12 content creators who’ve built business empires

Notch

Instagram tips

How do creators turn their content into thriving business, with multiple streams of income? We set out to analyze some of the most successful creators-turned-business-owners to answer this question. With exclusive insights from mega creators like Tori Dunlap of Her First 100K and Zack Honarvar, manager of Yes Theory, this article will help you understand the secrets to the success of some of the most successful creators—and how you can replicate it.

1. Thomas Brag, Ammar Kandil and Matt Dajer @yestheory

Seek Discomfort Instagram page

Yes Theory consists of Thomas Brag from France, Ammar Kandil from Egypt, and Matt Dajer from the US, who met in Canada and decided to launch a YouTube channel in 2015.

Focusing on mostly travel and lifestyle content, each Yes Theory video is a unique story. Their mantra is: “We believe that life's greatest moments and deepest connections exist outside your comfort zone.” 

Thanks to the success of their digital presence, they launched Seek Discomfort, a casualwear clothing brand. Ammar from Yes Theory told us that this generates the majority of their revenue nowadays, which they use to fund new video projects.  

When it comes to fine-tuning your Instagram strategy, Yes Theory Manager Zack Honarvar @zackhonarvar advises to stick with the key themes of consistency and authenticity.

“Instagram is a platform that often leads to more success when creators stop treating it like a portfolio of their top curated photos and videos and lean into a more raw, unfiltered, and authentic perspective into their lives.” 

“Instagram is a platform that often leads to more success when creators stop treating it like a portfolio of their top curated photos and videos and lean into a more raw, unfiltered, and authentic perspective into their lives.” - Zack Honarvar, Yes Theory's Manager

He says it’s important that “an audience can have a more day-to-day look into the lives of some of their favorite creators” on Instagram compared to other platforms.

2. Tori Dunlap @herfirst100K

Quote from Tori Dunlap, herfirst100K

American Tori Dunlap is a “Personal Finance Expert” who sells digital products and courses. She started as a financial influencer and built Her First $100K on the side of a 9-5 job in marketing.

Tori first attracted attention from media and social media users alike when she told the world that she saved $100K by the age of 25. She now has a multi-seven-figure business, is the author of the upcoming book “Financial Feminist,” and has a combined online following of 2 million.

In addition to speaking gigs, Tori works on brand partnerships via her Instagram account. She has 642K followers and simultaneously runs @treasuryapp, which is an investment community with educational tools to help women invest without fear.

The Her First 100K Instagram account has a clever mix of financial tips and tricks as well as chatty videos, witty memes, and comedy Reels.

Giving away so much value for free also helps. Tori tells Notch: "Listen, you can have all the followers in the world, but if they aren’t engaged with your content, you won’t see the conversion you need to support your online business.

At Her First $100K, we focus on attracting an engaged audience by providing value-packed, actionable content that is both relevant and relatable to our community. By giving away so much high-value content, we have built a genuine relationship with our audience built on trust.”

In the long term, this provokes action, purchases, and repeat purchases. Tori clarifies: “Because we strive to provide as much value and information as possible through our free content, our audience trusts that our for-purchase products will have even more value that will directly benefit them.”

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3. Nuseir Yassin @nasdaily

Nas Daily Instagram

Nuseir Yassin is an Arab–Israeli vlogger who first started gaining popularity in 2016 when he quit his New York tech job to travel the world. He is most notable for creating 1,000 one-minute long videos daily and posting them on his Facebook page, hence the name of his handle “Nas Daily.”

The Nas Daily channels focus on posting thought-provoking stories from around the globe. In the words of Nuseir himself: “We make short videos about things that matter.”

He claims to have 46 million followers on the internet with 3.2 million on Instagram alone.

In 2020, Nas Academy was born, consisting of online classes for creators by creators. Its mission is simple: “Empower Creators through technology. Starting with education.”

Since its inception, the Nas Academy community is thriving with 78,647 alumni and 100,000 students worldwide.

The original Nas Daily Instagram account is still being used to inspire people with short, engaging videos. However, it also generates interest for the Nas Academy through behind-the-scenes looks into the team, news, and events.

4. Zoe Sugg @zoesugg

Zoe Sugg Instagram

Brit Zoe Sugg started out as a blogger in 2009 before becoming an early adopter of YouTube and Instagram. She was initially praised for her frank and honest content where she spoke openly about mental health and her anxiety at a time when it was still taboo.

It wasn’t long before Zoe gained a name for herself as one of the UK’s biggest initial influencers for teenagers (being a teenager herself). She was often featured in the press and worked with numerous brands. She even launched Zoella Beauty in 2014, which was sold in major UK stores.

