Your People | Kim Hoyos
Photo by Sina Iranikhah

Photo by Sina Iranikhah

With great wifi comes great responsibility— and in true New York fashion, Kim Hoyos rises to the challenge. Her website (and IRL company!) The Light Leaks changes the game and works to adjust our media’s landscape so that we can all look at screens and find something to relate to that isn’t the same five white guys over and over (and over) again. The diversification of film is here, and your friendly neighborhood filmmaker is on the case.

Pretty Thing: Since you’re a PT OG, we’re all big TLL fans here. Can you give us a crash course on The Light Leaks for the first-timers?

Kim Hoyos: The Light Leaks is a company for the education, inspiration, and empowerment of female and gender-nonconforming filmmakers. Our editorial website showcases work by rising filmmakers, interviews with established filmmakers, features think pieces about the intersections of identity and media, and help guides! Additionally, we host various events to connect with our online community offline. From film screenings and meet-ups to workshops and panels, we aim to create career conversations, networking opportunities, and chances for support through community.

We love that community is such a focus for TLL, because we’re the same way at PT. Community is such a major part of filmmaking, and the media industry as a whole— to the point where it becomes exclusive, and leaves people like us fighting each other for opportunities instead of working together to lift each other up. What initiatives are you working on at TLL to counteract that?

I'm working towards creating more offline events, especially in different cities, that tackle career struggles, creativity, and provide actionable steps for female and GNC filmmakers. I'm also working to expand video content on TLL's youtube page to supplement the editorial site. I'd love to also make the Light Leaks into a full-fledged production company that gives grants to female and GNC created work. I see this taking shape in ~5 years, so I'm taking my time building up the community, brand recognition, and online footprint.

We love a five-year plan— seriously, I’m swooning into my meticulously highlighted personal calendar. Building a successful business takes w-o-r-k. When it comes to the brand you’re developing, what do you think stands out the most?

I think being 23, and a minority woman, really is something important.
— Kim Hoyos

Ya girl is SELF-MADE!!! Identity is such a crucial part of my work and the work I advocate for, and I'm very proud to be a first gen Latina daughter of immigrants. I approach everything with a really intense work ethic inherited from my parents; I [even] run the Light Leaks essentially alone. When I started it out of my college dorm room [during] my junior year, I really wanted to keep things close to heart until I understood completely how daily operations are like, etc. I still run social, editorial copy, event planning, outreach and more. But now, I hire freelancers for any random design needs— and I just took on a student intern for the spring to help out with assorted admin, PR, and social tasks.

I think being 23, and a minority woman, really is something important. A lot of young women reach out to me asking for creative or professional advice. I work to make time for them to answer questions, and to serve as the representation that I didn't see as a young person.

We definitely missed that kind of representation when we were growing up and finding our way. Even now, learning from peers is a huge (and underestimated) resource. As one of our faves doin’ the most, do you have any wisdom to pass on to other women in film?

It was sometimes very stressful to manage interning 3 days a week in NYC, going to school full-time in NJ, and starting my company. I loved it so much because it was a test of endurance, but it was also at times extremely stressful. More recently, I've found it a huge challenge for myself to set boundaries, understand what my body and brain need, and to work with my mental health issues. I'm very critical of myself and can get critical of how others may perceive me if I'm not completely open with my time, schedule, or emotional labor. I don't want to be seen as a dragon boss lady. I don't want to be a bitch. But it's also difficult to face people genuinely abusing your time and kindness. I've run into so many issues with well-meaning young people not understanding the value of time, patience, or respect. I'm open, and I work to help others because that's who I am as a person. But that shouldn't be pushed. I'm working to not feel bad at saying 'no' when I'm stressed or prioritizing my personal relationships over other things. I set boundaries by directing anyone who DMs me business things to email me. I love email. I hate DMs. I work to get off my phone more when I'm with my family, friends, or boyfriend. They deserve me to be totally present and so do I.

I don’t want to be a bitch. But it’s also difficult to face people genuinely abusing your time and kindness.
— Kim Hoyos

I currently work a full-time job during the day, and work on TLL at night and on the weekends. I work to keep myself healthy, fulfilled, and full of gratitude. I do this by praying, meditating, doing productive things that entirely for myself and not my full-time or TLL (ie, a weekly tv writing class I've been doing), exercising, going to therapy, reading lots, and indulging in skincare. I'm also beginning to journal.

