. Okay. V, now for real, we can wrap this up. This was so fun. I kept you longer than I intended because this was so great. I learned so much. You're so well rounded, smart, likable. V, thank you so much for joining us on Business Casual.

V Spehar: Thank you so much for having me. It was a blast.

Nora Ali: V Spehar is the host of the podcast V Interesting. And is the creator and host of Under The Desk News on TikTok. After the break, we'll talk about how creators actually make money. Victoria Bachan, managing director of Whalar Talent, welcome to Business Casual.

Victoria Bachan: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

Nora Ali: Of course. We love conversations around the creator economy and the business of the creator economy. So we're happy to have your perspective, because we haven't sort of had that management side of it and there's so many questions that come up around it. But before we jump into more about Whalar and yourself, we'd like to start with a little icebreaker. We call the segment Professional Pet Peeves. And I want to know, if you could wave a magic wand and get rid of some commonly accepted workplace courtesy, a thing that we do at work that's kind of annoying that you could just get rid of, what would you get rid of? What is your professional pet peeve?

Victoria Bachan: I don't think this is going to be a controversial opinion, so I'll preface it with that. My biggest professional pet peeve is when people blatantly do not follow the instructions you have laid out in an out of office.

Nora Ali: Yes, that's a good one.

Victoria Bachan: I have given you a full flow chart, right? If you need this, here's that email. If you need this, here's that email. I have given everything you need to be set up for success. All you have to do is read it and implement it and you will be helped in a timely fashion. But if you do not do that, you cannot follow up on the same email seven times and expect a timely response.

Nora Ali: I could not agree more. And I've seen this trend of super-honest out of office messages too recently, where it's like, "Is this urgent? Probably not. If it's not, this can wait. Don't text me. But if you have to, here's my number." It's like people understand that if you're out of office, nothing's actually going to be that important until you get back. So I appreciate that. Okay, let's get into it. Big picture. What exactly is Whalar and how does it support creators?

Victoria Bachan: So Whalar is a creator commerce company, and we are global, which is actually something that is very unique to us. We have multiple lines of business that are interplaying in the tech community for the creators. Obviously, we have a brand business who is working, strategizing, and representing and helping brands to come into the creator world and properly, respectfully work with creators. And then you have my line of business. I lead our talent management division. So we are representing over 200 creators across all verticals and all platforms, helping them grow into a multifaceted 360 business that is really around the idea of sustainability. I think especially in the past two years, we've heard a lot of conversations in the creator community about burnout. You've heard it from Casey Neistat too, right? One of the number one creators, kind of in the world, who has been openly vocal about, "I spent all this time posting a video a day and now I'm burnt out and I'm exhausted and I can't be creative."

Casey Neistat: Three years later, I was as burned out as anyone could ever be. And what burnout out looked like for me, instead of just generically using the terms, I was just kind of angry all the time. I was angry at everyone. I realized that I hadn't socialized, I hadn't sat down and talked to my wife, like I hadn't had a relationship. I hadn't been present in a lot of time.

Victoria Bachan: And so a big thing that we specifically look after for our creators is sustainability, mental health. I'm very blessed that I've been in the space since the Vine days and like Facebook. And so I have been able to watch and help and guide many creators through what is inevitably and always on change.

Nora Ali: Is there a type of creator that is best suited for Whalar? For example, is there a certain size where it makes sense to sign on with Whalar, or is there a certain niche or genre? What's sort of the secret sauce for the creators that sign on with Whalar?

Victoria Bachan: Honestly, the biggest thing is professionalism. I think what a lot of creators forget sometimes is that if you are working with brands, or even if you're not working with brands, if you are working with external vendors, most of those people, that is their full-time job. They're working a nine to five. So if you are emailing a brand at 11 o'clock at night for a link, you're not going to get that and it looks unprofessional. So I think the creators who are the most equipped to really go in it for the long haul kind of understand the infrastructure of the industry and are able to do what is best. If you are the best at creating at night, all for it, go. But be prepared to do that. Or maybe you're not getting the same responses that maybe you think you should be getting because most people do not work at night. But in the creative community, I do understand that many people do like that.

So it's just finding what is that sweet spot. And we have this conversation a lot internally, where if a creator's a little too young in their creation journey, sometimes you coming in to help might create more harm than good because they could be taking their full fee and reinvesting that money into, say, hiring an editor so that they can create more content. So it is an interesting kind of line of figuring out, "Okay. This person is at a certain area where they can work with management. It will help them a lot. It will make a lot of sense." And that percentage that is being taken for that work is valuable, versus where it's not yet valuable, when in reality they could be reinvesting that into their business.

Nora Ali: Victoria, I think that's really interesting, that you at Whalar are very cognizant of when it's advantageous for a creator not to have representation. Every dollar counts; they reinvest it back in. And one question that comes up a lot with creators is, how do I decide how much I should be charging for my work, for the brands that I work with? And that's something that you help them determine. So what goes into that, in addition to things like follower count, the sort of "vanity metrics," how do you figure that out?

