From Reality Shows to New Apps, Here’s How Some of the Biggest Influencers Are Starting New Enterprises

Nov 05 2020

Super influencers are getting more ambitious, and creative, in starting new enterprises that turn their online fame into even more…

 

YPulse’s influencers and celebrities report found that 70% of Gen Z teens follow an online celebrity on social media, while 58% have purchased something an online celebrity has recommended. Influencers have parlayed the power they have over young consumers’ purchases into massively lucrative partnerships with brands of course, but also their product lines as well. Clothing and beauty are perhaps the most popular ways to expand an online following into a mini-commerce empire. When we ask young people what they have purchased because an influencer recommended it, clothing and makeup are number one and two, and merch is in the top ten list. Sweats, hats, and bags emblazoned with online stars’ names are a common first step into merch lines. But YouTube creators like Jeffrey Star have made millions by partnering with beauty brands to create their own lines of products. Now a new generation of Gen Z TikTok influencers, from the D’Amelio sisters to Addison Rae, are launching their own beauty brands as well.

But some online creators are taking their efforts to turn online fame into business empires even further. Here are three OG influencers who are expanding their enterprises in entirely new ways:

James Charles’ Instant Influencer

James Charles is no amateur in the beauty industry. With 23.5 million YouTube subscribers, he’s known for sharing a variety of beauty content on his channel. He’s worked with several popular beauty brands: In 2016, Charles became the first male ambassador for CoverGirl, and he’s collaborated with Morphe, who he’s launched various eyeshadow palettes with. In recent months, he’s also gained traction on TikTok, amassing 28 million followers. While he’s openly talked about launching his own beauty brand eventually (and even filed trademarks for it already), he’s currently taken on a new business venture: reality TV. Charles recently hosted, directed, and executive-produced Instant Influencer, a YouTube Originals limited series featuring beauty micro-influencers competing in various challenges for a grand prize of $50,000. The Project Runway-style show has quickly proven to become a marketing machine for beauty brands especially as many of his young fans tune in, becoming what Glossy calls a “direct line” to Gen Z for many. Morphe leveraged “gift product placement” in the show and made the winner Ashley Strong the face of their newest holiday capsule collection. According to an influencer marketing professional, product placement in the show gives brands “credibility” to its young viewers. Ulta Beauty has served as a sponsor for the show, and other brands and products featured in episode challenges include KKW Beauty, Ofra, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Fenty Beauty, and of course, Charles’ Morphe palette. So far, the show has generated $20.5 million of “earned media value” for brands showcased.

 

David Dobrik’s Dispo App

David Dobrik has been around for some time. Initially finding success on the now defunct Vine, he quickly built on his fame when he launched his YouTube channel in 2015 where he mostly posts vlogs and antics with a group of fellow creators dubbed the “Vlog Squad.” It currently has 18.5 million subscribers, while his second channel David Dobrik Too focusing on challenges and reaction videos featuring his friends and family has 8.26 million. Dobrik is also known for his car giveaway videos and used them to host one of the “largest voter U.S. registration drives” by directing participating fans to a voter-registration portal run by HeadCount.org. In recent years, he’s secured several brand deals, most notably Chipotle who gave Dobrik his very own burrito last spring—he also hosted their virtual prom afterparty earlier this year. But increasingly, Dobrik is becoming an entrepreneur with many of his own business ventures in the works. In January, he started his own app. After starting an Instagram account that only shared disposable camera shots and gaining 2.9 million followers in just six months, he launched David’s Disposable, a free app that “looks and feels like an old-school disposable camera.” The app allows its users to take photos with the same grainy aesthetic—all with an interface that copies classic disposable camera design and a wait before they are “developed” every morning at 9am. Within its first week, it was downloaded “well, well” over one million times and briefly made an appearance at the top of the free app list in the App Store (above Disney+ and Instagram). It’s also been all over YouTube and TikTok thanks to creators and fans who were spreading the word about it. In September, he renamed the app to Dispo, and received $4 million in funding from Alex O’Hanlon’s venture fund which will be used in part to develop new app features, including group photo opportunities where users can “pool photos together to create a shared experience available for viewing the next day.” But Dobrik has certainly been keeping himself busy. While Dispo is his main business focus for now, he also launched a new fragrance label “David’s Perfume” with two scents: #01, Amber and Cashmere, along with #02, grapefruit and sandalwood. Meanwhile, Tubefilter reported that he filed trademarks for “Doughbrik’s” hinting that he could be making his way into the pizza business as well.

 

Jackie Aina’s FORVR Mood 

At 3.55 million subscribers on YouTube, Jackie Aina is usually known for sharing beauty content from tutorials to reviews, and she’s partnered with everyone from Anastasia Beverly Hills, e.l.f Cosmetics, Too Faced, Sephora, and Sigma Beauty. Aina is also known for advocating for the visibility of people of color in the makeup industry. During the Black Lives Matter over the summer, she posted a video on Instagram urging fashion brands like Fashion Nova to speak out on the protests. “When it comes to relevant things happening, things you can’t ignore like the Black Life Matters movement, police brutality or murders in our community, it’s crickets, and that’s unacceptable. If you are capitalizing off of a culture, you’re morally obligated to help them,” she told the NYTimes. In August, Aina launched her own brand, forgoing the beauty or fashion industry for a different route: Candles. Her “self-care brand” FORVR Mood debuted as “a collection of luxury scented candles at an attainable price point.” Aina told InStyle that the brand is her way of “translating [her] love of fragrance into [her] love of candles” since she’s always talking about burning candles in her content and Instagram Stories. Currently, the FORVR mood Instagram account has 117K followers. It seems like Aina has chosen the right industry to cash in on: Candles have “infiltrated” the beauty aisle, and according to NPD Group, candles saw a sales increase of 13% this year compared to the same time last year. But FRVR Mood’s site also calls itself a ”lifestyle brand”, and hints that more products will be rolled out, saying “Every product we create is something Jackie LOVES, actively uses, and makes her life easier.” Already there are more than just candles being offered: silk headbands and pillowcases are for sale, and low in stock. 

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