In the hit song Diamonds From Sierra Leone, Jay-Z famously rapped, “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.” Considered one of the most influential musicians that ever lived, Jay-Z was schooling listeners in a new, 21st century mindset, namely, the idea that a person’s entire life can become a brand. In today’s world of social media, we have the opportunity to share each moment that passes with countless numbers of people from all over the world. This potential influence brings with it an amazing opportunity to connect on a personal level with many people. Many have begun to notice this opportunity and take advantage of it as they turn their connection with the world into a business venture, and their followers into a market segment. We can learn from these individuals and apply some of their strategies as we develop and build brands.
One individual who has built his brand into a profitable empire is Columbus-based YouTuber and entrepreneur, Andrew McEwen. He began posting on YouTube in 2012 while finishing up the eighth grade. He has since grown his following to over 700,000 subscribers on YouTube (Mcew) and over 300,000 followers on Instagram (@mcew). He is also founder of the company Mcew.co, which sells custom shoes and clothing that carry his brand logo. At 22, Andrew now fully supports himself on the profits he earns from monetizing his personal brand on YouTube and Instagram, as well as from selling his merchandise. I sat down with Andrew to ask him a few questions about his secrets of building and maintaining a personal brand, and his strategies of growth.
How do you make your brand stand out from the rest?
Andrew: Doing what others won’t. It takes time, ideas, craziness, passion, people, and much more to run a [YouTube] channel. For some, they think it comes overnight. That’s not the case.
How do you create and maintain a relationship with your audience?
Andrew: Interacting such as events, commenting, liking, following, DM-ing, giveaways, etc.
This is something I think/work on everyday. A very important piece in building a brand.
What is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made building your brand?
Andrew: One mistake that comes to mind is if there comes a point where a decent amount of money is coming into your hands, hold onto it and be patient. Be critical as to where you want it to go. Other than that, I try not to think of the mistakes I’ve made, because I’ve made a lot and am still making a lot. Mistakes are inevitable, I try my best to deal with them and move on.
What is one of the biggest successes you’ve had building your brand?
Andrew: Where I am today. I look around me and see where I’ve gotten myself and it honestly feels like a dream. To have the opportunity to do what I love is the greatest success I could ever feel.
What advice do you have for someone who is rebranding, but would still like to maintain their audience?
Andrew: That’s difficult advice to give. Really depends on your audience. What I’ve told myself as an artist is, it doesn’t matter how I change as long as I’m doing what I love and I carry my core values such as inspiring, showing love, being creative, etc. I’d hope my audience accepts me for me.
Do you have any future plans or goals you’d like to share?
Andrew: Continue to put in the work day by day. It’s likely we will look to expand our team and delegate roles leaving myself with time to think/create BRILLIANT ideas. Right now taking care of every department such as finance, legal, web development, marketing, content creation, support, etc. is making my life too complex. I see where I can improve, it’s just going to take time. Big YouTube goal… 1 Million subs by 2020.
Do you have any advice for someone who would like to be in your shoes?
Andrew: I’ll say….
Don’t ever become complacent. There are always areas to improve upon.
Don’t feel discouraged even if there’s little to no growth. If I didn’t believe in myself from 8th grade to now, my dreams never would’ve become reality.
Show love over anything else. We are only here for a minute in the grand scheme of the universe… Why waste any second on negativity. Easier said than done, however having this mentality is crucial.
Be cautious of money, the way it can manipulate your thinking/relationships. It sucks because in business everything revolves around money. But look at money as the fuel for the dream. Fuel your team, Fuel your business, and invest in YOURSELF.