In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Jocelyn Florence, partner at Parallel, a celebrity partnership studio focused on the wellness industry.
Jocelyn discusses how the team’s experience in the film industry and discerning standards for wellness led them to becoming admins, producers, and investors working with the likes of Venus Williams and RHCP’s Flea.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at Parallel?
Jocelyn Florence: Essentially, the team at Parallel wants to take back the word “wellness.” People shouldn’t feel intimidated, excluded, or priced out by companies purporting to help them live better.
So, we aim to support a new class of wellness companies that are driving a more accessible, inclusive, and expansive vision of wellness.
And how do we support these companies, you might ask? In two ways: as a strategic investor in startups and as a celebrity talent partnership studio.
How did the studio concept take shape?
JF: Our founding team all cares a lot about wellness — in mental and physical health but also community health, financial health, and environmental health. We also all care about telling good stories.
With two of our partners being seasoned film producers and my personal experience in media and theater, we’ve developed strong relationships with some pretty influential people, many of whom share our interest in wellness.
Identifying the opportunity, everyone knows a celebrity’s massive selling power and influence, but we were tired of seeing it used in the same tired categories. So, at Parallel, we’re most interested in working with wellness brands and value-aligned celebrities driving real progress and representation in the space.
It all came together in 2020 when we decided to combine our interests, leveraging the people we know to support the companies we believe in. And since then, the evolving landscape around paid advertising and algorithms and consumer behavior has only strengthened our conviction in finding ways authentically aligned talent can help brands reach their customers.
But it goes beyond that. A lot of brands underestimate the value of talent in helping with functions like business development, fundraising, recruiting, or affecting policy around their products.
We’re excited to work strategically with companies to reach their goals with talent in creative ways.
How does the process work?
JF: The process is bespoke for each brand. Our topline criteria for brands is that their philosophy around wellness aligns with ours and that they’re offering a product or service that helps people in a more inclusive, new, or easier way.
Authenticity is another key point of our criteria. If you can’t imagine a partner being a user of the product, then the partnership isn’t going to work.
Part of the process, we spend a lot of time understanding the brand’s goals for bringing on a talent partner, working together to define KPIs and a vision for the partnership. We work with them to ensure that the pitch materials we create and the list of prospective talent partners we generate feel authentic to the brand.
And then on the talent side, we think of our offering as complementary to what a talent agency does. Oftentimes, agencies are built to be more transactional and don’t have the bandwidth to work closely with companies to build these partnerships and incentives.
Conversely, we see ourselves akin to producers on a movie — by the time we’re done with our work, we’ve packaged something that’s optimized and tailored for agents and managers to be able to bring to a client with confidence.
We’re also always on the lookout for talent whose wellness interests align with ours. Even if we don’t have an opportunity at the moment, we’re always tracking who cares about what, and we leverage that knowledge in our pitches.
At the end of the day, we want this partnership to feel as emotionally engaging to a talent partner as a role in a film or any other creative opportunity they’re considering.
How does Parallel determine which wellness trends are worth pursuing?
JF: We take our diligence very seriously because it’s not just Parallel getting behind a company — we’re asking talent to align their reputation with them as well.
Internally, we spend a lot of time tracking wellness trends and culture, with everything from in-person “trendstorms” to staying in close touch with the GPs and founders that we’ve invested in, who are all experts in their fields.
And, last but not least, we also publish a newsletter, Prism, which offers our take on wellness and gives us a chance to explore trends that we’re interested in. It’s a great way for us to talk to a diverse range of experts and creative people and share their perspectives with a broad audience.
How do you plan to expand the platform? Anything we should look out for?
JF: We’ve been lucky to have worked with some truly talented brands and celebrities, including Venus Williams and the team at Happy Viking.
We’re always on the lookout for like-minded companies to collaborate with, so if you have a wellness company that shares our vision and is interested in a talent partnership, please pitch us!
We have a few things coming up. We produced a podcast with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers called This Little Light. It’s all about music education, with a lot of emphasis on how critical creativity and self-expression are to mental health.
We also recently invested in a fund, Springbank Collective, that’s focused on the caregiver economy. We love their mission and are excited to partner with their portfolio companies on talent partnership.
And, of course, subscribe to Prism for our perspective on all kinds of wellness topics. For the newsletter-fatigued among us, it only comes out every other week… easy breezy.
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