Yesss, journaling is soooo liberating. I stopped trying to keep a journal back in middle school, but Middle School Me knew what was up! It’s way healthier to put your feelings on a page over twitter thread. Saves a lot of anxiety, too. Could more young women benefit from some of that same space? Or is there a larger issue holding them back?

I feel that young women in entrepreneurship don't believe in the value of their own ideas. It causes them to sometimes not fully develop concepts. When you've been doubted by society, and have internalized those restrictions— even your dreams can have limitations. That can be a matter of not fleshing out concepts because you think they'll fail, or even not seeing value in your own unique story. I feel that a lot of women I encounter, especially WOC, count themselves out before they can even try. They don't apply to jobs they could be qualified for, they don't see their craft as anything but a hobby, they don't know how to brand themselves for work, and it affects them greatly. This is obviously not the case of every WOC in media or entrepreneurship but it is a trend I see. I think everyone needs to see people who look like them succeed. No matter the field. For me, Diane Guerrero was the first time a Colombian celebrity in US media spoke to me. I read her book and saw my life in her journey. I felt understood, even though she's an actress. It means a lot to know that people from your background can make it. And I think open conversations about difficulties in your journey, sharing actionable steps to success, and truly hyping yourself up for who you are and what you do could really help. Of course, systematic changes in hiring practices, too, but that's a whole other story.

Media has so much more color and diversity in it now, even if we’re still only beginning to break down barriers. Is there any woman (or women!) right now that really speaks to like Diane did?

Obsessed with Stephanie Beatriz. She was born in Argentina and is the daughter of a Colombian father and Bolivian mother. She plays Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn 99 and has used her role and platform to discuss her bisexuality, stance on immigration, and more. I love her so much. I can't even begin to explain the unique issues that Latinx people in the LGBTQ community face in regards to stigma, potential religious backlash, and cultural norms. She is incredible.

Right now I'm [also] really loving Julia Michael’s new EP "Inner Monologue Part 1". She has a very dreamy vibe and her lyrics are honest. It feels like a conversation with a friend. "Happy" by her is on repeat. In regards to designers, Black Lamb Studio is one of my fav designers right now- her IG is incredible. It's filled with bright patterns and cute illustrations.

Don’t even get me started on Stephanie! Especially with her recent #MeToo episode of B99, and her thoughtful conversation with Terry Crews about that whole mess he got into on Twitter. She really is out here doing the work. But so are you! What can we direct our readers to you and The Light Leaks for?

[We’re] a website to highlight the work and careers of female and GNC filmmakers—it's not like a production company or anything where people pay in order for a service to be done. We have an online store to support content for the site, filmmakers can submit their work to be featured, people can watch work off of the site. Generally, it’s a normalization of women and GNC filmmakers in this space.

A space that is hella needed and much deserved. And as if that’s not enough, we hear you have a goodie for our PT Collective!

We recently launched an incredibly adorable (if I do say so myself) enamel pin with help from Bianca of Bianca Designs. This pin means a ton to me because “Invest in yourself” is my personal mantra. For me it covers all the intersections of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-care.

Use the code PTDISCOUNT at checkout for 10% off the pin and all other items at!

The code expires on April 26th, 2019, so now is the time to get your hands on some adorable pins and feminist-fash bags.

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Obsessed? Same. Learn more about Kim:

The Hidden IG Metric You Should Stan

It’s no secret that “Instagram Insights” (i.e. - analytics) are the godsend of any company, creative entrepreneur, or influencer wanting to get a true read on what type content is landing with their audience. Even if you are a one-man-band-operation, understanding how to read metrics are an important skill to have.

Although most influencers and brands understand “vanity metrics” such as likes and follows are less important than engagement (actions taken on a profile or post), there is a subtle analytic not found in the “Insights” tab that reflects a more meaningful connection going on between an account and its audience.

Cue the saves.

Why Saves Matter:

The saves indicate an emotional connection. Like my entrepreneurial queen, Emily Weiss, CEO of cult-esque skincare line, Glossier, I believe the emotional connection to a brand is far more important than anything else. Having an emotional connection to a brand means the company or profile is relating on a deeper level than just a pretty picture. The brand can become something that audiences can identify with, be it in the caption, the image, or both. Even if it’s a just silly meme, a prolific poem, or a cool recipe you might want to try out, a person will “save” things they have an instinctive reaction to. It signifies on some small, gut level that they don’t want to lose track of a particular piece of content. — And in 2019, when there is SO. MUCH. CONTENT. to digest, saving anything is like dropping a proverbial pin on a piece of content that actually meant something to you, even if you never make your way back to it.

