5 creator CEOs who’ve built their empires on YouTube
Jan 25, 2023 – minute read
Jan 25, 2023 – minute read
From skateboarding brands to fitness apps and everything in between, YouTube creators are using their platforms to expand their creativity into brand building. Content creation is now a launchpad enabling creators to create something bigger and find new ways to connect with their community, make money and have an impact that ripples through the broader society. In 2021 alone YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported more than 425,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the US and contributed over $25 billion to the US GDP.
In 2021 alone YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported more than 425,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the US and contributed over $25 billion to the US GDP.
YouTube Shorts offers an easily digestible format for creators to introduce their brands organically to their audiences and receive feedback in real time. By looking at their audiences’ comments across their videos and interactions in the Community Tab on their channel, creators are able to use YouTube to close the gap between consumer feedback and product development. Creators can listen directly to what products resonate most with their community to shape the future direction of their brands. “I now have a whole community who can tell me directly what they like and what they don’t. It allows me to produce products that they will actually buy and keeps me from over producing products that will eventually end up in a landfill,” states Angelina McCullar of BlueprintDIY on how audience feedback has helped her reduce waste and make her company, Blueprint Signature, more sustainable.
Our YouTube Shorts Creator Community has helped creators find like minded entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off of and share tips about building a brand through content creation. “The creator community has been so helpful with suggestions and strategies in areas I needed education,” says creator Jessica Littman, behind the channel Organized Mamas and eponymous brand, “I have found a wealth of information from other creators in ways I wouldn't have been able to find without the group. This includes things like basic YouTube thumbnail tips to scaling a business.”
We are so excited to bring you this series highlighting Creator CEOs to watch on YouTube Shorts and how they’re using their YouTube platforms to build their own brands.
Founded by Spencer Barbosa, SOMETHING BIGGER is an apparel brand on a mission to inspire self love and create a community where YOU feel wanted.
What is the story of building SOMETHING BIGGER? I created my brand Something Bigger so that I could connect deeper with my followers and build a separate platform where everyone felt a part of the team. We have so many fun weekly events on this page such as "Monday mood" where we interact with our followers and share their mood/motivation going into the new week. Or "on Wednesday we wear SB" where we post real people loving our pieces and show how they style it. There is so much love in this community and I really just want to inspire self confidence and preach the importance of self love.
What are some milestones you achieved? We just hit 100k on Instagram which is a HUGE community of people supporting this important message!
How has being a YouTube creator been part of your business model? I use my YouTube to market this clothing brand and build it. Also the fact that I have a background in content creation has made it much easier to create good content for my passion project. YouTube has taught me how to create, edit and caption content. I feel like having a separate brand (Something Bigger) has now created an even deeper bond with my followers (outside of just my YouTube).
What have you learned since building a brand? How important it is to be true to you and really appreciate yourself. You have to be proud of yourself and celebrate every win (even if it's small!)
Founded by Jibby of Studio Jibby, Uplift is a fitness app with at-home and gym training programs with vegan, vegetarian and omnivore meal plans all in your hands.
What is the story of building Uplift? For the last seven years I’ve been a software engineer. I got to the top of my career as a VP at a Silicon Valley start up and I felt nothing. I’d always had a love for fitness so I joined a gym and soon became a fitness trainer for fun. I got laid off from a start up, then the pandemic hit and shortly after laid off from the gym. So I started posting fitness content online. Fast forward to today as a TIER 3 personal trainer at Equinox and years of putting my heart and soul into encouraging others through fitness, I couldn’t be more excited to announce that I am launching my very own fitness app. As a software engineer who created apps for a living, my worlds are colliding.
What are some milestones you achieved? I launched my fitness app, I speak at conferences, I matched and exceeded my income as a software engineer.
How has being a YouTube creator been part of your business model? Going to events and meeting like minded people has helped me so much to not be discouraged and keep on the journey as a creator. It has helped me create content that is relatable to business owners. As I learn about building my brand, I continue to grow in creating relatable content.
What have you learned since building a brand? To bet on myself and believe in myself.
Founded by Eugenia Chen of Huxley the Panda Puppy, Pandaloon is a viral pet brand best known for creating hilarious walking teddy bear costumes and appearing on Shark Tank. Founded by a dog mom and her pup Huxley, Pandaloon’s mission is to provide pet products and apparel that bring joy to pet families and bring people and their furry loved ones closer together.
What is the story of building Pandaloon? I created a homemade panda costume for my pup Huxley for Halloween and the video went crazy viral, receiving over 160 million views to date. People started emailing me asking for an outfit so I decided to find a seamstress, work on making a customizable design and create the magic of a walking teddy bear costume for others too. Huxley and I auditioned for Shark Tank and were chosen from 50,000 applicants to appear on the show. We got a deal with Daymond John and now create a full line of high quality, long lasting outfits for dogs and cats. Pandaloon has been sold in stores around the US, Canada and Europe.
