Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth. Today’s installment is brought to you by VidSummit.
zoeunlimited always knew she wanted to make art. But, understandably, she wasn’t too into the idea of being a starving artist. So when it came time to pick her college major, she went for practicality: business economics with a minor in accounting.
She was working an equally practical job when COVID hit.
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“I told myself, ‘Now or never, Zoe. This is the time for you to learn editing, with the lack of LA traffic,'” she says. “That’s how it all started.”
She launched a YouTube channel that became “a creative outlet that I was so desperately in need of,” she says. “Otherwise I would’ve burned out in the financial industry really quickly.”
At first, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do with her channel. But she knew what she was interested in: personal growth, self-confidence, fitness, wellness, and overall adulting. “Throughout experimentation, I realized that what I’m truly passionate about is growth- in terms of personal growth and helping others grow,” she says.
She started uploading in February 2020, and over the past three years has built a community of nearly 3 million subscribers with her long-form video essays (the bread and butter of her channel) and a growing library of short-form videos. She’s planning to go full-time on content–and to help facilitate that, she scored a six-figure investment from CreatorDAO, which describes itself as “a decentralized community that invests in creators by providing capital, technology, and operational support.” CreatorDAO is backed by a16z, and Zoe’s funding–earned by sending in a short-form pitch video to a panel of judges–comes from investors including Paris Hilton and The Chainsmokers.
We’ll let her tell you about her plans for it below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: I’m really excited to get to talk to you! I’m familiar with you and with your content, but for somebody who isn’t, give me a little bit of background about you and where you’re from and your journey up to starting content.
zoeunlimited: For sure!. I grew up half in China, half in Canada, and then came to LA around six, seven years ago for college. Growing up, I’ve always been a creatively driven person, but as someone who was scared of becoming a starving artist, I did not study anything related to the arts in college. I studied business economics and minored in accounting. when COVID happened, I told myself, “Now or never, Zoe. This is the time for you to learn editing with the lack of LA traffic.” That’s how it all started. It was basically a creative outlet that I was so desperately in need of. It really helped me regain an outlet to express that creative energy in me. Otherwise, I think I would’ve burned out in the financial industry really quickly.
Initially when I started, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my channel. It was all things that I was interested in: diet and fitness, adulting, college-related videos. Throughout experimentation, I realized that what I’m truly passionate about is growth- in terms of personal growth and helping others grow. No matter what the content caters to, whatever vertical it falls under.
Right now, my channel is more focused on video essays. The central theme always remains to growth, whether that’s helping someone become fitter, focus on their wellness, on confidence, or talking about pop culture topics, such as challenging the ideal beauty standards, to reflect more critically towards the status quo. My community is a really precious crowd that is so encouraging in how everyone shares their own struggles, their progress, as well as their accomplishments with each other about different areas of growth. That to me is the biggest motivator to keep on creating.
Tubefilter: Are you full-time on this now?
zoeunlimited: Creating content as a career is the goal!
Tubefilter: How are things going to be changing for you moving forward? Are you planning to put out more videos? Are you changing up your team structure? How are things working for you?
zoeunlimited: Yes, definitely. I am super interested in expanding and also in just leveling up my short-form, because I started with long-form. Short-form is actually one of the reasons that my channel more than doubled its size within a month, which is really crazy on YouTube.
Tubefilter: Yes, wow.
zoeunlimited: I just want to experiment more. This year I also won a six-figure investment from CreatorDAO. I’ll be creating a new series on YouTube with them. That will be a new and exciting challenge for me as a creator to expand outside of my comfort zone with the existing formats. To try out different formats and collaborate with other creators and people in the industry.
Tubefilter: That’s amazing. Congratulations.
zoeunlimited: Thank you.
