The Power of Influence: Founders to Watch in 2018


Welcome to social media, where mega-influencers and micro-influencers with followings and engagement rates you could only dream of exist. Their content peppers our feeds, helps us engage with and discover brands, causes, and movements, and even inspires us daily... well, at least the ones who dominate the algorithm.

Thanks to Instagram and other popular social apps, an influx of leading influencer marketing agencies like Riot Media Group, Bollare, The Influence, and Hello Society, among others, are helping brands collaborate with the right influencers for visibility.

Influencer marketing is “one of the fastest and most effective ways to build brand awareness, especially on social media,” according to Forbes.

Most influencers are industry experts, celebrities, CEOs, bloggers, models, and content creators.

And financially? They’re doing pretty well. According to this article, all you need is 3,000 followers to start making money from your posts.

The most successful brands are meticulous about which influencers represent them. Bumble has taken on Erin and Sara Foster as their token brand ambassadors. Fashion Nova works with Cardi B, Amanda Lee, and other curvaceous influencers. REVOLVE has its own roster of babes who take luxurious trips together dressed in their clothing, and brands like Supreme and Young & Reckless are tagged consistently by those considered in-the-know.                             

The reason influencer marketing works for them? They hire the right type of influencers to tell their story.

The success of a brand like Young & Reckless, for example—in addition to its high-quality clothing—can be attributed to its relationships with multiple influencers. Case in point: Young & Reckless CEO Chris “Drama” Pfaff, an influencer on his own merit, tags the brand in most of his Instagram posts.

Andres Izquieta, co-owner of Young & Reckless (also co-founder of Five Four Group), says “choosing brand influencers has changed throughout the years. Today, it requires a much more dynamic approach. Things like engagement lead the pack, but also: Who will be the right personality for your brand? Who will go above and beyond to tell your brand story? Influencers have to organically like the product and use it in their daily lives. Consumers can sniff out what's real and not."

Below, you'll find influencers and personalities that differ vastly, who work with several brands across many mediums, and who also apply a range of creativity to their own pursuits.

This carefully-curated list of influencers is part of a new Beyond The Interview 3-part series: media moguls on the rise, founders who are succeeding beyond measure, and creatives who are using their voices to express themselves and inspire change. Most, we realized, fall into all three categories by default.

With the power of influence on the rise, it’s only fair that we get to know them. What sets them apart? Who are they? What exactly do they do? What inspires them? And what advice do they have for the rest of us?

This is our Founders List. 


Olivia Perez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Friend of a Friend, an online lifestyle publication she founded in 2015. Friend of a Friend focuses on fashion, beauty, and travel. Perez started the site hoping it would be a catalyst for new dialogue—a way to inspire readers to go out and explore uncharted territory, create their own trends, and make new friends through the process. As the founder, she curates all the content on the site, oversees brand partnerships, and acts as the face of the brand. They’ve collaborated with influencers like Gigi Hadid, Rumi Neely, Patricia Manfield, and Hannah Bronfman, and partnered with brands like Dior, Chanel, Topshop, Fox, Bumble, and Google. She is also a contributor to, a co-founder of System of Service (a non-profit organization she started this year with Joe Holder), an Outdoor Voices ambassador, and a creative consultant to a few startups in New York City. "I've always considered myself a Swiss Army knife," she says. "That's what I love most about my job - you can't label me. I proudly wear a lot of hats."

Wisdom you'd like to drop?

A post shared by Olivia Perez (@livvperez) on

1. Identify your skill, and champion it. When I first started out, I was shy about my age out of fear of not being respected. But being the youngest person in a room gives me a unique perspective, and I make sure to always bring that to the table because it's what makes me different.

2. Of course a little competition is healthy, but don't let it get the best of you. Find that person that you have a competitive streak with and sit next to them at a table. Find your common ground and a way to collaborate with them. I always say, collaborate, don't compete.

3. It’s not a numbers game. Don't get caught up in your following, engagement, and all the stats that come with building a brand online. Channel your focus on creating engaging content that tells an important story.

You're a guest lecturer at a University. What would you like to teach today's students?

*Perez just spoke at her alma mater, NYU.  

I talked about my entrepreneurship journey, especially as a female. I started my company while in college so I loved being able to offer insight to a group of people who I could relate to, and vice versa. We discussed everything from the classes I took, to how I utilized the resources at my disposal to build my brand at an early age.

