A Creator Business Shuts Its Doors 🍨

Dylan Lemay closes his Catch’N Ice Cream in NYC

Good morning. What in the world is going on at OpenAI? The company behind generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT and DALL·E made headlines over the weekend after its shocking move to fire CEO Sam Altman.

Microsoft quickly hired Altman 48 hours later, but OpenAI employees are threatening their board with mass resignation unless it brings Altman back. It’s almost like an episode of Succession is playing out in real time.

Dylan Lemay Closes NYC Ice Cream Shop

Dylan Lemay (left) closes Catch’N Ice Cream (right), where staff tossed and served balls of custom ice cream blends shared on Lemay’s social media / Catch’N Ice Cream

After a year of scoop tossing and flavor innovating, ice cream creator Dylan Lemay closed his NYC shop, Catch’N Ice Cream from Dylan Lemay.

“Coming in as the new guy in NYC, you have to compete with institutions to get the locals, which we did well with towards the end,” Lemay told us. “But it was difficult at the beginning because we weren’t focused on that as much as my audience.”

Quick background: Lemay, who has a collective social following of over 16 million, raised $1.5 million from investors (including creators like Milan Mirg and The Korean Vegan) in 2021 to open Catch’N. 

Lemay spent a full year crafting a brand strategy that differentiated Catch’N from the competition before opening last August: creating a custom machine that made ice cream balls, teaching staff to perform his signature scoop toss with engraved ice cream scoops, and more.

So what went wrong? In short, the NYC restaurant market was too competitive. The city’s tourism industry hasn’t bounced back from Covid, rent has increased, and foot traffic decreased as neighboring stores around Catch’N closed. 

“Everything was expensive as expected, but our biggest thing is that we overestimated on space. It was our biggest cost and always hurt us,” Lemay said.

Throughout the last year, Lemay and his team opened a back-of-house ice cream making experience, started an events business, and experimented with ghost kitchens. All of those endeavors made money, but not enough to keep the brick and mortar in business open.

“We thought we were going to have those other businesses buffer [the costs], but it just never worked out with the timing that we planned,” he said.

Looking ahead: Lemay plans to shift his focus back to full-time content creation, a job that he doesn’t take for granted. 

“I want to encourage creators to not be afraid to try things because I did learn so much,” Lemay said. “As a creator our life story is also part of our content…[the store] is a part of my storyline and what’s going to push me forward into the next thing.”

How Did Sam Sulek Get So Huge?

College student Sam Sulek has been posting near-daily vlogs following the progression of his workout regimen / Sam Sulek

21-year-old bodybuilder Sam Sulek began 2023 as a relatively unknown YouTube creator with fewer than 10,000 subscribers.

Now, after a year of uploading near-daily vlogs to his channel, Sulek has become one of the fastest growing creators in the fitness niche by gaining over 2.2 million subs—all while posting zero YouTube Shorts.

Context: Sulek (who’s still in college) started to vlog his bodybuilding training regimen earlier this year. He plans to compete professionally, but he’s focused on graduating and making content for now, he told The Real Bodybuilding Podcast in August.

So what makes him stand out? vidIQ’s John Scott pointed out three things in a video analyzing Sulek’s strategy…

  1. Length: Sulek’s shortest vlogs hover around 20 minutes, and the longest ones are over an hour.

  2. Simplicity: The majority of his videos feature minimal editing and barebones thumbnails screenshotted from that day’s lift.

  3. Consistency: Sulek has posted 265 videos in 304 days since his first public upload on January 19.

Zoom out: A 2021 report from health news site Medical Daily said that YouTube hosts over 30 million fitness videos. A new trend in the exploding niche: Viewers seem to be flocking less to creators offering specific workout tips and more to those providing “aspirational content that gives people a window into the [creators’] lives,” according to content production executive Richard Wilson.

It’s no wonder, then, that Sulek’s most popular videos mainly consist of him just talking to the camera, like the fan-favorite monologues he delivers as he drives to and from the gym.

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Why TikTok Shop Is Courting International Sellers

Brands like TikTok Shop aim for international prowess / Illustration by Moy Zhong

TikTok Shop and marketplaces like Shein are eager to onboard international sellers (i.e. creators and companies) to position themselves as “global brands,” according to a report from Rest of World.

Between the lines: TikTok and Shein have relocated their headquarters to cities outside of their home country of China in recent years—moves that researchers say are intended to avoid the increase in scrutiny and import taxes currently being raised against China.    

Big picture: Creators’ abilities to 1) make content that resonates with local audiences and 2) move products within their communities appear to be playing a key role in the ecommerce companies’ strategies to improve their reputation on the world stage.  

“It’s not just about hiring local executives…it’s about actually having a deep sense of respect and building a kind of mentality to thrive in the local market,” tech analyst Ivy Yang told Rest of World.

👀 Creator Moves

🔥 Press Worthy

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  • We’re throwing a creator event in NYC in December—interested in learning more? Fill out this form.

  • The FTC sends a warning letter to select food creators about failing to disclose paid promotional posts, which could warrant fines up to $50,000.

  • YouTube is now letting motherhood and dance creators monetize sensitive content.

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