Welcome to Creators Going Pro, where in partnership with Semaphore — a creator-focused family of companies providing business and financial services to social media professionals — we profile professional YouTube stars who have hit it big by doing what they love. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about the business side of their channel, including identifying their Semaphore Moment — the moment they truly went pro.
In 2015, Sylvia Gani was a university student working part-time behind a MAC Cosmetics makeup counter — someone who “never thought” she could make it on YouTube. As it turns out, she was way wrong. Now, Gani’s a full-fledged professional YouTuber who took her MAC skills and flourished them into a makeup-focused channel with more than 2.3 million subscribers.
And today, Gani is officially launching her collaboration with BH Cosmetics: the 22-color Sylvia Gani palette. It’s Gani’s largest collab to date, and the result is a product she says it was her dream to create.
By the numbers, it’s no surprise Gani is netting major collaborative partners. She’s more than doubled her subscriber count in the past year (in fact, we featured her as a recently crowned YouTube Millionaire last year) and she currently recruits around 56,000 new subs per month to her “S-Club,” as she calls it. Her channel’s currently netting around 10 million views per month, too, and she’s also booming on other social channels like Instagram, where she has nearly 700,000 followers.
You can check out Gani’s new palette here. And below she gives us the details on how she partnered with BH, a look into the idiosyncrasies of running her growing YouTube channel, and where she wants to go from here.
Tubefilter: Tell us about your background! How did you get passionate about beauty? Did your time working as a MAC consultant inspire you to make makeup a big part of your career?
Sylvia Gani: I’m a Canadian girl who recently moved to LA. I’ve been passionate about all things “girly” since I was little — makeup, fashion, the color PINK! I loved dressing up in my mom’s clothes and rummaging through her makeup drawer, putting anything and everything on my face. I listened to my parents and followed the traditional path of going to university. I majored in criminology with a concentration in psychology, and thought I was on the right path.
While in university, I started playing with makeup more during my free time — practicing on my friends, and posting looks on Instagram. Before I knew it, all the sorority girls wanted me to do their makeup for events, so I started to build my freelance makeup kit. As a part-time student, this was a fun and easy way to make money on my own time, so I took as many freelance gigs as I could — prom, weddings, sorority events, etcetera.
But it wasn’t until I got a job at my local MAC counter that I started to really take my passion for makeup seriously. While working there, I learned a lot in a short amount of time, and it really fueled something in me to give makeup and social media a shot. I went from posting only on Instagram to starting a YouTube channel, and slowly I turned my Instagram followers into YouTube subscribers and grew from there. When my following grew really fast, I knew I could turn this into a career, so I graduated university and committed myself to YouTube/blogging full-time.
Tubefilter: What made you choose YouTube as the place to share your content? What was the catalyst for you deciding to start a channel?
SG: I’ve always watched YouTube and admired a handful of my favourite beauty gurus but I never thought I could make videos myself — it just never crossed my mind as something I could do. I didn’t know the slightest thing about cameras, lighting, editing, or any of it. Honestly, I didn’t think I was good enough. That changed after a lot of encouraging words from my ex-boyfriend Wolfieraps. He was already creating comedy videos on his channel and he knew I loved makeup, so he really motivated me to just give YouTube a try, so I did. I watched endless videos about basic filming setups, cameras, lighting, and iMovie tutorials. Of course, my first videos weren’t the best, but I taught myself as I went and learned quickly.
Tubefilter: Did you join YouTube with the intent to develop “the Sylvia Gani brand” on your channel, or did that develop organically as your channel grew bigger?
SG: I never knew filming videos in my room for YouTube could turn into a successful business. I only started filming YouTube videos because I loved makeup and wanted an outlet to express that. It definitely developed organically as my channel grew bigger. Over time, I started to learn more about AdSense, brand deals, and management. At around 500,000 subscribers, I was approached by my current manager (Amy Neben, Select Management Group) who had the same vision as me: to turn what I had into a real business. And together, we have learned a lot along the way.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first AdSense check? How much was it for?
SG: My first AdSense check was November 2015, for $75.18!
Tubefilter: You’ve partnered with some big brands (Olay, Clinique, Neutrogena, Marc Jacobs, Benefit, Estee Lauder, Urban Decay, and Sephora). When was your first partnership? How did it come about? How did you connect with brands you’d later collaborate with for collections? How did you decide what products you wanted to release under your name?