Victoria Bachan: There's a lot that goes into how we're pricing. One, all of the metrics, all of the data. So the follower count, the engagement. But then what gets taken out of this conversation a lot is usage. And that became a huge thing for us in the pandemic, because we had a lot of brands who were like, "Oh, two-week lockdown is now 12-week lockdown. Can we keep adding usage to this because we need to reutilize this content?" Absolutely—let's have that conversation. So usage. Timeline is a big one. We have brands who will come to us and be like, "We need this in 48 hours." And it's like, "We're going to have to charge a rush fee." Just like if you were to work with any other external vendor on a project, if you were to go to a print shop and you want a T-shirt with a 48-hour turnaround, they're going to charge you a rush fee.

Nora Ali: Right. Victoria, I want to learn a little bit more about your job specifically at Whalar. So you're a managing director of Whalar talent. And on your LinkedIn it says you've closed and managed thousands of partnerships for both onsite and online activations. What does this mean in practice? What does your day to day look like, Victoria?

Victoria Bachan: Yeah. So prior to Covid, we had a lot of creators...and it started to trickle back as of probably March this year, March of 2020 or 2022, I should say, exactly two years later, where we started going back to on premise and on-site activations. And so what that means is, clients going to these really awesome events or things that brands were throwing for either product launches or things that they were doing just to get behind-the-scenes content. Obviously everyone saw all of the activations that were with Coachella and Governor's Ball and kind of the various music festivals. Now we're having conversations for CES, and at Whalar we brought five creators to Cannes. So when you're doing things on-site, it's just that. You are very on-site. You're helping creators even create the content. I became a creative director for many of the clients at Cannes.

And then there are times when they're in town and they have to do brand deals and I become the friend, and it is really fun, right? I'm not gonna lie. And then the flip side of it is what many people saw explode in the pandemic, which was everything that was online. And it has different mechanics and different deliverables and different things that you have to think about and work on. But mostly those are done from home. There's actually two things that have made my job a little bit more difficult now than it was prior to the pandemic. One is obviously supply chain. A lot of people don't realize how many things a creator will need. If a brand sends the product...lost in shipping. Never showed up. And then they're freaking out because the timeline has changed. It's not to the fault of the client. They're trying to do it, but it never got there. And maybe it's not in stores for them to quickly go grab it because it's for a launch.

One of the biggest things I learned in March 2020 was that actually there's advertising laws that you cannot promote a product that a consumer cannot buy. So anything we had with Clorox, Lysol, things like that, the brand was like, "We can't keep it on the shelf so we legally cannot promote it and we have to pull this deal." And it was heartbreaking and upsetting and sad. But at the same time you're like, "Well, I can't argue with it because I need to find Clorox myself and I can't." So that was interesting. 

And then the second thing is really finding the balance of social postings and being respectful of the headlines. A lot has happened in the last two years. And it does not make sense and it does not look good for all sides of it to be posting something that is insensitive in an important time. And you know, it's really sad, but it's like I have to have these conversations almost every week now. And I still remember distinctly the first time I had to make the call. I'll never forget it. It was the Pulse shooting in Orlando. I had a client who was supposed to go live with a brand deal that morning and I couldn't get in touch with anyone at the brand. And so I told the client, I was like, "I'm just going to make the executive call: Please don't post it. And if they get upset, I'll take the fall. I'll make you guys look good. I'll take the fall," because it did not feel good, right? You wake up to this horrific news. "Yeah, let's post this brand deal." No, it feels horrible. And then I did get in contact with the brand that Monday morning and she was like, "No, it was the right call. Let's wait a couple of weeks. No stress, it's fine." So definitely breathed a sigh of relief because at the time I was like, "I'm definitely getting sued, my career's over."

Nora Ali: No, I mean, that's a tough decision to make. But audiences are becoming so much more sort of discerning and critical, where even if you're slightly tone deaf as a brand, then that is detrimental to the brand. You don't want the brand to suffer because of an ill-timed post. But then you started talking about this. But how do you deal with that fallout? Do you have a make good campaign later, you just delay it? How do you sort that out after something like this happens?

Victoria Bachan: It changes every day. But it does create a bottleneck. The online community needs to be slightly more forgiving of the fact that when these things happen, we are human and we have to be human. You have a job. I have a job. The creators have a job. The brands have a job. Everyone has a job, right? We're all trying to make a livelihood for ourselves and our families. And so when things like that happen, we are human and we stop and we hold back. But at the same time, eventually when things feel okay, those things have to be posted. And sometimes it's quick and there's two together at the same time and it feels a little advertisey. But when life hands you lemons, you just kind of figure it out. It might be a little chalky lemonade, but you just kind of drink it, you know?

Nora Ali: I like what you said about the online community has to be more forgiving. It is a little stressful generally to be online, regardless of who you are right now. How do you advise your clients on how to engage with their audiences, with their followers? If they've done something that people don't agree with, do you tend to tell them to ignore it? Should they respond? What are those scenarios that you help your clients navigate when it might be sort of tricky waters at the time online?

