They stick together, rain or Shine. Emily Ward (she / her) and Jess Hunichen (she / her) are the co-founders of Shine Talent Group, an influencer marketing agency representing celebrities, athletes, and content creators from all around the world. In 2021, they also co-founded The BodCon, the first-ever virtual conference surrounding body confidence. It has since evolved into a supportive community focused on self-acceptance, and we absolutely love to see it.

Here, the friends describe the serendipitous way they met, the most common misconceptions around influencers, and what to expect at the next BodCon (which you can buy tickets for here).

How did you guys meet?
JESS: I’d moved to Toronto and was struggling to find a job in PR, so I decided to switch tactics and become a wedding planner. I researched all the wedding planners in Toronto and reached out to 2 who I felt drawn to. One of them was like, “I have all of the consultants I need, but I passed along your details to a friend of mine.” I didn’t think anything would come of it, but then I got an email from Emily. She had her own freelance PR business, and we started working together the day we met.
EMILY: In freelance, you’re always afraid to say no to contracts because you never know when the next one’s going to come in, so I had a bit too much to do on my own and was looking for someone to work with. With Jess, it was just so easy. Even though she came from Australia and a different market, her style of work was very similar to mine and I felt that my weaknesses were her strengths. At the end of that year, we took a big leap and started Shine PR.

How did Shine PR turn into a talent management agency?
EMILY: Ironically, starting the PR agency made it more difficult to get clients because we were competing against all the agencies who used to hire us. But it led us down a great path on the influencer side. Bloggers were still very new in 2015. People recognized they had to work with them, but didn’t know how, so it was an interesting time to come in as a talent management agency.
JESS: We genuinely thought the influencer side of the business would be a very small part of it. We didn’t think it would be what it is today. Now, we do very little PR. [Our new agency] Shine Talent Group is our bread and butter.

You’ve worked with brands like REVOLVE, Amazon, and L’Oréal. How did it feel the first time you got a big name like that in Shine Talent Group?
JESS: It was super fun. And it’s so nice talking to clients now because we can quite literally say we’ve worked with everyone. American Express, McDonald’s, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, all the major banks, auto companies, apps… and also some non-traditional ones.

What would you say is the biggest misconception around influencer marketing?
JESS: Follower count is a big one. People think you need to have 100,000 followers to get deals and that’s not the case at all. Especially now, brands are wanting to work with what we call nano-influencers, which to us is anything under 5,000 followers. The next misconception is that it’s easy and that people come into this business and make money overnight. People look at creators and are like, “Oh, they just take a selfie and they’re rich.” But these talents work so hard. They’re extraordinarily dedicated to their community.

Tell us about your other project, The BodCon.
EMILY: The BodCon is a virtual conference that celebrates body confidence. It came about because we represent incredible talents in this space, and we’ve watched brands integrate more body diversity in their marketing campaigns over the years. We wanted to do something to support this movement, so we launched the first conference in February 2021 and it was great. We had 45 speakers, from big celebrity names like Jameela Jamil to emerging voices who deserved to be part of the conversation. We had over 1,000 people show up, which is wild.

When’s the next one?!
EMILY: Our second conference will be on February 27th, 2022, and we’re so excited. We’re bringing back the speakers people loved most and adding other really cool elements.
JESS: This year, we wanted to dive into deeper subjects, so we’re doing talks around dating, relationships, and sex, and how it all connects to body confidence. The whole concept around being worthy of pleasure is a fun one we’re exploring, too, as well as maintaining body confidence throughout different stages like menopause and menstruation. There’s also a talk that’s purely about men’s body confidence because it’s a topic that is rarely addressed.