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YouTube star Lauren Riihimaki has built a business empire online from her success on YouTube. Riihimaki has 8.9 million subscribers and has created a multi-pronged business around her “LaurDIY” brand.Her business includes a merchandise line, dozens of brand collaborations, and crafting kits sold through Target. Riihimaki shared her influencer journey, which started during her first year of college, and how she’s expanded her digital brand. Sign up for Business Insider’s influencer newsletter, Influencer Dashboard, to get more stories like this in your inbox.Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.During her first year of college, Canada native Lauren Riihimaki sat down to film a video for YouTube. The video, titled “How To: Underside Braid to Bun,” launched Riihimaki’s seven-year career on YouTube.”I’ve been crafty since day one,” she told Business Insider. “I was an only child so crafting was my go-to thing growing up. I also had this passion from day one that I always wanted something custom and I would spend hours and hours decorating the covers of my binders, just because I liked having something that was unique.” In 2012, Riihimaki attended a university in Toronto and enrolled in a printing program. But it wasn’t as creative as she envisioned it to be, she said. That’s when she started a blog, and shortly after, a YouTube channel.She filmed that first YouTube video using the photo booth application on a her 2010 MacBook, which she propped up using a stack of textbooks, she said. “Things have changed since then,” she said. “I was getting the creativity that I think I missed from grade 12 art class. Going into university, everything was so different and I had this void I wanted to fill.” Since then, Riihimaki, 26, has built a massive community through her success on YouTube. She has 8.9 million subscribers, which she calls her “#prettylittlelaur fam,” 5 million followers on Instagram, a merchandise line, products sold at Target, and an Amazon shop. She’s collaborated with dozens of brands.Riihimaki will also be hosting a children’s crafting competition show for HBO Max, breaking into traditional media in a way that few influencers have.
Screen shot of LaurDIY/YouTube
Building an empire through YouTube, from Sun-DIY to search “I told people, but I wasn’t advertising it,” she said about her YouTube channel when she was starting out. “But, it wasn’t a big secret.” Riihimaki’s roommates, friends, and family knew about her side hobby, and she said her friends were interested in helping in any way they could. “I feel like a lot of creators have a viral video that shoots them into their stardom,” she said. “But, I was more along the lines of just a gradual incline of growth because I’ve always been really consistent with uploading.” Riihimaki uploaded weekly, creating the phrase, “Sun-DIY,” indicating that Sunday was the day she would post a video. As a college student, picking one day helped her organize between her school work and YouTube, she said.”I got really lucky because I feel like a lot of creators have to choose between finishing school or following YouTube,” she said, and added that she worked traditional jobs all the way up until the day she graduated, which was when she felt confident enough to pursue YouTube full time.Riihimaki’s DIY content on YouTube does well through search, she said, and that has played a major role in her growth. She films videos like testing viral DIYs (11.6 million views), crafting back-to-school supplies (6 million views), and DIY Halloween costumes (6 million views). Around her second year, Riihimaki signed with Select Management Group and has been working with the same manager since (Scott Fisher). Managers help their clients diversify their online brands and build lasting partnerships with companies through influencer marketing campaigns. They also often assist their clients in developing consumer products and merchandise, which has been popular among influencers in 2019.With Select, Riihimaki has developed partnerships with companies like Target, Forever 21, and Walmart Canada.
Shop LaurDIY: bedding, clothing, and craft kits at TargetThrough licensing her brand, Riihimaki now sells DIY crafting kits at Target and Walmart Canada, and a bedding line with the brand Jay Franco sold on Amazon. She said she has also expanded her business by finding brands she’s passionate about to invest in and by collaborating with different brands through sponsorships.”It’s a really great place to be an entrepreneur right now,” Riihimaki said of YouTube. “Something that’s unique to a YouTube influencer is that any business that you might want to start or branch off your brand, you can bring your subscribers along for the whole journey. Which is very nontraditional I feel like.” Riihimaki said YouTube influencers have the opportunity to bring their followers along, like if they were creating a bracelet (Riihimaki recently collaborated with the bracelet company Pura Vida), influencers can include their followers in the production process — sharing picking out colors, beads, and styles to social media. “It’s a very millennial element of business,” she said, and added that creating a product for a specific audience in mind is about feedback and listening to what her audience wants.Riihimaki sells her merchandise through the company Mad Merch and began working with them in 2018. She sells T-shirts, a phone case, necklace, and plush toy of her dog Moose. “She is very involved in the entire process, being concerned with the look and feel of her brand and providing feedback every step of the way,” said Mark Encinias, vice president of Mad Merch.—lauren ✄ (@laurDIY) November 12, 2019’Being an influencer and creator can be a 24/7 job if you want it to be’Riihimaki said creators on YouTube need to find balance and separation between work and life. “The struggle I think that a lot of creators have is that YouTube and being an influencer and creator can be a 24/7 job if you want it to be,” she said. She said she tries to keep her conferences, meetings, and calls within the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but when it comes to social media, there’s really no set boundaries. “I would say there are two types of days,” she said. “The creative day where it’s either going around and getting the DIY supplies, brainstorming video ideas, and filming the actual video.” With her DIY videos, there can sometimes be multiple steps to a craft, so filming one video can span across a few days. The other days of her week are more management and analytical, looking at how a video performed, subscriber feedback, seeing what viewers liked and didn’t like about a video.Quarterly, Riihimaki sits down with her YouTube partner manager — a point person YouTube assigns to check in with top creators — to talk about what’s been working and what hasn’t. They look at when viewers are clicking off from a video and dropping off. Her manager will summarize points and give feedback based on the data that YouTube provides its creators on the creator studio page. “I think the biggest thing too is knowing when I need to hire someone new on my team to delegate a task,” she said. “Just hiring a business manager and accountant, because I shouldn’t be spending time drowning in my tax receipts.”For more on how to become a successful influencer, according to YouTube and Instagram stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:A TikTok star with over 880,000 followers explains the ways she earns money and how much she makes: The 22-year-old college student Salina, known as “Salinakilla” online, began uploading videos to TikTok about four months ago and now has over 880,000 followers. She broke down how she earns money through the app. How much money a YouTube video with 1 million views makes, according to 4 creators: Business Insider spoke with four YouTube creators — Marina Mogilko, Kevin David, Austen Alexander, and Shelby Church — about how much each of them earned from videos with 1 million views.An Instagram influencer with 166,000 followers breaks down how much money she earns from a sponsored post: Katy Bellotte, a YouTube creator and Instagram influencer, broke down how much she earns per sponsored Instagram post.
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