A powerful quote you live by?

"Social media has changed the game. Don't use it as a way to waste time. Use it was a way to surround yourself with people that in any other time in history would have been unable to reach."

I've always said that my Instagram is my digital business card. I follow close to 2,000 people–it's where I find 90 percent of my inspiration. Even though social media sometimes gets a bad reputation, I love being able to communicate, collaborate, and be inspired by people around the world, whether its someone I've met on set to fellow influencers in any industry, at the click of a button.

Which influencer influences you?

@double3xposure! Reese is a friend of mine and I've loved watching her grow. She's someone I look up to because she's unapologetically herself on her platforms.


Andrew Warren is founder of the clothing brand Just Drew. The 25-year-old fashion designer—positioned among New York's richest and chicest society kids—is currently carving a name for himself as a Serious Designer outside of the gossip rags. Though he's signed with Next Model Management as an influencer, you won't find Warren hawking Appetite Suppressant Lollipops these days. "I'm very particular with brands and companies I work with," Warren tells BTI. "I don't just promote anything, I don't want to lie to people and post something that's not real to my image. I think sticking to your image is important." 

Wisdom you'd like to drop?

If ya wanna come and take a ride with me 📸: @thelizzypergament

A post shared by Andrew Warren (@adwarren) on

My social following originally grew because people were interested in what I was posting. I wasn't really trying at the time to gain a following, it just happened. 

1. Stick to who you really are. That's what makes your posts the best: not trying to be anyone else.

2. Don't overthink posts so much. Post what you think is right, and really not care as much about what everyone else thinks.

3. Ignore the people who hate on your posts. You have to develop thick skin, especially as you really grow as influencer. There are going to be a lot of people hating on you who are jealous but there will be more people who like you, so just keep going forward. 

You're a guest lecturer at a University. What would you like to teach today's students?

I think I would lecture that life isn't all about social media, even if it's a major part of your career. I think it's important to remember to live life and work just as hard when you're off your social media. People only see a part of your life on social media and even though it may seem perfect, you don't know what’s really going on in someone's life. Remember to still have fun and work hard, not just to make it look that way to everyone on a social media account. 

A powerful quote you live by?

"Don't pay attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches." - Andy Warhol

I always admired Andy Warhol and think this goes to say you can't care about every thing said about you, even if it isn't good. It's better to be talked about than to not be talked about at all. 

Which influencer influences you?

For a while I've looked up to the designer Philip Plein and his posts. He's become pretty big in fashion over the years and has a very different style than most people in fashion.  I like that he did what he wanted and stuck to who he was and it worked and it’s something I admire.

I don't want to change myself for a certain industry and I don't think anyone should have to. Same with one of my friends Bella Thorne. I think she's grown herself and stuck to who she is. Her new Vogue documentary is one everyone should watch. She talks about making money on social media but sticking to who you are, and she's been very successful at it.


Jessica Hall always wanted to be a newscaster. "I remember watching Maria Shriver on NBC when I was a little girl and even at a young age, I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry," she says. "Of course, you needed a talent in order to be in the industry, and I didn't really have one *laughs*, but that didn't stop me."

In 2003, she booked her first hosting gig on the hit MTV reality series, Burned. She waited tables in between gigs, "networked like crazy" and went out on auditions regularly. From 2007-2014, she hosted a successful daily Sirius XM radio show, Bob & Jessica Live! with her co-host Bob Guiney of ABC's The Bachelor. She has also hosted various shows for E! Network, was a national spokesmodel, and appeared on shows such as Deal or No Deal and Two and a Half Men. Her most recent television appearances were on the hit reality show, Kendra on Top, alongside her BFF, Kendra Wilkinson, for 6 seasons on WETV.

Her latest and most favorite gig? Motherhood. "It gave me the inspiration to start my own mommy blog,," she says. "I love being apart of the 'mom space' and sharing my real-life experiences with moms everywhere. I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon."

Wisdom you'd like to drop?

Happy Valentine's Day ❤️. 📷by @ivetteivens

A post shared by Jessica Hall (@iamjessicahall) on

1. Keep it real. That's the best piece of advice I could give. In this crazy world of social media, it's easy to try and be someone that you're not.

