Allie Young is levelling the playing field for women in gaming through the*gamehers

Allie Young is levelling the playing field for women in gaming through the*gamehers

What is the result of combining the power of marketing and strategy with a gaming community start-up created for women to thrive? A multinational gaming community that actively and effectively includes women from different parts of the world who love gaming and want to find women just like them. That is what Allie Young is doing with the*gamehers. With over 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic partnerships, Allie Young’s love for gaming manifested in Access Replay at first, but now, at the*gamehers, Allie is enthusiastic about the impact the community has and can have on millions of women all over the world.

In this week’s #MCNWorkLife, we spoke with Allie Young, the high-spirited and tenacious President of the*gamehers who is working tooth and nail to level the playing field for women in the gaming industry all over the world.

Tell me, who is Allie Young?

I’m Allie Young, the President of the*gameHers, and I have an entrepreneurial spirit with a little ADHD in there. Someone once told me I’m addicted to solving complex problems, and yeah, I am. It serves me pretty well because there are always problems to solve. Also, I’m a strategist, a speaker, and an advocate for women in gaming. I’m also a gamer; I met my husband while gaming 20 years ago and love being in this industry. With my experience in marketing, I love to look at the revenue side of a business and sell things to people. I believe I was put on earth to sell stuff. Personally, I am a mom, and I have a 17-year-old daughter. I’m married to a fantastic husband who is very supportive of my brand. So, that’s it about Allie Young.

Tell me about your childhood and educational background and how they translated to your current work.

I was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States at the age of seven. At the time, I lived with my grandparents, aunts, and uncles in their house in New Jersey, where I grew up in Bergen County. Most of my schooling was in the States, and I went to Fordham University in New York.

I went to school for pre-med to become a doctor, but while standing in line at the registrar’s office, my future flashed before my eyes. I thought, ‘Can I afford to, and do I even want to spend most of my adult life paying for undergrad, medical school, and all of that jazz.’ And so I got to the front of the line and said, ‘Hold on, I’ll be right back.’ Then, I changed my entire program to Business Administration and Economics. After that, I finished my first degree in two and a half years. That’s what shifted my trajectory to who I am today

Tell me about life before the*gameHers and what you were engaged in career-wise.

Before the*gameHers, I owned and still own a marketing company called Alcovy Media. I worked with various clients and companies, such as the US Army, Capitol Records, some local governments, and many more.

Prior to that, I had been in sales for most of my adult life, working with many big companies and brands like Cox Media Group and Clear Channel Radio. Then, I decided to strike out on my own and start my own thing.

At some point, I even owned a magazine and newspaper, so I’m very familiar with traditional media.

How did you get into tech and gaming?

This is pretty interesting. Like I said, I’d been playing video games for years and met my husband through a video game. Family time for me and my family always involved games, so I did have a lot of knowledge about how things worked with games.

When my daughter was 8, I took her to the bookstore for the first time, and she loved it. She was so excited about it because she had always been an amazing baby, and we would get all her books virtually, but this time, I took her to a Barnes and Noble. On our way out, she said, ‘Mama, you know what would be cool if we had something just like this but with computers, video games, cupcakes, and cookies.’

Right after that, I immediately got into the back of the car to write up a business plan for what eventually became our first business called “Axis Replay,” also known as AXR. That business was a gaming facility with about 20,000 square feet, so it was pretty large with 120 gaming systems and the food concept, where we did a lot of events with big brands and names like Offset, Lil Yachty, and so many incredible artists and celebrities who would come and hang out. However, all of that happened in 2019, right before COVID hit, and when COVID hit, we had to close down our doors at AXR.

Tell me about the*GameHers and what it’s been like working there

the*GameHers was already established before I came on board. We had previously worked on a few projects before AXR closed down. So, when we closed down our doors at AXR, Rebecca and I got together, and she said, ‘Can you come work with us at the*gameHers?’ and I said yes. At the time, it was more on a consulting basis, and it has transitioned from being full-time to now. I am working on launching our international extension with Nigeria, one of the emerging markets we are focusing on. Other markets include Saudi Arabia, the UK, and Europe.

Life as an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. As a woman of colour, it is wrought with challenges. At the*gameHers, we’ve raised $3.5 million and are closing in on more this year. At one point, I had an investor ask me if my husband was a partner in the business, and it took me aback that he would ask that question, so I asked him,

“If I were a man, would you have asked if my wife was a part of the business?”

He was extremely surprised that I asked. As a woman who has raised capital for many businesses, I know that it isn’t the easiest thing to do because most people tend to look at it as this rare thing that doesn’t happen often.

With the*gamehers, I’m proud of the impact we’re making because our business is set around three pillars: education, career opportunities for women, and entrepreneurship. And so, finding ways to support the women who have gone through the same challenges I’ve had and that Rebecca and countless women in any industry have had is my greatest mission, and I hope to make an impact.

