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.
If you’ve ever played a video game, you’ve screwed something up. Maybe you missed an obvious combo in Fruit Ninja, whiffed a winning shot in Apex Legends, or were just a hair too slow to snag a good bit of loot. Everyone makes mistakes–and when they happen in the heat of the moment, costing a win or a kill or a prize, it’s tough to blame yourself. Maybe you think: That dude had aimbot! Or: My controller’s lagging! And sure, sometimes those things do happen. But a lot of the time, we caused those mistakes.
And Coconut Brah wants to help us learn from them.
Coconut Brah (aka Jon) has built a YouTube career out of helping others git gud at games–particularly Rainbow Six Siege, his favorite first-person shooter. Released in 2015, the game has more than 55 million registered players, and throws them together in multiple modes that require speed, skill, and strategy.
Jon (who has 863K subscribers and nets around 7M views per month) loves the game itself, but he’s also passionate about the community that’s sprung up around it, full of people who are still finding new tactics and map nooks after five years of playing. Once a week, he puts out a video that’ll help others buff their skills or just plain learn more about the world of Siege. He explores little-known places in the game’s maps, tests potential new tricks for leveling up, and adds to his ever-expanding roster of pro-level tips, like how to best angle your gun for that quick, clean kill. He also pays coaches to join him in matches and judge his skills, giving viewers free doses of truly expert advice.
Ultimately, he hopes to give his audience the knowhow they need to improve at least a little bit. If he can give them a tidbit, tip, or trick that helps them hit a goal or learn from a mistake they made in-game, that’s a day’s work well done.
As for goals of his own, Jon’s aiming to hit one million subscribers by his birthday in August. He knows he can do it, he says, “if I continue to keep the same path I am on and focus on great content.”
Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do in the days before YouTube?
Jon: Hey! My name is Jon and I own the gaming YouTube channel Coconut Brah that’s currently at 850,000 subscribers! I was born in Portland where I did competitive gymnastics until I was 14. I always loved gaming growing up. In 1925, my great grandmother opened the general store Low Store (Low being her maiden name) on the Big Island of Hawaii, and when I was 16, my family moved to the Big Island to help out my grandma, who was now running the store. I was the fourth generation in this family business, and I was confident I would continue to help run it for many years.
Tubefilter: What made you decide to launch a YouTube channel? What do you think YouTube offers you, as a content creator, to help you grow your platform and build your career?
Jon: Up until the point I moved to Hawaii, I played Xbox. I never had Xbox Live and would always look forward to going to my best friend Chris’s house to play games such as Call of Duty, Super Smash Bros Melee, and many others. After moving to Hawaii, I finally purchased Xbox Live. I met friends online, and our main game shifted to Halo 3, where we had nonstop fun in custom games looking for secret spots and cool strats.
After Halo 3 slowed down, we started playing Destiny 1. My friends and I stumbled upon a very clever strategy to defeat a boss and get a lot of loot! I searched everywhere for tips about the strategy and couldn’t find it posted anywhere, so we decided we should post it up on YouTube! The video was awful. I had no idea how to edit. But luckily my friend Kyle taught me some basics, and along with YouTube tutorials, I was able to create some basic videos and get them online.
Tubefilter: One of the key focuses of your channel and content is helping other people get better at gaming. Why is this so important to you?
Jon: My mentality in video games has never been to complain about things, even when I get completely dominated in a game. I have always taken those experiences and thought about what I could have done differently to have the outcome I wanted and ultimately be a better gamer.
I believe a huge reason so many people don’t improve in a game or even life in general is because they always have an excuse for failing. Do things out of your control happen, like a bad connection, cheaters, or someone just getting lucky? Of course they do! But it’s become all too common in gaming to immediately blame those things instead of realizing what you did was a bad play.
Tubefilter: What draws you to Rainbow Siege Six, and to its community on YouTube? Have you ever been tempted to switch to games like Fortnite or Minecraft that may have bigger viewer pools?
Jon: Like I said earlier, my first videos were about Destiny 1. I had a lot of fun with it, but I ultimately realized that the game didn’t challenge me in the way I really wanted. I found myself making videos for it because that’s what was expected from the small amount of followers the channel had accumulated, even though the game was getting very repetitive. Making videos for Destiny 1 had slowly turned into another “grind” that wasn’t fun to do anymore. Having fun was why we started in the first place, and I knew something had to change.
When I first saw the trailer for Rainbow Six Siege, it looked like a hardcore search-and-destroy game mixed with Counter-Strike, and I knew that I had to try it. As soon as I played it, I saw the potential for it. There were so many ways to play, angles to find, and clever spots to surprise the enemy that it was like discovering a new hobby with endless possibilities to learn.
Siege is now starting year five, which is so rare in games these days. The devs have done such an amazing job, and you can see how dedicated they are. We all share that same love for this unique game, and I can’t see any other game challenging me the same way. Even going into year five, I still find or have people send me tips that no one has ever found or done before. This game is truly unlike anything else I have ever played, and even if it may not have the following of a game like Fortnite, it has something much more valuable to me.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
Jon: Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact date of my first paycheck for playing games. I know that it was after a VERY long time of making videos for free and doing it purely out of passion. Making those videos was something I would’ve kept doing for free, so getting that first check was just a plus. I believe my first one was less than $50–but that only inspired me more.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional creator?
