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.
This installment of YouTube Millionaires is brought to you by creator fintech company Karat Financial.
When Sarah-Jayne uploaded her first YouTube video in 2014, something went wrong.
She knew she’d changed her video’s title, but after her terrible internet finally crawled its way to the end of an eight-hour upload process, it ended up live with a title that just said “Title.”
Whatever, she thought, resigning herself to it being wrong. She’d only uploaded the thing because someone who watched her brother’s channel–he made videos on organization and Filofaxing–had said she should take a shot at turning her hobby, crocheting, into her own YouTube channel. Maybe that person would watch the video, but no one else would. The title didn’t matter.
Except it wasn’t just that person who watched the video.
In fact, to date, the 24-minute upload has been watched 10 million times. And luckily, Sarah-Jayne did eventually figure out how to change the title: if you Google search “granny square,” it’s now the No. 1 instructional video that comes up in results.
After it became obvious the video’s traffic wasn’t going to slow down despite the title gaffe, Sarah-Jayne decided, why not keep going? She’d picked up crochet as an adult (something to do while her husband “watches the green,” aka sports TV) and had fallen in love with it. Clearly there were others out there on YouTube who loved it too, and wanted to learn more.
Over the past nine years, that simple idea–teaching people about crochet–has turned Sarah-Jayne’s channel, Bella Coco Crochet, into a full-time business where she not only makes instructional videos, but also sells patterns, distributes a monthly subscription box, and, as of March, was able to open her own studio space for her and three employees.
Check out our chat with her below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Let’s start super basic! For someone who’s reading this and has never seen one of your videos, tell us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do.
Sarah-Jayne: So my name’s Sarah-Jayne, also known as Bella Coco—that’s my channel name. I create video tutorials to help people learn how to crochet, improve their current skills, give them hints and tips and inspiration, and just talk about yarny goodness, I guess.
Tubefilter: How did you get started in crocheting? Was it something you grew up with, something you did as a kid, or did you get into it later?
SJ: When I was younger, my mom and my grandma used to knit, and that’s something I did try. What I used to do is just make a scarf. I didn’t know how to finish the scarf, so it would just be neverending scarves. I never knew how to cast off, so I’d just practice knitting. And then as I got a bit older, I moved in with my now-husband, who wasn’t my husband at the time, and I’d just finished my teacher training because I used to teach beauty therapy.
After I’d finished my university work, I found myself with a lot of extra time I didn’t know what to do with. My husband likes to watch the green, also known as golf and football—anything spor- related. So I just thought, I’m gonna start a hobby. I picked up a bit of cross-stitch, and then I got into crochet after seeing people making things on Instagram. I gave it a go and just fell in love with it, and it all went from there.
Tubefilter: This might be a controversial opinion, but why does crochet appeal to you when knitting decidedly does not?
SJ: It’s not that I don’t like knitting, because, you know, I am still drawn to it. I just find crochet easier for me. I think it works up a lot quicker, that’s definitely a benefit. I don’t know, I just think it came more naturally to me than knitting did.
Tubefilter: So how did you go from crocheting while your husband watched the green to being on YouTube?
SJ: I’d had a blog that started out as a personal blog, talking about anything beauty-related, and then it turned into lifestyle. Then I started talking a little bit about craft on that. So the blog came first, and with that I started building up a little bit of an Instagram following. Then someone had actually said to my brother—my brother actually started YouTube before I did, talking about organization and Filofaxes—somebody said to him, “Your sister should do a tutorial.”
And I was like, “Nobody would watch that.” But I was up for the challenge! I did it because I love the whole creative process.
It was a bit tricky to actually upload it at first. It took a couple of attempts, and then the final upload took about eight hours because our internet was not very good. Then as soon as I uploaded it, I realized the video title literally said “Title.” I had changed it, but it reverted back.
Tubefilter. Nooo. Oh no.
SJ: Yes. But I thought, “Nobody’s gonna watch it anyway, so I’m just gonna leave it.”
And then it gained a lot of traction really quickly, and I was hooked—no pun intended.
Tubefilter: It’s funny, we hear from a lot of educational or instructional creators that they were absolutely convinced no one would be interested. But it’s clear that a lot of people go to YouTube for DIYs and how-tos, because video can be way more useful than text and still photos for learning a complicated or high-motion skill like crochet or embroidery.
SJ: Yes, absolutely. And you know, it’s one of those things where if you are quite creative, then sometimes the written word isn’t the best format for you, so actually following along with somebody on YouTube is the best thing for many, many people, especially when they’re learning.
Tubefilter: So has YouTube become your full-time job now? Or Bella Coco as a whole brand, rather?
SJ: Yes, over the years it’s become my business. I just recently opened up a studio space, and I employ three people at the moment, one of them being my mum. Then I have a photographer and she helps me out with planning content, and then a community manager.
It has become a business, which is absolutely incredible. I never intended it to start out that way; I was just kind of doing it because I loved doing it. It’s crazy the journey that it’s taken me on and the road it’s led me down.
