Hailey Ra (BBA, ’24) launched her TikTok account back in 2019 just to entertain her friends. Early videos featured her goofing around with her brothers, lip synching to pop hits, and doing Taekwondo (she’s a fourth-degree black belt who competes nationally).
Then, during her first semester at Baruch College in fall 2020, Hailey released a video that went viral, garnering almost 20 million views. It was her version of “cheat on me I dare you,” a popular TikTok trend. Most users featured their bodybuilding dads, but Hailey showcased her whole family, including her mom (a third-degree Taekwondo black belt), dad (sixth-degree black belt), and her two brothers, who along with Hailey are instructors at the family’s martial arts studio in suburban Rochester, NY.
“After I did that video, I gained hundreds of thousands of followers in a few days,” Hailey says. And with nearly 700,000 followers under her (black) belt, she started getting approached by marketers.
Now Hailey, who creates content for Instagram as well as TikTok, makes extra money as a streamer. Most recently, she partnered with the nonprofit Children’s General Assembly, which asked her to promote a special filter announcing an upcoming event. She’s also sported athleisure by Nike and ONE by ONE Championship, touted cleansers from the Korean skincare company COSRX, and featured songs by 88 Rising, a collective of Asian and Asian-American musicians. Based on her wide viewership, she also gets some money from the TikTok Creator Fund, “but it’s not consistent because of the algorithms TikTok uses.”
Hailey negotiates different arrangements based on each prospective partner’s requests: “I ask how much of the video would be dedicated to me promoting the brand. Do they want me to mention the product, or put the product in the video? The more they require in deliverables — say, a link in my bio to their storefront, or a specifically timed comment where I mention a product at a certain point in the video — that’s when I’ll up the price.”
Unlike other content creators and influencers, who typically work with management companies, Hailey manages these partnerships on her own: “I make the deals with the brands and review the contracts myself.” She also handles invoicing, typically receiving payment through PayPal.
Does Hailey turn to anyone for advice? “I run some stuff by my mom, but it’s basically just me,” she says, adding that she’s “definitely” gained insights from her Zicklin professors and classes. For now, she’s focusing on accounting and business management coursework, with the goal of eventually taking over the family business. So far, her favorite class at the Zicklin School is a management class taught by Assistant Professor Tsedale Melaku: “She researches gender and race in the workplace and it’s interesting to hear about that in a management class.”
After beginning her Zicklin classes online, Hailey is now attending school in person and enjoying the experience. “I knew it was a commuter school and wouldn’t be a conventional campus experience, so I was a bit nervous,” she admits. “But there are lots of other students whose families have businesses, and we have a similar work ethic, which is reassuring. I’ve also enjoyed hearing the professors intertwine their passions into their lectures and share their personal research in the classroom.”