Starting A YouTube Channel And Blog Making $6,000/Month

Published: February 10th, 2019
Jon Shanahan
Founder, The Kavalier
The Kavalier
from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
started January 2015
Discover what tools Jon recommends to grow your business!

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Jon Shanahan and I run The Kavalier.

It started as a YouTube channel in 2015 to help guys find great undiscovered menswear brands just as the direct-to-consumer world was beginning.

Since posting my first video the online brand space has exploded which means more consumer choice but also a need for guidance.

I modeled my approach on The Wirecutter with the goal of delivering helpful, in depth recommendations by category. “Kavalier” is the 14th century German word for ‘Gentleman’, I’m working to reclaim the word and define it in a modern context.

Recognizing the need for my own presence I put up my blog in early 2018 but still focused on putting out a video every weekday. I’ve grown steadily each year, doubling my subscriber count every six months to 57k currently. Revenue is increasing at a similar pace, today about $7,000 per month.

Marrakech, Morocco 2018

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My days with a camera can be traced back to my parents’ Sony Handycam when I was 6 directing my friends to make mini movies (still somewhere around here on VHS) but high school was a defining time for that passion as I joined the video club.

There’s certainly no substitute for hard work and dedicating thoughtful time to what you’re working on. I’ve published over 500 videos in the last three years and it takes a lot of time and effort to get there but if you show up everyday you will be ahead.

I was a distracted student in high school but my one reprieve was making videos at the direction of my teacher Brad Schulte. One of my earliest projects is still on YouTube which received 700k views at a time when that was a big deal. Most of those views came from people searching for keywords which planted a seed.

I went to La Roche college for design and communications because I loved spending time in Photoshop and illustrator creating. I flourished in college (except for math class) and at the end of my first year I started working for Apple as they were opening a new store near my campus, the 2nd youngest employee in the store. It opened on my birthday in 2010 and it was pure euphoria. I switched my major to IT after realizing I wasn’t an excellent designer and could see a larger career path in tech.

Me @ Apple in 2013

Just before graduation I started full time as a video producer and social media manager for the largest law firm in Pittsburgh based on my prior experience. This was my first office job that I needed to dress wear a tie everyday and started my passion for menswear. I spent a lot of time researching brands, fabrics, designers and learned of this new world. You make a lot of mistakes when you start “dressing well” but you have to start somewhere. My girlfriend (now wife) always encouraged me to improve my style and has much better taste than me.

That lasted a year then I started a sales job with a local tech startup focused on helping the retail industry. Most of my meetings were with c-level executives in fashion so the stakes and my salary went way up. More clothing, higher budget. Learning more about the inner workings of the industry was inspiring and addicting. I did have an itch to create again and tap into my design/video background and my love of YouTube never dimmed. 2014 was a hectic year as my fiancé and I planned a wedding and I started a new job but on my honeymoon the idea for The Kavalier crystallized. It was the first time in 4 years I wasn’t actively focused on something for work or school.

I came home, registered the domain, wrote a lot of ideas and concepts for my direction, and decided I would post my first video in January. At the time online mattress startups were just permeating the industry and I wanted to do an honest comparison between them, that video took almost a year to finish. I hoped that someday I would be able to support myself via the channel so that I could produce content full time but had no written road map - just post great videos.

Take us through the process of getting started.

Before I started shooting my first video I had an idea of where I wanted to go and the format I wanted to follow. I recognized it was important to get something posted so I used my iPhone to record everything and just went for it.

I chose Frank and Oak as my first brand because I was a huge fan of the brand and very few people were talking about them online. At the time I was getting monthly deliveries of clothes from them so I decided my first year would be a video each month of my box, review it, and ask people to sign up with my link so I could earn some money to buy more clothing. I was familiar with Final Cut from my earlier roles and pushed through the agony of listening/watching yourself. It took about 1 week to get my first comment from a guy named Jaron which was thrilling. I used to get emails each time someone commented on a video. Had to turn those off after the first few months and I felt incredibly lucky.

My first setup

I didn’t have a built in audience nor a desire to publicly share a video from my spare bedroom that would have very few views.

I just posted the video and hoped people would find it. I barely told any friends or family about my channel until almost 2 years after I started it.

Describe the process of launching the business.

My startup costs were low. I was already buying a lot of clothes for my job, and I just used my phone to shoot videos.

If you have that idea you are excited about then go for it. It’s important to get ideas validated, have smart people poke holes in business plans, and start executing before you suffer from analysis paralysis.

It took 8 months to get 1,000 views on my videos as I was posting about twice per month. For a period of time I tried to find people talking about the brands and tweet my video at them but it felt too spammy. I finished 2015 with 800 subscribers. Because I was relying on people searching for brands and finding my videos, and not actively promoting myself. It was slow. I found success in covering as many brands as possible so that became my strategy in year 2.

I was working 50+ hours per week at my job and working between 5-7am just trying to get videos done. My “north star” has always been to help guys shop smarter and feel better in their clothing. I know that if I constantly work towards that goal I will see success. If I was chasing views, subscribers, or likes I would have given up in year 1.