Although it is great to have repeat views on a piece of content, to me, a person actually revisiting said content is far less important than the act of simply hitting the save button itself. Even if you never revisit that hilarious yet strangely addicting R&B version of Baby Shark, that instinct to save, preserve, and hold onto it means your content is resonating with your audience.

How to Spot The Saves:

1.) While logged into your Business Account, click on a single post.

Note: your account must be switched to a Business Profile in order to see and begin logging analytics. You do not need to be a company or small business to do this, it simply requires a FB fan or business page.

2.) Hit “View Insights.”

It should appear in blue on the left-hand corner, just below your piece of content.

3.) Swipe up to view insights.

“Saves” will look like a bookmark symbol in the top right corner of this screen. Compare this number across a variety of individual posts on your account. On this example post, you can see that there are four saves. This is lower than other posts but higher than some. Take note of what types of content get the most saves.

So, what should this tell us as content creators? Create content worth saving.

Look at your profile from your audience’s perspective and analyze your IG feed based on what content is and isn’t being saved. Think about the community you’re building with your account and find ways to serve them with your content and connect with them on a deeper level. What resources, inspiration, impactful content can you produce that adds value to their lives? Maybe it’s practical tips or advice, or maybe it really is another cat meme that sparks pure, unadulterated joy.

Whatever type of content you choose to produce or consume, happy creating and happy saving.

V Busy with Elle Mitchell and Arabela Espinoza of Weekend Creative

Weekend Creative sounds like the name of an indie band that art students listen to on vinyl, but as dreamy of an album cover duo they could be, co-owners Elle Mitchell and Arabella Espinoza take their job behind the camera very seriously. Yep, that’s right: these rockstars are the ones taking the pictures, and they bring it in every shot. Their bright colors and innovative images elevate photography to a new creative level, one just begging to go viral.

Pretty Thing: So, obviously you two are amazing photographers, but what exactly is Weekend Creative?

Weekend Creative: We are a creative agency specializing in clean, artful photography. Arabela has a background in advertising and photography, and Elle has a background in graphic design. [It] helps us approach projects with a unique perspective. We both are really passionate about creating content that is meaningful and inspiring. We think community is really important, and we do our best to pass on what we are learning. We recently opened a studio that doubles as our office and a creative space for other photographers to use.

Sharing a creative, co-working space is the dream. Imagine having someone on the same artistic wavelength as you in the same office! But obvs you don’t have to, because you’ve already made it happen. How did the two of you meet?

We met at San Jose State University in a photography class and quickly became partners. We ended up working at a magazine together and realized that we were both passionate about art, photography, and art direction. Starting a business was always in the back of our minds, and something we would joke about, but we felt that it was a long way off. Wanting to expand our portfolio outside of the magazine, we reached out to It’s-It Ice Cream to see if they would give us product to shoot in exchange for photos. Long story short, they ended up hiring us, and it gave us the push we needed to actually start a business.

That’s a cosmic example of that saying, “you don’t get what you don’t ask for.” More of us could use that kind of confidence. Being business owners, do you have specific goals, or aspirations for your community?

We want to continue to serve our community by offering a creative space for others to use and learn in. We are in the process of slowly making Weekend Creative a full-time career which will help us be more focused and invested in our work. We hope that our website and blog will be a point of reference for others who are wanting to start their own company or learn about photography.  

Trust me when I say you are already inspiring. I could literally scroll through your images and blog all day. It’s more satisfying that a nice, cold frozen yogurt on a summer day, like ASMR without the sound. What do you feel is particular to your work that helps to set you apart?

Our focus is on editorial photography. We want our images to be unique and stand out while moving away from basic product shots and lifestyle images. We want to be the type of agency that works with our clients to create content that is really compelling. The more creative the better.

Being creative has its ups and downs. Do you have any advice for women who have businesses, or want to start a business like yours?

Well, we are going through our first tax season which is challenging as entrepreneurs. We definitely recommend hiring people to help with the areas that you are weaker in and spend your time focusing on your strengths.

Another challenge is client relationships and communication. We have learned so much from every single project which has helped us as we take on more work. It's so important to be really clear and upfront when booking a client and never ever work without a contract. We are always updating and adding to our contract as we learn more.

Money is definitely another challenge. We raised our prices and set a new minimum for our shoots in January and it has been really surprising and encouraging to see that it hasn't hindered our growth. It has helped us to have more consistent income. It is important to not sell yourself short and not be afraid to charge what you are worth.

We have been really lucky to have each other as partners and we work really well together, but there are challenges to having a partner as well. We recommend outlining your different responsibilities so you aren't stepping on each other's toes.

