Buzz Knight 00:00:00
Well, this is Buzz Knight, the host of the Taken a Walk podcast, and we’re here in the Mary Cummings Park for this episode here in lovely Burlington, Massachusetts. Now, this podcast started out of the love of storytelling and connection. And if you’re a regular listener, I want to thank you so much. Please share it, write a review, subscribe to it, all the above. But if you’re a first timer, we try to tell stories that highlight the wisdom, the perseverance, the creativity of cool people victories either occurring quickly or after a long haul. And this is a story I absolutely love with someone I’m so proud of and all of Julie Russell, the founder of Fangirl Fantasy. Now, I’m quite surprised that I was able to elbow my way through her assistant to get some time with her. I don’t really know how this happened. It must have been bribery, I’m thinking. Julie, it’s so nice to see you and to be taking a walk.
Julie Russell 00:01:06
Of course, no bribery. Of course. When you asked, I said, tell me where to be and I will be there.
Buzz Knight 00:01:13
Well, it’s so great to see you. It’s been a while. Let’s tell the audience first a little bit how we met. Okay. Because I think it’s a pretty funny story.
Julie Russell 00:01:25
You scared me.
Buzz Knight 00:01:27
How did I do that?
Julie Russell 00:01:28
Do you remember? We met at the radio. I was the promotions coordinator at 98-5 The Sports Hub. I just remember this story so specifically. Good.
Buzz Knight 00:01:36
Go for it. Anyway, too, bring me down.
Julie Russell 00:01:38
It’s not when we met, but I just remember where I sat. You’re like the office down the hall a little bit, but Kelly Anderson and Mike Thomas were, like just in front of their offices were diagonal for me. And I think you were talking to Mike, and I didn’t know you were there, and you were, like, hidden behind a wall. I almost had a heart attack. I was still on my seat. I think I yelled.
Buzz Knight 00:02:03
Julie Russell 00:02:04
Buzz Knight 00:02:07
But I think what used to happen is once the day and the week had sort of evolved, I think essentially I would stop and see you guys, or you guys would stop and see me, and we would do shtick for each other, right?
Julie Russell 00:02:27
Yeah. We got dragged into the esports.
Buzz Knight 00:02:31
Oh, yes, we did. Yes. We would share our love daily or weekly saga.
Julie Russell 00:02:40
Yeah, our love for esports.
Buzz Knight 00:02:42
Yeah. But it was a lot. What was so great is just finding you guys and seeing what you were up to and just hanging out because I was in that back office there.
Julie Russell 00:02:57
No one really knew you were back there, and no one really, to this.
Buzz Knight 00:03:00
Day, knew what I did.
Julie Russell 00:03:01
Yeah. Everyone’s like, we always know. It’s like Buzz Cadillac. Like, Mike, it’s kind of like the guys in charge. And then they’re like, I don’t know any of them. I don’t know what any of them do.
Buzz Knight 00:03:12
My wife said that back t. So we work together during that period. I left for the end of 2019.
Julie Russell 00:03:24
Buzz Knight 00:03:25
And we had stayed in touch. And then you left, quote, unquote.
Julie Russell 00:03:34
They kicked me out that door. Thank God they did.
Buzz Knight 00:03:38
And that was in 2020.
Julie Russell 00:03:40
Yeah. So I got furloughed right when like, the covid in March. And then I got completely laid off in September, October time of 2020. So I had a nice little summer break.
Buzz Knight 00:03:52
But what’s so amazing about this is there’s people who are listening to this that I’m sure this has happened to, and what I love about your story and why I’m so glad that we’re going to be taking a walk, which we could start in a second, is you never look back. Like, you never had a second of looking back. How did you muster up that courage and resolve, really? I know I sound like I’m being a wise ass, but I really mean that. Let’s go walk, too, I guess.
Julie Russell 00:04:29
Basically I had my company since 2019 is when it started. So I was at the radio station. I was on the side building out everything and still doing Fangirl Fantasy. But the Sports Hub and radio was my full time job. I mean, I love the sports, and I think out of all the radio stations I work for, is, like, there’s the most to do. I learn the most, I think. So, like, radio is always my dream in the morning, every single morning. Like, I went to all the events, like, winning the concert tickets, that was me, 100% the radio fan.