What are your day-to-day affairs and contribution to the organisation as president?

I run high-level strategies and lead the team in executing Rebecca’s and my vision for the*gameHers. What I love about the team is that every one of us is hard-coded to love what we do because it’s super exciting, and it’s an amazing industry with the most loyal community members who are very loyal and kind to each other. So, every day, it feels like Steve Jobs’ quote, in which he said, “If you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life,” and that’s how I feel.

In the morning, I start my morning routine, get a lot of coffee, and focus on the day while looking ahead to the rest of 2024 and, in the continuum, 2025. So, I’m always looking at the long-term vision, even up to ten years, then the three-year vision, and even the one-year vision.

So, I’m very strategically minded and always look at things from a business standpoint to see how we can keep supporting what we do. To me, we’re making an impact and supporting our goals, but at the same time, we need to make money; otherwise, we don’t have a business to run. So, there’s a need for balance.

The team is completely invested in the vision for the*gamehers and the impact we’re making. In our first four years of business, we’ve had almost a million people in our network globally, and we’re super excited to be able to say that. Right now, we are determining our pillars and focus, and we’re trying to scale it by having the infrastructure and organisation in place to expand our community to the next level and also provide the programming that would support them.

Speaking about scaling, what is it like to step out of your familiar territory, the United States, and into countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Europe to expand the*gameHers?

It’s really interesting because only half of our community is in the US. The other half, organically, is external. Ten percent of our international market is actually in Nigeria, and that makes up about 50,000 people, and that’s just organic growth.

We’ve been to other countries and established connections there; however, as we increase our level of engagement in other countries, we really have to focus our energies on where our community is. So, as we expand our communities globally and intentionally, we ask ourselves, What do we need to do within the regions, and who are the partners we need to have within the regions? We also need to consider how to bring on these partners to support our goal.

So far, the challenges I’ve seen, interestingly enough, are how we activate these areas and how we establish partnerships that would be great for us to leverage. Lastly, culture is also really important to us, and the places we’re targeting right now have very distinct cultures. So, how we activate in these places must be authentic to our brand and the people we are advocating for, which are the women in Europe, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. What we’re doing now is doing a lot of research and being very mindful of who we are working with. We are also starting to build up those partnerships so we can support and sustain ourselves in these places.

Your work encompasses creating an inclusive community for women and femme-identifying people. What has been your biggest challenge in ensuring that these spaces remain untainted and safe for them?

Our app has some pretty strict use guidelines and a no-tolerance policy regarding abuse. Creating a safe space for women in our community is the main point. One thing our community would say is that they love that it is a safe and supportive environment for women like themselves.

Challenge-wise, there is a lot of toxicity in gaming globally. Women make up half of the 3.25 billion gamers in the world, but a lot of these women don’t identify as women while playing due to the fear of cyberbullying.

So, while every industry faces the challenge of unfairness to marginalised communities, our focus is to make an impact in our little bubble. Eventually, all our little bubbles will start touching and have the big impact that we all desire.

Allie Young of the*gamehers

What is the most difficult challenge you think women in your field face when trying to advance in their careers?

Advocacy. I’ve seen that when men get together to network at events or do simple things like golf, they tend to advocate for other men who are not even in the room. So, as a person who has someone in the room, you’re not the only person advocating for your career; you have someone advocating for you. I think women need to do more of that for themselves. We need to have our own “sister clubs” that allow us to advocate for one another in rooms we are not all in. That’s a great way to help each other and amplify our own messages.

Another thing to note is that we’re not anti-male as a women-led, women-focused organisation. We have men on our team, we have diverse cultures, and we’re a diverse culture, and we don’t get anywhere without our allies.

I don’t ever want to be on an only women’s panel, and we can’t get anything done if it’s just women in the room. For us to make an impact, we have to collaborate to make things happen, and I think that’s really important to note.

What is your biggest achievement so far as the president of the*gameHers?

One of the biggest wins we’ve had was our first live awards, which, in the past, had always been virtual. This is the first year we’re doing it in person, and it was the most incredible experience I think I’ve ever had. I mean, I’ve done events with half a million people, and I’ve done a rooftop concert with Offset with 150 people, and it was amazing. We’ve done all these things, but I feel like this year’s award show was a combination of the team’s Herculean efforts. What we did and what we accomplished says what women supporting women look like. We had almost 11 million people in reach, with over 150,000 views online. We were expecting 100 people to show up, and we had almost 300 people come in person. It had 4300 nominations and 44000 votes. It was amazing.

Allie Young at the*gamehers awards 2023
Allie Young at the*gamehers awards 2023

Seeing how supportive women were of women in our community and our industry was amazing. The vibe of the room was incredible!