Tubefilter: That’s huge. What was that process like?
zoeunlimited: I basically heard about the contest and then on the last day to apply for it, I realized,”Oh, there are 12 hours left.” The fact that it was the beginning of the year gave me the urge to be more spontaneous “It doesn’t hurt to try.” I was like, “I might as well.” I made a short form video and then submitted that, and little did I know…It just went through rounds and rounds of voting and reviews. A lot of the judges are also investors in CreatorDAO. They’re backed by a16z and some of the investors include Paris Hilton and Chainsmokers. It was beyond my imagination that I will be winning this, but it’s definitely cool!
Tubefilter: That’s very cool. In the application process, did you have to say your plans for the money, or what you want to create? I know you said you’re creating a series in partnership with them. Did you have to pitch the series?
zoeunlimited: Yes, briefly, but ideas change as well. The concept has been going through its evolutions.
Tubefilter: Well, I feel like that’s natural. I did want to ask, the fact that you started with long-form and are also doing short-form I think is in your favor. It’s harder to transition from short-form to long-form. I’m curious, what made you want to try short-form after being so successful with long-form?
zoeunlimited: I think as a creator, it never hurts to expand outside of your comfort zone and see if something else could create another great synergy with your existing content. I think short form is such a good way to just experiment, beyond what your audiences are familiar with you, for example. I was known for wellness and fitness for a really long time, and then with video essays; but with short form, I started simply becoming a little bit more lighthearted, being a little freer with my content. I did more comedy that reached a different type of audience as well.
Then I started pivoting to fashion as well. That strengthens the lifestyle community that I already have. A lot of add-ons and a lot more room to expand and experiment. Because it’s short, the experimentation time and the turnaround time are a lot faster to see what works versus what doesn’t.
Tubefilter: Got you. I know your channel doubled in a month, which is insane. Was there a particular video that really took off, or a type of video that really took off?
zoeunlimited: Yes. It was one short. I give my friend JT Casey props for the creative concept, huge props to him! It was a video that was very strategically planned to have a clear retention strategy and a clear call to action for subscribers at the end. It got to over 70 million views and I think it helped me grow 1.5 million subscribers.
Tubefilter: That’s insane.
zoeunlimited: Just one short!
Tubefilter: It’s funny, because lately I always hear not to do any call to action, don’t do the like and subscribe, don’t do it. The fact that that was really successful for you is cool.
zoeunlimited: Thank you.
Tubefilter: I’m honestly surprised. In the last couple of years, at least, it’s been like, “Don’t do that ever.” The fact that it worked for you is really interesting.
zoeunlimited: It is really interesting. The whole video concept is based on subscription, basically. It’s a video celebrating your first subscriber. At the end I lost the subscriber. That was like a mini plot twist with a CTA at the end. It was a fun and engaging video and also a fun way to celebrate the community as more and more people join.
Tubefilter: I did want to ask a little bit about some of your video essays. You’re very willing to talk about stuff. I saw your Shein and Temu essays, and you’re very willing to tackle these maybe shady companies. And diet culture, you take down a lot of diet culture stuff. I’m just really curious about your passion for taking on these tough topics that other creators would avoid.
zoeunlimited: For a lot of these topics, there are no clear, yes, it’s good, versus it’s bad. It’s always a spectrum, and it’s really hard to talk about something like this, because everyone has super different opinions and then you’ll never be sure if you’re offending anyone. Nevertheless, I still think these are super relevant topics to talk about. The overthinker in my Gen Z-ness is always reflecting on, “Hey, what is the impact? Can we take it for what it is or is there a potential deeper implication? How will this manifest in the future if we don’t do something about it? Or at least be more aware?” I will say my biggest goal with these video essays is to help myself and hopefully someone else , hopefully at least one person out there, to become more self-aware and start thinking more critically about the topics
This does not mean we need to have a specific action, like never buying any fast fashion, or just cold turkey everything. Because there is a sustainable or there could be sustainable ways to still shop not super luxuriously, or there is a spectrum where dieting could be helpful for your health, but where is that perfect medium? There’s no right answer. It’s a really interesting ongoing topic and I feel like these are some of the struggles and questions that people go through. It’s really nice to hold that discussion with the community who are also passionate about pop culture and whatever is currently ongoing in society.
