Inside HLD Talent, Hannah Holland’s Elite Management Agency Taking the UK By Storm

Inside HLD Talent, Hannah Holland’s Elite Management Agency Taking the UK By Storm
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In the age of the rapidly expanding and ever-changing creator economy, the value and necessity of a proper management team has never been more essential to the growth, development, and lifespan of an influencer – and no one knows how to operate, and execute, for talent quite like Hannah Holland.

The CEO and founder of HLD Talent has established one of the most elite management agencies in the UK, focused on shaping the careers of female talent in the digital space. Hannah’s unparalleled understanding of brand partnerships, matched with her boutique approach to her clientele, has allowed her to thrive and flourish in a highly saturated market, allowing her to rise as a trusted and respected leader in her field. Her insight and creativity have also helped her expand her agency into a platform for Hannah to thrive as a personality herself, sharing her knowledge and business savvy via her own podcast that she self-produces and hosts, Managed.

Hannah spoke exclusively to CEO Weekly about her entrepreneurial journey, building a women-owned and operated company, how she found her niche in the field, and what HLD Talent is all about.

Tell us about your background and how you founded HLD Talent.

At the beginning of my career, I had no idea I would end up owning and operating my own talent management company, I never expected to even be in talent management. However, I’ve always had a strong work ethic and mentality around what I want out of life. I got my first job at the age of 14 at a cafe to make some extra cash. 

After finishing school, I expected myself to do the whole ‘travel the world while you’re young’ thing. Instead, I ended up working at Debenhams for three years, until my godmother encouraged me to go to University. Turns out I was born to work, as I dropped out during the third year of my four-year degree to go into a full-time role at Sixty6mag, a nude magazine. It was here that I realized my complete and utter passion for empowering and protecting women through management. 

I operated as their Head of Social Media and Talent Manager for a while until the magazine started to go under. A friend saw my passion – and skill – for talent management and encouraged me to create my own agency, that’s when HLD Talent was born. Under my former CEO’s blessing, I began to take calls around work hours and slowly build my brand up. At the age of 24, when Sixty6mag eventually folded, I took a client with me and fully launched HLD into the world. Over the past four years, we have grown to a team of 17, priding ourselves in turning digital creators into well-rounded longevity talent – helping these amazing individuals accomplish their wildest dreams. 

As a female founder under 30, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned that you’d impart to other young and eager entrepreneurs? 

I started HLD Talent at the age of 24 and had my fair share of challenges and obstacles. Now, at age 29, I am grateful for every part of the journey, because it all made me stronger as a leader and an entrepreneur. These lessons include: 

  • Ask for help, even if you are the CEO. No one is above asking for help. 
  • Make friends in the industry, kindness will go so much further than competition. 
  • You don’t have to do it alone, build a great team around you and you will be able to accomplish so much more. 
  • Not everyone is out to get you. Keep your friends close but be open to new connections and opportunities. 

The most important lesson I learned is that your power is your difference. I thought for a while that I needed to be super corporate to be taken seriously – but that isn’t who I am. I found the most success when I leaned into my quirky self and stopped filtering who I am for others. People see authenticity, and often authenticity is far more rewarded. 

How did you set out to earn and retain the trust and business of so many successful digital female talents?

I have built these relationships with our talent by being myself and leading by example. It can be a very overwhelming and transactional industry for these creators, making it hard to know who to trust. I make sure to fully understand and learn about them, both personally and professionally. I want these women to trust the vision of HLD Talent and feel a part of the brand and our journey. We want to create a unique and safe place unlike any other talent management agency out there. Our team is also all women, which helps to foster the sisterhood environment.  

We pride ourselves in being very strategic about our talent’s career trajectory. We want them to achieve their wildest dreams, and we know that takes time and careful consideration of opportunities. We could be churning out deals left and right, instead, we say no to more deals than we say yes to. We have a long-term mission in mind and we want to holistically mould these young creator’s careers so they can reach their full potential. 

Tell us about taking GK Barry from the digital space into the television industry. Not many influencers can make this transition so seamlessly. Tell us about the route you took to make Grace so multidimensional!

This process was definitely not overnight. Grace is a one-of-a-kind talent, and it takes a very strategic approach to align her with the right opportunities that will further her beyond digital fame into mainstream media. With Grace, we have begun each year with a detailed 12-month plan, allowing us to keep on top of growth and stay the course with each opportunity we say yes to. Every brand deal must allow for her trademark personality and wit to flow, otherwise, it won’t be a fit. 

I believe we were the first in the UK to really implement a public relations strategy for a TikTok creator right off the bat. We de-prioritized initial monetary gain and prioritized opportunities that would put Grace in front of the right people and audience, this approach pays off far more in the end. Grace was among the first of her TikTok era of creators to start a podcast, Saving Grace. This really pushed her to the next level and developed a cult-like following, which we have leveraged into two live tours around the UK and Ireland. Grace is a special case, it takes a very particular talent and personality to achieve such accelerated success in under four years. Grace has consistently put herself outside of her comfort zone and tried new things to get where she is today. She is such a great role model for other creators looking to build a long-term career beyond TikTok. 

How has working with Dominic Smales amplified the work that HLD does?

Dominic joining our team has been incredible. He is known as the ‘Founding Father’ of UK influencer management and marketing, so it’s safe to say that his exclusive backing of us has been so valuable. He previously grew the biggest digital-first talent management company in the world, taking talent’s careers to include television, film, publishing, brands, and more. Since coming to HLD, he has empowered us to look at talent in multi-platform formats and streamline internal processes. Overall, he has been a huge inspiration to our team and has been vital in growing from a small to a midsize company in a very short period of time. As we continue to grow and diversify our talent portfolio, we are excited for what 2024 holds with Dominic as our Non-Executive Chairman. 

Running a young team, and being a young founder yourself, what are some obstacles you face, and some mantras you live by that have helped you embrace these challenges, take them in stride, and render successful?

I’ve always lived by, “This too shall pass”. When things are bad or aren’t exactly going in your direction, it’s important to realize that it won’t be like that forever. Don’t get too ahead of yourself, don’t be too hard on yourself, and take it minute-by-minute, day-by-day. Time is your biggest ally, take each day as it comes. 

Running a business inherently brings its fair share of obstacles. When I first started out, I took it very personally when talent left. I had to teach myself how to set up those boundaries to separate my personal feelings from my business. It’s not easy, talent management is a uniquely personal job as you get involved in nearly every facet of a person’s life. It’s been a learning experience, but I can now separate those emotions towards the person with the transactional part of the role. 

I also have to ensure that I don’t compare HLD or myself with any other agency or individual. When you realize success comes in many forms, it allows you to stay in your own lane and alleviates any temptation for comparison. In my case, I believe one of my biggest strengths is that I am a young founder. I have my ear to the ground, I stay on top of trends, and fully understand the digital stratosphere, but my experience has matured me enough to be a leader and teacher to my young team.

Finally, I’ve always been obsessed with the quote by Elon Musk, “I believe ordinary people can choose to be extraordinary.” It’s so true, you can really accomplish anything in this life with the right mindset and people around you. 

What are your primary goals and aspirations for HLD Talent in 2024?

In 2024, I want to continue to champion digital talent in the UK, while also expanding to the United States. I want HLD to be the leading expert in translating social media talent into mainstream talent. Our talents have so many passions and goals outside of the social media world, and we want to empower them to be the next voices in TV, journalism, radio, podcast, politics, music, and whatever else their goals align with. Personally, I want to inspire my team, our talent, and other young or female founders. 

Sharing your story via your podcast Managed is such a great way to unite other women in the industry. What have been some of the main takeaways and highlights that have emerged from having this platform and outlet?

Hosting Managed has taught me that all founders, CEO’s, and Managing Directors go through the same struggles, insecurities, and imposter syndrome – regardless of age. It has made me realize we all need to talk more. I think with social media it can look like these leaders have the most perfect and organized routine, business, life, whatever when in reality we’re all going through these highs and lows together. 

A lot of talent, especially younger digital talent, don’t understand the value and impact of IP. How do you teach them that and protect their interests?

IP is such a huge part of what we do, we try to explain how their careers are shaped by using a pie metaphor. Essentially, the more pieces of the pie, the more you earn, the more audience you gain, the more you own, etc. Big companies can monetize your name and content, we protect our talent and make sure they are always a part of that ownership picture. 

Our goal as managers is to ensure that if social media died tomorrow, our talent would still continue to thrive and have a career with all their other endeavors. That’s the biggest thing we emphasize to them, “IF SOCIAL MEDIA WENT DOWN TOMORROW WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?” Our aim is to empower them to be wholly fulfilled and accomplished individuals outside of the Internet. 

You wear so many hats in your daily life – what is your favorite part of your work?

I genuinely love my job. I thrive on watching my clients grow and seeing them achieve goals they thought impossible. It’s so rewarding to go along the journey with them. I also absolutely love spending time with my team, we have fun, and we inspire each other. 

I truly believe you can have it all. It’s easier said than done, for sure, and some days are definitely tougher than others, but overall the reward far outweighs any challenges. It is so fulfilling to work alongside such amazing talented people, both on my internal team and with our clients. It keeps getting better! 

What have you found to be the best ways you find balance within your personal life and professional life?

I’m still working on this one. It’s not easy to switch off completely in this industry, but I know that I have to take time for myself in order to be the best version for my team and my clients. My non-negotiables are turning my phone off on a Sunday, putting my out-of-office replies on when I’m on holiday, and spending quality time at home with my pups. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten!


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