Having a partner to both inspire you and hold you accountable is probably my favorite part of the creative process. What do you think it’s like for other women in your field, especially ones who work solo? What is the atmosphere like right now for women in photography?

In general, we have been so lucky and being women has actually helped us because many of our clients wanted to work specifically with female photographers. However, one thing that can hinder women in our field is pay. Some women are afraid that their prices are too high or struggle to talk about money. We've had to learn how to price ourselves and not be afraid to turn down work that doesn't pay what our services are worth.

Yesss, that is the kind of energy we need in 2019. Women knowing their worth and cashing checks? Sign me tf up. Are there any women working that have inspired you with their boss business practices?

How can we choose? There are so many women doing incredible things right now. Jaclyn Johnson of Create & Cultivate, Emily Weiss of Glossier, Maria Svarboba, Bri Emory of Designlovefest, Suzanne Saroff, Michelle Maguire, Jesse Chamberlain Marble, and our friends, Claire Xue, and Diane Villadsen just to name a few.

That girl squad line-up could be the cast of a comic book. But your clients don’t need a bat signal to work with you! What are some of the services you can be contracted to do at Weekend Creative?

We are a full-service photo agency focusing on creative and conceptual editorial photography for social media and websites. With each project, we offer concept creation, prop sourcing, set building, and post-production. Potential clients can email us at for more information or to schedule a phone call.

Of course, if a call isn’t enough and they want to see what you bring on set, you’re visiting us in LA for the Pretty Thing x Weekend Creative Photography Workshop!

We are so excited about our event with Pretty Thing!

The workshop on April 7th is perfect for anyone who would like to build their brand or learn more about visual product marketing. We will be going over how we style a shoot from start to finish including coming up with concepts, making a mood board, sourcing props and then styling the shoot. We will focus on how to style for a specific client's needs and how styling can communicate the brand's image.

We're excited to partner with likeminded women at Pretty Thing to offer the creative community the chance to learn more about content creation and branding. We are looking forward to getting creative, playing around with props, and most importantly, having fun.

Literally, we can’t wait— and neither should you! Get those tix, babe.

Your People | Caroline J. Phillip
Photo by Cecile Davis Storm.

Photo by Cecile Davis Storm.

From creating stunning slice of life, docu-style photos and video for businesses to producing effortlessly epic BTS content, Caroline J. Phillips is queen of capturing candid moments. She’s also a major advocate for women in film and loves our fave, ASP. We’ve been Team Caroline for a hot minute.

Pretty Thing: Caroline, tell everyone who you are and how to made the leap to freelance and creating Riverine Creative.

Caroline J. Phillips: After majoring in Film and Media Arts at Messiah College, I quickly found myself in a variety of jobs. I had gone down to Charleston, SC to pursue an internship at a magazine and work as a photo editor at a wedding photography company, thinking that I wanted to settle in the Charleston area for a while.

Realizing that I had no connections there and film wasn't a huge part of the town, I moved back to my hometown on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where a new video production company had been started. I joined on as a producer/assistant and learned a lot about brand films and commercial work.

About a year later, the company had moved to Delaware and I went to work for a local photographer as her assistant. I learned a lot about managing clients and producing work for local businesses. So in 2016, I went out on my own and starting freelancing. It was something I didn't think I ever wanted because I am a person who needs structure, but it turned out to be the greatest decision for me.

I work with a variety of local clients to produce videos for their events, social media, and websites. The content that I produce is more of a documentary-approach which is what really inspires me. In addition to making video content, I am also a photographer for some local magazines. These stories take me all over the Eastern Shore of Maryland (and Delaware) and I get to meet so many interesting people and see many awesome things. Now that I'm almost 3 years into freelancing, I've got some amazing clients that I get to work with on a weekly and yearly basis.

That’s quite the path! Where are you at now with Riverine Creative. Any specific goals are you working at the moment?

At the end of the day, my goal is to tell great stories. Right now, I love telling the local stories that have surrounded me my whole life. Lately, my goals have been changing and I'm realizing them as they are happening. I'm finding new goals that I didn't realize I had as a kid and I'm able to work on them now, which is amazing.

I think the biggest piece of advice I would give is - don’t be annoying and be nice to everyone.
— Caroline J. Phillips

As a creative, what would you say is your specialty?

I make content for local business and brands. I take a simple approach to filming and editing, essentially creating mini-documentaries. I focus on the story and make sure it's told in the most effective way. My photos are done in a similar way and I try to make it as accurate of a portrayal as possible.