Buzz Knight 00:05:10
Julie Russell 00:05:11
So being able to work and be in a full time position and work for so many different stations in Boston was just like the dream. And then it kind of got to the point where I’m not a nine to five girl, even at events, like, I got to work all the events and I wasn’t always at my desk, but I can’t do that. My brain doesn’t work that way. I’m a very creative person, and I like to be going 110 miles an hour. So when Covid hit me, it forced me, really, when I got laid off, to be like, all right, now or never. You’re in a position that you’re getting paid to be home, and you have nothing else to focus on except everything that you want to build. So Fan Girl Fantasy is an events company, but there’s no events, obviously, because Covid hit. So I was kind of just building everything else. I created a podcast, but I interviewed Fangirls, who made it into the music and entertainment industry and showing that there’s another path. Just because you, like me, love the Jonas Brothers, and I’ve met them a hundred times. You’re the one camping outside all that. There’s a career path. There’s a career path for anyone. You can turn your passion into a job. And so that’s kind of interviewing different women in the industry that have done that. And so I was building that out then I was building out a team of interns and assistants, work under me and help me kind of build their social content and then just figuring out, okay, be prepared at every moment that they could lift all these bands and 10,000 people could fit in the venue again. So I was just making sure I had all the events ready, I had the team ready, travel. And that was kind of what I focused on the whole entire time.
Buzz Knight 00:06:55
So, yeah, the foundation was being laid. You were sort of getting your brand out there in terms of what you were doing with the podcast, which was audio and video.
Julie Russell 00:07:08
Buzz Knight 00:07:08
And you were really knowing that eventually the world was going to open up. So you were just getting yourself ready during that period.
Julie Russell 00:07:18
Buzz Knight 00:07:19
And were there any moments that you said, this is never going to happen? Did you just kind of look at something and realize and think, oh God, I don’t know how we’re going to pull this off?
Julie Russell 00:07:34
It was just to the point we didn’t do our first event back until last August 2021. Right. Is that what it is? What year is it? 2021. So it was a year and a half to almost two years of no events. It was just like the waiting game would be like, no mass, you can do this, do that. So it was really like, we’d have events announced or on hold at the venues to be able to go, but it was just that our people are going to be comfortable to go out. I don’t want to also be that person. No one has to go, but it’s like, am I that jerk that’s not being like, all right, I need my company to start happening. So it’s like, is it too soon? There’s no right or wrong kind of.
Buzz Knight 00:08:18
Situation with the regional aspect of it or the city by city because you’ve built this into a national brand.
Julie Russell 00:08:27
Yes. There’s times I’m like, I don’t know when we’re going to be able to do this again. But it was just, like I said, making sure that when we were able to do it, I was just completely ready at all times.
Buzz Knight 00:08:37
So how many people are part of your team?
Julie Russell 00:08:40
So we have JD, who’s the DJ for, he travels with me everywhere. Me and him are the ones that are at all the events. I have a project coordinator, Liv, who has been with me since our first event in 2019. She helps me take all social, she helps me out at all the events and kind of coordinating everything and helping with the interns that we have. And then we have three interns who have been with me for about a year and a half now. They help with graphics, social coming up just different ideas and getting a different perspective on different fandoms that I might not be a part of t. So they’re really helpful on that end. And then we’re building out the team right now with about four to five more DJs, and we’re going to be building out different themes. And while me and JD are on the road, they’ll be going other places and kind of building out so that Fan Girl Fantasy can be in more places at once.
Buzz Knight 00:09:41
So how many cities have you hit?
Julie Russell 00:09:43
Oh, goodness, probably I think we’re on our 50th event this year.
Buzz Knight 00:09:50
Julie Russell 00:09:51
Buzz Knight 00:09:51
Julie Russell 00:09:53
I don’t know how many we’ve done.
Buzz Knight 00:09:56
I’ve seen the calendar, like a full time. Like I said, I’m thinking there’s no way I’m going to get to Julie. Big deal here with this Fan girl thing. She turned it into a monster trying to so yeah, I’ve seen a lot of the cities spanned all over the place.
Julie Russell 00:10:14
Yeah, it’s super fun. I love to travel and I always have. And so being able to go to.
Buzz Knight 00:10:23
Different aren’t you glad you’re back in the area? And to experience the summer mosquitoes and bugs as we’re walking here in Burlington?
Julie Russell 00:10:33
That’s exactly what I’m so glad to be here for. When I woke up this morning, like my allergies, yeah, we got palm trees. We got no wilderness like that. But I think it’s fun. We just get to go to these different cities that I’ve never been to or just like Louisville and St. Louis. And it’s like, unless you’re traveling for something like this, I don’t know when I would ever go there. And so just like experiencing a different culture and food and realizing how different everything is.
