Interview With Kyle Hjelmeseth
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Kyle Hjelmeseth (“YELM-SETH”) is the Founder and CEO of top-tier talent management agency G&B, which houses both the College of Influence and the Normalize Equality initiative.
Can you share with us your background and your career?
I am a self-made minority business owner, experiencing life as a mixed-race individual, but thrive on driving messages of diversity in the social media world. I grew up in small-town America among a population of just 3,000. One of the few students to attend college, I traveled the farthest for my degree in Communications and Public Relations from Purdue University. The story of G&Bbegan in 2012 when I reached out to Honey & Silk blogger Stephanie Liu to partner on a campaign. We struck up a friendship and, in 2014, I officially signed on as her manager, helping to quadruple her blog income while simultaneously serving as Associate Director for Chloe+Isabel. In 2017, we actually got married and today I represent over 100 clients through my company G&B Digital Management, with an inclusive ethos that transforms influencers into influential people.
Can you share with our readers how you started your company and the mission behind it?
I started G&B because I wanted to distinguish myself in the market, but didn’t know what I was getting into. As I stated I had been dating a blogger for about a year in 2014 when she asked me to use my business skills to help manage her projects. I will admit that at first, I said no because I didn’t want to “mix business and pleasure,” but when I finally said yes…well, everything took off. She was my first client, and then her industry friends came knocking.
Today we have over 100 digital creators signed to G&B, we have a sports and entertainment division, a group focused on business in the Middle East, and a growing platform called College of Influence. We’ve become one of the most well-known and distinguished firms because we do right by our clients, on both the talent and agency or brand side with a high level of integrity. We serve others, and when we do our needs end up being served in the long run…and that’s the credo that guides our growth and success.
How is diversity in the workplace evolving, how does it play into your company and its mission?
This last year really put diversity in the workplace back into major conversation. It’s strange that this conversation is almost cyclical, and sad that it took something like the many deaths of black and brown people, certainly George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders to bring it back again to conversation. Couple that with the rise against AAPI both IRL and on social media, the world has become darker and more dangerous for minorities. The GOOD thing that has evolved from these terrible situations is that companies are really looking to be more diverse and inclusive, both with race and gender. Leading change from the top. That means we are seeing more ethnically diversity in employees, and a push for more visible women in leadership. At G&B we try to lead by example. We have an amazing woman leading on our advisory board, Kendra Bracken-Ferguson that helps guide us to prioritizing collaboration over competition, and Celebrating differences of perspective.Good ideas can come from anywhere, so we work to ensure that his team feels safe enough to share openly, even when it’s uncomfortable. Focusing on finding solutions instead of dwelling on problems, I find fuels innovation by establishing a refreshingly drama-free approach built on mutual respect and honesty.
During the pandemic many people lost their jobs and livelihood, how did your company adapt and pivot during this time to be what it is today?
Yes, it was sad to see some companies close and some people unable to pivot. I am actually currently writing a book about this as I was able to lead my team through and out of the pandemic successfully, without losing a single team member or cutting salaries / benefits. I am very grateful for that, so I wanted to put pen to paper and share with people how I did just it! It’s about overcoming situational paralysis so you can take risks and identify or leverage opportunities, then stepping into a leadership role that is both effective + authentic.
If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you tell him and why?
The advice I would give myself is to trust that those around you have your best interests at heart. I would be a couple of years further along in my career if I listened to my wife. Of course, I believe it’s all God’s timing, so I don’t have regrets…but I acknowledge that sometimes I need to slow down and open my ears a bit more.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
College of Influence is our agency platform to encourage learning what it takes to run a business as an influencer successfully. I believe education is paramount to advancing every individual toward their goals, and in the growing lane of influence there is a lot to learn. Most influencers do not have the benefit of managers to watch out for their interests, or even help with essential business issues like collections, reviewing contracts or even understanding how to sell themselves to brands for collaborations. We took everything we’ve learned over the last seven years and dumped our brains onto the internet for the benefit of helping the next generation be great at what makes influencing great, the storytelling…not worry about not understanding what perpetuity in a contract means and why you should never agree to it!
Where do you see yourself and your career going in this new year and in the future?
Thank you for having me! What is next for G&B is that we are growing up! We’ve been in space for such a long time now, but it’s still a young industry to be in. We’re doing things that no other agency is even thinking about, and that’s what I love…not the competition, but the innovation. We’ve got bold plans for the future of our firm, and bold plans for the future of my family. Most of all the future includes JOY.
How can our readers connect with you on social media?