Any challenges and advice you might have for other women on a similar path, particularly those not in a major city?

My biggest challenge is my location. It is also my biggest asset. I don't have a lot of competition, but that means I don't have a big creative community around me either. I work in a small, rural community that doesn't always understand what I do and why it's important to have high-quality content, but I've been lucky to work with clients that I trust, and they trust me in the creative process. A lot of my clients come to me with their ideas and I am responsible for carrying it out.

If you are looking to start working in freelance video or photography, I would recommend getting involved in your community. That can even mean just going into the local coffee shop and making friends with the baristas. You never know who will need your expertise. Most of my jobs have come from word of mouth or just from someone that I keep running into in town. Follow those people that inspire you and make sure you make yourself known to them.

I think the biggest piece of advice I would give is - don't be annoying and be nice to everyone. I might not be the latest and greatest videographer or photographer, but if you are someone that people like to work with, then you will be the person they go to for their jobs. Trust me.

What’s your opinion on the overall situation of women in the freelancer filmmaker space?

I have been a big advocate for women in film since my days in college when I realized that it was rare for women to be in larger filmmaking roles. Today, as a local filmmaker, I do everything - filming, directing, editing, etc. I think sometimes women aren't taken as seriously in the technical aspects of filmmaking. People always quiz me on my camera and double check that I "know what I'm doing."

What I have found to be helpful is representation. When I see a woman as a cinematographer, killing it, I am assured that I can do it. It shows me that it's not so crazy for a woman to be holding a large camera on her shoulder, and it encourages others to pursue that path. So I think representation is one of the best ways to show others that women have a rightful place in filmmaking.

Any female-identifying artist are you totally obsessed with right now?

Amy Sherman-Palladino. I was obsessed with Gilmore Girls as a teen (and to this day) and when I watched the DVD extras of the GG DVD's and found out that ASP was behind this creative show, I realized that I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be in film/tv and create. To this day, as she makes The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I am blown away with the worlds that she is able to create. It's so inspiring.

Also, Reed Morano. I have been inspired by Reed for many years now. I love all of her work and I hope to be as badass as her someday.  

We stan ASP. Okay, last one. Serious q: Team Dean or Team Jess?

Ahhh! Such a good question. Team Jess. Especially after the revival episodes. I could write an entire essay about it however. 

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Obsessed? Same. Learn more about Caroline:

The Key to Actual Self-Care for the Overwhelmed

The secret to success is right in front of you. You’re just not paying attention to it.

For better or worse (lbr— definitely worse), we live in a cycle of capitalism that ties self-worth to productivity. This leads to us bragging about how many chores we manage to get done in one day, and popping off in posts on Insta to beat others into submission with the biggest F.O.M.O. we can find. If we forget about the money or inherent value we tie to social validation, the satisfaction of finishing something you love, enjoy, and gives you creative fulfillment makes the hellish social and economic environment bearable. Unless, ofc, you aren’t actually finishing anything.

You’re tired. It was a long day. You have to scroll through your Insta feed for seventh time in fifteen minutes despite there being no new posts. You ought to finish a load of laundry before you do anything else, not that you’ll actually get to it until two days after you first resolve yourself to do it. Your friend texted you, but you’ll answer it later. You have a lot going on!

So, what do you have to show for it?

If you have a steady job—even if that job is not, regrettably, creative—then the extra hours you have to spend on the projects that will elevate you artistically and economically are limited. That means that self-care isn’t laying in bed the majority of your day off. While decompressing and paying attention to your body’s needs for rest are important, you need to be honest with yourself: are you using self-care as an excuse? Or are you wasting time debating the finer points of the latest celebrity gaffe on twitter? Because let me tell you, the latter is not good for your mind, body, or spirit, even if you’re drinking organic tea while doing it.

Self-care is vital in these ridiculously troubling (and traumatizing) times, but the best thing for you might be to close down all your apps and channel your energy into something that will bring you genuine fulfillment. After all, how do you expect to get likes on posts when you have nothing to share? Text your friend back, tell her you’re going to go to a museum and practice your angles. Open your notebook instead of Facebook, and write down an idea you’ve been thinking about but never put into words. Grab a novel you bought but never read from your shelf, and treat yourself to a perspective that isn’t from TrumpStanbot0121. You can even binge a new show everyone’s talking about, because investing in entertainment that stimulates you is also a form of productivity. You can channel the inspiration and use it to shape your own work.

Follow up and follow through. You’ll find what you’re looking for.

