I recently had the pleasure of speaking with YouTube sensation Cassey Ho, creator of POP Pilates and the Blogilates YouTube channel. With subscribers and views surpassing one million and 96 million respectively, Cassie has built a tribe of “POPsters” worldwide dedicated to maintaining an active lifestyle. I caught up with Cassey shortly after she wrapped taping of her first appearance on the Doctor Oz show, which you can check out here. In the below interview, Cassey shares her road to success and how she’s conquered the speed bumps along the way.
Amanda Healy: At under 30, the empire you have built is beyond impressive. Tell me, how did you get started in your career?
Cassey Ho: Thank you! I have been practicing Pilates for 11 years and teaching classes for eight. After graduating college in 2009, I broke the news to my students in California that I was moving to the east coast. As consolation, I promised I would put together a Pilates video. I uploaded it to YouTube and after watching, they wanted more… I just couldn’t say no!
AH: Did you study fitness in college?
CH: Funny you ask… in Asian culture there are only three acceptable career paths; doctor, lawyer, or engineer. I was pressured by my family to be a doctor, so I was studying biology and minoring in business, which was my actual passion. I was entrepreneurial since a young age, selling cookies and candy to my classmates in Middle School. I grew this business as I began high school, “hiring” five of my classmates to help bake and sell the goods before school each morning. While attending college, I began designing yoga bags while continuing to teach Pilates classes.
AH: When did your interest in business eclipse your need to satisfy your parents’ expectations?
CH: I was in my junior year of college when I realized my heart just wasn’t in medical science. I was pulling the grades, but something didn’t feel right. So I did what any sensible student would do; I dropped out of Organic Chemistry to sabotage myself from taking the MCATs. My parents were irate. My father refused to speak to me aside from telling me that I would never be successful. I completed my undergraduate degree then packed up my things and took a job in Boston as a Fashion Buyer.
AH: Yikes, talk about brutal… tell me about your experience in Boston.
CH: Being a fashion buyer aligned with the business I had built designing and selling yoga bags in college. Unfortunately, I absolutely hated the job. One day on my commute I was flipping through SHAPE magazine and came across a page with one of my yoga bags featured! On impulse, I quit my job and booked a trip that Friday to leave for China Sunday to find a manufacturer. It was time to take my side project mainstream.
AH: Why China?
CH: Canton Fair in China is a known mecca for scoping out manufacturers. It was my first time in Asia and even though it is my place of origin, I don’t speak Chinese – it confounded the locals! I toured thousands of vendors before returning to the States then had a few free months while waiting for the samples to arrive. During this time, my YouTube channel was really starting to take off. I was able to produce videos on a regular basis, combing through the comments to pick up on what my followers were looking for and tailoring future videos to their requests. Shortly after, my channel reached the million view mark – the world was watching!
AH: And did your Internet success help change your family’s beef?
CH: Up until this point they had thought my side endeavors were a waste of time. But throughout it all, my confidence never wavered. Eventually my parents came around and began to be supportive… today they are my biggest fans.
AH: How were you able to build such a large community?
CH: I think a big proponent of my channel’s success is that I am the same silly, honest girl who posted her first video so many years ago. People relate to them because I’m unapologetically me. I’m your neighbor, your coworker, your friend, just an average person you’d meet on the street. And I have the best followers in the world. They find one another and share my videos to anyone who will listen. It really comes down to everyone working toward the same goal; a healthy and positive lifestyle.
AH: Aside from family issues, what challenges have you faced?
CH: Something that was difficult was learning how to place a value on my services. People want to know: how much for this? How much for that? Be prepared to have an answer at the ready and to have a pricing strategy. Also, be careful who you work with. If an individual or brand does not share the same values I hold myself to, I will not do business with them. Blogilates is grounded in motivation, inspiration, strength, and happiness. My partners or endorsements must resonate with the brand.
AH: What is the most rewarding element of your job?
CH: I love attending the Blogilates meetups. Seeing 500+ of my POPsters dressed in neon colors, sweating and laughing, it brings it all home. It’s a crazy environment, with total strangers feeling as if they’ve always known each other. It’s a beautiful sight because often when groups of women get together they try to tear each other down. But at these meetups they really build each other up.
AH: What other advice do you have for young professionals?
CH: Make friends with those you admire in your industry. Surround yourself with great people, people with good energy. Negative people will only suck the energy out of you and leave you feeling defeated. Be around people who inspire you to be better.
AH: You started with YouTube videos and have now expanded into merchandise, cooking classes, meetups, and more… what’s next?
CH: We are in the final stages of creating a Blogilates social network. This has been a longstanding dream of mine, to connect POPsters around the world so they can plan their own meetups and coach one another. I’d also like to do additional TV appearances in the future because it will help grow the community and promote awareness.
AH: One last thing – what is the most important thing you have learned along the way?
CH: There’s a quote, “Right when you’re about to quit, that’s when the miracle happens.” Believe in yourself when no else does, and push yourself harder than anyone else can. I’ve always had the confidence to know I’d make it through. I’m a doer and a driver and I’ll work my butt off to make it all work. If there’s one thing I’ve found, when you give it all is when you receive.