Then followed the book deals. Zoe has launched a trilogy of her own books starting with “Girl Online” in 2015.

Nowadays, the Zoella blog is now a popular lifestyle magazine run by a team of people. She is the co-owner of the Filmm app alongside A Color Story, which offers video effects and filtering for iOS. She also co-founded the Template app that offers layouts, fonts, custom brushes and illustrations for your Instagram feed and Stories.

Her 9.3 million Instagram followers are still going strong as Zoe continues to share snapshots of her life and family candidly.

To encourage app downloads, Zoe uses presets and effects on many of her grid photos and directs people to the associated handle. Collectively, her posts produce a prominent feed that’s one of its kind and continues to draw in her audience. 

5. Laura Clery @lauraclery

Laura Clery Instagram

American Laura Clery is best known for her comedy sketches and vlogs on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. She has single-handedly created the most-loved characters of Ivy, Pamela Pupkin, and Helen Horbath of “Help Helen Smash.”

With over 3 million followers currently on Instagram, Laura has a combined following of 22 million followers across all platforms. This loyal audience is responsible for her gaining extensive book and brand deals.

At present, she has authored two books based on her life stories — “Idiot” (2019) and “Idiots” (2022) — in addition to launching her own “familywear” brand called Boibs.

Boibs infuses Laura’s sense of humor into t-shirts, hoodies, hats, face masks, and kidswear. She also sells Laura Clery merchandise on her website and promotes items via her Instagram account.

Laura keeps doing what she does best (making funny videos) to grow her audience and business empire. Her Insta content is very real and relatable, mixing in edited sketches with off-the-cuff posts where Laura sits down and chats with her audience one on one. 

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6. Vex King @vexking

Vex King Instagram

Born in England, Vex King’s father passed away when he was just 6 months old. His mother raised him and his siblings in a traditional Indian household, but he had a difficult upbringing and was often homeless.

It was these childhood struggles that led Vex to work as a mind coach and help others, becoming famous on Instagram for his self-love quotes and daily inspiration. Now his followers surpass 1.1 million and he is a number one Sunday Times bestselling author of two books: “Good Vibes, Good Life” (2018) and “Healing Is The New High” (2021).

As well as being an in-demand speaker, Vex has a t-shirt collaboration with fashion brand Luna & Noon. His new project is The Rising Circle, which offers guided meditation videos on YouTube.

In terms of prolonging his Instagram success, Vex sticks to the short quote feed posts that made him famous. Consistency is a key focus for his account.

Having said that, Vex sometimes mentions his books in his long captions to drive more sales. Likewise, he actively uses Stories to post customer reviews of his books, capitalizing on the fact that the majority of consumers read reviews before making a purchase.

7. Lauren Bullen @gypsea_lust

Lauren Bullen Instagram

Australian Lauren Bullen taught herself photography and originally freelanced for clients all over the world while building her Instagram account.

This Instagram account focuses on travel, fashion and lifestyle content and currently has 2 million followers. Lauren’s audience is very engaged, with each post receiving thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.

As a result, she was able to launch Tone Studio off the back of her account. This app offers over 70 photo and video editing filters, advanced editing tools, and cool overlays for creators. 

Lauren also built a Bali home that she offers up for nightly and monthly rental on Airbnb as another income stream. Nowadays, she supposedly makes six figures while continuing to travel the world just by owning this home and posting “cool photos.” 

8.  Lorna Andrews @lornaluxe

Lorna Luxe Instagram

Lorna Andrews is a Mancunian living in London with her husband John. She started a fashion blog in 2015 and an Instagram account soon later. Both provided a creative outlet where she could share her outfits while working as an air hostess for Virgin and then in customer services for homeware brand Rockett St George.

Over the years, Lorna has managed to grow her Instagram account from zero to 1.4 million followers.

Off the back of this account and the loyalty of her audience, she now has her own fashion collection with In The Style, one of the top UK high street fashion retailers. Her first edit launched in 2020 and became the retailer’s fastest-selling collection ever —10,000 items were sold in just 10 minutes.

Lorna now uses her Instagram channel to continue the momentum of her fashion collection, uploading intimate chatty Stories where she offers sneak peeks of upcoming drops. She also posts the carefully curated outfit shots on her feed that she’s known and loved for. 

Her lavish, jet-setting lifestyle and mantra to “breathe it all in, luxe it all out” is what attracts her audience and compels them to stick around to see what Lorna is doing next.

9. Chiara Ferragni @chiaraferragni

Chiara Ferragni made headlines when it was announced she was considering an IPO for her personal brand, which would make it a public company on the Italian stock market. 

Reuters reported at the time: “It would be tiny, but likely the first IPO to feature a one-person brand solely built on web self-promotion.”