Once I started gaining a bit of traction, I gave up a few hours at my teaching job. Then it was really when I went on maternity with my eldest daughter, who’s now four and a half, that things grew even more. I just didn’t go back to my teaching job after that.
Tubefilter: That’s not surprising, given the amount of things you balance. Like, Bella Coco also distributes a monthly subscription box, right? That’s an entire full-time job on its own.
SJ: Yes, it is! I’m lucky to actually work with a brand partner on that, so they do a lot of the logistics, which is amazing because I did sell some yarn at the very beginning and I know how much work goes into that side. So I get to do the creative things, a huge job in itself, but that’s the really fun part.
Tubefilter: What does the average business day look like for you?
SJ: Well, it depends what day it is. At the momen, I kind of get two days a week to do all of my content, because my two daughters are at nursery. So on those days it’s quickly get up, get the girls dressed, drop them off at nursery, and then get back and cramming as much as possible.
So on a Tuesday morning, for example, we all sit down and have a meeting and do some planning for that week or for what’s coming up on the website or on new launches or products that we’re working on. Thursdays are my filming day, so I’ll literally just sit at my filming desk and film as much as possible, which I really do enjoy. It’s intense, but I enjoy it.
Tubefilter: How far out do you plan videos?
SJ: Oh, not very far. I should really plan more. I’ve obviously got lots of ideas and I kind of just jot them all down as much as possible because obviously the subscription box, that’s on a monthly basis, so as soon as you’ve done one you’re working on another. Sometimes I can be really ahead, but other times I’m just not. I would love to say “I’ve got six months of content planned,” but I don’t, is the reality.
My youngest has just turned one, so the last year has been a crazy blur with filming and all the different things I’ve got going on. It’s a hamster wheel, is how I describe it. I’m still on a bit of a hamster wheel at the moment.
Tubefilter: Let’s back up for just a second. What was that moment where you realized you had enough of a following on YouTube to start selling things? When did you think, “Okay, I’m gonna launch something and maybe people will actually buy it now”?
SJ: I always forget how many…I think it’s been eight years since my first crochet video, so it was probably a couple of years where I could really see that community building and I was having great conversations with people in the comments and also on other platforms as well.
And I thought, I want to be able to provide somebody with everything they need for that particular tutorial or for that particular project. So that’s when I started selling the yarn. I did that for about a year or so before I fell pregnant with my first daughter, and I just realized that it wasn’t gonna be sustainable. You know, these things happen, don’t they, sometimes you do really well for a while, but it doesn’t quite suit your lifestyle at the time.
So then I just sort of switched my focus to patterns, writing patterns that people could purchase. That’s the route I’ve continued to go down.
Tubefilter: Do you have any plans for this year, any new ventures you can talk about or any partnerships?
SJ: I’m currently working on developing a course for people who would like to do what I’m doing, basically. I constantly get messages of, “You’ve done so well, how do you do it?” And really it’s just determination and hard work, but there is a strategy behind it as well. I want to show people they can do it too.
I’m really excited to do it. It’s almost speaking to a niche within a niche. You’ve got people learning to crochet as a hobby and then those people who do want to turn it into a career like I have, and I want to help those people too.
Tubefilter: You mentioned having employees—do you have anybody working on the technical video side with you? An editor?
SJ: Not at the moment. I’m editing my YouTube videos myself. I did have somebody doing it for a little while, but I kind of took it back a bit. It is on the horizon again, it’s just finding somebody who knows crochet…and can edit.
Tubefilter: That’s quite a mix.
SJ: I need to duplicate myself.
Tubefilter: It’s interesting that you’ve gone from not knowing how to title a video to editing all your own stuff, producing these high-quality videos.
SJ: I love to learn. It’s the basis of everything I do, learning things, and I’m quite happy to sit and figure it out. All of the things that people don’t think about when it comes to YouTube videos, I find so interesting. The algorithms and editing and choosing the right titles—titles that don’t just say “Title”–I find that really interesting. I think that’s something that keeps me going with it all: there’s always something new to learn.
Tubefilter: Where do you see yourself in the next five years or so?
SJ: Oh, that’s a good question. I think just continuing to put out content that is helpful to the community. Just continuing to do what I do, but try and improve every step of the way to make it even better.
Tubefilter: Okay, last question. What’s the one thing you think has been crucial to building your presence as a creator and building Bella Coco as a business?
SJ: Listening to people who are watching the videos. Always listening to their feedback, whether it’s positive or there’s room for improvement. Thinking about what they would want and what I’m also inspired by. Yeah—listen to people, to your community.
Karat Financial is building better financial products for creators. Karat’s first launch is a business black card that provides better limits & rewards based on social stats- used by creators like Alexandra Botez, 3LAU, and Graham Stephan. Karat is backed by cofounders of Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube. DM @trykarat on Instagram and mention YouTube Millionaires for priority access.
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