Jon: Honestly, I still don’t feel like I am on the level I want to be in those terms. The first time I felt truly recognized as a professional creator was when Ubisoft invited to me their studio to play the new season. It was a small group of creators, I believe 10 or less, and to be surrounded by other creators in the same studio that I had been watching and were role models to me was a very special moment.
Tubefilter: What engages and excites you about being a YouTube creator? How are you using your passion to build out your audience?
Jon: The most exciting part for me is when I see people comment or message me clips of them using tricks I show. When someone says something like, “I only got this far because of you,” or, “I finally reached the ranked goal I had because of you,” that really means a lot. I am so thankful I can have that impact on people, and I am so thankful for all all of them.
Tubefilter: At what point did you know you could go all-in? Was there a sudden moment where you were like, “This is it, I’m going full-time,” or did it happen gradually?
Jon: YouTube definitely happened gradually. YouTube is what I am doing full-time, but I still am doing some behind-the-scenes things to help my parents with their store, such as scheduling, etc.
The first feeling of “maybe I can actually pull this off and make a living from it” was somewhere after receiving my 100K plaque from YouTube. I still was not making anywhere near enough to live off and quit other jobs, but I definitely saw the potential in it. I still had that drive and passion, so even if I wasn’t getting paid, it wasn’t something I was going to stop doing.
It got to the point where I was able to build up momentum on my channel while working at other places–but then YouTube momentum would die out due to other obligations. I ended up cutting back other obligations to test it out and see how long I could keep a momentum train going, and I kept seeing potential.
Tubefilter: What’s your production schedule like? Walk us through an average day. What do you get up to aside from video-making?
Jon: I definitely have goals on what I want my morning routine to be like, but until then, my morning routine goes something like…
Waking up around 7 a.m. (I am married and have a two-year-old boy). My wife and I basically rotate schedules, so on the days she has off, I tend to spend most of the day working on projects. When she works, my son and I spend time together and play most of the day. He isn’t really into Siege yet, but maybe one day it’ll happen, lol! I am so thankful for all of these days, because since I have been able to do YouTube as my primary job, we are able to be pretty flexible. This does lead to some very late nights most of the time, though, because when my wife gets home from work (sometimes after 10 p.m.) I’ll “go to work” till very late, lol.
Sometimes it’s hard because when you are a content creator, there’s not really ever an “end time.” There’s always something to do, and you stop when you choose to stop, not because you’re done. You’re never “done,” but it’s awesome.
Tubefilter: Have you had any brand partnerships or sponsorships? Have you released or are you developing merch?
Jon: I do sponsorships from time to time, but only if I really enjoy or am already using the product/service.
The most exciting thing I have been working on lately was the launch of my very own energy powder called Coastline Colada by Collector Cup. Coastline Colada is a piña colada-inspired flavor, but with more of a tropical pineapple hint to it. I am really blessed to have that opportunity, because Collector Cup works closely with Ubisoft and their products are officially licensed through them.
Tubefilter: Can you let us know about the rest of the people working with you behind the scenes? Do you have an editor for your channel? What about a manager or network?
Jon: While I don’t have a video editor, I have had endless help from friends and family. From my best friend Chris coming up with the name Coconut Brah (because of the funny Hawaiian stereotype behind it) to online friends like Dan and Sonnel who are always down to help me record the latest trick or help me get footage.
My amazing wife, Mimi, is very supportive and understands when I play games all day. She continues to help me chase this dream I have, which I am very blessed to have. My parents and sisters always come help watch our son when I have deadlines or have projects that need extra time, and that is also such a huge help.
My managers Cody and Cole from Up North Management Group are also really great to work with. They are very helpful with many things, from keeping me up to date with the latest news I need to be aware of to partnership negotiations!
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
Jon: The most vital thing you can possess as a creator is the passion and will to not give up. You don’t need to be a good editor, professional player, or even be a top player to get started. I literally carried my computer to my friend Kyle’s house to ask him to teach me how to cut clips for my first video. That was done via passion and not by any skill in a video game that I had.
The will to not give up is also huge because people will always have their ups and downs. A quote I love is “99% of people are employed by the 1% that didn’t give up.” I know that probably isn’t 100% accurate, but the meaning behind it is great.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you? What are you building toward?
Jon: My main focus right now is hitting one million subscribers by my birthday in August. I know I can if I continue to keep the same path I am on and focus on great content. There might also be a epic merch store being opened for that, if I can get everything lined up in time.
Another focus I have for this year is working on my second channel. I am very picky about what goes live on my main channel, but would love to be able to create videos that other people request, like full games or special tips for console players and maybe even the casual maps in Rainbow Six Siege.
My long-term goals are to just keep creating content that helps others enjoy and improve in gaming. I still love creating content and am so blessed to be able to do what I love. Ultimately, the happiness of my family is what I care about the most, and as long as I can continue to do this to help support my family and their happiness, then I will do it for as long as possible.
Jon is a client of Up North Management.
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