Okay, it’s one of my favorite times of the month, and do you know why? Anyone? It’s… time for another AdPurp employee profile! That alone is exciting, but to add more fuel to the fire, we’re talking to someone whose profile is long overdue, and I mean long. She’s been with our partnerships department since the time of its inception and has grown right alongside it.
Can we all give a warm blog welcome to Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager, Ginny L? It was such a pleasure to talk to her about her east coast origins, life as a K-pop and hip-hop dancer, her love of Korean food, the value of AdPurp’s partnerships department, and everything else. There’s lots of good stuff to look forward to and I can’t just give it all away in the intro.
So, without further ado, let’s jump in headfirst. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Hi, Ginny! It’s so good to have you back on the blog. Last time you were here, you were part of our Mother’s Day post, but today? Today is going to be all about you. So, let’s start there! Why don’t you tell us about yourself?
Hey Noelani, and everyone! I’m Ginny Lee and I’m from Montvale, NJ before I moved to Los Angeles to start my undergrad at UCLA in 2015. I’ve been studying pre-med ever since high school, participating in regional Science Fairs, taking the Biology Olympiad Exams during my Junior and Senior year, and majoring in biology (with a minor in global health) to fulfill my youthful dreams of becoming an OBGYN. After taking a quarter of physics classes during my 2nd year of college, I realized how much I hated the subject and had chills thinking about studying this for the rest of my life.
I switched to a psychology major and after several PR and business internships, I decided to minor in Entrepreneurship during my last year of college and was super invested in the world of business and marketing. And now, I’m here at Advertise Purple, the #1 Affiliate Marketing Agency in the nation!
Aside from school, I’m a big foodie and love trying new recipes from around the world. I love to dance, although I’m not the best at it. Yes, I’m the girl whose childhood dream was to become one of Cheetah Girls’ backup dancers and put on shows for my family and friends every week to show off the moves that were extremely cringe-y now that I think about it. Other than that, I’ve been on several hip-hop dance teams in college and also co-founded a K-POP/Hip-Hop YouTube Channel with two of my other UCLA friends. Lastly, I love to travel with my dad, whether that’s visiting Vegas together for the 13th time or going cross-country by car in a span of a week!
I’ve gotta ask, with you coming from a biology background and wanting to be a doctor originally, what brought you to the world of affiliate marketing? Specifically, what brought you to Advertise Purple?
One of my last internships in college was at Slickdeals, which was my first step into the door of affiliate marketing and is currently one of our partnership affiliates we closely work with. Although I was part of the PR team during my four-month internship, I was grateful to be allowed to meet with different employees in other departments, specifically in the BDR, Marketing, and Account Manager fields. I learned more about the affiliate marketing side of the business and how each department played a role in managing a successful partnership with clients and business partners. From my past internships, I’ve only worked in social media and inbound marketing, so affiliate marketing was a new topic to me. The process of earning a commission for advertising other clients’ products and services, the simple yet innovative win-win structure on both the advertisers’ and publishers’ ends, and the creative aspect of affiliate marketing that plays a role in generating the best ROI caught my attention. At one point, I was like “why don’t all businesses follow this marketing model?!” I knew this new marketing world was something I wanted more hands-on experience in, and luckily, I had the opportunity to dive further into it.
Almost right after I graduated from college, Esther, who used to work for Advertise Purple and who was also my former internship colleague at Slickdeals, told me that Advertise Purple was hiring for a new Partnerships Department position that might be a close match to what I was looking for. I immediately asked her for more information. After further research about the role responsibilities, her employment referral, and several interviews, I landed the role as one of the first Strategic Partnerships Managers at Advertise Purple.
Now, you joined AdPurp when our partnerships department was just you and one other. You were on the ground floor of the department, so what has it been like seeing its evolution? How has it grown since you joined it and what do you believe is the greatest value it brings to our clients?
The goal of the Partnerships Team was to not only most efficiently coordinate partnerships, but also streamline the process. Our department has grown to a full team in a span of fewer than two years and it works closely with hundreds of affiliate partners to discuss all onboarding opportunities and help with the process using the most efficient methods developed by the team. By working cross-functionally across different departments to make sure all requirements and needs are met, the Partnerships Team strives to develop win-win strategies for both the affiliates’ and clients’ to ensure that the ROI and overall partnership are above par.
We are always looking to create innovative solutions to further amplify the process of building trusted relationships with each of our affiliate partners for our clients, so our day-to-day responsibilities are never the same. But, the new challenges and tasks that come up are what make our job the most exciting and rewarding! Go Partnerships Team—y’all are truly the best!
How would you say you’ve grown personally in your role on the partnerships team?
