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How Five Local Friends Turned Their YouTube Channel, CboysTV, Into A Full-Blown Business

With over 700,000 YouTube subscribers, the CboysTV YouTube channel is possibly the biggest thing locally that you don’t know about. With their constant stunts, shenanigans, and carefree attitudes that are portrayed on their YouTube videos, you might discount their business acumen, but you shouldn’t.

CJ Lotzer

CJ Lotzer

Age: 24

Specialty: Filmer, Producer, Editor and Talent 

Favorite Cboys’ moment: Spending 24 hours in the backcountry of Utah, sleeping in snow caves that we dug ourselves. 

Inspirations: Rob Dyrdek, Jeff Tremaine, Logan Paul and Joe Rogan

Favorite thing about running a business: Getting to wake up every day to go to work with my best friends while watching the business grow as we keep putting in hours and hours of hard work.

Goals for CboysTV: To hit 1 million subscribers, average 500k views a video within the first 24 hours after posting, remodel/build our new shop into a dream shop (Fantasy Factory) and continue to enjoy doing what we do.

One bucket list item: I think it would be fun to move the whole crew to Hawaii for a month.

What drives or excites you?
New experiences/activities, creating new content that people like to watch, getting to meet like-minded individuals and hear stories of their successes and failures.

How would you describe the other members of the group?

Ben – The cool kid who’s pretty much good at anything and everything.

Micah – The most genuine kind-hearted guy you’ll ever meet who also happens to be a mad man when it comes to graphic design.

Ryan – Extremely reliable hard worker who’s always down to tackle a hard task.

Ken – The voice of reason within the group, extremely uncoordinated but hilarious to watch on camera. 

What’s one thing that people should know about the business side of what you guys do?
It’s a ton of work. This job requires about 95% of your time and when there are five people involved who have somewhat of a life they are trying to live outside of the channel/business, it requires a lot of coordinating and sacrifice to keep everyone happy while maintaining the same output and quality of content. People only see the side that is portrayed in the videos, which 99 percent of the time is fun and I think they think that is all we are ever doing. When you watch the edited video that’s released to YouTube, it usually looks like it was flawless or everything went so smooth, but there’s a lot of thought and work that goes into things to make them go the way they do usually. 

How can the community better support you?
Hit the subscribe button, just kidding, only if you want to. Something everyone could do would be just spreading the word about our channel. We understand it’s not something everyone will enjoy watching but if you know of someone who might be interested we would really appreciate it! Also, we are always looking to collaborate with other businesses in the area. If anyone has any ideas out there we are all ears!

What’s the biggest misconception about you or the group?
That we are extremely reckless. If the only thing I saw was the video I would probably think that too though. Like I said, it’s often much different in real life than how it appears in the video. 

Are there any books, podcasts, tutorials or pieces of content that you recommend people check out?
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a pretty popular book so I’m sure a lot of people have already read it, but it taught me a lot about the right ways to go about dealing with conflict when it arises.

Michah Sandman

Micah Sandman

Age: 25

Specialty: Graphic Design, Merchandise Coordination, Video Editor, King of Sarcasm

Favorite Cboys’ moment: So hard to narrow it down to one moment… I would say back when we did the Slip ‘n Slide. Those days were unbeatable. Other than that it would probably be when we travel. We see new places and meet new people and they always seem to be the most memorable parts of my time.

Inspirations: Seeing my friend’s dads all building/running their own businesses, Nelk Boys (YouTube Channel), the rest of the Cboys, and the people who always believed in us from the start.

Favorite thing about running a business: Making my own hours, my own to-do list, and your own money.

Goals for CboysTV: 1 million subscribers by the end of 2020. Budget time and money to turn the new shop into the ultimate fantasy factory.

One bucket list item: I want to solo skydive.

What drives or excites you?
Creating something from nothing and seeing people get stoked about it. Having a fanbase that finds what we are making genuinely entertaining and worth spending time or money on. It really isn’t possible without them. So in the end, the support drives and excites me.

How would you describe the other members of the group?

Ken – The dad that watches out for everyone and everything, but the rest of his personality is a complete mystery.

Ryan – Hardworking with a pretty strong moral compass and an ability to drive the boys across the country like a champ.

Ben – Truly entrepreneurial at heart, usually taking charge in ways we can keep our business running smoothly and also grow it at the same time, very productive.

CJ – Comes up with a lot of our video ideas and usually has a strong sense of what the next move on YouTube should be, he has a strong gut.

What’s one thing that people should know about the business side of what you guys do?
It definitely takes up more time than the fun side of what we do. 

How can the community better support you?
Honestly, for starters, I think we would be happy if more of the local community just knew who we were! Secondly, I would want them to recognize that we are truly just having fun and not trying to be a nuisance in any way.