2. Instead of trying to portray a "perfect life," focus on your imperfections. It makes you more relatable.

3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and put it all out there. Trust me, it might look like I have it all together at times, but I’m the first person to admit my faults as well. Since becoming a mom, I've quickly realized how "un-pretty" parenting can be, and that’s a huge reason I started my blog, Sleepless Mom, to share my stories with other moms out there and to let them know it's ok to screw up from time to time. No one's perfect!

You're a guest lecturer at a University. What would you like to teach today's students?

I would talk about cyber bullying. This is something I take very seriously. Since being in the public eye over the years, I've been on the receiving end of this more times than I'd like to admit. In today’s society and especially since social media has given everyone a "voice," it's made it possible for people all over the world to have an opinion. Having an opinion is one thing, I'm all for that, but being down-right hateful and malicious is another. During my earlier days of modeling, luckily, social media wasn't around yet—at least not at the level it is now. So I had to face the criticisms straight to my face instead, which to be honest, was almost easier to handle. Once Facebook and Instagram took off, it was a whole other ball game. Whether it's someone who doesn’t agree with my parenting or thinks I shouldn't have a social life while being a mom, it's never fun to get unwanted criticism, especially from complete strangers! I've had to learn to not take it personally and to stay true to who I am.

A powerful quote you live by?

"Don't sweat the small stuff."

As simple as it is, this has always been my favorite quoteThis is my life motto and it's what keeps me going every day. Especially since becoming a mom, I've had to learn to stop, take a deep breath, realize I'm doing the best I can, and not be so hard on myself. I have two beautiful, happy, healthy babies who love their mama, and in the end, that's all that matters!

Which influencer influences you?

I love The Fashion Mamas. I'm so lucky to be a part of this group of amazing mamas and they truly do inspire me every day. I'm a huge fan of fashion and a big believer in taking care of myself, even though I'm a mom.


Caitlyn Chase founded Caviar & Cashmere in 2011 after a successful career in journalism. She was inspired to create digital content, covering topics she loved such as travel, beauty, and fashion. After the success of the blog, she decided to design and produce a line of cashmere accessories, and they go by the same name. Today, Caviar & Cashmere is a digital destination for luxury lifestyle inspiration, and the brand is the physical manifestation of what she writes about. "I hope to continue creating content and designing products that are not only beautiful, but a representation of who I am and what the Caviar & Cashmere lifestyle stands for," she says.

Wisdom you'd like to drop?

Just out here trying to make floral and leopard a thing.

A post shared by Caitlyn Chase (@caitlynchase) on

1. Be yourself. Don't try to be someone else. People will follow you for being authentically you. 

2. Engage. Communicate, listen, and befriend your followers. People appreciate following people who are relatable, friendly, and engaging.

3. Get creative. The influencer landscape is saturated, so it's important to stand out by creating unique, compelling content.

You're a guest lecturer at a University. What would you like to teach today's students?

I would speak about the importance of being confident. Today, we have access to anyone and everyone online, making it easy to condemn ourselves to a life of comparison. Staying true to who you are and being confident in that, is the most important trait you can possess for a successful personal and professional life.

A powerful quote you live by?

"In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different." - Coco Chanel.

This quote is a good reminder to never be afraid of standing out from the crowd.        

Which influencer influences you?

Oprah has influenced me since I was a child. One of my fondest memories is rushing home from school to watch Oprah with my mom every day. Not only is she herself so inspiring, but the people she would interview were so interesting, and the topics she would cover on her show were always thought-provoking.


Calli Cholodenko is the Founder and Creative Director of Something Social, a social media and creative agency specializing in lifestyle brands. With an emphasis on strategy, branding, creative content, social media management, business development and influencer relations, Something Social has worked with 60+ brands ranging from h.wood group to Westfield, Nine Zero One, Wildfox, Skechers, Waldorf Astoria, and more. Something Social's team is comprised of digital curators, brand cultivators, caption enthusiasts, Twitter aficionados, art directors and aesthetic-obsessed social media managers who exist to tell your brand story through stunning visuals and captivating content. Calli is also an instructor at FIDM, teaching Intro to Social Media, has been a featured speaker at conferences including Simply, The Workshop by Bloguettes and Social Media Marketing World, and has appeared on The LadyGang Podcast, The Influencer Podcast, the Planoly blog, Bossladies Magazine, The Balanced Blonde blog, and more. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Calli graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication from USC.