Reuters reported at the time: “It would be tiny, but likely the first IPO to feature a one-person brand solely built on web self-promotion.”

So, who is Chiara Ferragni? 

Chiara is an Italian blogger who started her career in 2009 with The Blonde Salad and went on to build a loyal Instagram following. She initially covered travel, beauty and food content before being offered collaborations with both high street and luxury fashion brands like Dior and Louis Vuitton.

In 2013, Chiara launched the Chiara Ferragni Collection just offering footwear in partnership with Luisa Via Roma. In 2015, Forbes nominated her as the “Most Powerful Fashion Influencer.”

In 2016, Chiara became the European ambassador of Amazon Fashion and reportedly made 17 million Euros ($20 million) from her projects.

Fast forward to 2022. The Chiara Ferragni Collection now offers clothing, accessories and kidswear. It has four flagship stores and over 300 bricks-and-mortar locations.

Chiara herself has 26.8 million followers on Instagram. Her content leans towards fashion but also features her family and personal life. She makes sure to feature items from the clothing brand to drive her followers to the product pages.

There is a good mix of video and photo content to maintain the personal connection she has built with her audience over the years.

10. Alex Cannon @alexcannon

Craftdldn Instagram

Brit Alex Cannon became a model at the age of 18 while working as a part-time bartender and growing his Instagram account. He was traveling the world at 25, posting both organic and sponsored content on the go.

Off the back of the success of his Insta, he launched a jewelry brand called CRAFTD @CRAFTD in 2018 with business partner Danny Buck. It provided “cutting-edge design” that was “still high in quality.”

Forbes reported that CRAFTD grew by 400% in 2020 and was worth $150K, whereas Alex himself had a net worth of $2 million. 

His 377K Instagram followers can expect professional modeling and product shots. They can also expect insights into Alex’s lifestyle, from family trips to friendly meet-ups around the world.

It’s this balance of authentic versus edited content that keeps his audience enticed and makes them want to continue following him and his brand.

11. Huda Kattan @huda

Huda Kattan Instagram

Iraqi-American Huda Kattan began blogging about beauty in 2010 when she decided to quit a financial job she was “miserable” in. She attended a prestigious makeup training school in Los Angeles while blogging and running her YouTube and Instagram accounts.

People were primarily drawn to Huda for her talented makeup looks that were easy to recreate.

In 2013, Huda Launched Huda Beauty in Dubai mall’s Sephora with her two sisters after she couldn’t find false eyelashes to buy. It’s been a huge success ever since.

In fact, Huda Beauty sells over 140 products and brings in $200 million annually. Huda even launched a new skincare line in 2020 @wishfulskin to supplement the business.

Huda has 2.4 million Instagram followers at the moment who view, like and comment at every opportunity. She uses her Instagram to showcase her professional achievements, such as magazine covers, article features, and influential figures she’s met. This builds credibility and authority in her niche.

The other side of her Insta account is the makeup video tutorials that Huda is renowned for, alongside lifestyle content. She is the first to report product and industry news, keeping her followers in the know.

12. Kayla Itsines @kayla_itsines

Australian personal trainer Kayla Itsines launched her Instagram account in 2013 and began posting free workouts for her audience to follow.

In 2015, she co-founded @Sweat with her business partner and former fiancé Tobi Pearce. This paid monthly app provides its users with workouts, community and education. It features Kayla’s signature 28-minute workouts along with 5 key programs.

In 2020, Sweat reportedly made $100 million. In 2021, it was sold to fitness-tech company iFit for a reported $400 million. Even so, Kayla remains a brand ambassador and head trainer for the platform.

In 2020, Sweat reportedly made $100 million. In 2021, it was sold to fitness-tech company iFit for a reported $400 million.

Kayla is considered one of the original fitness influencers and as such, has 14.2 million followers on Instagram. Her account mostly features quick workouts and nutrition tips, along with motivational quotes and life content.

She uses different types of Instagram posts, from carousels to Reels, to deliver content that will educate, inspire, and entertain. The free workouts serve as a teaser for the paid membership, which are posted regularly to stay in the minds and hearts of her target audience.

The takeaway

From fitness programs and makeup brands to photo editing apps and merchandise, these 12 creators show that there are plenty of ways to build money-making machines that leverage Instagram followings. 

While their business ventures differ, they all consistently post high-quality content that they know will resonate with their target audience. They’ve honed their niche and content pillars based on their audience’s early response to their posts and continue to “give people the goods.”

Above all, the creators who find the most success on Instagram stay true to their personal brand. They don’t compromise their values or content for the sake of likes. They are unapologetically themselves, which never stops being attractive to existing acquaintances and strangers.

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