It all started in the humble space of her living room.
It was 2009 and Cassey Ho, 22 years old at the time, had just moved from California to Boston, Massachusetts for an exciting new job as an allocation analyst. Her deep love and obsession for fashion made this job feel like a dream come true, but she quickly realized that this was not her calling. I know this because as my sister, she would call me every week saying so.
She instead found joy in filming evergreen Pilates videos in her 600-square foot apartment after work. Back in college, she taught Pilates at a few local gyms around town and when she left for Boston, her students lamented that they would miss her ab burning sessions. In response, she promised that she would send them videos to keep them motivated. At the time, she just heard about this cool new platform called YouTube.
She admits: "It was 2009. There was no monetization and I didn't even know what YouTube or a 'fan base' was."
Her old students were loving it and one by one, they shared the videos with their friends. As the number of views crept up, the humble beginnings of Blogilates was born.
Focus on creating and maintaining quality products.
In 2012, three years after her first upload, things became real and Ho had moved back to Los Angeles.
Other popular YouTubers began doing her workout videos and posting their transformation results. Celebrities like Olympian Lolo Jones, gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles, and actress Vanessa Hudgens began sharing her workouts and product on their own accord. People from all walks of life were resonating with Ho's life and company mission.
Fast forward to today, she's garnered over 4.1 million subscribers on YouTube, 1.2 million followers on Facebook, 1.4 million followers on Instagram, and has been named one of the top 25 most influential people on the internet by TIME Magazine.
"Throughout our growth, I made a point to never obsess about the numbers. It stressed me out to think about that, so I just focused on making quality content," Ho says.
She's now in charge of a multi-million dollar company that oversees her trademarked format Pop Pilates, a self-designed clothing line called POPFLEX Active, countless sponsorships with Fortune 500 companies, and PIIT28, a Pilates Intense Interval Training program.
Know your audience inside and out.
When people are excited to be part of a community, they want something physical to remind them of the motivation they have when they do the videos. For Ho, it started as a printed t-shirt, then yoga bags, then one-of-a-kind hand-sewn apparel, and now a complete activewear collection.
With a demographic of mostly young and professional women, she says it feels like creating with a best friend in mind.
"You have to gain their trust," Ho says. "Then, deliver quality products and services."
For other entrepreneurs who recognize that they have a die-hard audience, think about creating unique and specialized products that they can proudly sport and identify with, even if it's something as simple as a sticker
Know when to say no.
Just because Ho dove head first into retail with her community, doesn't mean it was always a smooth journey. "I have killed products before and it's hard because you invest a lot of time and money into it," she says. "Either you can't handle what you created or people are not into it. I've had both."
She points back to her recent Spring release of POPFLEX Active, in which they had issues with their manufacturer. The capris she had designed and fit tested hundreds of times, came back sewn completely wrong.
"Now we have thousands of capris sitting in the warehouse, but I'm not going to sell a product that doesn't fit and work right. I am going to lose that trust that I've built since 2009. I'd rather donate it, learn from my mistakes, and do it better next time."
With so many different products to manage, she has one big piece of advice when it comes to product creation and feedback:
"Sometimes the most vocal fans or customers also represent the smallest percentage of your audience, so you have to be careful of that. Don't get sucked into the complaints. For example, when I did a 40,000-person survey surrounding a specific complaint, the numbers proved that there wasn't actually a problem."
Never stop growing and adapting with the times.
These days, Ho measures success by, "how happy and at peace I can be while still growing. I don't like to be the same person day to day. I have to be getting stronger, better, faster, somewhere."
Her advice to the self-made entrepreneurs out there? The key to success is to start. Whether it's your dream to be a YouTuber or start a fitness company, don't question, don't doubt, and don't hesitate. If it feels right in your heart, the truth is that it will feel right in the hearts of those who need you, too -- perhaps all 4.1 million of them.