Wisdom you'd like to drop?

1. Keep it real, keep it consistent, and do you.

2. Try not to get caught up with what other people are doing. It's easy to compare, but remember, social media is often only showcasing someone's highlight reel, and doesn't always include the path it took to get them there.

3. Make sure you are engaging your audience. Social media is a two-way street. It's about connection, bringing value to your audience, and inviting them into your world. Get to know them, who they are, and what they value. Deepening your connection to your audience can only strengthen your brand.

You're a guest lecturer at a University. What would you like to teach today's students?

While branding and social media would be the obvious choice (and are the topics I teach at FIDM), I would also talk about the importance of meditation and how spirituality has become a necessary and highly valued part of my life. In a world where we are constantly flooded with information, notifications, and sensory overload, I have found that meditation is the one practice that allows me to go within and truly discover who I am at my core. From that place, I feel I am able to find moments of stillness and gratitude in my otherwise very hectic and fast-paced days. 

A powerful quote you live by?

“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.” – Rumi

I first found this quote while reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington and have since made it the background on my phone. It helps me to find the gratitude in every moment, whether or not I judge something to be "good" or "bad." It's a reminder that life isn't happening to me, and I get to be the one to determine how I view any given situation. Rather than interpreting a happening as a setback, failure or loss, I can view it as a lesson, a learning experience, and a chance to choose differently the next time. It is also a gentle reminder that the universe has my back, and everything that happens in one way, shape or form has the opportunity to be a blessing.

Which influencer influences you?

@riawna and @nikkilee901 because they are badass boss women who not only influence their industries (let's be real, they are game changers in their industry), but are also kind, incredibly thoughtful and carry themselves in a way that makes me proud to know them. @arielle because she straight up just makes me smile. There is enough seriousness in the world, and she reminds me to find the pure joy, bliss and laughter in any given situation. And still the OG @sincerelyjules because her style is just. so. good.


Breanne is founder of Breanne's Holistic Health. She is a certified Holistic Nutritionist through the NTA and works with clients individually all over the globe. You may know her from her make-up free Instagram selfie that went viral, where she finally shared with the world her skin condition. Her personal journey to health started while she was pursuing a modeling career, as she became chronically ill and suffered from severe digestive distress. By the time she was 19 years old, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called vitiligo and began to lose pigmentation on her face and developed what seemed to be a book's worth of food allergies.

She began a complete lifestyle change and supported her body with the proper nutrients for a healthy digestive tract. Once she took down her chronic inflammatory response to foods and addressed the health of her GI tract, all of her digestive issues started to work themselves out. Through her own struggle she developed a passion for nutrition to support digestion, immune and allergy. 

Breanne also appears as a TV and Media personality in TLC's documentary series "Too Ugly For Love?" and was a past contestant on the hit reality TV show The Bachelor on ABC. She is a frequent on national television programs, and recently appeared on The Dr. Phil Show, as well as the Hallmark Channel's Home and Family

Breanne loves sharing her story to inspire other women to love themselves, despite their insecurities.


Wisdom you'd like to drop?

1. Be yourself. People are looking for authenticity and want to connect with you. Don't be someone who you think people will like - just be you!

2. Don't be afraid of being vulnerable. When I shared my makeup-free selfie on the internet and was vulnerable about my insecurities I was so scared! I had no idea that my words and being vulnerable about my struggles would inspire so many others, and that my photo and story would go viral. You never know how powerful your story is!

3. Don't be afraid to take risks. Don't hold back your gifts and talents - God gave you those for a reason, so you can share them with the world. 

You're a guest lecturer at a University. What would you like to teach today's students?

I would talk about the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect, and how learning to be comfortable in your own skin is the best outfit you can wear! 

A powerful quote you live by?

"Be your own kind of beautiful."

We are all uniquely different, and meant to be our own beautiful selves!

Which influencer influences you?

I really love Ashley Graham and Winnie Harlow. They are amazing, strong, beautiful women who love themselves and are comfortable and confident in their own skin.

This list was compiled and edited by Nicole Behnam and Mariella Rudi, the co-founders of Beyond The Interview. For more information, or to work with us, contact