Buzz Knight 00:11:08
So what are you finding out there in terms of the cities? Because I hear stories from people that travel to St. Louis as an example. You brought up St. Louis and obviously cities have been hard hit the last couple of years. So what are you finding in the cities first that you’re seeing as you go across the country?
Julie Russell 00:11:28
A lot of these downtown areas, when we go, they’re just empty. And I think it is when I think of downtown, like, I’m thinking of Boston and Fanuel Hall. And it’s busy nonstop everywhere. Tourists. Some of these cities, like St. Louis, except for the Arch, there wasn’t much going on. And even though there was like, the restaurants and stuff around there, they were just empty. Vacant too. There’s not even a restaurant or anything in these buildings. That’s so sad to see.
Buzz Knight 00:11:59
And you said I think Columbus was on your list. Coming up. Have you been to Columbus?
Julie Russell 00:12:04
This will be our second time going to Columbus. And yeah, we’re in a more downtown area, too. And with us, we’re there. We sold it out and it was like 800 people. I always just wonder, too, it’s like, how far are they traveling from in Columbus? Because I’m from Billerica, going to an event in Boston, the main streets of Billerica. Yeah, the Dirty Rick. I mean, I haven’t lived there since I was 18. I’ve never experienced going out to a bar or club and then going having to get back to Billerica or anything like that. But I’m like, there’s no t- stops,. I’m like sometimes it’s just the commitment these people are doing to come to our events is so crazy.
Buzz Knight 00:12:45
Well, and I noticed in Columbus, too, because I was there a few months back, that even though the downtown is definitely kind of dead, you see a lot of cranes in these communities. So there is building, obviously, but apartments.
Julie Russell 00:13:00
Who’s moving there? I want to know all that. Even in Brighton right now, they’re just building and building and building. Who can afford how much you guys are charging for these? And who’s moving there?
Buzz Knight 00:13:11
All right, I have another question. I see a lot of people on the roads, but yet all we hear is there’s no jobs. Where are these people going?
Julie Russell 00:13:21
I mean, people probably see us. What are these two doing?
Buzz Knight 00:13:28
So I don’t know what’s going on out there. It’s kind of seems to be a lot of confusion, fair amount of anger, but you’re unifying people around one common thing, which is the love of music.
Julie Russell 00:13:43
Yes. I think for me, when I was 14 to now, I was at every concert. It’s my favorite band, or even a band that I learned that, like, open for my favorite band. I was there. I just loved music. And some of my closest friends are friends that I met waiting outside to go meet the Jonas Brothers, or waiting in the twelve hour line to make sure I’m at the House of Blues. So now being able to bring these people and these fans together, because sometimes these girls, like in fans and friends, don’t see each other unless their favorite band comes to town and they go to that concert and like, I haven’t seen you since. But now they get to go to a Fangirl fantasy event and be like, oh, we’re seeing them here and at the concert and building. Just like a safe space for them to all come and hang out and not have to really worry about anything.
Buzz Knight 00:14:37
Yeah, it’s a community.
Julie Russell 00:14:39
Yeah. Fantastic. Nothing better than it really is, and.
Buzz Knight 00:14:42
It’S something to look forward to and get excited about. I love how you describe Fangirl as this unapologetic love around these bands, these musicians, these artists. Unapologetic.
Julie Russell 00:14:58
Yeah, right. I mean, I’m literally in this position because of the Jonas, but I will scream it to the roof top with that girl wearing the merch at school, going to the concerts, going to New York to meet them, to go into class the next day. Anyone can say that. Like, that is Julie Russell’s whole brand in high school, all of it. This is very on brand. No one can say, I created this company. I’m not even a fan. This isn’t me. So for these girls to be able to just have a place to do that and it was never cool. It was also never cool to be that music or fan geek, if you want to say it, because why wasn’t it cool? I don’t know. You don’t have anything better to do than to love the Jonas Brothers or One Direction? Yeah, but now it’s like, okay, cool. Now turn around and look. The bands aren’t even here, and there’s 600 people here that love exactly what I love. And so just building a community.
Buzz Knight 00:16:02
But what’s also amazing is, during this period, you as an entrepreneur, building a brand. So if somebody is listening to this and they’re contemplating in their own head how to build something, how to build their own version of this, I don’t say the same way, but whatever their version is, what advice would you give to someone in terms of that process and that mentality?
