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5 Questions with Denise Hernandez

We're back again with another 5 Questions with SPPR interview! We're so excited to welcome the founder of Maker Collaborative, Denise Hernandez, to the blog and our IGTV series. Keep reading or visit our Instagram to watch the interview!

Ashley from team SPPR sat down with Denise to chat about what inspired her to start Maker Collaborative, her thoughts on what red flags for brand partnerships, how social media is evolving and even what she thinks the future of influencer looks like. There are some truly golden nuggets of information you do not want to miss in this interview!

Want to connect with Denise and her team? You can find more about Maker Collaborative on their website and Instagram.

Ashley: Hey Instagram and Soda Pop fam! We're back again with another 5 Questions with SPPR. We're so excited to introduce Denise Hernandez, the founder of Maker Collaborative. Denise founded Maker Collaborative last year as a boutique management company that specializes in representing digital storytellers, specifically in the food & wellness space. Services include content strategy, strategic partnerships, television and literary opportunities, product, ongoing platform education and more. Thanks so much for your time today, Denise!

Denise: Thank you! I'm so excited to be here.

Ashley: We're so thrilled for you and your new endeavor with Maker Collaborative, from your offerings and fresh, relevant branding to the talent you represent. We'd love to know: what inspired you to start your company and can you tell us a little bit more about what you specialize in?

Denise: Of course! That means a lot, I really appreciate that. As far as your questions about starting my own company, I had worked in a corporate environment my entire career. I think a lot of us do. I always thought that that was the path for me.

With the pandemic, like so many of us, I was able to finally sit still for the first time in a really long time and kind of reflect on how I was feeling in my career. I realized that I was burnt out and the path of growth and the areas in which I could be creative and self-educate in a corporate environment just weren't serving me any longer.

I took a leap of faith and I just decided what I need is a break. I need to have space to kind of figure out what brings me joy. So in late 2020, I did that. I left that behind me.

As far as founding my company specifically, I've been in representation for six years. It's always been something that I'm really passionate about. I'm really passionate about creators. I'm really passionate about what they do and I knew that there was something there. I wanted to create a new type of management, where it was really personalized, more bespoke and very tailored to a creator's needs.

You already mentioned this, but specifically food and wellness, because those are my personal passions. So I created a Maker Collaborative as just that, a boutique management company that provides strategy, platform education, really is a partner to our talent to help them identify their goals and help them achieve it in any way, any way possible.

Ashley: That's awesome. I can definitely see the value of what that would be in the representation space for sure. That "creator-forward, creator-first" approach is really great and I'm sure that all of your talent really appreciates that as well.

Denise: Yes, they do and I think it's just what motivates me. To be really in it with them and really a partner with them throughout their careers.

Also, thinking outside of the box, especially with the ever-changing social media landscape, I think that's important to be that partner and collaborator with them throughout every step of the way.

Ashley: I couldn't agree more. That's similar to our ethos here at Soda Pop. Putting your client first and making sure that you're trying to think outside the box as well while keeping a pulse on how everything is changing in this industry is pretty crazy all the time.

We have a good amount of brands and influencers that follow SPPR, so diving into your expertise a bit more, let's talk about brand influencer collabs - some do's and some don'ts. We hear a lot about what makes a great campaign, but what about campaign briefs give you some major red flags or things that you watch out for?

Denise: That's a great question. When it comes to briefs, a huge red flag to me is when it's extremely prescriptive and rigid. Whether it's scripted key messaging, or even the content itself, like how a product has to be held or even the smallest details, I find that to be a red flag because it feels more like a commercial than a collaboration. What I mean by that is a creator isn't an actor, an actress. They are who they are when they show up every single day on their platforms and brands should use them and utilize them as a partner throughout that creative process to really lean into what they feel will do best as well.

Obviously, brands have goals, analytics, and KPIs they have to hit and I totally get that. I think because a creator is so connected to their community, they're having two-way conversations every single day and they also have so much value to bring to the table to let that brand know what's going to actually work for their audience.

A red flag is if it is prescriptive and it's too rigid. Sometimes it's almost better to walk away even just for both parties if it's just not feeling like it's going to be a win - the content has to be valuable. It has to make sense for that audience. If it's not going to make sense, it's just maybe not the right fit at the time and that's okay.

Ashley: Yeah, I couldn't agree more and this is exactly why we love working with agents. You help us to level set on your end and then us with the client, too. True collaboration is best when it's not as prescriptive and you really do let the talent shine and be as authentic as possible on their platforms.