If I could go back and do it again I would have reached out to other YouTubers and creators to connect, instead I lacked self confidence (and time) to do any outreach. If you’re a smaller creator looking to work with others, find a way you can help the other person and make a mutually beneficial video. YouTube channels always need new content ideas, inspirations, and research. Some channels are also more open to creating with others. In our space, Teddy Baldassare should get a lot of credit for using a video format used in the Tech-space and bringing it to the style world with his watch check video. Since then Brock and I have used this format for successful collaboration videos that everyone benefits from

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

When it comes to blog and YouTube content it’s all about quality, timing, and differentiation. There’s an insane amount of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, you need to stand out and niche down.

I recognize that my “guy” is a young-middle aged professional looking to invest in quality clothing items. There are opportunities to make more broad content but I can always see that staying in my lane yields the best results.

Keeping a pulse on the wider landscape is helpful as well. I am always looking to incorporate video ideas, topics, and formats from the tech world, women’s beauty, or edutainment group. Some of my most popular videos include pop-culture analysis, shoes, and underwear so I know the type of content that people are looking for and try to deliver the best version possible.

YouTube is an incredible platform to get reach and exposure but I am also conscious to make sure I am connecting directly to people that want more from me.

Engaging daily on Instagram, inviting people to ask questions in DMs and on Twitter, and growing my email list. I’d like my reputation to continue as honest and approachable even as I grow. So far so good.

Some of my favorite videos:

  • (00)7 Ways James Bond Breaks the Rules of Style:
  • Winter Boot Check (11 YouTube Channels Contributed):
  • Luxury Sneaker Buying Guide:
  • A History of The Swatch Group:
  • Running a Marathon in a Suit (In Memory of my Father)
  • A Breakdown of Jim Halpert’s Style:

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The first 2 years I shot videos in my spare bedroom, but when our second child was born I moved to a temporary space in my unfinished basement which is not tall enough for me to stand up in (I’m 6’4).

I find that the more you put yourself out there, people are willing to help and give advice. You don’t know what you don’t know and mentors can help point things out.

In 2017, I started construction on a studio in my backyard which used to be a rundown detached garage (below) which I finished in the summer of 2018 (part of my exit plan). That gave me the space to work from home but separate from the chaos of a house with two under two. Here’s a quick tour of the current studio setup.

Those holes in the roof were used by squirrels to store black walnuts for many years. The building was full of dust, insulation, and tons of walnuts.

I reached a tipping point in May of 2018 where I realized I could leave my $120k/year job and support my wife and 2 ½ children via the channel if we cut back on our expenses.

I set the goal of August to quit and my last day was September 7th. I am uploading a new video each weekday on various brands or topics and seeing nice growth, finishing 2018 with 55,000 subscribers and early indications of good SEO ranking on my blog.

Right now I am planning a complete change in content to move away from unboxing videos to have fewer, more well researched and produced videos that can be more helpful to guys.

In my videos I speak to most of my thoughts about style and purchases but I haven’t taken a step back to summarize that into videos so I have laid out my 2019 plans but need to start executing on them.

YouTube changes constantly and there are constantly new styles/channels so I am ready to evolve into what I believe will be the most effective strategy for 2019.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

There’s certainly no substitute for hard work and dedicating thoughtful time to what you’re working on. I’ve published over 500 videos in the last three years and it takes a lot of time and effort to get there but if you show up everyday you will be ahead.

I get a lot of questions and outreach from guys that “want to start something” but when I ask for updates on their progress they either didn’t put in the time or effort to follow through. It’s about starting immediately, figuring it out, and showing up everyday.

I have a pretty regular routine for my days that I know will produce results but I experiment with it all the time. Understanding how to arrange your day to the best of your ability to increase productivity is underrated by most.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Most of my time is spent doing research into brands and products which is primarily done in Evernote. I use a lot of notebooks, tags, and saved searches to make sure I am keeping important information for easy access later. For as many digital tools I try to implement I still love a good Moleskin and Post-It note to make sure I am scratching off tasks to get that dopamine hit.

Final Cut is my editing software, I create my thumbnails in Illustrator, email on GSuite, Accounting in Quickbooks, active files in Dropbox, and if it’s not on my calendar it doesn’t exist. I shoot with a Panasonic G7 w/ Rode mic, and LED panel lights. A new iMac Pro might be my biggest single line item expense this year :-/

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I listen to Audiobooks and Podcasts constantly so I am always trying to absorb any lessons and ideas that I can.


Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

If you have that idea you are excited about then go for it. It’s important to get ideas validated, have smart people poke holes in business plans, and start executing before you suffer from analysis paralysis.

It’s also been incredibly important for me to connect with smart people in any industry that can be a mentor. I have a handful of people that I’ve worked with or for that I know I can call with a problem and they’ll have ideas on solutions.

I find that the more you put yourself out there, people are willing to help and give advice. You don’t know what you don’t know and mentors can help point things out.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I am always looking for writers that are passionate about the brands and topics I cover to write for my blog. I have an excellent group of people now that are contributors from lifestyle content to product reviews!

Where can we go to learn more? is my main page and I am always active on Instagram as well @The_Kavalier