Molly Tracy is the CEO and founder of VRAI Digital, an influencer marketing and talent management agency for female-founded brands and creators with a point of view. She got her start in social media working as a content creator and strategist for national lifestyle brands before making the switch to influencer marketing – a female dominated industry that she is proud to be a part of. Her passion is rooted in helping women create amazing lives for themselves doing something they love.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit, Michigan and am the youngest of three. I always had aspirations of having a fulfilling career from a young age. I can’t recall ever yearning for my wedding day or having thoughts about motherhood, but instead I would daydream of boardrooms and executive meetings. I loved to write when I was younger, and while I had a few years where I was convinced I would go into law, I ultimately received a degree in journalism with the goal to move to New York and pursue a journalism career in women’s lifestyle magazines. I think I collected every issue of Redbook. Cosmo, Lucky and Teen Vogue for 7 years straight!
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
I moved to New York right after college to pursue a journalism career. I was 22 and I had no job lined up, just a feeling that I would make it work when I got there. Well, NY is a tough place to make it. I moved to NY in 2011 at the height of the media crash, when print publications were dying, staff were being laid off and digital was just coming on the scene, but traditional publications didn’t have a grasp on how to capitalize. So, needless to say I got a rejection from every interview, until I landed at a skincare company in their HR department on a temp-to-hire basis. One day, they walked in and asked if I knew anything about this “Twitter thing” and asked if I wanted to run theirs. I snagged the opportunity as I looked at it as a great way to continue to finetune my writing skills. I was at the company for a few months before Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York and my apartment building was flooded and destroyed. After 3 months of no place to live and bouncing around from couch to couch, I called it quits and moved home with the intention of making it back one day while I continued to apply for journalism gigs but the universe had other plans!
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea that made you start this brand? How did such a unique idea strike you, and what motivated you to “YES, go for it?“
I’d be lying if I said this business was built out of any other necessity beyond my own mental health. Prior to starting VRAI, I was working for an agency in Chicago that I realized I was practically running on my own. I had 20+ clients on my roster, managing a full team and I was working 80+ hours a week with no vacations for 5 years and I was TIRED. So, one night a friend took me out to dinner and asked me what the heck I was doing with my life and why wasn’t I working for myself? Frankly, I never wanted to own my own business. I had dreams of buying the agency I was working at one day. So, while I LOVED what I was doing and the industry I was in, I was miserable at my workplace. Hence, VRAI was born. No business plan, no website, no logo, no branding – just a deep understanding that I was killer at my job and a belief that everything is figure-out-able.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
VRAI is an agency that works with creators with a point of view. Every piece of content they create adds value to your community – it inspires, it educates, it entertains. My goal with starting VRAI was to be a business BFF for amazing women creating livelihoods for themselves. I’ve always said I just want to work with nice people and make them a lot of money – that simple. I feel so blessed to have the clients that I do and I’ll work my butt off to make sure they’re able to live out their dreams.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
EVERY new business comes with struggles, and truthfully, all great businesses cause waves. When I left my old agency to start VRAI, my former employer sued me. At the time, I was devastated. I couldn’t understand why a company that I had given everything to was doing this, but, you’ll learn not everyone has the same business ethos. It was unbelievably stressful. I was just trying to navigate getting my business off the ground, while at the same time having to hire a lawyer and fight an impending lawsuit. My aunt gave me great advice, she said, “Molly, I know it feels like a lot of money now, but one day you’ll look back at this when you’re successful and wonder why you even stressed over this.” And she was right! Trust me, it was still a lot of money HAHA but I always chose to focus on my business and my clients during that time, instead of using my energy to dwell on the awfulness of it all and I came out better for it. Queen Bey said it best – “always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.”
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
Personally, I think COVID was tough for everyone. I missed my family and friends dearly. I was long distance with my partner for a year prior and suddenly we went from long distance to living and working together in the same space. It was a lot of change at once! But professionally, I was lucky to have such a successful year. Influencer marketing boomed during COVID because brands were sitting on marketing dollars they couldn’t spend for content shoots and in-person events so it all went into influencer. 2020 was a great year for VRAI and our clients.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
VRAI has had 200% year-over-year growth since our first year in 2019. We’ve also brought on two contractors this year to help support. It’s been a personal goal of mine to do more thought leadership in this space and I’ll be doing my first influencer marketing conference in November this year.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity? WOW.
How much time do you have? On a macro level: more equality for women in terms of bodily autonomy, workplace advancements, gender pay gaps… I am just an absolute champion for women and think they should run the world so I can’t stand to hear about any injustice we’ve dealt with.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
I’m a firm believe that you don’t have to be an a**hole (can I use that word!?) to be a success. Kindness gets you so far in both business and in your personal life. There is this facade (most perpetuated by men!) that you need to be ruthless to get ahead, and I’ve always found that I enjoy doing business with people that are genuinely good humans. Secondly, give up the BS idea that you need to have a 20 page pitch deck for your business and raise all this capital to fund it and have a logo and website to kickstart your biz. Launch fast, pivot faster. Get it out there! Adjust with feedback you get. So many entrepreneurs get caught up on the pitch deck and then never actually launch because they’re too busy perfecting their branding. You’ll probably go through like 5 rebrands in your business’ life. I’ve already done 2 and it’s been 3 years!
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
We need more of it. It’s funny for me because I work with 95% women so when I get a man in my inbox I’m like woahhh what are you doing here?! HAHA! I love that for me, and wish I saw it in more industries than just influencer marketing. RGB said it best when asked “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court in the U.S.?” And she said, “when there’s 9.” Let’s apply that to all facets of life!
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Imposter Syndrome is very real, I had it when I started my business. But in actuality, it’s all BS. You have complete control over how you feel about yourself – NEVER let you be the one to tell yourself no.