I’ve got some pretty exciting news. I was recently featured in a YouTube Short produced by vidIQ! If you don’t know who that is, they’re one of the leading third-party tools for content creators. They’re not sponsoring this post or anything like that, but they did make this video and I thought I’d share it!
I was flattered when they reached out and offered to create this short about the channel and my journey to becoming an independent creator. They did a pretty good job capturing the broad strokes of my path to founding Heavy Element. However, seeing as they necessarily had to leave a bit of the nuance on the cutting room floor I thought I’d tell the full story here.
And what better time to tell this story than now, since September 2023 marks nine years since I started my channel! That’s just remarkable.
Initially the channel now known as Gardiner Bryant was called "The Linux Gamer." I made a name for myself talking about video games on – you guessed it – Linux. I created video reviews of my favorite Linux releases and celebrating my favorite open source operating systems. I did it all while working a 9 to 5 as a furniture delivery guy for a local furniture store.
I quickly found my niche online and an audience grew around the content I was producing. Right off the bat, there were multiple folks in the Linux community who recognized my work. People like Carl Ritchell of System76 and Ryan Lee Sipes from Thunderbird.
As the channel progressed and my numbers slowly climbed, my boss Kim took notice and offered me a new position at the furniture store. My new job was social media marketing. I was responsible for the marketing emails, Facebook page, and website. But, then, the opportunity arose for me to edit their next TV commercial.
I was there when they filmed the commercial. They shot it right there in the store, after all. I had also helped develop the script. So when the first edit came back and it wasn't to their satisfaction, Kim gave me the chance to edit it. Together with my colleague Laurie, we made the most of the opportunity.
Being eager to help with all things marketing and IT, my responsibilities grew. I continued doing weekly newsletters and most of the social media.
In the meantime, I started developing some backend software for the company. I identified key issues in the communication between the warehouse and back office and I knew I could fix them.
I created a webapp which tracked incoming damaged items (exceptions) as well as the lifecycle of customer repairs (warrantees).
So when I found the gumption to show Kim what I’d been working on, it was with a bit of trepidation.
I demonstrated how my project would keep all the relevant points of information in a single, authoritative place. I showed her how much physical paperwork it would eliminate and how many inefficiencies and bottlenecks it would remove from the exception tracking process. I'll never forget what she said:
"This is going to save me so much money." My anxiety over the project melted away and I knew I had done a good thing.
Eventually this internal system (what started to be called "the backroom") would encompass all kinds of business metrics, from tracking foot traffic, maintaining employee accounts, and even a daily calendar for appointments.
Meanwhile, my YouTube channel was doing better than ever. I was still talking about gaming, but I had moved out of the house I had bought with my now ex-fiance and into a tiny studio apartment. My channel consumed more than two thirds of the space and I really just kept my nose to the grindstone producing two videos a week and working 40 hours a week.
Soon, though, it came time for the next TV ad. This time, I was tapped from the beginning to help write and edit it.
"Take the First Step"
Laurie, Kim and I collaborated on the script. We worked tirelessly on it. We quibbled over adjectives and tussled over what visuals we wanted to associate with each line. But it was soon shoot day. Kim hired a cinematographer and Laurie and I were on set, fawning over every detail.
By the end of the day we were exhausted, but we had the footage and we got everything we wanted and then some. Laurie and I met with Kim the next day and recorded her voiceover. We took the time to ensure we got the best performance and multiple takes of each line, coaching her while she monitored her own voice through headphones. The results speak for themselves:
My channel was still growing, now more than ever. I had made friends with even more folks in the Linux and tech community, and while I was starting to burn out from the daily 12 hour grind, I was still really enjoying it.
We did one more ad as a team. It was an evolution of the previous more than a revolution. Though still excellent work in its own right. At this point, though, I was feeling the itch of entrepreneurship.
My grandparents, Joe and Bea Bryant, they were just that: entrepreneurs. At one point, they were one of the largest employers in their town. They restored antique cast iron wood stoves and they had a fascinating collection of mechanical music machines. Their museum was open to the public and it was a fascinating place to visit.
So you can only imagine what it was like to grow up surrounded by your grandparents being huge geeks about their passions. My grandmother loved cast iron wood stoves and dolls. My grandfather loved automated musical instruments, automobiles, and, of course, my grandmother. They built something beautiful, it stood as an institution for their small town and a testament to me: if they could do it, so can I.
And I mean, heck. I was halfway there. Between my day job putting my work on television for the entire state of Maine to see and my YouTube Channel putting my geekitude on display for an audience of 40,000+ people? I was at a crossroads.
So in 2019 I decided to quit my job to pursue my career as a YouTuber. And I did. I even moved to a new city.
But then the pandemic hit. I was living in a strange place with few friends nearby and with no real end in sight, I returned to Maine. For my own sanity. Even though it was a trying time, that leap of faith to strike out on my own has opened so many doors for me.
I was feeling the pressure to land on my feet because, at this point, it was more like I was walking a tightrope without a harness. I was working for myself doing my channel full time and it wasn't really making ends meet. That was until I started doing consulting work for another channel. I quickly thereafter incorporated as Heavy Element and now, I find, I wear a lot of hats.
For one, I'm a corporate president. but I’m a professional writer, a YouTuber, a host, a web designer, a consultant, an employer... the list goes on. But the one thing I’m not anymore is a furniture delivery guy.
Now, I’m not knocking it. I’m so grateful for the opportunities delivering furniture gave me. It was a winding road, and an unorthodox one at that. But I'm grateful for the grace I’ve been shown by Kim, Carl, and so many others who have believed in my work, helped me become the creator that I am today, and given me the ability to run a small business!
It’s because of these folks that Heavy Element now offers a plethora of creative services. From content creation and YouTube consultation to social media marketing and web design services. Heavy Element can help you find your audience and tell your story.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering: yes. Heavy Element was contracted in 2021 to help produce the latest commercial for Perry’s Home Furnishings & Design. 😊