One couple has turned their passion for home movies into a lucrative career — banking more than $1 million from their YouTube channel that’s probably best known for videos of their kids playing with Thomas the Tank Engine toys.
Mark and Rhea, who go by the YouTube username “ilovemaything,” are the parents behind the popular YouTube channel Hulyan Maya. In fact, “popular” may be an understatement: According to Tubefilter, which posts weekly charts of the most-viewed YouTube channels, the Hulyan Maya channel was the 42nd most-viewed U.S. channel last week. With more than 26 million views in just seven days, it fell just below the channel for NBC’s The Voice.
The channel, which averages more than 3 million views a day, features Los Angeles parents Mark and Rhea (who chose not to reveal their last name to Yahoo Parenting) and their three children, 5-year-old Hulyan, 3-year-old Maya, and 5-month-old Marxlen. The majority of the videos — which are often more than 15 minutes long — feature the kids playing with Thomas the Tank Engine or Monster toys.
Mark, Rhea, Hulyan and Maya, the stars of the popular Hulyan Maya YouTube Channel, in 2003. Now the couple also has a 5-month-old son, Marxlen. Photo courtesy Mark/Ilovemaything.
They launched their channel in 2007 before Hulyan was even born, but say they really hit their stride three years later. Mark tells Yahoo Parenting via email: “We started uploading toy videos in late 2010 and finally hit the jackpot in 2013.” That’s when they posted an eight-minute video of Hulyan buying and unpacking a Thomas & Friends Emergency Searchlight set — their most popular with more than 15.5 million views to date.
“In 2014, our YouTube income skyrocketed dramatically,” Mark says. “We’ve made more than a million [dollars] between 2010 to 2014. We started our channel in 2007, but most of the old videos we uploaded were junk.”
And they expect to earn at least $1.5 million in 2015 alone. Mark and Rhea — who moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 2000 and 2006, respectively — have both quit their jobs running an employment agency. Now, they produce and upload two videos a day, and make money from the ads that roll before each clip. They’ve earned “enough money to buy our cars in cash, enough money to buy a house in Southern California in cash, and enough money to send our children to college.”
Mark, who produces the videos, says he’s always loved being behind the camera. “I’ve been doing short films and video blogs since the ‘90’s, back in college,” he says. “My wife and I majored in mass communication arts and I have an addiction to making video blogs and video diaries. I can’t imagine my life without a camera.”
So when he discovered his kids’ love of toys —particularly Hulyan’s passion for Thomas the Tank Engine — he decided to make a channel out of their home videos. And while his education in film made him confident he’d get views, Mark says he wasn’t prepared for the success of the Hulyan Maya channel. “[It] exceeded my expectations,” he says. “I knew and believed that it would become somehow successful, but more than three million views in a day is simply amazing. I’m living a dream.”
Hulyan and Maya often play on toy trucks in videos on their YouTube Channel. Photo courtesy Mark/Ilovemaything.
The videos feature all sorts of toys – from Thomas mini-trains to dinosaur figurines — many of which companies send them for free in hopes of being featured in a post, Mark says.
The videos, Mark says, cost nothing but time to make. “We do the filming and editing ourselves,” he says. “Yes, we do buy expensive toys, but they are part of the capital. We are getting paid for what we do. It costs us nothing, to be honest, because we love what we do. That’s the way I see it.”
So what’s the secret of their success? Mark isn’t totally sure. “Give me a cheap happy meal toy and I will make a video out of it that will surely receive hundreds of thousands of hits,” he says. “It’s not about the toys we show. It’s about our family, about how we interact with each other as a whole. Showing the viewers the right chemistry in our family is the secret recipe.”
For other families trying to capitalize on home movies, Mark says all you need is basic film making know-how and a lot of love. “Love of your family, love of what you do, hard work, and a little knowledge about film-making and video editing,” he says. “Combine those together and your channel will become successful. Well, a little luck will do the trick.”