We had invited all the finalists, so many of them were in the room for the award show. But even when they didn’t win an award, everybody was just so excited for the winners. One person even said, “I felt like a winner the entire time, even though I didn’t win the award,” and that was the whole purpose of the award, and it happened. So, that’s probably our biggest achievement so far and definitely a career-defining moment for me.

That’s so beautiful. Congratulations on that. But tell us, what’s a typical day like?

Well, my days are pretty simple. I wake up, check my emails and availability, and get coffee. Then, I kind of plan out my day and head to meetings.

I spend a lot of time making sure we’re on track with different projects. I also spend a lot of time in investor meetings because we’re in the midst of a big capital raise, so I have quick hurdles with the team and more meetings with people. To unwind, I love to eat good food and generally try my best to schedule meetings around coffee, lunch, and dinner, so I make sure that I’m eating healthy while I’m getting work done. So, generally, when I’m at home, that’s my normal schedule, but when I’m traveling, the time zones are a bit of a challenge. When I’m in Nigeria, for example, I’m usually 5-8 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, depending on the time of the year. So, that’s probably the most challenging part of my daily routine, because there really isn’t one. It all depends on where I am. Whether it is in Lagos, London, or Riyadh, my schedule is pretty different.

That sounds hectic, but because your job requires you to travel a lot, what do you enjoy the most about the work you do?

I do really enjoy travelling. I’m having a lot of fun working on our international expansion because I feel like we’re making a real impact that’s changing the landscape of the industry for women. I love working with the team and doing all the cool stuff we do. I feel truly blessed to do the work I do.

One funny thing about flying so much and so often is the little time I have to spend with my husband. Last year, I flew 54 segments in 2023, which means I was on a plane at least every week. Because my husband also travels a lot for work, we have had two airport dates in the past month where we met at the Delta Lounge for breakfast. He was flying in, and I was flying out, and we met at the airport because we hadn’t seen each other in a week. It’s actually wild.

Out of curiosity, while you’re in Lagos, have you ever tried to explore the city and visit places?

At first, no. I used to stay only for conferences and never really left the conference hall or hotel room. But, last year, I realised I needed to experience the places I visit, learn the culture and fully integrate myself into the experience. So, I decided that whenever I travel, I would take half a day to explore. When I was in Lagos, we went to Turtle Beach and Balogun Market, and that same day, we went to SLoW. Then we went to Zaza after that, and it was a full experience, and that’s just an example. I try to do that everywhere I go and experience places and people.

A big fun fact about me is that I love to go on ATV rides whenever I travel. So, if I’m visiting a place, I love to find out if I can go on an ATV ride. I usually can, and it’s super fun. That’s about my travels.

That sounds so exciting and fun, but what brings you the most joy?

Well, work does give me a lot of joy and fulfillment, but while I love to go on ATV rides, I’m also perfectly content with sitting on the couch, watching anime over the weekend on the couch. So, because I get bored easily, I think the diversity of doing different things brings me a lot of joy.

Also, I’m a big foodie, and I love to have great food experiences, whether it’s a local food truck or fine dining, as long as it’s good food. In another life, I think I would’ve loved to be a food critic if I enjoyed writing, but yeah, that’s me.

With all the tasks and traveling you have to do almost every week, how do you prioritize your physical and mental well-being?

Sadly, I don’t really prioritise my well-being right now, but I know I really should. Because of work, I have pushed a lot of health-related things further in the year so that I can travel and find a more convenient time to take care of them. So, I actually don’t prioritise them, but I know I should. On the other hand, I try my best to meditate and keep myself centered, play video games, take breaks often, and do all those things.

Transparently, I’m just not at the point in my life where I would want to choose to spend four hours of my day at the gym. the*gameHers is still in start-up mode, and making it work is my priority at the moment, so while I should focus on my health, I’m not doing as much as I should.

What would you change if you were to do things differently in your career?

I don’t think I would do anything differently. I like where I am now, and I really enjoy what I do, but I don’t think I would’ve gotten here without the highs and lows.

Allie Young - gamehers

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in any of the industries you’ve worked in so far?

I’ll share what I shared with my daughter the other day; don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself the grace to discover, to fail, and to succeed. One thing that really resonated with me from something I read recently is that it’s not about where you are today; it’s about how far you’ve come from yesterday. A lot of times, we get into this mode of comparing ourselves to each other and other people, and then we feel like we’re not enough. The way that I think about it is if I compare myself to myself from five years ago and think about how far I’ve come, I’m really proud of myself.

So, you have to give yourself the grace to grow; the only comparison for success should be yourself.

Can you give us a tip you swear by for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?

Sometimes, I try to shut things off. I put down my phone and shut off my computer so that I could be present and in the moment. Even when I’m travelling and not at home, I always try to do the small things because even though they’re small, they’re important.


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