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.
As you probably know, a lot of people started using TikTok in 2020. And, because it is a nearly universal part of human existence, lots of those people started posting videos of their pets. And, since the internet loves dogs, lots of those videos went viral.
Cliff Brush Jr. was one of the people who got a TikTok account during the COVID pandemic. But as he saw more and more dogs get millions and millions of views, one thought kept nagging at him: His dog Brodie was way cuter.
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And, well, we can’t fault him for that. Brodie is an 80-pound, curly-locked Goldendoodle raised by Brush (who also owns his mom, a Golden Retriever named Luna), and he really is pretty dang cute. Even before Brush got the idea to upload videos of Brodie to TikTok and YouTube, he knew Brodie was a hit with people. The two of them could barely step outside without being stopped so passersby could pat Brodie or snap a photo with him.
Why? Brush puts it best: “He’s just such an interesting-looking specimen.”
To get Brodie’s accounts off the ground, Brush issued a bit of a challenge to potential viewers. He posted videos every single day for a couple of weeks, and every video’s caption was along the lines of “I’m posting this dog until he goes viral.”
And, well, it worked.
It’s what came after Brodie’s virality, though, that’s truly made this whole thing into a career for Brush.
His initial concept for Brodie’s online presence prominently featured just Brodie himself. As Brodie’s audience grew, however, Brush knew he wanted Brodie’s accounts to be about more than just how cute he was. He wanted people to see the bond between the two of them.
So, slowly, he began integrating himself into his own content. He changed the accounts’ profile photos from art of Brodie to art of the two of them. And, at first, it didn’t go well. He began losing followers. His engagement dropped.
Thankfully, the dip didn’t last long. These days, Brush and Brodie are up to 5 million followers on TikTok, and nearly 3 million subscribers on YouTube. Taking a chance and changing up his content strategy was a risk, Brush says, but in the end, “I’m happy I did that, because it opened up the content to endless possibilities.”
Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: Who are you, where are you from, and how did you and Brodie end up on social media?
Cliff Brush Jr.: Well, my name’s Cliff Brush, I live in South Florida, and I was an accountant and a business consultant for six years, until COVID, and then I started using TikTok.
Like a lot of people, I saw some dogs going viral and I kind of thought to myself, “You know, Brodie is…In my opinion, he’s cuter, and I think I can make funnier videos than what’s going viral right now, and more interesting stuff.” That combined with the fact that anywhere I went in public with him before he even had social media, people wanted to take pictures and play with him, and everyone was drawn him…He’s just such an interesting-looking specimen.
So I thought if people are this intrigued by him out in public, the internet’s also gonna love him. So I started posting on TikTok. I posted him every day for like almost 10 days. And my captions were usually, “I’m posting this dog every day until he blows up.” And then around like two weeks in, he had a really viral video and then it was off the races.
After about a year posting content pretty much every single day, extremely consistently, I grew my following enough to where I wanted to take the chance of resigning from my corporate job and going into content creation full-time. And that’s what I did.
And our content has evolved a lot. It really just started off as silly trends. I was not involved in the content whatsoever. It was just all about Brodie, and it was just doing whatever was trending. Trending songs, trending dances, and I’d do like a dog version of it. But I wasn’t fulfilled creating content like that. It was like, okay, it’s funny, but it’s just novelty. It just started to wear off, and I wanted to show more. I wanted to show our bond, which is the reason I love him and what actually does motivate me to film.
So I started integrating myself into the person side, the human side of the account, which at first there was almost pushback because people don’t like change. The profile picture went from just Brodie’s face to mine and Brodie’s face, and that was the first time I started losing followers. I kind of expected it. I knew some people wouldn’t like that. But I’m happy I did that because it opened up the content to endless possibilities.
So now our content, the main underlying theme is the bond that Brodie and I have and the adventures we go on. We love traveling together. We love having new experiences with each other. So that element of it is really exciting, and we keep evolving. It just keeps, every time, our content’s evolved so much to this active livestyle biking, in the backpack. There’s this new element of it where Brodie’s really recognizable anywhere. We go in public, people recognize him and wanna hug him and take pictures and they follow him and get to have a chance to play with him and hug him in real life.
So I try to capture that also and share that with my followers, because it’s just a really unique aspect that people aren’t used to seeing. It’s really cool. So that’s really a new element that’s becoming part of our channel is how Brodie interacts with his friends and his followers. We call them Bromies in public because it’s awesome. So he signs photographs, he takes selfies.
So yeah, so our content is ever-evolving, and the underlying theme is we’re best friends and I want to show that off.
Tubefilter: How did you decide to quit your full-time job? Was there a specific follower count or monetization threshold you hit?
CB: It was a big move. I had a million followers, a little over a million on TikTok. On Instagram I was probably sitting at like 40,000. And then YouTube was really low, but that was always my main focus. I was like, “This is next.” “I have to figure out how to grow my YouTube subscriber count.” Because there is so little cross-platform. You can’t push people from TikTok to YouTube no matter how hard you try. And talk to other creators—it’s just so hard. You can’t be like, I have a million here, why can’t I get 100,000 on YouTube just by promoting on TikTok? It doesn’t work that way.