First coming in as a Strategic Partnerships Manager to now being part of the Growth Department as a Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager required a lot of breaking-out-of-my-comfort-zone situations. When I first started, I thought I was doing a great job of just completing tasks quickly and efficiently and maintaining partnerships with the team I managed. Little did I know that being too comfortable with my day-to-day responsibilities led to a mini-slump during my half-year mark. I knew I had to take an extra step, take on a challenge, and go above and beyond to not only exceed the company’s expectations but also defeat my personal slump and strive for further professional growth. I started to take initiative to figure out what the missing pieces were in the puzzle of further enhancing affiliate relationships and communication between departments. I volunteered to take on higher-level tasks outside of my department, whether it was helping the Tech department or figuring out how to better streamline the recruitment process with the Account Management Team. If I realized something wasn’t working out or a proposed strategy could be further improved, I would voice my ideas at meetings or individually with my colleagues and supervisor to resolve issues. Lastly, during affiliate calls or presentations with supervisors, I would anticipate questions and prepare answers before the meeting to provide actionable ideas and prove my credibility and willingness to help and meet challenges.
I personally want to give a huge shout-out to my supervisors, Riley, and my other AP friends, for always pushing me, encouraging me to take initiative, and helping me break out of my personal bubble over the past 1 ½ years. I definitely couldn’t have come this far—and now be taking on a managerial role and representing the company to our shopping affiliates—without them. Thank you so much, I appreciate you all!
Speaking of development, let’s talk about the growth you’ve experienced in your life outside of work. You co-founded a K-pop and hip-hop dance YouTube channel, which is amazing, by the way. Since then, your subscribers have grown to 130,000 with lots of Korean sponsors. What has the whole journey been like for you? Tell us more, please!
The four years of my UCLA experience revolved around creating SEOULA, developing content, and growing a team of dancers to make sure we were not only growing our channel but also have a lot of fun and take a break from the academic stress. I would have class from 9 AM to 4 PM and afterward, my friends (who are also co-founders) and I would spend the whole late afternoon and night thinking about how to grow our channel, practicing for dance covers and competitions until 3 in the morning, and developing and filming YouTube dance content throughout the week. A year in, we started to take the channel a bit more seriously and started holding dance auditions to grow the team. We took it a step further by developing an L-SHIP team, creating more video content, participating in different regional and world K-POP competitions, and even creating our own logo and goodies! Once we got YouTube verified a little over a year ago, fashion/beauty brands and different entertainment companies started to reach out to us on our business email to collaborate with them. Everything was so surreal. CJ Entertainment, the biggest broadcasting company in Korea, even asked us to perform for one of their major US ceremony events! We collaborated with other K-POP and choreographers, including Tiffany Young and BTS’s choreographer Sienna Lalau, to create new content as well.
My friends and I still laugh about how we started this channel as a joke to just relieve stress from school and didn’t expect it to grow so big. There were a lot of ups and downs, cries and laughter, and trials-and-errors to further enhance our channel and grow SEOULA as a whole, but that’s what “entrepreneurship” is all about right? Shoutout to the whole team for bringing SEOULA up to a new level—y’all are killing it and thank you to everyone along the road for giving us the greatest support, trust, and encouragement!
I guess you could say that you’ve become an affiliate of your own with the partnerships that you and your friends have made through your YouTube channel. In that light, have life and work kind of fed into each other? Do you think that through this experience, you’ve gained the ability to see things through the eyes of an affiliate even more?
It definitely isn’t as complicated as managing affiliate relationships, tracking each performance via affiliate networks, and filling out different forms to complete the partnership. But, when it comes to negotiating which products to feature on our videos, which partners to collaborate with, and how to develop quality content for our “clients,” I could definitely understand and predict better what the affiliates are looking for when working with clients, particularly from a content perspective.
Since I’ve worked with some of our Content Partnership Managers closely, I know how difficult it can be to secure opportunities for the clients they present to content publishers. After experiencing this from the other side, though, I also see that affiliates make the best effort to ensure our clients are well-represented on their platforms. Once everything is finalized, scheduled, and published, the feeling of accomplishment and excitement hits hard. It’s even more amazing to know that the good results are derived from the cross-collaboration between the clients, affiliates, our agency, and the efforts we all put in to reach our goals.
Let’s revisit that story you told in our Mother’s Day post. You and your mom were jamming out to High School Musical in Korea one winter after you closed up her Korean BBQ restaurant. Such an iconic movie moment. What have been some of your other favorite memories in Korea and how often do you travel there?
My parents both moved from New Jersey to Korea 2-3 years ago, so I try to visit them every year—either in the summer or winter. During the day, I would spend most of the time with my family, whether it’s eating good home foods or talking about my life in the States while watching cringe-y Korean soap operas on TV. Sometimes I would meet up with my friends at nice manga or cat cafes, order some of the craziest drinks at Starbucks that aren’t available in the States, or visit Lotte World Amusement Park in cute high school uniforms that we could “rent” out hourly. And at night, oh let me tell you—Seoul is the city of nightlife. The city never sleeps! Before COVID, most of the pubs, called pocha in Korean, and late-night restaurants were open 24/7, so it was normal to go back home on the first subway train at 6-7 AM on weekends.