Tubefilter: Earlier you mentioned you seem really affectionate toward your community and really feel passionate about them. Can you talk a little bit about your unique community?
zoeunlimited: Yes, for sure. I would say my community is very Gen Z millennial female heavy. Girls who are very intellectual, very passionate about growth, and they’re super compassionate towards each other as well. Always curious to learn. Always curious to learn ways to improve their lives. I feel like they’re just like my friends in a sense, where I’ve met many subscribers in real life in the past and it’s always a really sweet encounter. I think they’re as I said earlier, one of my biggest motivations to keep on creating.
Oh my gosh, recently I was at an Olivia Rodrigo music video release event and she saw me and she said that she watches my videos all the time. That to me is just so surprising.
Tubefilter: That’s so cool.
zoeunlimited: I was shooketh.
Tubefilter: Did you have a fangirl moment?
zoeunlimited: Yes, I had a fangirl moment. She’s like, “I’m a huge fan of your videos. I’m so starstruck.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me? I’m beyond starstruck.”
Tubefilter: Dude, that’s such a confidence booster.
zoeunlimited: It was huge. It was definitely a highlight in my video career. You just never know who’s watching your videos. Even behind the screen, I know it sometimes seems just like a number, but meeting my subscribers and my community in person really just helps me understand these are my girlies. I am taking care of them. We are always having a genuine conversation, and it’s just very precious. It’s like having a lot of friends online who share the same passion as you and then care about similar things. They don’t always have to agree with whatever I’m saying. That to me is also super impactful where we can always learn from each other not just them from me, but I’m also constantly learning from them.
Tubefilter: That’s fantastic. I’ve been doing this for six years and I’ve talked to a couple people who give off that big sister vibe. I feel like you’re one of them, with your community.
zoeunlimited: For sure. I’m very thankful for the trust they have in me.
Tubefilter: What are your overall plans or goals for yourself as a creator over the next year or so?
zoeunlimited: Obviously, continuously growing that community. Just keep on creating content that serves my community and adds more value, whether that’s in video or not. Since I am going to pursue content as a career soon, I think I now have more time to focus on lifestyle content and share more parts of my life with my audiences to just get to know each other better. I want to test out different formats, collaborating with other creators, but overall in long-term, or within the vicinity of five years, want to pivot to focus more on fashion. It’s always been something I’m super passionate about.
I hope to show that as part of my content and bring my community with me to the growth in that area as well. Also with the new series, I will be bringing on guests who will be sharing their path to success and their struggles as well. I think that will be super cool to share with the community and help them gain insights, not only into my life, but also into other creators and other entrepreneurs’ lives as well.
Tubefilter: How long is the series planned to be, do you know?
zoeunlimited: Yes, at least 12 episodes.
Tubefilter: Oh wow, okay, so it’s big. Is it like podcasty?
zoeunlimited: It’s a little podcasty. At first, I was thinking more of a vlog and then it somehow turned into more podcasty, so it’s like a vlog-style podcast.
Tubefilter: Which are two very popular formats. I’m interested to see how that works out.
zoeunlimited: Yes, I’m super excited. Excited to launch that. Excited to experiment.
Tubefilter: Do you know an approximate launch month?
zoeunlimited: I would say end of Q3, if not beginning of Q4.
Tubefilter: Okay, so not that far off. Interesting. Okay. Cool. Then I know, YouTube is your biggest platform. Are you focusing anywhere else? I know you have an Instagram, you have a TikTok, but do you plan to do more content across those? Or are you focusing mostly on YouTube?
zoeunlimited: Yes, 100%. YouTube is always like home for me. It’s where I started, is where I feel most connected to my audiences. I am super excited to explore more on short-form content and I think TikTok is one of my biggest weaknesses. That’s something I want to focus on this year. To find my identity as a creator on there, because I feel my content is all over the place and I don’t have a distinct vision. Right now it’s focused on growth and a lot of lighthearted comedy, fashion. I want to find my true community, like how I did on YouTube, on there.
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