You can say, “Hey, go check out my YouTube too,” but people aren’t really motivated to follow you on YouTube. Just getting people to go platform to platform is hard. So I didn’t have a lot of followers on subscribers on YouTube.
I had something that’s not even worth mentioning, maybe a couple thousand, when I retired from my job. Honestly the money wasn’t there either. My biggest brand deal at the time was like $1,200. So I had savings from working six years that I was going to lean on, but I knew it was a big risk.
I put a metric in my head, because I was an analyst. I hated my job enough and I hated my work-life balance enough that I was willing to take a risk. But it was a long shot. I told myself if I could make $30,000 the first year, I’ll consider the whole thing a success and I’ll continue doing it. If I can’t make $30,000, I’ll give up and go back to corporate.
I was trying to keep it as a side job while I was working; it was like this secret life I was living. I’d be working during the day and then at nighttime shooting and editing videos. It was really hustling, trying to grow and stay consistent.
That was two years ago. Then a year ago I decided to resign, take the big risk. The first thing I did was a cross-country road trip with Brodie. I was finally able to do things like that, travel with my best friend, which obviously I couldn’t have the freedom to do while I was working. So I stuck with it. We kept growing and opportunities started flowing in that made it a sustainable job, and now I’m making more than I ever was working nine to five. It’s like a dream come true.
Tubefilter: You said YouTube was barely worth mentioning at first, but now you’re at almost 3 million subscribers, so something clearly went right.
CB: Yeah, so the first year after I resigned, every time I would do an interview or something people would ask, “What’s next? What’s next?” And as far as social media went, I would always say YouTube. I need to figure out YouTUbe.
Then YouTube launched YouTube Shorts—because, before, you know, when I resigned, YouTube Shorts wasn’t even a thing yet. But then they launched YouTube Shorts last year, and I made a bunch of posts on it, and it was like, that’s my wheelhouse. I still don’t even know how to be proficient with long-form. That’s my very next thing, is to learn how to get into long-form. But the short stuff, I knew that was kind of what we excel.
So I just consistently start posting on YouTube Shorts—and by consistent, I mean every single day, around the same time. Then I was even tweaking it, I was trying to post two or three times a day, seeing if that was beneficial or not. And I was getting just a couple thousand views, a couple thousand views. And then maybe after a month, month and a half, my account just took off and I gained 100,000 subs in one week.
Then it was just growing, growing, growing, and we hit a million, now we’re just past 2.5 million. Now I have my eyes set on the diamond Play Button and the goal is to get the 10 million one day.
YouTube has become my favorite platform for a lot of reasons. For one, the YouTube community that we built, like every community, is different. Like the Instagram community versus the TikTok community versus YouTube’s, it’s all different, it’s all different kinds of people, and they behave differently. They interact with your content differently, interact with you differently. They talk about you differently, I guess. And by far YouTube has been like the most pleasant and most positive. So I really enjoy the YouTube community that we built.
Then, besides that, the support that creators get from the platforms is really weak. It’s very hard to get feedback from TikTok. YouTube has a Shorts community I’m able to have a point of contact with and they’re by far the best community at any platform that provides the most resources. Then it’s the consistency of the platform, like TikTok is so volatile, Instagram is very volatile and hard for organic reach. But YouTube has just been consistent.
Like I know if I post this video, the range of views I’m likely going to get. I don’t have so many outside factors, variables that are just random, like since today it’s 4:30 or it’s night or the sun is this way…just the most random things. But YouTube has been really, really creator-friendly, and I’m really excited to see what they continue to do as far as rolling out new features and new monetization and opportunities for creators. So I’m very high on YouTube Shorts. I think it’s the most exciting platform.
Tubefilter: Yeah, I feel like things on TikTok particularly can be tough. I’ve spoken to people, like subsistence hunters, who struggle to keep their content live, or even feel like their videos have been shadowbanned because of the contents. With your stuff, it seems like there’s nothing objectionable?
CB: You would be surprised. You would surprised how much hate a dog account could get. Like if I wasn’t like secure with who I am as a grown man…I’m able to remain somewhat unaffected by it, it’s much easier now, but when I was just starting, people had something to say about everything. You wouldn’t believe the criticisms you get. You can’t post anything online without a group of people or someone attacking you for something.
I remember I did a video and I had my refrigerator open. So many comments about people saying “Why’s your refrigerator open?” It was open for like 15 seconds, whatever. Literally anything you could think of, people will attack you for.
So I see the mental health of someone who’s less sure of what they want to do in life. And then younger generations who are trying to be creators. It would take such a toll on them, and I feel really bad. I could never have done this when I was 20 or 21. I wasn’t secure enough and sure enough that this is what I wanted to do.