One of my favorite memories in Korea was when my friends and I went to a city called euljiro and ate some of the best Korean street foods I’ve ever had. From spicy chicken skewers to corn dogs with mozzarella cheese and ramen flakes to sweet potato slushies, the street foods there were absolutely incredible! Euljiro is also known to have a lot of creative speakeasy cafes and bars on every street, and some places even took us 1-2 hours to find! One coffee cafe was located in a building that seemed abandoned, and my friends and I had to go through three doors, up a couple of stairs, and press a button to enter. What seemed like a small cafe from the doors outside was actually a huge vintage-themed dining area inside with cool furniture and free arcade games as well! Every visit to Korea is always different and special, and I definitely can’t wait for my next adventure back home in 2022.
While we’re in the vein of travel, what was it like volunteering in Nepal? Something incredible I learned from you was that, despite it being one of the poorest areas in the world, Nepal’s happiness levels are top-notch compared to other countries. How was that entire experience and being around those happy communities?
I’ve been part of DAIL Community of USA since 2010 and ever since was allowed to volunteer in Nepal back in 2013 and 2014 as part of the Babfor Project where the team provides food and education to the people of Nepal. To help break the vicious cycle of poverty, the team served food and water for the families and helped clean facilities to create sanitary living conditions. After school, the children would rush over to the Babfor Center, and we would help them with homework and read books for classes. Since the families never used a phone before, we had fun taking pictures and videos while showing them how to play mobile games and upload pictures on Facebook.
Volunteering in Kathmandu, Nepal was hands-down the most rewarding and memorable experience of my whole life. When I first went, I didn’t know what to expect. I definitely didn’t expect to shower with moths flying over your head, eat foods all seasoned with curry for preservation purposes, and actually have a limited number of times to use the restroom for water and waste conservation. The living conditions were worse than I imagined as well. Children were living in slums, schools and facilities looked like they were about to crumble any second, the pungent smell of the earth and cow manure pierced through the blistering heat, and water was so scarce that people had to take turns drinking water from the well. But, the one thing that really shocked me during my 10-day volunteer stay was how the people were always smiling and, as weird as it sounds, seemed happy most of the time. Regardless of the extremely poor living conditions, the scarce resources and facilities, and the scorching heat, the people of Nepali lived in the moment and gave thanks for everything they had. They were grateful for the volunteers, the food and water they had every day, their families and friends, and the resources they had left to sustain them throughout the years. I learned a lot from the Nepalese communities, not just from what I saw and experienced, but what I felt from the people and how it applied to my own standards of living life to the fullest and with happiness. We sometimes tend to blame the lack of “something” for our failures, anger, and sadness. But my time in Nepal changed my perspective: to let go of the past, be thankful for what’s in front of me, and look forward to the next chapters of my life.
Care to tell us about that time you climbed the mountains adjacent to the Himalayas? What was that like?
The hike was muddy and cold, yet it was one of the most daring and adventurous experiences I’ve ever had on a trip. When we were midway through the hike, close to the shelter we were staying for the night, one of the Nepali volunteers told our group, “That’s a bit of the Himalayas in between the trees!” First of all, I had no clue we were hiking up a trail that was literally right next to the mountain that you usually hear about on Discovery channel or Netflix documentaries. The next thing you know, I’m walking up a trail right next to it! The level of excitement and rush of adrenaline pushed the team to finish the rocky hike to the top. Right before we were about to finish the trail, I stopped to see a huge spot of blood on my white socks. I initially thought it was a small scratch, but there was actually a leech—a LEECH—in my shoe. Again, this is something I would’ve never seen or experienced back home, so as much as I was internally panicking, it was also quite an interesting experience.
At the top of the mountain, there was a small home there where we ate and slept for the day with the whole crew. Two of the volunteers were my age, so we had late-night talks with a bunch of Nepalese snacks on the kitchen counter. The next morning, due to the high altitude pressure, our faces became severely bloated overnight, and we practically looked like balloons with arms and legs almost double the usual size. To this day, I still can’t believe I saw a snippet of the Himalayas and a leech friend all in a span of 24 hours for free, but it was totally worth it and I’d go back again.
You might already know this, but a topic I always visit in this blog series at one point or another is food. With that in mind, I have to ask, what is your go-to comfort food? What is your absolute favorite meal?
