Colin & Samir: From Lacrosse to Leaders of the Creator Economy

September 26, 2021

Some people meet through mutual friends.

Some meet through shared hobbies.

Some meet through dating apps.

But I think the only people to meet through creating lacrosse content on YouTube are these two amazing humans - Colin Rosenblum & Samir Chaudry.

Or as you may know them, the hosts of The Colin & Samir Show - a weekly video series that breaks down the creator economy and welcomes creators to share their journey.

There are few creators as dedicated to the creator economy as these two. I've personally watched every video they've put out over the past couple years and can't get enough of their content. While they haven't reached Mr. Beast stardom in the public eye, over the past decade they've slowly honed in on their sweet spot for the kind of content they want to create.

But it hasn't always been a smooth ride.

In fact, they "quit" YouTube for a period of time because it didn't seem like a viable career path.

Before we go too deep, let's unravel how they go to where they are today.

How They Started

In 2011, when most people thought being a YouTuber meant being unemployed, both Colin and Samir started making videos and putting content out into the world on their own.

At the time, Samir had just graduated from college. Hailing from the creative city of Los Angeles and playing lacrosse, a foreign sport in LA, his goal was to start the NFL Network for lacrosse. He knew it wouldn't be popular enough to be on TV, but wanted to create it so he took to YouTube.

The Lacrosse Network was formed and the first office consisted of:

  • a 6-foot folding table in the bedroom of his parent's house
  • a couple laptops
  • one camera (Sony XF105)
  • and a whole lot of determination

They started out filming high school events and within a few months of getting started, Samir came across another YouTube channel in Colorado that had just released a trailer for a new lacrosse video series.

The creator of this channel, Colin, had the exact same drive and motivation to create lacrosse content.

However, at the same time, he had been working 40 hours a week at the front desk of a hotel after graduating with an Economics and Italian degree from University of Colorado. He played lacrosse in college but as he was working at the hotel, he had dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

He lacked some of the necessary creative skills at the time, so he got a Canon 60D off Craigslist and a bootleg version of Adobe Creative Suite and went to work.

First, he headed back to his alma mater and began recording videos with the Colorado lacrosse team. He loved being behind the camera as the content was very personality-based so he decided to create a video series, Club Ball, that followed players week-by-week and relied heavily on the storytelling aspect of video creation.

Creator takeaway: Create content around something you love and aim to fill a gap in the market

Since Samir wanted to create a media brand for lacrosse, he was viewing his channel as a network - which meant they needed to acquire content.

The storytelling and filmmaking quality from this channel in Colorado resonated with him, so he reached out to Colin and convinced him to move out to LA for a 3 month internship.

Back then, they were probably the only two people in the world creating lacrosse content so naturally, a relationship was formed.

The Lacrosse Network

To get a better understanding of what type of content resonated with the lacrosse audience, Samir spent a lot of time deep in lacrosse blogs and forums and interacted with members of the community. Colin also wrote for a lot of the blogs and reached out to them for distribution help as he was launching Club Ball so he knew there would be some viewership within the community.

They also used The Lacrosse Network as a distribution channel for other creator's content to build relationships and brand within the lacrosse media space.

Their network didn't have funding initially, so to stay afloat in the beginning they helped Samir's family launch a clothing line to earn a portion of that income. This work consisted of brand development, design, and creating content for the social media accounts.

In true entrepreneur fashion, their time was spent packing boxes, shipping them to Urban Outfitters, and trying to build a media brand all at the same time.

Whatever it took to stay alive while still being able to create videos was what they were going to do, and they gave themselves 2 years to figure it out.

Creator takeaway: When building a creator business, it takes a lot of time to evolve and having financial pressure when you're trying to evolve puts significant stress on the creative process. This slight bit of income from the clothing line allowed them to create freely, avoid monetizing too early, and focus on building their brand the right way.

Together, they built The Lacrosse Network from 2011 to 2014 and ended up selling the brand to a New York-based media group, Whistle Sports (at the time, that company had also just brought on the channel, Dude Perfect). But rather than just selling the company and washing their hands of it, they were still focused on building the brand as well as working with other creators on the team to help build out sports & other athlete's content across social media.