Your People | Brit Chandler

Working as a family photographer might sound like a girl’s wildest rom-com dream, but what about solving the secrets of Instagram for the greater good? Brit Chandler left behind careers in the ecomm and wedding industries to be an entrepreneur, her “dream group of humans”. Basically a creative superhero, she swoops in to save you from yourself; by leveling up her approach to Instagram, she mastered the intention behind posting, and appealing to a market. She says it’s because she fell in love with Insta, and it must be catching because we have totally fallen in love with her.

Pretty Thing: Tell us all about what you do at Brand Strategy Co.!

Brit Chandler: I'm a brand strategist and photographer. I started Brand Strategy Co because I saw a lot of talented entrepreneurs failing in their businesses because they didn't know how to utilize social media to its fullest potential.

Social media is a Bowie-less labyrinth for the best of us. By helping these entrepreneurs find their way, what goals do you have for your own business?

I want to eventually have an all-inclusive branding agency where we employ local talent, and also hire remote single moms/women and train them so they can work from home and earn a livable wage.

Livable wage? In this economy? Girl, you’re a visionary. What’s a highlight of your job that you feel you take to the next level?

I really love helping brands instantly upgrade their professionalism through brand and product photos paired with simplistic graphics.  

Nothing gets me reaching for my credit card like a minimalist photo of a flower on a monochrome background, no joke. But level with us: when speaking directly to women pursuing a career like yours, what advice would you give?

My biggest piece of advice is to persevere. It's never easy. It will never be the right time. Nothing will ever fall in your lap and continue to naturally fall into place. Everything will feel wrong and hard and you'll be uncomfortable. The discomfort is the sign that you're doing it.

You eventually learn the basics, but if you’re doing it right, you’re constantly saying yes to things that are completely foreign to you. That’s how you learn.
— Brit Chandler

No one, I repeat, NO ONE ever knows what they are doing. I've heard so many talented people with great ideas say, "but I'm not going to start because I don't know anything about business.” None of us knew what we were doing when we started. You eventually learn the basics, but if you're doing it right, you're constantly saying yes to things that are completely foreign to you. That's how you learn. You don't get to know how to do all the things, THEN take the leap. It's counter-intuitive. Entrepreneurship is about going into things backwards.

So true. One of the hardest things for women can be honing that confidence. Is that something for women to overcome in your field?

I think women in my field are their own biggest advocates and biggest obstacles. Most do not charge their worth, or go after their dreams. More of us need to own our desires and feel brave [enough] to attack them.

Speaking of women being their biggest advocates, do you have any female or female-identifying media projects that you’re totally obsessed with right now?

WORKING MOMS on Netflix. Fuckin’ hilarious and over-the-top, but also very true to real life as a working mother. Not for conservative peeps, FYI.

Thanks for the inevitable impending Netflix binge. Besides dropping recs that will completely demolish our weekend productivity, what types of services do you offer through your company?

Our specialty is a monthly Instagram consulting package with optional add ons, such as growth hacking, brand photos, management and more! We love helping people succeed on Instagram, no matter what their budget or needs are.

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Obsessed? Same. Learn more about Brit Chandler and Strategy Brand Co.

Your People | Rachel Leyco

Rachel Leyco is like OG Pretty Thing gang status. She was one of the very first models we worked with and probably the one that we’ve shot with most consistently. You may recognize her face plastered all over our website. If it isn’t obvi, we adore her and all of her endless creative talents. Read on and try not to feel the same. I dare you.

Pretty Thing: Rachel! Tell the people who you are and why we love you sm.

Rachel Leyco: I'm a storyteller. To be specific – a filmmaker, an actress, and the co-founder of Empowerhouse. Pursuing a career in the film industry is the worst thing you can do to yourself... until it's the best thing. When I experienced a lack of nuanced multi-dimensional roles as an Asian-American actress, I realized there was only thing I could do to change this seemingly never-ending cycle – create. Create the change I wanted to see. Create the change I wanted to be. And help others do the same. So I enrolled in film school and started writing, directing, and producing my own stories. My short films have won awards and have gone on to play at numerous film festivals around the world. My passion to see more diverse inclusive stories led me to build Empowerhouse, a digital media company that creates empowering stories that matter and fosters an inclusive community of storytellers.

Flex, sis! Whew. What specific goals are you working at the moment?

What am I NOT working on?! I'm sort of a "create-a-holic" as I like to say. Because it isn't work for me. Currently at Empowerhouse, we are creating CRAZY, a mental health web series. We are also hosting a private female Asian-American creatives group and soon will be launching more local groups in LA. Overall, Empowerhouse is prepping to officially launch in a few months! And personally, I'm writing a feature film that I plan to shoot independently at the end of the year; I'm incredibly excited about this one! My ultimate hope is to reach the place when I can run Empowerhouse full-time, become a badass showrunner, and empower storytellers everywhere.

Perfection is coal wrapped in gold. It hinders a lot of us from actually getting things done and putting it out into the world.
— Rachel Leyco

As a creative, what would you say is your specialty?

Well, if you must know... in my first year of film school, I created my first webisode pilot ever and won a student Emmy! What validation, right? My other short films, 'Maple's Tree,' and 'Bicultural,' have been official selections at many film festivals around the globe. I made it to the finalist round of interviews in the 2018 NBC Writers on the Verge. In my acting career, you can catch me on 'Chicago Fire' and the upcoming BET series, 'Games People Play,' set to premiere in April 2019. In every field, whether it's writing, directing, producing, or acting, I am always using my voice to empower and educate on issues that impact our generation and the next, such as mental health stigma, queer identities, and the Asian-American experience. So I guess my specialty is... being a passionate multi-hyphenate pretty thing!

Lol I love a lowkey plug. Thanks bb. Any challenges and advice you might have for other women on a similar path?

Stop striving for perfection. Instead, strive for joy and peace. Perfection is coal wrapped in gold. It hinders a lot of us from actually getting things done and putting it out into the world. Your art will never be perfect. And that's the beauty of it. The sooner you can accept that you can't control it all will save you so much time in your artistic journey. I've spent too much time allowing my ego and perfectionism prevent me from moving forward. The moment you trust in yourself is the moment you step into your purpose. It's going to be hard. It's going to take time. It's going to probably (most likely) take some therapy sessions to get there. It's going to make you doubt yourself. It's going to push you into the depths of your being. But it's going to be worth it. Let go of perfection. Unwrap the gold and crush the coal. Embrace who you are. Because who you are is more than capable.

What’s your opinion on the overall situation of women in entertainment.

It's very simple. Women have been ignored and overlooked in every industry. Especially women of color. And even more so, queer women of color. The entertainment industry is unique in that it's been a visible monster lurking around us. Women have been 'the object' for years in front of the camera. Queer women have been misunderstood. Women of color have been suffocating in boxes dragged by white hands. Our stories have been told by others than ourselves. That is the problem. Opportunities have been scarce for female filmmakers. And for actresses, exploitation has long been at large. But things are changing with the rise of the TIMES UP movement and various diversity initiatives. It takes one person to speak for others to have a voice. We need women who are willing to stand firm (especially white cis women) and help create opportunities, jobs, roles, and stories that push our authentic true brave female narrative forward.

Okay, last question. What female-identifying artist are you totally obsessed with right now?

SO MANY. I loooove me some Issa Rae! I want to work with that woman someday. Mindy Kaling, Rachel Bloom, and Greta Gerwig. Amazing female filmmakers that have paved their own paths and stayed true to their voices.

Networking Tips for Introverts Who Lowkey Hate Networking

I do like networking events (when I’m feeling up to it).

For those occasions when I’m not in the mood but feel obligated, still see the value in going, and/or should probably (definitely) make an appearance because a friend, colleague, or other very important person or opportunity will be there – mama has to suck it up and do the following things to get back into the right headspace to slay.

1.) Ask yourself if it still sparks joy.

We’ve all been there. Your Social Self made plans without consulting your Introverted-Let-Me-Be-A-Hermit Self and, come the day of a networking event that Social Self signed up for weeks ago, the network-y anxiety takes over. If you were initially excited about the event, try to tap back into that. Marie Kondo it. Social anxiety is hard to cope with; but if you remind yourself WHY you wanted to go in the first place and it still sparks joy, try to tap into that moment as it might reinvigorate you to go.

2.) Be mindful about the social energy you expend leading up to the event.

As an introvert, I often find myself feeling socially exhausted after big events. They tend to deplete my energy so making sure my social tank is full before leaving home is my number one priority. Pamper yourself, take a disco nap, clear any other social plans. You want to be present if you’re going to go. Otherwise, what’s the point? People can sense awkward and, for the socially anxious, that only makes you more anxious and awkward. It’s a cycle of doom, so take care of yourself first to make sure you’re actually up for it and will be able to make the most of the situation.

3.) Make sure your escape route is in place.

This may sound dramatic, but make sure you have a way to get home without relying on anyone else. If it’s a Lyft, bringing your own car, or making sure your metro pass has money on it, plan your escape route before leaving the house so if you need to merp out at any point (for any reason) you’re not tied down. There is certain peace of mind that comes with making sure this vital step is planned out.

4.) Try not to hype your expectations.

As an introvert and someone who gets social anxiety, I know it can be easy to psych yourself out from even going to an event. There have countless events I’ve talked myself out of because of my expectations of what the event was going to be, who was going to be there, and what the potential of making new connections at the said event might do for my career. I’ve found that if I can go with a devil-may-care attitude (or just a general air of apathy), and no expectation of what I’ll get out of it, I’m always surprised of how much I actually kick ass at these types events. I’m present and not the proverbial wallflower and, because I have no expectation and my escape route is in place, I have no qualms about being fully present then promptly dipping out.

5.) Be intentional with who or what is in front of you.

As an introvert, you’re likely a rockstar at the intimate, 1-on-1 conversations. Those types of deep interactions sustain you, so try to be focused on whatever or whoever is in front you, almost as if a game of laser focus. If you treat the overall experience as a creative challenge to ignore the rest of what’s going on and focus on being intentional with anyone or anything that crosses your path, you’ll find yourself less overwhelmed. Focus and be intentional in experiencing that conversation, that activation, that free swag or photo booth to the full instead of worrying about what you feel like you should be doing instead.

6.) Send a follow-up email the next day.

Remember that great conversation you had last night? Before you forget, send a follow-up email. It’s very easy for people to forget each other after networking events if you don’t find a way to lock in the connection soon after. Remind so-and-so about that weirdly deep conversation you had, what you do, and that you enjoyed getting to know them. Think of the post-event-follow-up-email as the final coat of paint that seals it all in. You may never hear from them again but chances are they will remember you, and who knows what opportunities can come from being the introverted, intentional and relationship-building dreamboat you are.

What are some of your favorite networking tips? Leave us a comment below.

V Busy With Nicole Swartz of The Sprout Society
Krista Mason Photography

Krista Mason Photography

Our lawyer is the best and that’s a hill we’re prepared to die on. When Nicole, founder of Sprout Law, told us she was launching The Sprout Society, we transcended to a new level of standom. Two companies completely dedicated to helping women in business succeed? Like, say less, sis.

Pretty Thing: For people who don’t stalk your IG the way we do, tell us about The Sprout Society & Sprout Law!

Nicole Swartz: We're a community for women entrepreneurs. We offer support, business advice, and legal services to women-owned businesses.

Love it. What are your business goals and aspirations for your community?

We want to help hundreds of women start + grow their businesses. Our ultimate mission is for women to become the face of business. So when you google image the word "business", it's all women!

Brb, crying. Wow. What would you say is your specialty?

We're dedicated to women-owned businesses. As a law firm, a business consulting firm, and a community, our whole focus is helping women.

I’m sure you’ve faced hella challenges trying to help women get their things. What advice would you give to other women on a similar path?

I had a lot of mindset challenges in the beginning, and it's still a struggle. Overcoming fears, the belief that you don't belong here, etc. I have them all daily! My advice would be to find role models who built similar businesses. It can help you see the reality of running a business.

Tell us about your experience working with women as an attorney.

A lot of women are nervous about talking to an attorney. We've heard from clients that they've had back experiences in the past with people who didn't take them or their business seriously. We try to make the process of talking and working with us something that our clients actually enjoy. We say we're just like you're friends...but with law degrees!

Speaking of besties, what female-identifying artist or women-centric business are you totally obsessed with right now?

Kacey Musgraves. She's an incredible songwriter in a genre that's not very available to women.

Yes omg someone tweeted that she manages to always look so bored and so beautiful at the same time. We can only aspire. Anyway, tell us about the services you offer through The Sprout Society & Sprout Law?

We help women protect their brand with trademarks, protect their work with copyrights, and protect their company with downloadable contracts. You can apply for a consultation at or browse the shop at

We’re teaming up with you for Pretty Thing x The Sprout Society happening on Tuesday, March 5th! Tell our readers about what we’re up to and why you believe it's important for women to connect in this way?

We're hosting an event with Pretty Thing (yay!) and it's all about helping women in business connect. Running a business is so lonely. You're working from home or alone at a coffee shop. Or maybe you don't have a business yet but you have an idea and you're not sure who to talk to about it. That's why these connections with other women are so important. My business (and my life) are so much better because I have women in business who are my support system.