What you need to know:
- Ivy Mugo quit formal employment in October 2020 having seen the potential in 'Over25', a YouTube channel.
- With six months on half a salary and social media pay, she sent a notice of resignation to her former employers.
When Ivy Mugo’s friend, Julia Gaitho, came back from the United Kingdom five years ago, she told Ivy and three other friends that she had been intrigued by a new concept called vlogging. People were walking around with their phones and cameras, documenting their every movement – where they are going to eat, who they are hanging out with and what they are doing and then loading it on to YouTube.
“She’s a creative but she didn’t want to do it by herself. She said ‘Do you want to join me?’” Remembers Ivy, 32, about how their famous vlog Over25 started.
“Back then, blogging was the thing. Working in a marketing firm at the time, I thought I would become a marketing manager in a multi-national company and end up on the client side of the industry. My job had me travelling all over the place and I only came on to the vlog from episode four,” says Ivy.
Basically, the concept was to put a camera before four ladies over the age of 25 as they talked about life – relationships, struggles of life and everything in between. They were just looking to have time to bond as friends and shoot a video as they did. Even then, they didn’t picture becoming an integral part of the Kenyan social media and entertainment space.
Ivy quit formal employment on October 23, 2020 after having seen the potential in their Over25 vlog. Covid played a catalyst in her making this decision. As soon as the pandemic hit, as people were forced to work from home due to the regulations in place, the first email Ivy received was titled “Salary Cuts”.
“I knew I was going to get half my salary but my expenses were going to remain the same. Luckily, I had started doing my own individual influencing jobs due to the channel. Around August, I noticed that I was spending a good amount of time on my job and yet I was making the same or less amount of money as I was on social media. Plus, I enjoyed the social media scene very much,” says Ivy.
Ivy believes her marketing background in strategy and advertising played a huge role her on the type of content that she created. With six months on half a salary and social media pay, she sent a notice of resignation to her former employers. She had been sleeping on herself.
“Covid forced me into a transition period that showed me I can survive on my back-up plan. My mum gave me her blessings and I had a fantastic exit interview with my boss,” she says.
What made Ivy blow up and become an even bigger brand has to be the two segments that she currently has: “Money Mondays” and “Legally Speaking”. The concepts would seem either too serious or not serious enough for social media, depending on whom you ask. But Ivy created this niche content that seemed to resonate immensely with a very big populace.
“Money Mondays just turned a year old two weeks ago. The reason I started it was because I was financially illiterate, despite being employed, and I knew I was not alone. I would save money and put it in saccos but people out here buy bonds and treasury bills, and make other investments to grow their money. I wondered why people weren’t talking about this. My favourite social media space has always been Instagram. But I realised people don’t talk about money here. The first Money Monday I posted up I got 3, 800 viewers and I was extremely crest-fallen,” remembers Ivy.
Following the advice of her favourite entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk), who urges content creators to document and not create, her other motivation for starting Money Mondays was to authentically show her growth to her fans as she gains financial literacy and see where it goes.
“People talk about an expensive plate of food but not about how they are able to afford it. Why aren’t you taking us on the journey that matters?” She poses.
“One of the most successful stories is when I asked people about their salaries because I was feeling down and wanted to be inspired. People say there’s money in Kenya but it’s not in your pockets. My goodness, the responses I got from people I know personally and those I admired were very honest and incredible; personal assistants making more than Sh240, 000 a month! My following grew by 10, 000 in 24 hours.”
“I started asking myself “Have I gone viral, is this what I was meant to do on social media?” One of my mentors in marketing says “repeat your winners”. I can get up to 60, 000 views on a video from my more than 155, 000 followers; that is extremely high engagement,” says Ivy.
Ivy was looking for a lawyer to help out with a matter at work and Joseph Njoroge was recommended to her by her circle. He had been a brilliant man when the two initially met while he was studying law at university. She called him and he broke down the legal issue so simply and she felt that this was golden.
“I felt like I needed to put him in front of the camera. I don’t like getting information on my own; I like getting it and sharing. He mulled over the proposition for a few days and then said he would take this up as his civil duty to educate Kenyans around matters law. The first episode talked about contracts,” says Ivy.
The most memorable feedback from “Legally Speaking” came from an episode on how to deal with traffic police. It was shared a lot and people were referring others to watch the video through their Instagram Stories. Ivy realised the success was to make the videos bite-size (short) and also evoke a feeling of pride for them to reshare publicly; that they are giving profound information. The two later came to find out that their mothers are in the same church after the women found themselves sharing videos of their children on their WhatsApp group.
“We’re still going to be Over25 even when we are 50. We could have had boys over in the videos before. The conversations range from very educational to not safe for work. So, finding someone who understands what our purpose is – to have bold conversations about women on the internet – and is okay with that is a bit tricky. And also someone who can speak in front of the camera but also available; our guests are very heavy hitters,” she says about the woman-empowerment, chit-chat vlog that has grown with the change.
Healthy boundaries are also things that Ivy and her crew have come to realise is important even as they share their journey with their audience, even as their content has changed with their growth — marriage, children and careers.
“You could say something and then later on ask “How could I allow this to stay in the video?” People who started with us years ago when they were 19 also have very different experiences now,” she adds.
As beautiful as social media space can be, it has its uglier side. She had to report a page on Facebook where a woman shared photos of her children claiming to be a single mother in need of help. She rarely has posts with them in it nowadays as she learns more about safety of children on social media. But when she does, she says it’s both fun and time consuming.
“If you see me creating content with the children for certain brands, know that it’s been a week of preparing in the background. Please respect any mother creating content with their children; a lot of bribing, begging and coercion,” she laughs, proud that they can emulate her.
The perks of being influential on social media have been networking. Ivy says she’s been able to slide into DMs of incredible people and ask them out for coffee to discuss whether they can come on her Money Monday stories and they all say yes.
“It’s put me in rooms with amazing people. It opens me up to experiences like watching the Maasai Mara wildebeest migration on somebody else’s budget. (Laughs). I also have better control of what I’m doing and my time, which has levelled up my mind; if I don’t execute my ideas I don’t eat,” says Ivy.
She landed the Samsung deal when she felt that laundry was taking up a lot of her nanny’s time. She inboxed five companies to ask for a washing machine in exchange for amplification on social media. While others even gave an outright ‘no’, Samsung asked for a proposal.
“I wrote “Where you see a washing machine, I see time.” Because house roles were infringing on our work time during the total lockdown. There was no better time to sell washing machines,” says the first and sole Samsung consumer Electronics ambassador who also had to pay 50 percent of the washing machine’s cost.
Her “sounds of” series that she has done for the washing machines and the bespoke refrigerator have been major hits, as she creates music with items found inside the electronic appliances.
Ivy values quiet time. When she gets off social media at 7pm every day and spends some time with her daughters, she has dinner by herself. “How I Built This” by Guy Raz and “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist are her favourite podcasts.