What’s the biggest misconception about you or the group?
It would either be between the commonly said, “You only have all of those things because of your parents.” And, people thinking that we just screw around 99 percent of the time.

Are there any books, podcasts, tutorials, or pieces of content that you recommend people check out?
I don’t have any one certain suggestion. But some general advice from me would be that you can learn just about anything on YouTube. That’s how I learned how to edit videos.

Ben Roth

Ben Roth

Age: 21

Specialty within the group:  Personality, editor, producer and money guy.

Favorite Cboys’ moment: At Hay Days last year, we had a massive line for eight hours to meet and take pictures with fans, seemed surreal

Favorite thing about running a business: Being my own boss on my own time.

Goals for CboysTV: Hit one million subscribers and then five million

What drives or excites you?
Making 25 minute movies week after week with my best friends. 

How would you describe the other members of the group?

Micah – Incredibly creative both with designs and with video. 

CJ – Visionary. Sees trends coming before anyone else.

Ryan – Problem solver. Any problem I’m stuck on he’ll figure it out.

Ken – Forever loyal. Almost too loyal.

What’s one thing that people should know about the business side of what you guys do?There’s so much more behind the scenes than the people see for creating these 20-minute videos. It comes off as just a couple of friends having fun, which is exactly what we want. But at the end of the day, if we’re not making money, we can’t continue to produce these videos. Whether it’s getting companies to sponsor the video and integrating it in an entertaining way or promoting the merch for giveaways or sales we’re running, we’re always trying to monetize our platform while also staying true to who we are. We create value for our viewers by giving them a 20-minute outlet to forget everything going on in life and just be happy and entertained.

How can the community better support you?
If you enjoy our videos, tell someone you know to check us out!

What’s the biggest misconception about you or the group?
That we’re reckless or trying to be like Jackass. We hate being compared to that because we try and make our videos more creative and funny than anything harmful or reckless!

Are there any books, podcasts, tutorials or pieces of content that you recommend people check out?
I try to consume as much YouTube content and podcasts from other creators as I can. I try to find what works for them and the production they put into their videos and try to apply it to our own. Staying aware of what other creators are doing is extremely helpful.

Ryan Iwerks

Ryan Iwerks

Age: 23

Specialty within the group: Driver, Maintenance Man, Wheelie King

Favorite Cboys’ moment: One of my favorite Cboys’ moments was hosting an event called Cakes and Octane last summer. We decided to host a car show at the Cormorant Store gas station parking lot, and serve pancakes as a bonus. We had all of our parents cooking pancakes and selling tickets to raise money for Jessy’s Toy Box. None of us had much experience hosting an event, let alone a car show. We put together the event in under a week, and when everyone started showing up it was total chaos. Way more people than we expected showed up. It was so much fun to have people from all over come to our small town for something as simple as pancakes. At the end of the event we all sat down in our chairs exhausted, but we were all in such high spirits because none of us could believe how well it had went. I remember the high fives and how pumped all of us were to have pulled it off as a team.

Inspirations: I grew up watching shows like Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, and Nitro Circus. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those shows shaped me into always wanting to have fun and push the limits at whatever I was doing.

Favorite thing about running a business: My favorite thing about running a business is learning something new every day. I’m definitely a hands-on learner. As you can imagine with a bunch of guys in their early 20’s running a business, we’ve learned some lessons the easy way, and many many more the hard way.

Goals for CboysTV: My goal for CboysTv is to keep growing our platform and change the way the offroad lifestyle industry looks at marketing and entertainment.

One bucket list item: The top of my bucket list is to ride a bull! One day when I’m older I want to look back and say, “Yep, I really did that.”

What drives or excites you?
One of the biggest drivers in my day-to-day work is working with my friends. I feel in debt to each one of them because I know how hard they work to keep us moving forward. So, I take that energy and try to go the extra mile each day to make a positive difference in their life. I get excited each milestone we cross, or each video we sit back and watch together as a team, knowing that we built something together is a huge reward.

How would you describe the other members of the group?

CJ- Sticks to his guns. He understands the YouTube community better than any of us and understands what risks to take to create a high view video.

Ken- Ken is wise, he often takes a much more mature approach to everything we do, but that maturity has definitely saved us from making a lot of mistakes over the years.

Micah- The most creative guy I know. Each time I see a new design, new logo or video, I can’t believe that he can create something that so many people love out of thin air.

Ben- Is energetic. You can always count on him literally bouncing up and down at the thought of some new idea almost every day. His enthusiasm pushes all of us outside our comfort zones and has made us accomplish more than any of us think we can.