And that’s coming from a guy who’s a dog account! My whole thing is spreading positivity and good vibes.
There are so many people who don’t—do you know what a Goldendoodle is?
Tubefilter: I do.
CB: Yeah, so, it’s a breed. Golden Retriever with poodle. But there are purists who think only purebreds should be in existence. You shouldn’t cross these things, whatever. So I get so much hate from, “That’s a dirty mutt,” those types. You can get that from everywhere, but TikTok is the most toxic. It’s not even close. Unless you want to count Reddit. But TikTok is just like…I don’t even read TikTok comments. I know there’s just too much out there. I just don’t care. The trolls can have their say. I try to engage more on YouTube comments and Instagram comments and reading DMs and stuff like that. I know it’s a lot more overwhelmingly positive, but yeah.
Tubefilter: So backing up for a second, for people who don’t know, how did you get Brodie in the first place?
CB: So I have his mother, my retriever Luna. A lot of people who don’t follow us too closely sometimes don’t even realize I have Brodie’s mother. She is the exact opposite of Brodie. Brodie loves to be on camera. He loves to do whatever. He’s involved. He doesn’t mind putting on goggles, going in the backpack.
His mom Luna is the opposite. She hates it, hates being on camera. She just wants to cuddle. And she gets motion sick.
Tubefilter: Oh no.
CB: Yeah, she’s not a good traveler. She’s just a very typical dog. Not everyone’s out to be a creator, or is like Brodie. I know it’s not something she wants, so it’s not something I force her to do. But yeah, I have his mother and I delivered Brodie. I’ve had Brodie since he was zero days old, which I honestly think is something that has really helped our bond develop. That first eight weeks is so crucial and he’s been with me every breath he’s taken. I think that’s only helped our bond grow stronger.
@brodiethatdood Brodie doesn’t realize how big he actually is.. #goldendoodle #puppies #puppiesoftiktok #puppyplay #OLAFLEX #DoritosDareToBeBurned ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show
Tubefilter: What does the average day look like for you in terms of the amount of time you’re spending making videos versus uploading and interacting with your community?
CB: Every day could be different, but some things that remain constant are: we wake up in the morning and I try to post around 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time across all platforms. So each morning I’ll have a video ready to go from the previous day that I know I’m gonna post, and I’ll post it across all my platforms. Then I’ll jump online, review some comments, check my DMs. I have two managers, so they handle the business side of things and forwarding opportunities or inquiries from brands and networks. Then I’ll take care of any business stuff, and if I have any interviews, they’re usually scheduled for early morning to afternoon.
Then, if we’re at home base—that’s my home—I also have a new brand I’m working on, which is Plus One Pet Gear. So all the stuff we’ve been using, dog backpacks, dog goggles, harnesses, leashes, collars, I want to make my own version of that. It’s all inspired by them being my “plus one.” I bring them everywhere, we go on adventures, and I want to be able to provide other people with that same type of gear in our style. So lately I’m really motivated and I’ve been working on that a lot. Then I have to start editing and possibly filming for the next day’s stuff.
I don’t have a huge content library ready to go for the whole week. It’s usually the day prior I figure out the video I’m going to make, so I’m tapping into archive footage to throw together a video that fits something, a trending song or something I think could do well. Or I’m shooting new contnet. So I’ll edit so it’s ready for the next day. And yeah! That’s our typical day when I’m home.
When we’re traveling, it’s just who knows? We’re going to an event, we’re flying, everything’s thrown out of whack and it’s really hard to remain consistent. Posting consistently is actually the thing I hate most. I love traveling. I love adventuring with Brodie and seeing people, seeing places, but it throws me off a lot as far as posting consistently.
I just had a big Celsius event in Miami, which is one of our sponsors. Then I had a wedding in Minnesota for two days. And I went five days without posting, and that’s way too long, and it gave me anxiety. I know it hurts me with all the algorithms. I try not to let that happen, but sometimes it does.
But yeah, it’s day to day. Depends where we’re going. If the weather’s cool out—which it’s not in south Florida right now—we might do some more outside activities with Brodie going on a bike ride and stuff.
Tubefilter: How many people do you work with behind the scenes overall?
CB: I have two managers. I’m with Underscore Talent Agency. One of my managers is really hands-on. I talk to him throughout the day. He calls me multiple times a day when we’re working through something, or he and I are trying to go back and forth with brands, potential brands we might start working with or current brand partners. Then there’s one manager who’s more the higher-level stuff.
I have a cameraman who doesn’t really shoot small things. I shoot all the small things by myself, but anything where we’re both on video, he has to be shooting. So anything that’s like filming reactions of people or going out to these events, he’s always with me. Later today he’s coming over and we’re gonna shoot a video.
That’s it. As far as distribution, that’s on me. I’m looking to expand my team, I think this year, to at least get some editors for long YouTube videos, which I want to start doing hopefully by the end of the year.
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