Julie Russell 00:16:34
I think in regards to building a brand, you just need to it needs to be what you’re passionate about or you’re educated on. Like I said, no one can say Julie Russell is not a fan girl. So this is very authentic and real. So I think finding something that kind of matches that energy, but it’s not easy. Like, people will be, like, looking like this past year, we’ve had a great year, and it’s, like, on a really high pedestal. Everybody’s like, oh, my God, this and that. But they didn’t see the two years before it or when it was starting in 2019, and you got to start from somewhere. I was paying the DJs out of pocket with Julie Russell’s money that I made from the Sports Hub, and then I finally started making money and this and that, and I’ve gotten screwed at venues. I’ve gotten screwed through contracts. I don’t know what this meant or this meant. So there’s a lot of trial and error. Get through it. There’s going to be a lot of bumps. But if you actually really care about what you’re doing and really see the vision on it, it will happen. But it does not happen overnight. And that’s, like, the one thing that recently, people are like, oh, my God, it just blew up. Three years. Three years, and it’s still not even where I want it to be. And so it’s like, just that perspective. And everyone kind of sees one thing. They see the highlight reel on social media. No one knows that I’m on calls. Twenty four seven. I have people below me that I have to answer to. That a lot of ups and downs, but it’s fun. I love it. I’m my own boss. I get to go for a walk on a Monday morning.
Buzz Knight 00:18:22
What can be better. Right. But it’s a lonely road sometimes.
Julie Russell 00:18:26
Yeah, for sure. I have no one to lean no one gets it.
Buzz Knight 00:18:30
No one gets it. Like, you right.
Julie Russell 00:18:32
Yeah. And JD. Is very invested, I will say, and he’s the person I get to lean on. And I have a great support system of, like, friends in the industry that are like, okay, cool, this and that. But there’s not a lot of people who just see the success and now want to jump on. Yeah, it is lonely because there’s days I’m just, like, sitting in front of my laptop for ten to 12 hours doing Excel sheets or having to talk to my accountant or talk to this and, like, do all this little nitty gritty stuff. It’s no one else’s responsibility to do but me. It’s not like JD’s or the interns. It’s like, okay, this is stuff that Julie has like, no one else but myself can handle.
Buzz Knight 00:19:14
Julie Russell 00:19:14
Buzz Knight 00:19:15
Yeah. But that’s the grind part about it. But the great part is you walk into a venue and you see a packed house. Right. You don’t take that for granted, do you?
Julie Russell 00:19:28
No. I had a conversation on the other day. It’s really hard sometimes to live in the moment because you’re thinking about 100 other things that are going on or, like, that could be better, or this or that. And at the venues, I’m like making sure the music is good. We have merch that they’re good. The photographer I’m running in a hundred different directions, and sometimes I’m like, okay, the event is halfway over, and I haven’t even I don’t even know what songs have been played, because I’ve definitely learned to be able to like, I’ll try to always step back in the venue or the side of the stage is kind of like, soak it in and just, like, watch. But it can be ripped, and sometimes it doesn’t soak in or like, oh, my God, we did this in this random city. When we sold out Columbus, it was 800 people. I don’t know anyone in Columbus. When we’re in Boston. It’s way more special, too, because all of our friends get to go, and then there’s people that will tag me that I didn’t even know we’re going.
Buzz Knight 00:20:31
But there’s nothing like you taking about the success doing Boston events.
Julie Russell 00:20:36
No, it’s home.
Buzz Knight 00:20:38
I mean, that’s got to really tickle you just as much.
Julie Russell 00:20:42
Definitely. And get them to enjoy it with my friends and getting, like because my friends that have been by my side and watch the journey, they know the real ones, know the time and effort of me not going out or me being like, sorry, I have to handle this, can’t do that, or spend with me when I’m on the phone. So that kind of like, then watch it also come to life is really fun. And we recently just partnered with the Red Sox and did an event at Fenway.
Buzz Knight 00:21:08
Right. Congrats. I saw that.
Julie Russell 00:21:10
Thank you. So that one was also our support system of friends that showed up was unmatched and so fun. So that’s like the best part. My dad came to his first event at Fenway.
Buzz Knight 00:21:21
Did he behave himself?
Julie Russell 00:21:23
We had to kick him out. He’s just not too rowdy.
Buzz Knight 00:21:25
Julie Russell 00:21:26
So it was really cool because it’s really hard to explain what I do unless you see it.
Buzz Knight 00:21:32
Julie Russell 00:21:32
So it’s good to be able to have them come and check it out. And it was at Fenway Park, so it didn’t really get any better than that. Right.
Buzz Knight 00:21:39
Oh my God. I assume the word of this has gotten to some of the artists that you celebrate.
Julie Russell 00:21:48
Buzz Knight 00:21:48
And what’s their reaction then?
