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This Latina Abuela's Crocheting Tips Made Her a YouTube Sensation

06/24/2016 03:26PM | 6997 views

When we hear of YouTube sensations, many of us think of millennials or post-millennials. And yet there is at least one Latina baby-boomer making six figures with her YouTube channel.

Yolanda Soto-Lopez, 55, of Chula Vista, California, is fast approaching half a million subscribers to her bilingual All Crafts Channel. She has over 70 million views so far and her subscriptions are growing at a rate of 10,000 a month.

As a young woman she was torn between studying fashion or becoming a teacher. As the daughter of hard-working immigrants, fashion seemed too risky, so she became an educator. Still, she crafted in her free time, as a hobby.

Soto-Lopez married young. She now has a daughter, 35, and a son, 30, as well as five grandchildren, ranging in ages from seven to 17, and her husband is a retired firefighter.

"Now I feel I get to do both the things I like. I design all these things people can make," Soto-Lopez said in an interview with NBC Latino.

This Mexican-American abuela with a background in education did not set out to be a YouTube sensation. It all started with a comment during a women's service at church when someone suggested they start a knitting group.

Soto-Lopez had been crocheting and knitting her entire life, so she quickly volunteered as an instructor. The problem was that the students wouldn't make progress between classes, and one of them asked her whether she could perhaps share her tips on YouTube.

"I didn't really know what YouTube was!" she said, laughing. "I asked my son about it. I thought you had to be 18 or have cats to be on it!"

Her son taught her the basics and set up her channel. She didn't even have a fancy camera or lighting. Her first videos were shot using only her laptop.

"I was just doing the videos for the women in my church. When they told me I needed better lighting, I rounded up the lamps from around the house so they could see my hands crocheting."

Soto-Lopez's channel started off with a handful of subscribers. Back then, YouTube required that you have 26 subscribers to be able to set a custom thumbnail for your videos. So she enlisted some help.

"Being a Mexican, when you have a problem you call your mom! My mom then asked my tías and cousins to subscribe to my channel," Soto-Lopez said.

That effort alone took her to exactly 256 subscribers. The women in her knitting community enjoyed her videos and she kept recording and uploading them to YouTube.

A few months later, she realized she had over 3,000 people following her channel.

"I thought I'd been hacked! I had no idea other people could see my channel! My son asked me if I wanted it to be private, but no, I thought it was cool that other people could learn to knit and crochet with my videos."

Around a year later, Soto-Lopez received an email from YouTube, asking her whether she wanted to become a YouTube partner.

"I told them I didn't really understand that, but that I'd love to be a part of their club. They were very sweet and let me know it wasn't a club. It meant I could make money with ads."

Four years ago, not all YouTubers could monetize their channel with paid ads. She thought that would be good way to pay for her yarn.

"I also signed up to their video academy and realized everything I had been doing wrong with my channel. One year later, I was making $35,000 on ad revenue alone."

She has more than tripled that figure by now.

Despite her financial success, Soto-Lopez did not realize she was a YouTube sensation until she was invited to attend the CHA (Craft & Hobby Association) convention in Anaheim, California.

"This is when it first hit me that people knew who I was. All this time I'm in my bedroom doing videos! Before I even collected my badge at the conference I had taken tons of pictures with people I didn't know! At first I thought they were confusing me with someone else."

As she walked around the showroom, she realized brands also knew her.

Now that she gets over 10,000 comments a day on her channel, when asked what she does for a living she proudly answers, "I'm a YouTuber!"

The reactions to this statement are mixed. Younger people think it's really cool. "They get it!" she says. But her peers don't always understand it. "They say they worry about me, and ask me when I'm going to get a real job!"

Soto-Lopez now sees herself in a different light than when she uploaded her first YouTube video. She has authored two books on knitting and crocheting, by Leisure Arts, Inc. and sees herself in the speaker circuit, motivating and inspiring other women to pursue their real passion, no matter their age.

Despite being 55, her biggest viewer demographic is millenials. When asked why, she doesn't hesitate.

"I think it's because millennials, well, their moms had to work outside of the home out of necessity, or because they wanted to have a career, so they couldn't teach the kids how to knit or crochet. My young viewers write to me and tell me they feel I'm their tía or their grandmother teaching them."

Soto-Lopez encourages anyone who would like to start a YouTube channel not to overthink it.

"Do what you do best and be yourself, and people will find you. You don't need the best camera and lights. If you grow and get better, then you can invest in the right equipment."

Now YouTube is her full-time career, not something she dabbles in for fun.

"I have a schedule, I work certain hours a week now, One video can take 30 hours," she said. "I have to sketch and write the instructions and then do it. But nothing worth making is ever easy."


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