Amanda Russell is the “Fearless Girl,” breaking boundaries and smashing ceilings along the way, and refusing to accept the working world’s prescribed parameters for women on the rise. 

The Toronto Star called her the “Real-life Iron Woman” and “ultimate go-getter”—but to thousands of devoted followers, Fortune 500 clients, and inspired audiences, Russell is a global expert in Influencer Marketing.

As an international fitness icon, sought-after speaker, brand strategist, and educator, Russell has been at the forefront of the digital marketing and social media revolution from its infancy. Her core philosophy: “You can have the best product or service in the world, but if you don’t have an audience, it doesn’t matter.”

Russell was a world-class distance runner with the goal to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympic trials—before an injury brought her career to a halt. The hard work of her against-the-odds recovery led to a corporate career in New York City, of which she is first to say was “not the end goal, but rather a stepping stone to open doors and garner experience and education to eventually launch my own company.”

“It was probably the lowest point of my life. But had that not happened, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It just goes to show that even the lowest points in our lives have a way of working themselves out if we continue to push on,” Russell said. “My next dream became to create an online fitness program and community: a place that would be the pinnacle for women’s online fitness—while simultaneously helping me learn how to launch a global brand in this new digital economy.”

As a pioneer in Influencer Marketing, Russell recognized the power of YouTube to grow an audience she could convert to her own platform. With one million views after just two months and accolades as one of YouTube’s “Next Top Fitness Channels,” it was clear she had her finger on the pulse. She then partnered with Trium Entertainment (creators of shows like The Biggest Loser and Amazing Race) to develop one of the first online subscription programs, complete with a multi-channel online fitness and lifestyle community: Fit, Strong & Sexy, which today has more than 80,000 subscribers.

With her innate digital acumen, Russell went on to co-found the Interesting Agency, offering full-service brand strategy, marketing, and content production services. As of February 2018, she sold her consulting firm to take the CMO helm at Valeo Securities, where she’s heading up a re-brand and international re-launch as Valeo Fit. She was recently appointed to an advisory board for Lamborghini, and is a sought-after consultant to some of the world’s top brands.

Through it all, she says the Robins School of Business has propelled her toward success, above and beyond a top-tier education. “A few key faculty members, especially Dr. Dana Lascu, taught me the value of relationships. No one is self-made, and the connections I made at UR continue to shape and support my life on so many levels”. Nearly 12 years after Russell’s graduation, Lascu has continued to be a confidant, mentor, and close friend—and she says she will never forget having Russell as a student.

“She was this brilliant dynamo sitting on the right side of my Marketing Research class. I anticipated having not only the correct answer from her direction, but also the kind of unique insights one could only expect from an imaginative, seasoned researcher,” Lascu said. “At first, I thought that market research would be an ideal career for her, but I quickly realized that her horizons and abilities aimed well beyond a research career.”

And though Russell says Lascu was her mentor, Lascu thinks of their relationship a bit differently.

“She mentored me,” Lascu said. “She helped me become a better faculty member, a better teacher, and a more informed consumer as I followed her career, faithfully watched her YouTube channel, and adopted brands that she created, represented, or endorsed.”

For Russell’s part, the admiration is mutual. “The faculty at UR actually follow up. When I reach out, within minutes I get an email back,” Russell said. “Those kinds of relationships are bigger than any accounting algorithm or course.”

What’s next for Russell? “I believe the most exciting part of my career is just beginning, and it’s what I know in my heart I was meant to do,” she said. “Everything up to this point has formed the foundation I can build on today.”

She channeled her deep experience, stellar industry reputation, and frustration with the status quo into developing the world’s first fully accredited program in Influencer Marketing at UCLA—now being rolled out to universities around the world.

In fact, the University of Texas (by way of a major investment from Apple), is funding the research and realization of this initiative—The Influencer Code—to become the #1 educational resource and platform for the future of influencer marketing.

A book series will be the first step, with her first volume coming out in November 2019. It’s an intensive look at how brands can leverage each other to grow and scale their business. 

“When I make the decision to do something I know that I will always find a way,” she said. “Will many people find me too aggressive or direct in the process? YES! And I definitely am… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

You can find out more about Amanda’s story, and follow her on social media, through her website.