YouTube's queen of crafty tutorials, who has recently launched products at Target, Amazon and other major retailers, connects with fans by sharing intimate details of her personal life. Entrepreneur spoke with Riihimaki about the thinking and process behind her YouTube videos and series, which aspects of building her growing business she delegates to her team and what she’s focusing on in the near-term in terms of content and products. Obviously, blogging has kind of been taken over by YouTube in recent years, so I transitioned over to YouTube six or seven years ago, when my channel started taking off. A lot of people talk about the progression of YouTube from tutorials to lifestyle videos. I always try to incorporate three to five DIYs in each video. A lot of these licensing deals are pretty long term, about three years. We’re figuring out what works and what doesn’t for products, what my fans like and where it sells best. And not to say that you can’t grow and progress -- YouTube viewers are totally open to that. Going from the curated, edited to sharing more of your personality with your followers -- what is that balance like? Also, this is one of my top-viewed videos."
YouTube’s queen of crafty tutorials, who has recently launched products at Target, Amazon and other major retailers, connects with fans by sharing intimate details of her personal life.
In this series, YouTube Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular YouTube channels to find out the secrets of their success.
Lauren Riihimaki didn’t grow up watching YouTube videos, as many of her young millennial peers did. But she did love crafting and DIY. When she got to college, she started a blog focused on her dorm room creations, but soon, the process of writing out instructions got tedious.
“I had the realization that certain tutorials would be so much easier to show through video versus through photos with text blurbs,” Riihimaki, a.k.a. LaurDIY, told Entrepreneur.
Before long, she transitioned her focus from her website to her social media accounts — especially YouTube, where she’s amassed more than 8.4 million subscribers, whom she calls her #prettylittlelaurs. Devoted fans tune in Sundays and Wednesdays for her videos, which still feature plenty of tutorials on how to make everything from iPhone cases to blankets to home-grown crystals. In 2017, she won a Streamy award in the Lifestyle category.
She also regularly posts vlogs, as part of a larger trend on the platform toward behind-the-scenes, personality-based videos. Her videos have touched on everything from mental health to her ongoing battle with acne. This past weekend, she and fellow YouTube star Alex Wasabi announced via her YouTube channel that they were breaking up after three years of dating. Riihimaki explained that she plans to take a “little break” from YouTube.
In the meantime, she’s still active on other social media, including Instagram, where she has 4.6 million followers. The 25-year-old “millennial Martha Stewart” (a label she’s embraced) is in the process of “The LaurDIY Drop,” during which she’s rolling out various LaurDIY-branded products. This fall, she’s debuting collections of apparel, sleepwear, jewelry, stationary, DIY crafting kits and tech accessories, available through retailers such as Target, Michael’s, Walmart, Joann Fabrics and Amazon.
Entrepreneur spoke with Riihimaki about the thinking and process behind her YouTube videos and series, which aspects of building her growing business she delegates to her team and what she’s focusing on in the near-term in terms of content and products.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get your start with YouTube?
I was in my first year of university, and the program I had enrolled into was totally not what I thought it was going to be. I was feeling creatively stifled, and I was looking for an escape and an outlet.
I originally started a lifestyle and DIY blog. Obviously, blogging has kind of been taken over by YouTube in recent years, so I transitioned over to YouTube six or seven years ago, when my channel started taking off.
DIY has been something that I’ve always been interested in and been good at. I’ve been a crafter my entire life. My parents have a whole collection of the progression of what my DIY stuff looked like from my first few months of life until now, so DIY has been a really natural topic for me to gravitate towards.
How quickly did you decide to focus on the YouTube channel itself and optimize everything for that?
It was pretty immediate. I did a few posts where I embedded videos into the blog, but I realized the videos had started growing, and that there was a community on YouTube.
I didn’t grow up watching YouTube, and I didn’t really know too much about it, so it was a major learning curve for me, as a creator and a viewer, all at the same time. I think a lot of people watched YouTube forever and then were like, I wanna do this, but I didn’t have that experience.
A lot of people talk about the progression of YouTube from tutorials to lifestyle videos. You still have both, but you seem to be incorporating more and more behind-the-scenes glimpses into your life. At what point did that become part of your content, and what was the decision behind that?
About three years ago, when Casey Neistat had gotten into daily vlogging, I was starting to realize that people were there, on people’s channels, for their personalities. Anyone can make a DIY tutorial or a cooking channel, but it’s the personality that you bring to it that sets you apart. So I started incorporating vlogs and trying to blend together DIYs and entertainment. I started new series called The DIY Challenge and DIY Master to bring it to more of an entertainment level while staying true to the DIY focus.
How much time do you spend on a YouTube video and what does that entail?
A sit-down, chatty video (like the autocomplete video) is probably like 30 minutes of filming, and then some editors help me out with editing. I have a team that helps me be able to focus on where my creative efforts should be spent. It got to the point where I was overworked, and I was like, “OK, I need to start handing off a part of the process that someone else can do better than me.”
But for a chatty…