What are some milestones you achieved? Becoming a Shark Tank winner, receiving hundreds of millions of video views, appearing on Good Morning America Day, Nat Geo Wild, surpassing 7 figures in sales.
How has being a YouTube creator been part of your business model? Being a creator has helped me include my designs in videos in a way that conveys the joy and memories we create with Huxley. I posted my first viral video with virtually no following and it’s reached hundreds of thousands of people and millions now through YouTube shorts.
Building a brand has taught me a lot about the economics of being a creator. You have to analyze your costs and revenue financially, but also in terms of your video production. Both business and being a creator is a process of innovation and iteration. My strategy is to reach people by sharing some of the stories and fun moments from Huxley’s life, which naturally include Pandaloon and our mission to bring people and their furry loved ones together.
What have you learned since building a brand? Patience and learning are never-ending demands of running a small business.
Founded by Mike Osterman, Waltz Skateboarding helps unlock your full potential on a skateboard with equipment and videos developed by top freestyle skateboarders.
What is the story of building Waltz Skateboarding? I've been skateboarding since I was 12 years old. Being from a small town in Illinois, skateboarding was not the most accessible activity. It usually requires ramps, parks, or access to other skaters who know what they're doing. Discovering YouTube in 2006 absolutely changed my life since I was suddenly exposed to freestyle skateboarding — the earliest form of skateboarding which requires nothing more than a board, flat ground and an imagination. More importantly, YouTube introduced me to an online community of skaters who all worked together to help each other progress. That young kid living in small town Illinois quickly made friends all over the world. My business is focused on uniting folks through educational skateboard content, specialized freestyle equipment and local community activations.
What are some milestones you achieved? Though 2020 was a scary year, for many of us, it sparked interest in new hobbies like skateboarding. Waltz was extremely fortunate to find a brand new community online during the pandemic. Many folks were excited to learn a new skill and since freestyle skateboarding does not require ramps or rails, beginners could learn the basics in the comfort of their living rooms. Now, as pandemic restrictions ease, many of these new skaters are meeting up for the first time. Waltz sponsored competitions and skate jams are bringing together folks of all ages who — just like myself at 12 years old — never could have imagined how far a skateboard could take them.
How has being a YouTube creator been part of your business model? I've been making videos since 2006. Since then I've won world championships. I've traveled all over the world to skateboard. New skaters can see every stage of my journey through my YouTube channel. I'm so grateful to have a catalog like this for new skaters to learn from.
YouTube has also offered me a direct line of communication with my community. Fast feedback on new products, ideas for new trick tips, suggestions for regional events and more. I know so many of our oldest customers by name. We talk about changes to our product line regularly. It makes my business much more of a collaborative endeavor.
In some ways, building a brand has challenged me to focus my content. I don't necessarily see myself as a content creator most of the time, but rather an educator and conversation moderator. Sometimes that means digging into old videos for a lesson about the history of a skateboard trick, or interviewing another creator about a contest they're organizing.
What have you learned since building a brand? So many of us feel lonely and isolated. I'm excited to see so many businesses focused on community activations. I think that using a brand as a means to unite people in person has the potential to make the world a bit less lonely. We've seen this with many of our recent skate meet-ups. After a single scheduled meet-up, we see weekly gatherings happening.
Founded by Yumna Jawad of Feelgoodfoodie, Oath Oats stands for making products that use whole ingredients and are nutritionally dense, with products that are completely gluten-free, vegan-friendly and free of refined sugars. Most importantly, they’re DELICIOUS!
What is the story of building Oath? Oath Oats is all about oats! I love oats personally and have been using oats in my Feel Good Foodie recipes for a long time. The goal of the brand is to make eating healthy and wholesome food as convenient as possible. It’s another way for me to connect with my followers and bring some of my recipes and lifestyle hacks to them in a new way — that hopefully makes their lives easier.
What are some milestones you achieved? Having opening week orders of $10,000 was a huge win for the brand especially without any marketing dollars behind the brand yet.
How has being a YouTube creator been part of your business model? As a YouTube creator, I’ve had a huge opportunity to learn how to create great content and great delivery in a way that’s engaging and relevant. It’s not something that stays stagnant and there’s a continuous pressure to improve and innovate. But having this skill set and an engaged audience from YouTube has given me the leap of faith to try something new and build this brand.
Building the brand has made me a better content creator because I’m more aware of what is happening behind the scenes when working with brands to promote a product or concept. And that awareness has strengthened me. There’s so much pressure to meet deadlines, meet sales figures and meet shareholder expectations without much room for error. So, I’ve sharpened my business acumen in the process, become more efficient in day-to-day tasks and allowed myself to be more creative in problem solving.
What have you learned since building a brand? I think there is so much pressure in the content creation space to stay creative and ahead of the trends, but I really try to focus my energy on just continuing to create recipes and new ideas that bring joy and ease into people’s lives — and hopefully they would naturally want to share them with their family and friends. I have learned to trust my gut, listen to the community and enjoy the creative process.