From struggling Chemistry student to YouTuber, Melissa Maribel is now helping thousands of students pass their exams. Her positive energy and talent for simplifying complicated concepts have helped her grow a YouTube channel with over 33,000 subscribers.
What’s your business about?
We make fun instructional Chemistry videos on YouTube for high school and college students. We also sell digital downloads like e-books or notes that guide students through specific topics. It’s currently me and my brother working on this, as well as some part-time freelancers we hire.
What inspired you to start your YouTube channel?
It actually started off with me not understanding Chemistry while I was studying to become a dentist. I was failing some courses and struggling badly, but then I found a way to teach myself and I finally understood it. I started tutoring and I fell in love with teaching.
I was tutoring for over 10 years, doing very long hours, like 60-hour weeks. It was physically and mentally draining and my brother saw that and suggested I do something else. I still loved teaching, so that’s where the idea of YouTube came.
With YouTube, it’s not one-to-one, it’s one-to-masses, it’s scalable, and we’re able to make our own schedule.
With your background in Chemistry, did you learn anything else to become successful on YouTube?
Yes, we did two courses, which were very helpful, and we’re still learning. The first thing was a course in March 2018 that we won from a YouTube Creator, Tim Schmoyer. It helped us get to our first 10,000 followers.
Once we reached that point, we applied for Youtube’s “Next Up Creator Camp” and we won. Essentially, they teach you how to do proper audio and video production, how to grow your channel and many other things.
How did it go at the beginning?
It was awkward at the beginning! I was used to tutoring on a one-on-one basis where I saw the student and their reaction. It was very interactive. But, when you turn on the camera and you’re kind of just talking to yourself, it doesn’t feel personal.
I remember we deleted the very first video because it was terrible. But, I realized I need to think of a student when I’m talking to the camera and then it just comes out naturally.
In the beginning months, it was exciting just to see 200 views. The first few months when we got our first thousand subscribers was probably the biggest deal to us because it was one of the toughest things to do.
What did you do to reach a 1000 subscribers?
One thing I did was comment on other YouTubers’ videos and answer people’s questions about Chemistry. Another thing I did was social research. For example, if you search “chemistry help” on Twitter, you’ll find students looking for help with Chemistry questions. So those were great tools for me to start getting eyes on our channel, and I still do this from time to time.
How do you figure out what content to put out?
My content is curriculum-based, so there’s a specific order and timing to it. Plus, I’m always asking my audience to let me know what questions they have or what they’re struggling with. If I get enough people telling me they want to learn more about thermochemistry, I’ll make a video on that topic.
It’s also based on my experience as a student and a tutor. When I was tutoring, I figured out the different learning styles of my students and what works or doesn’t, so I apply that in my videos.
How did you decide to create and sell your digital products on Sellfy?
While I was tutoring, I noticed that many of my students weren’t taking the best notes, so I created notes for them.
I used to just write things down, highlight and make it all look nice. I saw how, especially girls, love to have really pretty notes, so my goal was to make the notes polished and to match the aesthetic of our channel.
My students would ask to take a picture of my notes and they’d be amazed by how helpful they were. And so I typed my notes on the computer and thought “why don’t we sell these?”.
Everyone was saying so many great things about my notes for 10 years, so I just thought it’s time to put them on the YouTube channel to sell.
How much time did it take for your YouTube channel to reach its current level?
It took two years to start, and I wish we had started earlier. We did our first video in July 2017 and it’s nearly 60,000 views now.
At the beginning, our style was completely different. It’s hilarious to look back at it now. We’ve learned so much throughout the years; it’s been a process of trial and error.
Is it a side gig or a full-time job?
At first, it was a side project and we were just testing the waters, seeing if this was going to work. I was still tutoring full-time, 60 hours a week and, on the side, I was doing YouTube. We actually didn’t go full-time until June 2018.
To make the switch, we moved back home from our nice apartment and we converted my brother’s old bedroom into a studio. It’s been an investment but I can definitely see where it’s going to go.
How do you make money with your YouTube channel?
You have to get creative, that’s for sure. Having multiple streams of income is important, especially for our business, since it’s seasonal and dependent on students being in school.
Our digital products are our biggest source of income. Next is AdSense on YouTube, then affiliate programs and sponsorships.
And then, consulting, which Ryan does to help other beginner YouTubers grow.
How much money have you made so far by selling your digital products?
Since launching our Sellfy store in February 2018 we’ve made over $5000 with the digital notes. That’s allowed us to reinvest in better video and audio equipment.
We made our biggest day on Cyber Monday, it was about $400 just on notes because we had a sale. The business has been growing a lot more since then.
What’s the role of Sellfy in your business?
Sellfy has helped provide more value to my audience as quick and easy as possible. I didn’t want to spend too much time learning how to make a website on my own, and Sellfy made it easy to convert my ideas into an online product. My store was up and running quicker than anticipated.
What’s up next, what are your ambitions for the future?
Financially, our immediate goal is to make $5000 a month and then to go to $10,000 a month. It would allow us to hire more people and lessen our load, which is a lot.
We’re now working on turning our digital notes into physical notebooks. We’re also planning to create online courses, workbooks, flash cards, and pretty much any helpful resource that I can come up with. I also teach Organic Chemistry on our second channel, so we’re going to be doing the same process for the other channel as well. I’d say that’s our plan for the next two to three years.
As for the overall vision – I always knew I wanted to have an impact in the world, I knew I had to do something with purpose. I didn’t have the mentor I wanted in college, so I decided to become it. My vision is to be that resource for students who are struggling with Chemistry, who want to give up or think there’s no hope. I would also like to create my own scholarship program to help students pay for college.
How has having this business changed your life?
It’s given me a lot of purpose and clarity about what I’m supposed to be doing in life. And it’s funny because I first majored in Chemistry to become a dentist. So, this whole process has radically changed my life.
Another thing is seeing that I’ve changed people’s lives and I’ve helped them not quit on their dreams.
I helped hundreds of students when I was doing one-on-ones, which is great. But, being on YouTube has allowed me to help thousands around the world, and it’s such a beautiful feeling.
What tips would you give to people who are just starting their online business selling digital products?
Get to know our audience, especially in the beginning stages. It’s extremely important to ask what your customers want to see and why they want to see it.
Once you understand what your audience likes, you kind of start gaining momentum because you get clear on whether they want your product or not.
Validate your idea first to avoid investing your time and money into something people won’t buy. For us, our digital notes were the minimum viable product to validate our idea for physical notebooks.
Make sure to check out Melissa's well-branded YouTube channel .
Zane is the Customer Success manager at Sellfy. She is passionate about helping others succeed, and she loves inspiring others to pursue their ambitions.