Victoria Bachan: It completely depends on the situation. There are times where you want to say things, but you have to wait a little bit just to ensure that the facts are correct from a legal perspective, whether it's civil or whatever. You have to make sure you're not putting your foot in your mouth and it could cause a larger legal kerfuffle. And then there are sometimes where it's really not that big of a deal and people take it a little bit overboard. And sometimes I tell them to just step away from their phone, go out into nature, let things die down for a couple of days so you can collect your thoughts, because I think the problem is a lot of people will be very quick to just say whatever they want to say, or get it out. But it's not really well thought-out. And that's when you get yourself into a worse situation. And I am a sucker for always, like, something happens, I will read every release, press statement, things that go out, because it's a learning opportunity, right? Some people nail it and some people do not. I read one actually from a band about, you know, they had been accused of something. I read the article or their press release and I was like, "Not a single woman read this, did they?"

Nora Ali: Oh no.

Victoria Bachan: I immediately looked at it and I was like, "No woman read this before they released it. Like, what are you doing? Any woman, please, just pick one to read this before you put it out."

Nora Ali: Was it sexist or what was the red flag?

Victoria Bachan: The red flag was not being victim blamey, but then being victim blamey...

Nora Ali: Oh dear.

Victoria Bachan: ...all in the same thing. And I was just like, "Oh." This is also why I read all of these things, because you're not in it. So you get to look back and be like, "Ooh, what did this person do really well? What did this person not do really well? And then how do I take that as better experience in the future being from afar?"

Nora Ali: Yeah, and you also bring up a good conversation around inclusion, representation, where you have different voices and people looking at content to make sure you're not doing something unsavory towards different groups of people. And I know at Whalar you're very focused on representation, diversity, inclusion. Can you tell me a little bit more about your efforts on that front? I know you've helped with diverse houses, for example, for creators.

Victoria Bachan: It all starts at the level of our managers. So if our managers are super diverse and have different points of view and different life experiences, that is going to feed into the types of clients that they're representing and that they feel like they can be additive to, and that they feel like they can help grow their fan base and their story and their business, because there's a kinship. We have a very, very diverse group of managers, many of which who are not from the United States, many of which come from immigrant backgrounds, different BIPOC communities, LGBTQIA+ communities. 

Now with our recent acquisition of C Talent, we're learning a lot about the community around ableism and disability, and that's a lot that I'm learning too, to be quite frank. And that team is doing a great job, like teaching me a lot of...you know, asking for accessibility. Like, what are your accessibility requirements when we're going into meetings or into signing meetings, when we're going into execution of either on-site or online activations and that sort of thing? So it really comes down to, who are the people that we have here? We did the Crib Around the Corner, which is an all-Black creator house that did super well. And then we did Familia Fuego, which was an all-Latinx creator house. And both have been absolutely incredible to watch grow and to see all those creators. The houses are both wrapped. So while we did those, all those creators have now kind of gone their separate ways and are doing their own things. And many of them used it to really catapult themselves and to move to LA and to do all of these different things. So it's been really, really fun.

Nora Ali: All right, Victoria, before we let you go, we have a fun little segment called Shoot Your Shot. I would love to hear, Victoria, what is your moonshot idea, your biggest ambition, your wildest dream? It could be personal, it could be Whalar related, world related. It's your chance to shoot your shot, so go for it.

Victoria Bachan: This is personal related. And I've always said for years, when I go to retire, I just want to create a retirement career. And so my retirement career I hope will be...I don't even know if this is the correct vernacular, but this is what I've been saying, that I want to be a senior actress. So it's funny. I always joke that my aesthetic is very coastal grandma. So I'm like, "When the time comes, I want to be that. I want to be the fun-loving grandma down the street or the nebulous neighbor that's always gossiping on whatever show when I'm well into retirement." I just think it would be so fun and so different. I think there's a lot of great roles for the fun grandma.

Nora Ali: That's amazing.

Victoria Bachan: And please cast me in 40 years.

Nora Ali: All right, Victoria. It's been such a pleasure having you on the podcast. Thank you for joining us on Business Casual.

Victoria Bachan: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Nora Ali: This is Business Casual and I'm Nora Ali. You can follow me on Twitter @norakali. That's Nora, the letter K, Ali. And I would love to hear from you. If you have ideas for episodes, comments and thoughts on episodes you loved, fun segment ideas, just shoot me a DM and I will do my very best to respond. You can also reach the BC team by emailing businesscasual@morningbrew.com, or call us. That number is 862-295-1135. And if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And if you like to show, please leave a rating and a review. It really, really helps us. And guess what? We are on YouTube. So if you've ever wondered what I look like, what our guests look like, or what anything else looks like, full episodes are available on our very own YouTube channel. That's Business Casual with Nora Ali. Again, Business Casual with Nora Ali on YouTube. Business Casual is produced by Katherine Milsop, Olivia Meade, and Raymond Luu. Additional production, sound design and mixing by Daniel Markus. Kate Brandt is our fact checker, and AB Silver is our senior booking producer. Sebastian Vega edits our videos. Our VP of multimedia is Sarah Singer. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali. Keep it business, and keep it casual.