SG: I think my first partnership was with Kaia Naturals — an indie eco-beauty brand. One of my close girlfriends worked in PR for the brand, and when they were looking for influencers to partner with, she suggested me. I had already been loving and using their makeup wipes, so it was perfect. I never really reach out to brands first, they reach out through email if they like the content and want to collaborate. I’ve always only partnered with brands I like, and any product released under my name is a guarantee to my followers that I genuinely love and use it regularly— otherwise I would never promote it.
Tubefilter: Tell us about your collab with BH Cosmetics.
SG: I am so proud to be coming out with a 22-color eyeshadow + highlighter palette. It’s something that I have put a lot of work into perfecting. I was involved in every aspect, from designing the packaging to making sure the formula was just right, and I’m excited to be able to finally share it with everyone. I have always have loved BH Cosmetics and used their affordable products. My very first eyeshadow palette was from BH, so there couldn’t be a better brand to make my own palette with. It’s come around full circle!
Tubefilter: What’s the creative process like for makeup-creation collaborations? How is it different from your creation process for YouTube? What about the business side of things—how is working with a big brand different from managing your own business on YouTube?
SG: I was really lucky that BH allowed me to have a lot of creative freedom when it came to this collaboration. They were there to guide me and made suggestions based on their own expertise, but the creative vision was all mine. It was my dream eyeshadow palette, they just knew how to make it come true. Of course, there was a lot I didn’t understand on the business side, because I had never done something like this before, and that sometimes got in the way of what I envisioned. But BH did an amazing job at explaining how things work and gave me alternative options when needed, so I was able to learn and still make informed decisions I was happy with.
Working with BH, everything is on a much larger scale with marketing, production, budget, teams, and so on. There are more employees, each experts in their field, working together to ensure everything runs smoothly. As a YouTuber, my product is much more personal than a business, because people come to my channel for more than just a product — at least, I hope it’s my personality that keeps them coming back!
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional YouTuber?
SG: Probably spring of 2016… It was the home stretch before graduation when I realized I was making the same amount from AdSense as what I made at my part-time job at MAC. At that point, I knew I could quit MAC and do YouTube full-time and be okay financially.
Tubefilter: Can you talk about your team? You mentioned your manager Amy Neben—who else do you have working with you? Any employees?
SG: My agent is Jade Sherman at Abrams Artists Agency, I work with Tommy Fortmann at the PR firm Metro Public Relations, and my business manager is consulting firm Savitsky Satin Bacon & Bucci. I also have a part-time assistant and a part-time video editor.
Tubefilter: What’s your production schedule like? Do you have a set filming schedule/upload schedule? How do you split your time between YouTube and your other business/creative endeavors?
SG: I have a new video up every Sunday, plus a bonus video throughout the week. It’s hard — I’m still learning that when you work for yourself, you can easily work too much or get off track. I make a schedule for myself, lots of lists, planning, and making myself accountable helps.
Tubefilter: Have you ever struggled with creator burnout? What do you to combat it?
SG: Yes, this is why I’m such an advocate for mental health awareness and self-care. Doing things to destress is very important: massages, spa, nails, break days, skip an upload, etcetera.
Tubefilter: Has anyone supported you in your journey to being a full-time creator? Are there any fellow YouTubers—ones you’re friends with, ones you’ve worked with, or just folks you admire—who have inspired you?
SG: I am blessed with a great support system. Charles [Wolfieraps] encouraged me to make a channel, taught me the basics of uploading on YouTube. People I’ve collabed with: Daisy Marquez is a good friend who understands the business, and Laura Lee showed me her setup. I admire those at the top of the game because there’s always something new I can learn from them/their content. I am inspired by James Charles, Jeffree Star, and Patrick Starrr.
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
SG: I think the most vital skill I have acquired is that I am not afraid of change and trying new things. I think being able to put yourself out there and get over the initial fear of judgement is liberating, and is what has enabled me to really become successful and build my brand.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and your channel? What are you building toward?
SG: I want to build up my merch, I’m looking at potentially getting into more traditional media like TV, I’d like to eventually create my own makeup line, and I’m considering creating a vlog channel.
Semaphore Business Solutions provides customized services for clients across the country, taking an all-encompassing approach to meet all your financial needs. Whether you’re a veteran YouTube entertainer or just starting out, managing your business correctly is crucial to avoiding major headaches down the road. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can help you put a plan into motion to grow, as well as to keep more money in your pocket, with advanced tax strategies. Semaphore Brand Solutions has established itself as a leading influencer marketing agency representing our exclusive talent relationships and services to the most recognized brands and agencies.