Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
Lisa Bryan was too old for YouTube. She knew it, the readers of her healthy food blog Downshiftology knew it, and any random YouTube viewers who clicked on her videos would know it, too.
At least, that’s what she thought.
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Despite these reservations, though, fortysomething Bryan launched a channel. After over a year-plus of running Downshiftology, it had become apparent that so many of her healthy eating tips and cooking techniques could be communicated more easily and more clearly to her audience through video rather than text. So while she wasn’t necessarily looking to stake a place for herself as a “YouTuber,” she needed a digital pantry for her tutorials.
She uploaded her first videos in summer 2016, and like she’d expected, they didn’t attract too much attention outside of her blog readers. That didn’t bother her; at the time, she was happy to focus on Downshiftology-the-blog as the sole core of her business. She’d launched the site in her late thirties, after being diagnosed with celiac, Hashimoto’s, psoriasis, and endometriosis in rapid succession. Her diagnoses had made her reconsider her fast-paced career as a marketing executive for healthcare companies, and the following visits with many, many doctors pushed her to restrategize her entire life. She had left her job, and turned her newfound passion for healthy living into Downshiftology.
By the end of 2016, Downshiftology had a modest 40,000 subscribers.
Then, in 2017, that base increased tenfold.
Bryan attributes the sudden growth to a couple very popular recipes–simple poached eggs and guacamole, for example–and the introduction of meal prep videos, where she walked viewers through prepping multiple healthy meals that were ideal for people who suffered with immune diseases like hers. Off the back of those videos getting traction, she found her channel suddenly bringing in new viewers–and now, three years later, Downshiftology-the-YouTube-channel is a core component of her business, she says.
Currently, Bryan splits her time (and the time of her two employees) between the original Downshiftology blog and its YouTube channel. Her weekly uploads are now longer and more polished, and they’ve brought her channel to 1.11 million subscribers and 4 million monthly views. She never intended for YouTube to become one of Downshiftology’s main ingredients–but now that it is, she couldn’t imagine her business without it.
Check out our chat with her below.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to hit one million subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
Lisa Bryan: It’s absolutely amazing and surreal. I’m enormously grateful to my community of Downshifters, who week after week make my recipes and share my videos with their family and friends. I’m incredibly fortunate to have one of the kindest communities that’s not only supportive to me, but also helpful to each other in the comments. It always warms my heart to see that!
Tubefilter: Your YouTube content was originally meant to complement your written food blog, but obviously it’s become a much bigger than expected part of your life. Did you hit a point (or a specific video) where you knew YouTube was a busier path than you anticipated, or did things build slowly over time?
LB: Oh yes, that’s the irony for sure. Most of my community knows that I never sought to be a YouTuber, I simply wanted to make tutorial videos for my website that were helpful to recreate my recipes at home. Yet here we are, now over one million subscribers!
Things did build slowly that first year, but the second year was pretty phenomenal. I remember starting the year just under 40K subscribers and finishing the year over 400K subscribers. That’s when I knew my content was resonating.
A few videos that really propelled that initial growth were my guacamole and hummus recipes (easy, healthy recipes are my specialty) and my seasonal meal prep series, which approached meal prep in an entirely new way–those videos skyrocketed! Then last year my poached egg recipe went bonkers and now has over 10 million views. Who knew poached eggs would be so popular?!
Tubefilter: What does Downshiftology as a whole look like now? Are things equal parts blog and YouTube channel? How do you split your time across the company?
LB: That’s a great question, and it’s very busy, that’s for sure–ha! I often say that it feels like I have two full-time jobs, as both platforms are certainly full-time businesses.
My website, Downshiftology, is truly the core of my brand and houses all my content, including healthy recipes and videos. I publish several new recipes a week on my website, but not all of my recipes have YouTube videos, so there’s quite a bit more content on my website than my YouTube channel.
Two years ago, I would have said it was an 80/20 split, with more time devoted to the website. But as my videos have become longer, more involved, and higher-quality, they’ve definitely taken more time to brainstorm, produce, and edit. Additionally, as my YouTube community has grown, I’ve spent more time on the platform answering questions, digging through data, and strategizing growth. So today, I’d say it’s a pretty even 50/50 split in terms of how I spend my time.
Tubefilter: Okay, let’s back up for a second. Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do before starting Downshiftology? Also, how did you come up with that name?
LB: I’m a New Zealander by birth, but grew up in Southern California and definitely have wanderlust in my soul (I’ve visited 40+ countries and all seven continents). In my former life, I was a marketing executive for healthcare companies, and my days consisted of long hours, high stress, and poor eating. Wellness was not a priority, and I sure didn’t understand balance. I was your quintessential “type A” corporate workaholic.
But after four autoimmune diagnoses in my 30s–celiac, Hashimoto’s, psoriasis, and endometriosis–I realized my work and lifestyle were affecting my health, so I opted for a “life do-over” and quit my job. After several months off, I learned how to really nourish my body through healthy food and lifestyle, and I started Downshiftology on somewhat of a whim–I just wanted to share healthy recipes with family and friends. I never in a million years imagined my little blog would turn into all of this and that my story would resonate with so many people!
As for the name…Back when I was having all those autoimmune issues, I was visiting a lot of doctors–gastroenterology, endocrinology, neurology, dermatology, pathology, and so on. A lot of “ologies.” But what benefited me the most (after going gluten-free) was something quite simple. Slowing the heck down! Reducing stress, getting good sleep, eating simple, fresh food and prioritizing a little self-care. Essentially, downshifting my life. So I thought, why not come up with a new “ology?” One that everybody can study, practice, and leverage for a happier, healthier life. Thus, Downshiftology was born.
Tubefilter: What fostered your love of food?
LB: I’ve always loved food, but unfortunately the foods I loved growing up didn’t really love me or my immune system (think lots of baking and sweets). I got into healthy eating in my late 30s purely by necessity. After my celiac diagnosis, I revamped my eating and ditched gluten. But it wasn’t until I ditched junk food (yes, even gluten-free junk food) and adopted more wholesome ingredients with loads more veggies that I started to feel amazing. That alone was enough to inspire me to keep eating this way–for the long term.
Tubefilter: When did you bring on your first Downshiftology employee? What did they do? How many employees do you have now, and what do they each do within the company?
LB: I started to build out my team last year, and it was definitely the best decision. In hindsight, I probably should’ve done it sooner. Today, Downshiftology has three employees: myself, my social media and content specialist, and my video editor.
My social media and content specialist is a full-time position, and she helps with social media planning, community management, content development/writing/editing, and even recipe development. She’s my right-hand woman. My video editor is a part-time position who assembles the first rough cut and does color correction, etc.
Tubefilter: Walk us through an average day! Do you film each day? Do you test recipes?
LB: An average day includes a little of everything–strategy, planning, social media, engagement/comments, writing, and recipe testing. I only film once a week on average, as filming recipes can take quite a bit of time with prep and resting periods. Oh yes, recipes are tested numerous times before they ever make it to my website and channel. It’s really important to me that my community has success when they make my recipes, and I try to think through variations for different dietary restrictions as well.
Tubefilter: Have you tweaked your content strategy over time? If you have, how are your current videos different from your first videos?
LB: My early videos were pretty short, simple, and straight to the point. As I’ve grown on the platform, I’ve put more “me” into the videos, provided more helpful tips, and created a wider range of videos, from healthy basics to meal prep to product reviews. But of course, classic recipes like deviled eggs and chicken salad will always be core videos to my brand.
Tubefilter: You mentioned to us that one of your concerns about starting a YouTube channel was the age difference between you and many creators/viewers. Do you still worry about that? Do you think your age has affected your YouTube experience, either positively or negatively?
LB: It’s funny, when I started my channel, I honestly never thought it would go above 10,000 subscribers. I was just shy of my 40th birthday when I published my first video, and I remember thinking to myself, No one is going to watch a fortysomething when the average age is twentysomethings.
But as my channel grew that second year, I noticed a theme in the comments–people said they liked my calmness, approach, and tone of voice. I was different than others in my niche, and different was good. The lightbulb went off, and I realized there was an untapped audience (especially in that 30s to 50s age range) looking for a more mature voice, and a moderate, balanced approach to healthy food.
So I have zero worries now! My younger audience looks to me as sort of a parental figure, and my older audience looks to me as a relatable, trusted friend. My experience (and age) has been nothing but positive on YouTube!
Tubefilter: Has YouTube helped you expand the Downshiftology brand? Have you launched any merch/products, a related business, a presence on another social platform, etc? Do you want to?
LB: Absolutely! YouTube definitely expanded my reach and allowed me to build a highly engaged community. That community then flowed into my other platforms, including my website, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok (yes, I’m now on TikTok as well!).
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and Downshiftology? Any plans looking to the future?
LB: I see Downshiftology growing as a business, bringing on more employees, creating more delicious recipes, creating merch, and expanding into product lines. I’d also love to do an app and a cookbook in the future. I’m never short on ideas! But at the end of the day, as long as I can keep inspiring others to take life “down a notch,” to eat healthy food, get back to basics, and enjoy more of life’s simple pleasures…I’m truly happy.
You can add yourself to the ranks of Bryan’s more-than-a-million YouTube subscribers at her channel YouTube.com/Downshiftology.