What’s one thing that people should know about the business side of what you guys do?CboysTv requires much more planning than what many people would think. After 200+ videos, finding something entertaining to film isn’t always that easy, and keeping the business behind the videos running is no easy task. We frequently have meetings to plan out the next few weeks and what needs to be accomplished. An important thing we have to consider is if a video will be profitable or if it will cost more to film than it will make, and weighing the options of if that cost is worth it to create new opportunities or ideas. Part of the beauty of what we do is making it look easy and stress-free, but behind closed doors, when the cameras are turned off, all of our brains work extremely hard to create something we are proud of every single day.

How can the community better support you?
The communities can help by allowing access to locations where we can hold events. The biggest challenge for us is to find a space to hold meetups or events that can handle a crowd but also be a cool place for us to invite people to.

What’s the biggest misconception about you or the group?
That we are a bunch of punks who don’t work! It’s become a bit of a joke to all of us now, but we work extremely hard for the opportunities we have created, and take a lot of risks each week to continue supporting ourselves. We might be considered younger guys, and right now our job might be to make it look like we have fun 24/7, but I know as we grow we will take the business skills that we are learning now and put them towards other more mature areas of work as we get older.

Are there any books, podcasts, tutorials or pieces of content that you recommend people check out?

Podcasts:

  • How I built this
  • The Art of Manliness
  • Heavy Checklist
  • GaryVee

I don’t have (or make) time to read books, so whenever I drive back and forth from Fargo to the lake, I knock out a podcast and the drive always seems to go faster, plus I can learn a thing or two!

Ken Matthees

Ken Matthees

Age: 25

Specialty within the group: I’m in charge of product fulfillment and customer service for CboysTV Merchandise.

Favorite Cboys’ moment: Any day filming on the lake is a good day.

Inspirations: Danny Duncan and Nelk are major inspirations that help drive our content creation. Elon Musk is also a major inspiration for his ability to find a problem, create a solution and make that solution into a new business venture. 

Favorite thing about running a business: I love the challenge of finding new ways to do things. 2020 has forced us to be more flexible with our planned videos since we aren’t able to travel to planned events. These last couple of months we’ve had to learn to be much more flexible with our merchandise planning because of the ever-changing inventory supply issues with our vendors.

Goals for CboysTV: We’re currently just shy of 700,000 YouTube subscribers so the next major milestone is to cross the 1 million mark. One thing we’ve been taking more seriously this year has been diving deeper into our analytics and more objectively examining what is and isn’t successful with our audience. 

One Bucketlist item: One thing I would like to do in the next couple of years is to go on an expedition to Antarctica. 

What drives or excites you?
One of the most exciting things we get to do is travel to new places. This last winter we worked with Polaris and 509 to shoot a snowmobile video in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

How would you describe the other members of the group?

Micah might not always have things done on time, but he always makes up for it in how the end result turns out. 

Ben is able to make a decision and stick with it when everyone else might not have strong convictions. 

Ryan is great at deescalating situations. 

CJ is great at having a vision for the future and coming up with a plan to get there.

What’s one thing that people should know about the business side of what you guys do?
The videos only show a small portion of what goes into keeping everything running. There’s a significant amount of work that goes into getting everything ready for filming. 

What’s the biggest misconception about you or the group?
People mainly think doing YouTube can’t be a full-time job. However, to really be successful on YouTube, it has to be your full-time job. It takes a lot of time to create ideas, then figure out a way to execute those ideas all while keeping in mind what shots will be needed to make things flow once the video needs to be edited.

The Cboys' headquarters

Our photographer had trouble finding the location of the Cboys’ headquarters on Google Maps but was eventually able to locate the space by finding the aerial shot with the burnout marks in the parking lot.

When you talk to the Cboys away from the camera, they’re mostly business. Though they do have fun, (when we went to interview them they spent time showing off their most recent project, a homemade potato gun), they’re also always looking for a new angle, trying to improve a process or learn from mistakes they’ve made. There is not a single member of the current five-man group that shouldn’t be classified as a full blown entrepreneur that focuses the majority of their time and effort on the business. Lotzer, Sandman, and Roth take turns editing videos and will spend anywhere between 16 and 20 consecutive hours editing their most recent video when it’s their turn. They put out two videos most weeks. Iwerks handles most of the business operations and Matthees handles customer service for merchandise. Each member falls into a crucially important role within the group. However, with just a five man crew, responsibilities overlap and shift on a daily basis. They say the communication and trust between one another are key to this.

“I have full trust for anyone in the group,” said Iwerks. “I know they’ll shoot for the moon.”

After just over three years of putting out content on the channel, the group of friends from Cormorant, Minnesota are on pace to generate $3 million in revenue in 2020 after bringing in $1.1 million in revenue in 2019. The channel has over 118 million views all time. While the monetization of those views through YouTube does generate some revenue, most of their revenue comes from a line of merchandise that they design themselves! Their other forms of revenue include Wide Open Parts, which includes different parts and accessories not directly made by the group, and Erased Products a cleaning supply brand that they purchased.