In the process of audience development, they were creating original content and Colin's show was the biggest show on the network. Their standard videos were doing 2,000-5,000 views and Colin's series was doing 20,000-50,0000 views. The Lacrosse Network was filming live professional games and highlights, but Colin's docuseries was performing best because it was character-driven and incredibly relatable. The series was just a group of guys who loved playing the sport of lacrosse and together, they decided that storytelling was how they were going to focus their content over time going forward.

This ended up paying off as they had a vision of working with Nike. The potential collaboration served as one of their "North Stars" and to make it happen, they had to build something elite and premier enough that someone like Nike would want to put their name on it. When working with brands and athletes, you have to have a certain level of production and quality. So they made up for the stigma of being a "just a YouTube channel" with high-quality videos & storytelling and sure enough, they ended up working with Nike.

This collaboration then led to several more with brands like Adidas, Gatorade, and New Balance over the next couple years before leaving the company to start the now popular YouTube channel, Colin & Samir.

Since its creation, The Lacrosse Network has grown to 160,000 subscribers and over 1,600 videos.

Fast forward to today, that 3 month internship has turned into a decade-long relationship.

They've been creating content together since then and have since pivoted from lacrosse into the creator economy, but it hasn't always been smooth sailing.

How They Financially Supported The Transition to Full-Time Creators

From what I can gather, they supported themselves through everything from selling stickers all the way to doing agency-style client work for a real estate company.

Many creators take the route of doing freelance/project work because it allows them to refine their craft, earn income, and focus on building towards being a full-time creator all at the same time. It also can open doors to new opportunities because you're constantly networking and building relationships with people and since creators are essentially "building in public", your public portfolio is always on display.

However, this style of work is also challenging. Income isn't guaranteed, clients don't always pay, and the pay isn't always good.

The journey towards being a full-time creator almost forced them to quit.

In fact, they did quit.

Temporarily.

In late 2019, right before the pandemic hit, they had $3,000 in their business bank account, they were 30 years old, had been creating together for almost a decade, and decided they were going to move on from the dream of being career creators.

From a lifestyle perspective, the creator journey didn't feel sustainable and they were going to take the media skills they'd developed over the years and get "real" jobs.

Colin moved back home to the East Coast and they recorded a video - that went unpublished - titled "We're Getting Jobs".

via Colin & Samir

However, little did they know, they were about to land a brand deal that would change everything.

Creator takeaway: The reason they struggled to gain traction with their creator business from a monetization standpoint was because they didn't have a clear audience. They were treating their channel like a production company rather than a true YouTube channel and were creating videos for other people's brands rather than building their own. In 2019, they decided they were going to build their own brand and focus on trying to build the holy grail of monetization for creators: monthly recurring revenue.

The biggest shift that took place in their content creation was that they defined their audience.

This allowed them to create content with target personas in mind: aspiring creators, career creators, people who work with creators, and the non-believers (people who don't believe creating is a viable career).

This shift allowed them to begin building community because they had clarity on the content they were going to focus on, which was creating a channel that gave creators the tools they needed to succeed. To turn their channel into a business, they could then seek partnerships with brands that were also giving creators the tools they needed to succeed.

Jumping forward a little bit, in January 2020, just a few weeks after Colin moved back home, he got an email from Samsung inviting them to an event in San Francisco in February.

Just like how Nike was their 'North Star' brand for the Lacrosse Network, Samsung was the North Star brand for their creator business.

The Samsung event went so well that they ended up signing a year-long brand deal with Samsung, fueling their next wave of creative efforts.

Now, they have an office in Venice, 10 people working for them, a healthy, functioning business and it came from clarity around the content they wanted to create, the lifestyle they wanted to live, and being wildly intentional with their content creation.

The Story of Colin & Samir

A Look Inside Their Creator Business

Now in 2021, a decade after starting their creator journey, they're at a point where they can be full-time creators.

Their operating expenses are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars which consists of paying team members, their workspace, and other miscellaneous expenses.

For their revenue, it comes from multiple different sources.

But first, one thing I like about how they approach their income is regarding ad revenue.

Samir has said that they have never, and will never, attribute ad revenue to any part of their business. This is because it's fairly small and also irregular. So rather than relying on ad revenue like many creators do, they treat it as icing on the cake. This forces them to build a true operating business and expand outside of just content monetization.

via Twitter

I believe their brand partnership with Samsung is the most significant and highest-paying income source, with the StoryBlocks partnership presumably falling somewhere behind. They've used long term brand partnerships as the backbone of the business, allowing them to focus more on their creative efforts.