Denise: Yes! If a brand does have specific things, they need to hit, whether it's conversion or certain impressions, we want to know that. I want to know what the brand wants, too. We want them to be happy and if we can't do that, it's a matter of, "Maybe this might not be the fit for this creator, but it could be the perfect fit for this one." It's really being really thoughtful about the matchmaking of it. As I said if the brand is happy and you get the results that you're looking for exactly.

Ashley: A true partnership, very well said. On the flip side from your experience, what are some things that brands have done really well or that make campaigns more attractive for influencers?

I think on the flip side it is kind of just being really open to a conversation. I think the best campaign and the best partnerships are when a brand asks, "What do they want to do? What are they excited about? What do they have going on in their life? Are they expecting a baby? Did they move into a new home?" You know, what's actually happening. Those partnerships, where you're able to really capitalize on true events, I think are the most authentic and that's really what people are looking for. That's what the community is looking for, is authentic partnerships and collaborations that provide value and education.

So I would say when it's very open and it's more of an open conversation about the creative. I think those are the best campaigns. Obviously, as I said, there are certain analytics that need to be hit, but we can get creative to hit those and have a team effort behind it.

Ashley: Yeah, definitely. What is your advice for creators who are working on landing their dream brand collaborations and how can they tailor their services to brands in the most effective way?

Denise: For dream brands, I guess it really depends on each creator. Everyone's different about who their dream brand is.

I'll use an example - let's say you're a home creator. You talk about interiors, you do renovations, but you really want to get into fashion. I think with that example, I always like to say, if you build it, they will come in a cheesy way. Create to attract that brand, right? If you want to work with a fashion partner, whoever that may be start talking about fashion, start doing maybe try-ons or something, even very organic and stories.

Maybe it's a new series or starting with a hashtag that will be digestible for your community who is used to home content that you normally post. Then the brand can see, "Oh, that community is actually interested in fashion. We didn't see that." You do have to think from the brand's perspective.

They want to work with a creator whose audience is open to having that conversation and tying to the brand. Tag them! I mean, they want to know if you like them. Are you a fan of their products? Would you organically talk about them? In the creator ecosystem, there's so much amazing talent out there, so really show them. It helps you stand out to show them that you actually like their products and you care about them as a brand.

I would say that is a good way to start off, but also be mindful of the brand's mission. Beyond what they sell, what do they care about? Are they a sustainability-focused brand? Do they care about women's rights? What are they doing beyond social media?

Because there's more to it than what you can be doing on social media to work with a brand. Maybe it's speaking engagements or events or hosting dinners on their behalf with a charitable organization involved. Big picture - dream brands can also work with creators in very unique ways that you might not be thinking about.

Ashley: Yes, awesome. Such great advice. I couldn't agree more. I'll echo that when we are looking for creators or partners for our brands we're always looking for people that are just genuine fans of the brand, and have tagged them. It's not necessary that they have to tag them, but it's just a way of showing that. They really do care and align with the brand.

So, I do think that's just really great advice. Making sure that it's authentic and it's an authentic interest that they have and there's a lot of those same values as the brand, too. I love that. I think that's really valuable advice.

There's also the saying that I heard a long time ago that I always just think about - If you're stuck or you want to do something new, but you don't really know how to start, just start walking the way and the way will look here. It's a very similar thing. If you want to get into something new or want to look for a new brand to partner with, start doing some of the things that will then help to propel you into that momentum or get you visibility.

Denise: For sure. Also, it might not be the most engaging piece of content at first and you have to be okay with that and just know that because your community is used to a certain thing. That's not to say that that's not right for you, but you also have to persevere through that.

I know it could be an awkward growing pain when you're trying to get into a new category, but consistency is key. You just continue with it, continue getting creative with the content and your community will also start being more open to that type of content as well. Don't be discouraged when you start doing it.

Ashley: Yeah, great pep talk there. As we know and as we talked about, the world of influencer marketing and digital storytelling is ever-evolving, ever-changing. From your point of view, what does the future of the industry look like to you?

Denise: As far as the future, I think video. Video is everything, it's kind of the now and the future with the emergence of platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels - being the most engaged in video in general on the Instagram platform. It's not going anywhere.

People, especially in a post COVID world (we're kind of in a current COVID still, but you know what I mean) people want authenticity. They want to connect, they want the realness. We know reality can be really hard and can be really difficult.

From a creator perspective, communities want to connect with you. They want to know really how you're doing, they don't want the perfect flat lay or the perfect clean house. They really do want to see how you really live because it makes them feel seen and they feel like they're not alone with what they're going through in their daily lives. I think that's important. More authenticity, more connection, more loyalty - and as a result, more engagement will come from that.