Julie Russell 00:21:51
I think it’s just easy marketing for all them, first off, because their music is getting played and we do a lot of like One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, which 5 Seconds of Summer used to open for One Direction. It’s kind of like their little peak is how they got their starting fan base. But you’re not hearing five sauce in any other club, anywhere, anywhere, any bar, maybe one or two radio singles you’ll hear. But for that, it’s just like, we play their new music, we play their new singles. And so it’s a One Direction fan game, but obviously knowing some of the ones, like five songs and this not like and then we get to play their new single. There’s fans in there that are probably hearing it for the first time. And then also there’s things like we have the doors open at say, 08:00 P.m. Music like JD doesn’t go until nine. So we have like a playlist that I have curated that goes on. And so I’m always playing new music for artists to kind of test out and see where the fancy this song. And I kind of just watched the crowd and then I’m just fortunate that I’m in the entertainment industry. And so when I’m pitching things, I’ll also say there’s 700 people in the crowd and I just played this new band, like a baby band that I really like. So when I record, the crowd like, hey, I just played your song. So I’m using it for other marketing strategies on my own and partnership opportunities everyone knows. But it’s also like I got to be careful too, like using Taylor Swift’s name. So business purposes is handled the correct way. But yeah, it’s when you must have one of the artists come to the event, so we’ll see.
Buzz Knight 00:23:41
I have no doubt that’s going to happen.
Julie Russell 00:23:43
It’s just when, when and who, right?
Buzz Knight 00:23:45
Yeah. I mean, and then you get one.
Julie Russell 00:23:47
And then the restaurant.
Buzz Knight 00:23:48
That’s right, I believe so that’s part of the whole patience. So besides that, where do you want to take this in the future? What are your dreams to go further.
Julie Russell 00:23:58
On it definitely first is like having the artist come, but Fan Girl Fantasy in general. And I think just in my background in music and entertainment, I would love to bring Fangirl as a marketing resources for teams where these artists come to Fangirl fantasy for fan engagement help and album roll out help or just kind of whatever they need, because we are in that niche of kind of what’s going on. And we are the fans, we’re the ones consuming, but sometimes the teams don’t know the best bringing on. So I would love for that, working on some things in that direction, but every time I say like a goal and then something else happens, I didn’t even think that was a goal, but I just checked that off a bucket. I never thought Fenway Park. And then I did it and I’m like, I guess that was like a bucket list item. Yeah, there’s a bunch of small little things, like, personally I want to accomplish, but yeah, we’ll see.
Buzz Knight 00:25:03
But you’re doing other stuff too, besides Fangirl, right? You’re doing some day to day managing things of influencers and stuff, correct?
Julie Russell 00:25:12
Yeah. So my other full time job is I’m a day to day for some influencers and content creators in Los Angeles, handle their whole scheduling calendar and like the liaison between them and their agents and attorneys and kind of their whole team and just kind of package it all together. So, yeah, I always do that.
Buzz Knight 00:25:30
Where do you find those extra? There’s always time, 29 hours.
Julie Russell 00:25:35
There’s always time for something. I’m super fortunate that the influencers and creators that I work for are super supportive and I’m really lucky because there’s not a lot of people like that in La. Or in that space because they want you for themselves. And so I’m super fortunate that the three that I work for, like, you’re helping us chase our dream, we want you to be able to continue to do that, and none of that would be possible because they could be like, no, you’re not going to go travel on the weekends. We need you here. So finding that the people that kind of support you is really important. But I think just being my own boss at Fangirl and then the different position I’m in, like, with being a day to day, I don’t work out of office. I’ve been on calls for them all morning and I have calls later for them. And so the remote kind of helps. I can do my Excel sheet while on a call for someone for them, and I make their schedule. And I make my schedule. So it kind of just works out in that way. There’s always time.
Buzz Knight 00:26:37
There’s always time. Julie, I’m so in awe and so happy for your success. And I see it growing even further by the day, by the week. Just keep pushing. Thank you so much and congratulations on it. And I’m so grateful we got to reconnect and take a walk.
Julie Russell 00:27:00
Me too. Thank you for having me on. That’s okay. I got your text.
Buzz Knight 00:27:04
And tell your assistant thank you for letting me get through.
Julie Russell 00:27:07
Buzz Knight 00:27:08
It took a while.
Julie Russell 00:27:09
Tell her it did not. I think we look at the timestamp. I answered you in like three minutes. I am attached to my phone, but.
Buzz Knight 00:27:18
I have to give you a hard time. Thanks, Julie.
Julie Russell 00:27:20
Buzz Knight 00:27:22
Taking a Walk with Buzz Knight is available on. Spotify, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast.