Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
Twenty years ago, Jay Brewer and his wife Becky bought a small animal store called Pet Country.
At the time, Fountain Valley, Calif. was not exactly a hotbed for reptile enthusiasts. Brewer–a longtime lover of snakes, salamanders, and all things creepy-crawly–saw an opportunity and set aside a portion of the shop for fellow fans, offering quality animals and the supplies needed to properly care for them.
By 1991, this section of the Brewers’ store generated so much traffic, it was practically its own business. So they made it official: the reptile section of Pet Country closed, and standalone specialty store Prehistoric Pets was hatched.
Since then, Brewer has expanded the original Prehistoric Pets to a 5,000-square-foot facility that’s split between retail and a full-fledged zoo. On any given day, the shop houses thousands of animals and welcomes hundreds of guests, many of whom aren’t there to adopt a new friend or pick up pet food, but instead are there to learn about the vast variety of species Brewer and his staff care for.
For Brewer, being able to educate people about his favorite animals is the best part of Prehistoric Pets. He’s always looking for ways to reach more people with knowledge about everything from snakes’ shedding process to crocodile feeding to rare finds like the African Lungfish. When YouTube became a thing in 2005, Brewer jumped at the chance to share long-form videos of Prehistoric Pets’ residents online–an endeavor that, as of February 2021, had garnered him around one million subscribers and regularly netted a few million views per month.
Now, just three months later, his subscriber count has nearly doubled, and in May, his channel bagged more than 224 million views. What changed?
One thing: YouTube Shorts.
Between February and May, Brewer uploaded 40 videos to Shorts, and more than half went viral, netting tens of millions of views. His most-viewed video, about a particularly ornery alligator slithering out of its tank, has more than 70 million views to date.
Brewer’s YouTube view and subscriber counts shot up in March. Data from Gospel Stats.
Collectively, his Shorts content helped push his channel from 6.3 million views in February to 36 million in March to 81 million in April and 224 million in May.
While the vast majority of these views are for his shortform videos, Brewer’s ultimate goal is that viewers hooked by his quick-bite videos will tune into his longer-form, educational content and come to love reptiles just as much as he does. Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! What’s your background? How did you become interested in exotic animals and reptiles?
Jay Brewer: I was adopted, and we grew up extremely poor. My adopted mother passed away when I was four, my adopted father when I was 15, and I was left to fend for myself. When I was little, to entertain myself because I didn’t have any toys, or games, bicycles, or anything, I would go out and catch snakes, lizards, and frogs. That was the only thing I could do for fun because it didn’t cost any money! I fell in love with animals and reptiles from there, and the rest is history!
Tubefilter: How did Prehistoric Pets come to be? Give us a little background on the store!
JB: I first started a fishing business when I was only 15 years old to try and make some of my own money. I was pretty good at it, so after I married my wife Becky when I was 23, we used the money I made from fishing and bought a small pet store called Pet Country. When my wife got pregnant with our first child, we decided to trade in the furry animals and let me focus on my real passion, which is reptiles. About 33 years later, the Reptile Zoo is one of the most sought-after experiences in Southern California, with hundreds of visitors every day!
We have 20 employees. We do a lot of off-location events and educational parties with the reptiles that the team covers as well.
We have hundreds of types of exotic reptiles, everything from tiny lizards to giant alligators! We like to say, “If it hops, crawls, or gives your mom the chills, we probably have it at the Reptile Zoo!”
Tubefilter: When and why did you decide to start making videos about Prehistoric Pets?
JB: I started making videos because I wanted to show the world how cool and amazing animals are! I’ve been making videos for well over a decade–my first video I posted was in 2007!
Tubefilter: How do you balance content creation with running the shop? How often do you film? Walk us through the average day!
JB: Luckily I have a fantastic team of people who help me run the shop, including my wife and two daughters, who have been with me since day one! I also have a great right-hand videographer, Armen, who never misses a shot! Without these guys, I wouldn’t be able to have the Zoo or share all of our interesting content! This is why I always say, “I am LIVIN THE DREAM!”
It has taken well over a decade of consistent content creation to get to where I am today. I film between three to five days per week, sometimes as much as 14 hours a day depending where I am traveling at the time!
Tubefilter: Your recent subscriber/view spike has been centered on your videos uploaded to YouTube Shorts. Why did you decide to start making content for Shorts?
JB: I saw very early in the digital game that the phones were going to be a huge part of content absorption. I started working really hard to learn to make really good short vertical content–I was one of the first people to try it on IGTV back in 2018, and had tremendous success, and loved playing with it! Getting ahead of the vertical content gave us a good edge to really understand how to create vertically, so we applied the same thinking to YT Shorts, and have done incredibly well!
Tubefilter: Was there a specific video that went especially viral and triggered the increase in views and subscribers?
JB: To be honest, it is hard to pinpoint exactly which video triggered our rise. So many of our videos go viral!
Tubefilter: Why do you think your content is doing well on Shorts in general?
JB: I think the short content works because of our content! Vertical shooting really works great with animals–visually captivating, engaging, and short, to the point, hooks audiences right away–and there’s always that amazing moment. I put a lot of work into Shorts because I really want to engage my audience quickly, so that I can lead them over to my long-form videos. The longer-form videos are where I am able to educate audiences more on these animals, so the more my audience converts over to the long-form, the better chance I have of engaging them educationally as well!
Tubefilter: Has your recent engagement uptick changed anything for you? Do you have any new plans or goals for your content career?
JB: I am excited to start looking into different types of longer-form content. Lots of exciting stuff coming soon! And then, of course, continuing to hit the YouTube Shorts hard, and pumping out great content across all of my other platforms!
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content about Prehistoric Pets?
JB: Getting a chance to share how amazing all of these incredible animals around the world are, and hoping that everyone can understand how lucky we are to have these in our lives! That is why I created the Reptile Zoo, and why I am hoping to open another location soon–so that I can continue to share my passion for these amazing animals with even more people.
Tubefilter: What other platforms are you making content for?
JB: I am across all of the platforms! TikTok, IG/IGTV, Facebook, Snapchat, and have seen such great success! Check me out. 🙂
Tubefilter: What’s next for you, the shop, and your channel?
JB: I am really excited to dive into the NFT world. I want to set up NFTs for kids, where they can really enjoy, engage, and trade the NFTs at their level.
Merch as well–I am going to be working hard to roll that out.
I am also excited about a second new potential location for the Reptile Zoo–sharing that in-person, hands-on experience with more people would be great! As for my channel, I am really looking forward to focusing hard on more international filming all over the world. I can’t wait to show you all some more incredible animals! I am living my dream, and I hope everyone else can find theirs!
Jellysmack is the global creator company that detects and develops the world’s most talented video creators. The company’s proprietary video optimization technology and data drive social audience growth, unlocking new revenue streams and amplifying monetization.
Currently home to over 150 influential Creators including PewDiePie, MrBeast, Brad Mondo, and Bailey Sarian, Jellysmack optimizes, operates, and distributes creator-made video content to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. Jellysmack-managed content boasts 10 billion global monthly video views and a cross-platform reach of 125 million unique U.S. users, making it the largest U.S. digital-first company in monthly social media viewers.
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