When you think of a successful entrepreneur that is capitalising on a cunning business plan and driving around in a fancy car to show for it, you conjure images of a 45+ year old adult sporting a conservative, greyscale outfit. They’re usually carrying round a sensible but sophisticated briefcase and the weight of the business world on their shoulders. You probably don’t imagine a haggle of teenagers and twenty-somethings with vibrantly coloured hair and a penchant for being in front of the camera, otherwise known as the new generation of YouTube entrepreneurs.
As we’re coming to realise, millennials are taking over the whole entire world. They’ve mastered technology, they’ve altered the traditional working model and now they’re taking over the entrepreneurial ranks. They’re doing so via means of vlogging and using popular video sharing platform, YouTube as a lucrative launchpad.
So what is this so-called vlogging, you ask. ‘Vlogging’ is quite simply, mashup of the words ‘video’ and ‘blogging’ because well, that’s exactly what these savvy Gen-Ys are now doing in order to get their sticky mitts on their first millions. The internet is awash with beauty vloggers, fashion vloggers, gaming vloggers, travel vloggers, foodie vloggers, music vloggers…we could go on and it is this army of YouTube celebrities that are shaping tomorrow’s business landscape.
Carefully considered business plan? Pfft! Years spent climbing a prestigious career ladder? Erm, don’t think so! Why, when you could simply broadcast your daily routine to millions of YouTube subscribers and watch the cheques come rolling in? But we want to know is, is there more to vlogger entrepreneurship than meets the eye, so now let’s take a look at some case studies.
Zoe Sugg aka Zoella
Zoella has fast become a household name after embarking upon her vlogging venture in February of 2009. She took to YouTube to document her humble beauty product reviews and latest fashion buys, all from the confines of her family home. Zoella Ltd is now an established brand and empire that has earned the 24-year-old a £1million house in Brighton and an estimated £400,000 in revenue. With her ever-increasing YouTube following, that now collectively reaches more than 11million subscribers, Zoe is on the frontline of this new generation of businesspeople.
Posting videos of boys wearing girls’ swimwear, monthly demonstrations of what she has been using to clean her face and teeth, and documenting the weekly shop may not seem like ingenious business strategies but this could be the future. Vlogging has lead Zoe to launch her own product line, Zoella Beauty, which is now available at highstreet giants including Boots and Superdrug, as well as securing a two-part deal with publishing big-wig, Penguin Books. Her debut novel, Girl Online was actually released earlier this year and smashed sales records, selling over 78,000 copies in the first week which proved more than Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code.
Zoella is also in the process of being made into a Madame Tussauds waxwork alongside her vlogger boyfriend, Alfie Deyes and was acknowledged in the 2015 Debrett’s 500 most influential people. All of it is thanks to her multi-million online following.
Jamal Edwards aka SB.TV
Awarded an MBE at the tender age of 24, Jamal Edwards has sown the seeds of success via his music-based YouTube channel, SB.TV. Now one of Britain’s most successful young entrepreneurs, Edwards was inspired to start his video platform after receiving a camera as a Christmas present from his mum back in 2006. He noticed a gap in the market for the promotion of grime music and embarked on a mission to open the world’s eyes to the forgotten genre.
Edwards has now toured with Rhianna, (proudly) conversed with Bill Gates and worked with a portfolio of multi-million pound artists including Ed Sheeran and Rita Ora. The income he was generating from his YouTube career fast became enough for him to quit his job in retail and today, is also in the process of starting up his very own music label.
So what’s the secret?
Edwards accredits his success to his ability to understand what makes content shareable. For a video to achieve the exposure it needs to make the content successful, he says it needs to be funny, shocking, show off world talent or fill a niche that mainstream media hasn’t got its hands on yet. Edwards claims that his venture ticked two of these boxes and that’s why it has allowed him to map out a promising career path.
However, we suspect that building a brand via YouTube (or any other form of social media for that matter) may not be as breezy and fun-filled as it appears on the superficial surface of fandom and red carpet events. Zoella posted a candid video last year entitled ‘Sometimes It All Gets A Bit Too Much’, which showcased her having an emotional breakdown due to the pressures of pleasing millions of fans. But these fans are essentially customers – the people who buy her products and make her attractive to the PR companies and ad agencies that are paying her up to £4,000 to mention their products, which makes Zoella not too dissimilar from regular small business owners.
Maintaining a loyal customer base, expanding potential reach and delivering a service in accordance to audience demand is something SME owners and YouTube stars have in common. They film and edit these videos in line with the traditional supply and demand model in order to reap the financial benefits of a successful, savvy brand, with seamless resilience. So although YouTube careers may seem materialistic and juvenile at first glance, budding businesspeople can actually learn a great deal from this new generation of entrepreneurs.