I am a huge fan of Korean food, although it’s kind of self-explanatory 🙂 I grew up eating my family’s Korean dishes since I was born, and one of the biggest reasons why I used to live in Koreatown is to get the right groceries from the market just a few blocks down. One of my favorite go-to comfort foods is definitely the spicy pork-bone soup called gamjatang. It is hot, comforting, savory, and so flavorful that my taste buds literally dance inside my mouth every time I have a bit of the broth, vegetables, and meat altogether in one spoon. I highly recommend going to Gamjagol or Yangji in K-town if you ever want to try it (and you can catch me there sometimes at 2 AM after a long night out as well). My other all-time favorite classic is the Korean buckwheat noodle dish called naengmyun that’s cold, refreshing, and perfect for the summer. Naengmyun and KBBQ are known to be the power combo—it’s a taste of heaven when you have a piece of meat right from the grill and some cold noodles together in one bite. The first time I had naengmyun was at my grandma’s restaurant that specializes in the dish. The amount of time and effort that my grandma and her team put in to make the perfect broth, noodles, and toppings from scratch is truly unbelievable. And even to this day, even after trying over 20+ different places in America, I haven’t tried any naengmyun that tastes better than my grandma’s homemade cold dish!
I know KBBQ is one of the most popular, if not, the only food that most people can think of if I asked them what their favorite Korean dish is. But, honestly, there’s so much more to Korean food than meat on the grill with good sauces and soup that I would love to introduce to my colleagues. So, if any of y’all are interested, let me know! I got some good recs to start with.
I can’t believe how fast we’ve flown through this interview, so let’s spend a little time reflecting on the past year. At the time the pandemic hit, your dad was visiting and you both ended up living together for 7 whole months. What was it like surviving the pandemic alongside your dad? How did you both get through it together?
I never actually lived with my dad since he mostly worked in Korea and would visit me maybe once or twice a year. Right as he was about to go back to Korea last March, the COVID-19 pandemic just started to hit LA and everything— restaurants, airports, stores, etc.—were all shut down. The lockdown might have been one of the most stressful, anxious, and dark times for some of us. Graduations were canceled, offices and restaurants were closed, and we were even too scared to take a breath of fresh air at the park. But, for me, it was the longest father-daughter bonding time I’ve ever had.
Besides hearing him snore very loudly in the living room (shoutout to noise-canceling Airpods haha), we would order all of our groceries from Amazon through Whole Foods and make new foods every day—from KBBQ to tacos, to cute charcuterie boards. We always ended the night by binge-watching Netflix shows, some of which include Signal, Money Heist, and a Belgian apocalyptic series called Into the Night (which I highly recommend watching if you haven’t yet!). Oh and can’t forget the best part—getting a Naked Wine subscription where the service recommended 12 quality red and/or white wines for us to taste and sent it over. I wasn’t the biggest fan of wine before the pandemic—I mean, it used to taste like expired grape juice to me. But after trying almost every bottle from Ralphs and attempting to differentiate the taste of Cabernet vs Pinot Noir vs Merlot, and ordering a total of 50+ bottles from Naked Wine during the past seven months we were together, I became absolutely obsessed!
Being stuck at home with my dad for seven months was definitely life-changing. From the deep conversations, we had on our patio to the number of TikToks we recorded together to save ourselves from boredom here and there, the seven months of 2020 gave me the most precious time of my life that I’ll never forget.
Okay, this is the last question, so let’s make it a good one. What are your biggest goals for the rest of 2021?
I usually like to keep my yearly goals short, sweet, and simple, so that I can actually achieve all of them and feel accomplished at the end of the year. For 2021, I split into three sections: My health goal is to exercise three times a week, whether it’s on a yoga mat at home, walking 10K steps, or doing recreational activities, such as bowling or badminton, with my friends.
My professional goal is to improve my public speaking and presentation skills. I’m usually a fast talker and sometimes either stumble on my own words and get lost in the middle of the conversation. This year, especially while I’ve been hopping on more affiliate calls, meetings, and presentations, I always try to remind myself to slow down and pace my words so that I get my point across clearly and directly to the audience. Getting feedback from my colleagues, specifically Riley and Kyle, has significantly improved my presentation skills as well. Still have a long way to go, but practice will definitely get me closer to perfect!
And finally, my personal goals are to make my bed every morning and call all of my family members in Korea at least four times a week. It may seem like the simplest thing, but sometimes the simple things are the most difficult things to achieve in life.
To wrap up, 2020 hasn’t been the greatest year for most of us, and now we’re more than halfway through 2021. There may have been some ups and downs this year for everyone, but I want to at least remind everyone at AP to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you made it. You’ve been killing it this past year. And lastly, as long as you’re happy, who the heck cares.
Wow. Didn’t I tell you that there was going to be a lot of good stuff? I know I learned a lot. From talking about her adventures in Nepal and what Korean food makes her comfort list to the way that affiliate marketing sits at the intersection of her work and personal life, I’d say we covered a lot. Thank you so much for joining us for this wonderful conversation, Ginny. And between you and me, I know who I’m going to if I need any help with my dance moves!