THE BTS BOSSES.
Behind-the-scenes of every famous face and brand deal are incredibly important women, many of whom intentionally shy away from the spotlight. They take the phone calls. Make the deals (or walk away from them). Come up with ideas and branding. They get shit done.
Such is the case of Allison Statter and Sherry Jhawar, founders of Blended Strategy Group. Never heard of it? There's a reason for that. And #sorrynotsorry for blowing your cover ladies. Both are incredible strategists and entrepreneurs. Allison spent 16 years building her career in the entertainment industry. When she met her business partner Sherry Jhawar, the former Global Head of Marketing for Eos Products, there was instant biz chemistry. Together they founded Blended Strategy Group.
Providing comprehensive commercial, marketing and branding consultation to their clients, Allison and Sherry cut out the middle man-- talent agencies and red tape, instead making a direct connections between the brand and the client. They're like the BitCoin of client/brand relations. As Sherry says, it's important to the founders to "provide a pathway and megaphone for small brands to be heard in this insider’s world."
Blended Strategy arrived on the scene at what we think is the perfect time. People are over-managed. There are so many cooks in the kitchen. Why was it important for each of you to streamline brand and talent management?
Sherry: When I worked internally in marketing at the brand, I found that Hollywood is such an “insider’s world.” If you do not know the right people and have the right level of “cache,” you do not get very far. Naturally, if you work at a big brand with a big checkbook, everyone will take your call…but they also then try and take advantage of you because they assume you do not know any different. It is important to me that we not only provide a pathway and megaphone for small brands to be heard in this insider’s world, but also an unbiased and knowledgeable negotiating representative for the larger brands – all the while, providing the right strategy to all our clients. On the talent side, I found that many times the dots were not well connected between talent’s various partnerships – the partnerships were kept in silos vs being connected so they could amplify each other and the talent.
Allison: When I worked internally at the management company, my biggest challenge was working with the brands on the best way to activate with my talent and how to best leverage them to get them fully engaged. As we all know, there are so many different ways for brands to engage with talent nowadays. Because of that we think it is not just important, but very helpful for brands to have us on board to help them navigate through the entire process so they enter the partnership with talent on a positive note and then continue to work with them in a way the talent feels excited which in return gets them more engaged. With our expertise in both brand management and talent management, we are very valuable to brands.
Navigating partnerships is no easy feat. A co-founder relationship is no exception. How did you know you would work as co-founders?
Sherry: I know this sounds hokey, but before Allison and I decided to start this business together, I felt like there was a force that kept pushing us together (at the time, I was at eos and I worked with her on talent she managed) and I truly felt there is something bigger in business for us to together. I lived in NYC and flew to LA to spend 2 days with her to try and learn as much as I could about her! It is funny in retrospect, but honestly, in those 2 days, I learned that the core Allison and I were very similar people in our work ethic, passion for business, devotion, and closeness to our families and friends, and more. All of those qualities in Allison, along with our very clear complimentary skill sets and knowledge bases, are what made me confident to take the leap of faith and start Blended Strategy with her. In the end, it truly is a leap of faith – no matter how much “research” you do to ensure it will be a good partnership, you truly do not know until you are in it. We are 2.5 years in and still learning about each other! Like any relationship, the key is trying to find time to communicate and not get lost in the shuffle of all the day-to-day hustle.
Allison: For me, I always knew I wanted to have my own business one day, but I also knew I never wanted to do it alone. I am someone who needs my partner riding alongside me, in the weeds with me, encouraging me…. Sherry is that person. In all honesty, I didn’t know we would work as partners but I was so drawn to her that I didn’t really care, I just assumed we would figure it out and that is what we have done. For me, it was that I saw a good person who shares similar life and family values as me. That is at the core of our partnership. We love each other on a personal level first and then all of the professional aspects of our relationship come second to that. It's like a marriage, I know I need her in my life no matter what, I love her, I am so grateful for her, so all of the hurdles we encounter we just work hard to get over them. Not having Sherry as my ride or die is not an option.
Where do each of your respective drives and passion come from?
Sherry: My parents and older brother all worked incredibly hard as I grew up and are all great role models in work ethic and I always want to make them all proud. Many of my close friends are all marketers too and we fuel each other’s careers too. Honestly, I truly love seeing great and unexpected (but thoughtful) marketing come to life, and being able to do that for both our talent clients and brand clients is incredibly rewarding and fun. I love pop culture and I love products and brands– so to have a job that encompasses both, is a dream come true. I mean what other job is it part of work to watch Stranger Things and trawl Instagram!
Allison: I get it from my parents. They are both incredibly hard workers and are both self-made. They grew up in middle-class families and have worked their entire lives and made an impact on me. For me, it's about following in their footsteps and making them proud…. Plain and simple!
Relationships are a huge part of your business. How does someone with no connections begin to build those important relationships?
Sherry: I am huge proponent and fan of LinkedIn and reaching out to people on there. If you write to someone with a thoughtful and personalized message, you would be surprised how many people will write you back. Most people do not take the leap of faith to do this and it is a great platform! Additionally, it was interesting, when I first landed in here 2.5 years ago and started this business with Allison, I didn’t know many people in this industry. The few people I did know, I worked hard to foster those relationships and with new people that I met, I invested time to get to know the people and truly connect. If you are knowledgeable, honest and hardworking, people will gravitate to you and build trust in you. I feel lucky in many of the new relationships I have made in this business, as they are people I would never have gotten to know in my prior career.
"If you are knowledgeable, honest and hardworking, people will gravitate to you and build trust in you."
Allison: Networking is key. Don’t stop networking. Leverage your friends' relationships, don’t be afraid to ask for introductions. I used to think I needed to do it all myself and then I realized that the support and the introductions are the most helpful when building relationships. I also think being consistent and honest is important. Once you get one person to trust you and build that relationship you have a strong foundation to work off of. One day you will wake up and be grateful you asked for the intros and that you hustled to network because you will have your own incredible network and people will be coming to you asking for help. Always return the favor!
How do you hold onto them?
Sherry: It is important to make time to see these key relationships on a someone consistent basis to stay connected. Sending interesting articles or news to the person is also a great way to stay connected. It takes work, but with the relationships that are worth fostering and holding on to, making them a priority is critical.
Allison: Make an effort to check in with them frequently, see them for lunch or drinks, drop them a “just saying hi” email and ask how they are. These small gestures go a long way.
Sherry, you are the former Global Head of Marketing for eos Products. I remember the moment when that lip balm became everything. It remains the brand's most ubiquitous product. When you're talking to celebs and influencers specifically about product dev and the strategy around it, do you suggest creating something that is niche and specific and expand from there? What are your marketing secrets?
Sherry: Yes, the ubiquitous eos Sphere (or Egg Shaped Lip Balm as many call it) is something special that I am so proud to have been a part of creating, launching and building. As for my marketing secrets, you need to hire Blended Strategy to get those! Haha! Just Kidding! In all seriousness, while eos created a truly unique product it actually wasn’t a niche category – lip balm is a huge category and we created a new approach to the category that was cool, beauty-oriented and fun vs functional. That is the key thing in product development – how are you going to address a category need in a unique and differentiated way. It can be through innovative packaging or it can be by a new approach to communicating the benefits of the products. One of our brand clients, OLLY vitamins reinvented the vitamin category by calling out the end benefit you get from taking the vitamins vs the ingredients. People do not know what various ingredients actually do, but they do know how they want to feel after they take them – was crazy that no other brands were communicating their product message that way. Also, another thing both Allison and I tell clients who want to start brands is that they should start with a focused and small assortment – not launch 40 skus at once, but 3-10 skus and build from there.
Start with a focused and small assortment – not launch 40 skus at once.
Sherry, what is your favorite thing about working with Allison? And Allison, same to you.
Sherry: Allison is one of the most open people I have ever met. There are no walls, no layers of the onion to peel back – just an open and honest approach to things. It is incredibly rare and incredibly refreshing. It is because of that, that I trust her immensely.
Allison: Sherry is the hardest working woman I have ever met. Her passion comes out in everything she does and it is truly incredible, it inspires me. She makes me want to do better every day. Her commitment not just to our business as a whole, but down to the details of our work is something I am so grateful for. I love every day that I get to work next to her. RIDE OR DIE!
What are your biggest fears about running a business?
Sherry: Disappointing my business partner and the team who works with us and relies on us.
Allison: Letting Sherry down, letting my family down and of course letting our team down.
What would you each respectively consider the biggest challenges facing young female entrepreneurs?
Sherry: As far as we have come in elevating females, most industries still have males at the top. Beauty for example – all these rising female-founded beauty brands from Anastasia Beverly Hills to Ouai Haircare to Glossier to many many more. But still, the top people at all the big beauty conglomerates are men. So being taken seriously as women entrepreneurs is still something that continues to evolve – but progress has been made and will continue to be made!
Allison: While it is clear women are now being taken seriously and have an incredible runway to start businesses, I still think we are faced with living in a man's world. Why does it have to be such a big thing that there is a boom of badass women right now… why can't we just be part of the overall story that we sit next to men and have the same abilities as them? I think that we are still being put in this bubble is a challenge.
What about your respective careers makes you each feel the most complete?
Sherry: Coming to work every day and seeing a team that enjoys coming to work, is proud of what they do, and feels they learn from me and Allison. It is a priceless feeling that fuels me every day. Also doesn’t hurt when we get an email from a prospective brand or talent client saying they have heard good things about Blended Strategy! Love that in just 2.5 years our name is getting out there as a viable option for both brands and talent to utilize for marketing and branding services!
Allison: For me, it's two-fold. There is the part about walking into our office every morning knowing that Sherry and I built our business from the ground up and its ours. That fuels me everyday and I still walk in and pinch myself and feel incredibly lucky and blessed. The second piece is seeing our team and how much work and effort they put into our business. Both of those things combined complete it all for me!
To both: If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?
Sherry: Ellen! She makes people laugh, interviews people from all walks of life and seems to have fun doing it! Seems pretty fun to talk to people and ask them who their favorite muppet is!
Allison: Anyone in the Royal Family….. first and foremost because I love all of the philanthropic work they do. It is really inspiring. Second, because they are royalty and let's be real, they are fascinating!
At what point in your careers did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the women you are today?
Sherry: I had a moment at eos, where I looked at our advertising creative which I had led the strategy work on, our overall marketing plan, the products themselves, and all the relationships I had built around me, and I realized I was really good at my job and that I was having so much fun doing it too. I had come into my own at that moment and knew I had the trust of the Co-CEOs at eos and everyone around me – and it was an incredible feeling.
Allison: For me, I had worked for dad for 16 years and I needed to get out from under his wing and I also felt like I had done everything I could for him. I had my third son and did a lot of soul-searching about leaving my kids everyday and being a working mom. It had to really be worth it for me and so I took a leap of faith and left the job security I had working for my dad to start BSG. Best decision I ever made! And, icing on the cake was how supportive both my mom and dad were.
What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?
Sherry: The best advice I was given, was being told that the hardest thing as a business gets more successful, is saying no to what might be great opportunities. This is something that one of the Co-CEOs of eos told me and it was beyond helpful to me as eos got extremely successful – we couldn’t do all the great things coming the brand’s way all at once as it would tip over the brand and also stretch the team too thin. And the same is true at Blended Strategy – Allison and I consistently sit together and evaluate the how, the what and the when in growing our business and have had to say no to potentially great opportunities because it just wasn’t the right time for them.
Allison: Best advice I have ever gotten is to be ok not doing it all. I have minor OCD and I need everything to be perfect in life and in business. As a working mom that is impossible. I had a friend tell me it was ok to let 50% be my new 100% and that it’s ok to not do it all. It really has helped me prioritize and balance it all.
When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road or a detour?
Sherry: I like to talk through things to see if I can get to the solution. I rely on Allison and several of the girls on our team to be sounding boards for me when I hit a bump. I do fully subscribe to the philosophy that things do happen for a reason – so even bumps or disappoints along the way are there to help guide us to the right outcome.
Allison: I rely heavily on Sherry during the bumps. Another reason its nice to have a partner, I don’t feel alone when we have to make hard decisions or we are faced with bumps. Sherry and I really support each other and will sit together and talk through the bump and we get through it and then it becomes a distant memory!
What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?
Sherry: “Where Does the Good Go” by Teagan & Sara. It was the song that Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang “dance it out to” in their last scene together on Grey’s Anatomy. I loved that moment of that friendship and that song just lifts me up.
Allison: “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. A classic and my all time favorite!
Photo Credit: @davisfactor