As far as futures, There are metaverses and augmented realities - that is a huge thing with brands like Balencia already activating. That is going to be a big part of the influencer and brand marketing space whether it's digital events, digital clothes that you can buy or cars you can drive with your avatar. It's crazy, but I do think that's going to become a bigger part of our world in the future.

Ashley: Yes, definitely. On that note too, a sentiment that has been circulating through the creator community over the last few weeks is that some platforms are changing to make sure that they are retaining as many eyeballs as possible. I know that has forced creators to switch out their craft a little bit and change the way that they showcase their content.

What encouragement do you have for influencers that are feeling a little bit of this tension or feeling that the partnership at least with the platform isn't what it used to be?

Denise: Yeah. I mean, I think that's really important to talk about because it is discouraging. I'm going to acknowledge that engagement is so up and down nowadays. One day you get a certain amount of views, the next day it's cut in half. Creators work so hard on their content. You want people to see it, you want your community to experience it. As far as words of encouragement: stay consistent, it's just like exercise.

You're not going to see the results unless you're doing it for a longer period of time, even though it can be challenging on some days, keep doing what you do. Stay true to what you do.

Obviously, I was just chatting about video as a priority, but maintain your integrity in your content. You don't need to jump on all the trends. You don't need to use all the trending sounds just because other people are doing it because you're going to start losing who you are in that. It's important, especially as a manager, to my creators to still do what feels right to them.

Don't push yourself to do something just because everybody else is doing it. My talent has really strong identities and I'm so proud of them for that and I want to share that with everybody else too. That will never lose that because that will always be valuable.

Platforms are going to change, they're going to have different features that come out, but you're always going to be able to maintain your community and your business because of who you are and what you do, what you bring to the table. Don't give up and keep going.

The pendulum swings - there's going to be a new feature. There is going to be a new something that's going to come out that might be better for you at that point and other people will be struggling. It's an ever-changing, evolving thing in this world that we live in, in the influencer space.

Ashley: Yeah, definitely. I think that's very encouraging. I know a lot of people are having frustrations or just trying to find the balance between the tension of staying true to who they are while also keeping up with the times. If you look back, even in history, it's just how business rolls. When there's new technology, when there are new advances, you just have to adapt and figure out how to stay up

Denise: I also think that's a good point. Diversify your content. Be on different platforms, you don't want to be agnostic to one or be married to one platform because just like anything in life, you want to diversify. You want your business to make sure that it stands the test of time.

For example, we're on Instagram right now, but obviously, you should be on TikTok. Pinterest is doing amazing things right now with their creators and just really diving in and helping creators grow there. Use your own website, you own that IP. Make sure you build that up. Make sure you build up your newsletter list - you own those emails and you get to communicate directly. That's so valuable and powerful.

Remember that you also have control even if you feel like you don't, you do. Make sure that you're giving some love to other places so that you're not in a vulnerable position with your business.

Ashley: Yeah, definitely named for that. As we wrap up, time for one more fun question that's on a more personal note. As a female entrepreneur, who is one #girlboss that is currently inspiring you?

Denise: This question is very hard for me to answer because I feel like I'm surrounded by so many strong, amazing women. I do want to shout out my partner, Charlotte.

She joined me earlier this year at Maker Collaborative. She's amazing and she's my rock every single day. She just inspires me. She's such a hard worker and has such a good heart, so I just want to shout her out. Also, my clients. They're all women, all business owners, entrepreneurs. moms - they work so hard.

People don't realize how hard it is to actually be a creator and to be an influencer and it's a 24/7 job. There are no breaks. They do so much and they provide so much to their communities, so I want to shout them out to just be acknowledged. They inspire me every day.

This is why I do what I do, so I really appreciate them.

Ashley: That's such a beautiful answer. I love it. It's always amazing to have people that you look up to, whether it's a celebrity or, or not, but we are who we are because of the team and the people that we surround ourselves with. So I love that shout out. It's very personal and I could say the same for the girls too. A reason why I would go to work every day is just the people that I get to work with. That's awesome.

Thanks so much for chatting with us again, Denise! For anybody that would like to get in touch with you, can you share where people can find you on social online?

Denise: Yes, of course. You can find us online at and then on social at @makercollaborative on Instagram. We'd love to get in touch, and I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.

If you're as obsessed with Denise as we are with her, don't forget to follow along @makercollaborative and say hello in her DMs!


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