Michelle Phan is 28 years old and the most-watched woman on YouTube. She has more than 7.6 million subscribers and almost 1.1 billion views. Her videos are make up tutorials teaching viewers how to apply makeup to look like Barbie or an Avatar or Lady Gaga.
Phan also has a makeup line, a book, a media company and a beauty subscription service called Ipsy.
Her subscription service, Ipsy is currently her most profitable and news-worthy of her ventures. The 28-year-old make-up expert appeared at Forbes’ Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia in early October just after her beauty subscription company Ipsy, was valued at $500 million. Phan is now part of the Forbes magazine annual list of wealthiest millennials.
Here’s how Phan has built a $500 million dollar company from making and uploading makeup videos to YouTube.
Phan was one of the earliest YouTube beauty tutorial adopters, starting her channel in 2007. Phan’s first video was made on a borrowed laptop from her local community college. She told Kelly Osborne and an audience of fans during the Forbes’ Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia that after she uploaded her first make-up clip: “Within the first week, 40,000 people watched it and hundreds of comments came in, and that’s when I realized I’d found my calling,” she said. In the past seven years, she’s uploaded more than 300 videos; almost one video per week.
Michelle’s noticed her most popular videos were related to the holidays, especially Halloween. Her most-watched video of all time is the October 2009 “Barbie Transformation Tutorial” with more than 1 million views in just four days. When her “Seductive Vampire” tutorial was released a week later, her channel spiked to an all-time of 1.3 million views in just 24 hours.
Building on the success and popularity of pop culture icons like sexy vampires and Barbie, Michelle focused on producing makeup tutorials that related to trending topics or the hottest music videos. Her “Lady Gaga Poker Face Tutorial” landed on the YouTube homepage, gaining 1.6 million views in the first two weeks. Today it still stands as the second-most-watched video of all time for the channel.
She took her influence as a beauty expert on YouTube to build Ipsy in 2011. The company is a beauty sampling service which charges users a subscription fee of $10 per month for a ‘Glam Bag’ full of five sample-sized beauty products.
Her makeup sample service has more than 1 million subscribers and growing, thanks to her YouTube influence. The company has more than $150 million in annual sales, a rapidly growing subscriber base and a valuation of $500 million.
But Phan is not ready to rest on her laurels. Upcoming projects include a mobile app and other ways to reach her customers with video tutorials. “Influence is the new power–if you have influence you can create a brand,” said Phan.