The Merch Game

CboysTV merchandise

The Cboys have been hanging around one another long before they were putting out videos and making money off of merchandise. The entire group was childhood friends except for Micah Sandman. Sandman met the group in 2014 while working at Jimmies Pizza in Hawley, Minnesota. At the time, Sandman was at the end of a year-long recovery from breaking his foot and says he was lonely because he was unable to do a lot of the things he had been doing with his usual friend group. After hitting it off with him at the pizza joint, they invited him over to play video games the next day and they’ve been hanging out ever since.

Though they didn’t know it at the time, Sandman was a crucial addition to the group since he has the most graphic design knowledge and ended up going to a Minnesota State Community and Technical College to study it. He now uses that knowledge to design all of the groups’ merchandise and graphics.

“A good design in my eyes, since I’m more apparel/brand based, is something that warrants a compliment or praise. If you see something and go, ‘woah that’s cool,’ then that design passed in my eyes. And, whatever the wording is in the design shouldn’t matter a whole lot. What I mean by that is that it could say Cboystv or potato, and if the font and design are cool, it doesn’t revolve a lot around what it says.”

Though, like most successful entrepreneurs, the group’s path to success in most areas of their business is 1/2 luck and 1/2 experimentation. The group originally distributed their merchandise through a third party which cut into their margins, they do it on their own now. They also used to drop individual items of merch one at a time, now they put out whole lines of merch.

“One thing we’re trying to do better is inventory,” said Lotzer. In their most recent merch drop, they sold out right away, meaning they didn’t quite order enough. “We’ve also had times where we’ve ordered too much stuff.” 

They’re still learning, however, they’re constantly improving while doing so.

One thing that more traditional businesses could learn from the Cboys is the usefulness of the giveaway system for generating revenue. In their most recent merch drop, the Cboys are incentivizing shoppers to buy by giving away a $12,000 RZR RS1 Side by Side. For every $5 of merch bought, the customers get one entry into the drawing. The group has been using this method of increasing revenue for a while now and say they will probably never go away from it.

Sandman originally came up with the idea to do giveaways and offered up his dirt bike in the process. “It was a $2,500 dirt bike at the time,” said Lotzer. “So originally we were like ‘woah’. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sell enough merch to cover the cost of that. But, we did $10,000 in sales which was a lot at the time, so, we kept doing it.”

The RZR RS1 prior to customization.

The RZR RS1 prior to customization.

The giveaways also serve another purpose that ties into the creation of their content. Each toy that they giveaway is customized and typically at the end of each video they add another piece of customization to the toy in order to hype it up and sell more merch.

You have to be careful how you sell to people,” said Lotzer. “Nobody wants to feel like they’re getting sold to.”

“Hyping it up is huge,” said Roth.

Cboys try to keep their merch room as stocked as possible but sold out the majority of their items quickly after putting out their most recent line.

Building CboysTV

Life of a Cboy was the first video ever posted on the CboysTV YouTube channel on July 21, 2016.

Whether or not they were making videos, the Cboys were going to be spending time with one another. It’s that bond that makes them all selfless when working to accomplish something. What is now a full-blown business today, started to take shape in 2016 when they began recording some of the things they were already doing; wakeboarding, snowmobiling, dirt bike riding, making giant slip and slides all while highlighting their personalities along the way.

The third video ever posted on their YouTube channel sits at 2.1 million views the first video ever posted sits at 218,000 views. Though they may look like instant success, they showed a great deal of intentionality along the way while trying to grow their business.

CboysTV's Most Viewed Video:

“Everyone is always asking us about the camera we use. CJ bought us our first camera, a Canon T5I and it worked good to a point,” said Roth. “But we eventually realized that we needed more quality to stand out from all of the competition in the YouTube market. So, along the way, we would make a couple of thousand dollars and then upgrade. Micah got us a Canon 70D. Then we bought the Canon 80D. After that we started using the A7s II which we have two of. We’ve used those for the past two years.”

Cboys' equipment

“We slowly added on with different go pros, stabilizers, drones, and lav mics,” said Iwerks. “The higher the quality of the content the better your video will be.”

 

“We want a wide-angle lens which is $2,000 so we haven’t gotten it yet. But we spend money on some of the stupidest stuff,” said Roth. “We bought two drift carts for around the shop for $2,000. We’re just big kids. So we really do try to make sure we’re investing in the company, nobody has an issue with doing that. We have a very selfless mindset. But we probably wouldn’t be who we are without stupidly spending money on things like drift carts.”

With 1 million YouTube subscribers within striking distance, the Cboys are well on their way to having one of the strongest content creation businesses in the area.

 

See CBOYS on Youtube Here

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Written by Brady Drake

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