Additionally, they've branched out into DTC (direct-to-consumer) products recently as well as in the past. The first product I'm aware of that they created was Boardies, an LA skateboard brand, and have since created a storytelling course and a new creator brand, Press Publish.

Right now, I believe their creator business is monetized through a few different ways:

In an interview with Graham Stephan on the Iced Coffee Hour, Samir stated that their goal is to "educate and empower the next generation of storytellers". If you've been watching their content for awhile, you can see how it's shifted from its previous messaging and format to better reflect this new purpose.

Essentially, they're building a roadmap for how to thrive in the creator economy by bringing on guests to their show and allowing them to share their stories around how they became creators. This visibility allows viewers to learn about how successful creators built their businesses, mistakes they made, and things they would have done differently to speed up growth.

They've also created an NFT called "A Seat at the Table" and it sold for 9.7 ETH (~$29,000).

Quotes & Top Takeaways

"Growing an audience online, you're basically aggregating a bunch of people to point them in a certain direction and your ability to point them in that direction determines the value of you as a creator. If you're getting a million people to watch you, but you don't have that ability, it doesn't matter"
"Value goes way beyond production value. The value (provided) to the audience is what the true value is."
"The most dynamic thing is when the personality becomes bigger than the topic. Then you can talk about anything"

For aspiring creators who want to build a brand deal-fueled business:

"1) Define the audience you want to create for

2) Find a sustainable format that you can get consistent with to build community

3) Once you have community, you can create a valuable situation for brands to get access to the community and can point that community in different directions"

About YouTube & monetization

Different styles of content have drastically different CPMs (cost per thousand views)

• For example, Graham Stephan's channel that focuses on financial content earns a ~5x higher CPM than Colin & Samir's content

• Think about what type of advertiser would want to sell their product to the people watching your videos

A personal finance takeaway

Samir loves getting coffee and he's baked that daily cost into his fixed expenses. He values that daily coffee and it's important to him and I'm the biggest supporter of this. Most people talk down to someone when they say they get coffee every day because it's an "unnecessary" expense.

However, money is meant to be enjoyed. As Ramit Sethi mentions in his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich, he talks about defining your "rich life" and spending frivolously on the things you love, and spending nothing on the things you don't and Samir's love for coffee is a perfect example of this principle as I'm sure there are a few other areas where he doesn't spend as much as the next person.

On creating opportunities from creating content

In an interview on the Iced Coffee Hour with Graham Stephan, they explained how they created a video around Cam Newton's new YouTube channel and it flopped (from a viewership perspective). However, someone from Cam's team saw the video, they reached out, had a meeting, and new opportunities came from that engagement.

Remember: Just because a piece of content doesn't "work", doesn't mean it won't produce results in a different form

The Wrap Up

Colin & Samir are without a question one (or two) of the greatest minds in the creator economy. They've mastered the skillsets needed to become creators, and are now taking what they've learned & observed and helping lay down a roadmap for what it takes to be a career creator. Their content consists of strategies & stories from other creators, as well as their own perspectives from their journey to full-time creators.

If you haven't checked out their YouTube channel, you're missing out of some of the best content on the internet. Even though they "only" have 300,000 subscribers, the effort they put in and the quality that comes out is better than most large media outlets.

They're a growing force in the creator economy and I can't wait to see how they continue to evolve and grow as creators.

via one37pm

More Colin & Samir content:

The Story of Colin & Samir

Bo Burnham's Complicated Relationship with Himself

The Full Story of Mr. Beast

He sold his company to Amazon for $970,000,000 ft @Justin Kan

How Tai Verdes used TikTok to gain 7,150,656 Fans

We Quit YouTube


Featured on:

[Podcast] How Much Money Colin and Samir Make on YouTube | The Iced Coffee Hour Podcast

[Podcast] Ground Up with Matt D'Avella - The Process w/ Colin & Samir

Find Colin & Samir:

Subscribe to their creator economy newsletter, The Publish Press

Instagram: Colin, Samir, Colin & Samir

Twitter: Colin & Samir

YouTube: Colin & Samir, Colin & Samir Clips

#latergang 😉

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