A Cranbrook school teacher who bakes in her spare time has turned a hobby into a fully fledged second career where millions of people around the world learn from her.
Jenn Johns has loved to bake all her life, and started a custom cake-making business in Cranbrook in March 2011.
Around the same time, she and her partner Paul Dalcanale began filming how-to baking videos in their home kitchen and posting them to YouTube with the channel name Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio.
But a funny thing happened: the videos became a hit. In May 2013, YouTube chose Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio to compete in its monthly On The Rise contest for the chance to appear on the mega-website’s front page.
At the time Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio had 35,000 subscribers. Today it has more then 450,000.
While they didn’t win the YouTube contest, it did lead to a phenomenal opportunity, Johns explained.
“Right after that contest, we were selected to join a YouTube program,” she said.
The six-month program, called Creator Accelerator, brought 35 relatively inexperienced YouTube creators to Los Angeles to learn more about filming, production and editing of their videos.
It ran from August 2013 to February 2014, and during that time YouTube flew Johns and Dalcanale to LA three times, each for one-week stints, to take part in the program at YouTube Space LA.
“It’s a huge facility that is meant for creators to come and be able to work on production and filming and editing and have support. It’s a beautiful, huge facility and they put a lot of money into it,” said Johns.
Outside of the three weeks in LA, the creators in the program had homework to do, which included collaborations with other creators.
Johns said she was particularly happy to work with Beth of Cooking and Crafting, and Hilah from Hilah Cooking, both of whom she now considers friends.
YouTube also gave Johns and Dalcanale new video equipment to help improve the quality of their show.
“It was almost surreal – to believe that we are this twosome of people who film these cooking videos in our kitchen in our house in Cranbrook, B.C., and we get to go down and experience the filming life of being in L.A.,” said Johns.
The training and the exposure YouTube gave them led to huge growth for Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio – channel subscribers increased by more than 10 times in little over a year.
The most popular video on the channel, How To Make A Rainbow Cake, has been viewed 8.7 million times.
“It’s amazing that we can have this connectedness with people from all over the world,” said Johns.
“It’s very humbling because we sit in our kitchen and it’s often late at night and we make these videos, and then we upload the video. What happens from then, you never know. The fan feedback that I get has been incredible, and people are telling me that I’ve given them the will to bake again.”
She refers to one particular message from a fan as her “creation moment”.
“A lady said, ‘I’ve just gone through chemo and I didn’t want to ever bake again. Watching your videos has given me the desire and the love to do it again.’ It’s stories like that that really get to me.”
Dalcanale works from home, so is able to prepare for filming while Johns is at work, teaching at Highlands Elementary.
“When I come home, he can have the lights and the camera set up and I’ve practised what we’re going to make, and we put the video together. Paul does all the behind the scenes stuff. Without him, I couldn’t do it,” said Johns.
You can find Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram and at www.cookiescupcakesandcardio.com.