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Who in the world is Blippi? The YouTube star your kid’s obsessed with

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Welcome to , an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with.


Despite having the best of intentions to screen what my kids, ages 4 and 2, are tapping on in YouTube, I often have to tune out the frenetic pacing and manic sounds of unboxing videos or Baby Sharks — otherwise I’d lose my sanity. Then Blippi, a YouTube channel and personality, captivated my kids … and I started paying attention.

Blippi is a young, bespectacled guy perpetually clad in a blue button-up and jeans, an orange bowtie with matching suspenders, and a blue-and-orange felt hat. He brings kid-like wonderment and about three Red Bulls’ worth of enthusiasm to topics like tractors and zoo animals. In addition to educational and entertaining videos in which Blippi takes a helicopter with the LAPD, or uses jet skis to teach colors, he’s also providing my children with a lesson on the value of SEO — whether they know it or not. 

In true late-capitalist form, Blippi spells his name out at the end of every video so kids can encourage their parents to visit his website, where they can order DVDs, apparel, and toys in his image. The main Blippi channel boasts 2.7 million subscribers; there are 2.5 million subscribers for the Blippi Toys channel. My daughter can now spell “Mom,” “Dad,” “love,” and “Blippi.” I’m supremely impressed by his branding … but as a mom, I was conflicted that this YouTuber had so much sway over my kids. I needed to know more. 

Who is Blippi?

The man behind the character is 30-year-old Stevin John. When I reach him over the phone, right away, he asks me if I have children, and which videos are their favorite. What I initially took as small talk, I quickly realize, is also a calculated way to get feedback for improving his YouTube offerings. It’s not cold – he seems genuinely interested in creating content that kids love. But if you want to build the perfect human in a lab to create, present, and successfully run an educational YouTube channel for children, it would be John.  

My daughter can now spell “Mom,” “Dad,” “love,” and “Blippi.” 

After two years with the United States Air Force, John spent 2009 to 2014 doing video production work and promoting, directing, producing, and editing commercials. He also worked as a marketing consultant and designed websites utilizing SEO for non-union companies such as landscapers. “I was a start-up company’s dream employee,” he says, adding that his background in photo, video, and online marketing was perfect for this line of work. 

That paid the bills, but John wanted to start his own company. He came upon the idea for Blippi in 2013 after spending time with his then-2-year-old nephew, who was hooked on YouTube videos featuring excavators or tractors set to background music. John decided to make his own high-quality educational kids channel.

John weighed the pros and cons of live-action videos versus animation, opting out of animation because of the cost, and decided to go in front of the camera. But first, he needed a character. He started with the name. Pulling from his memory of a middle school lesson that kids learn from the front of the mouth to speak, he drafted 700 or 800 words that were pronounced from the front of the mouth, were short, had repeating letters, and sounded happy. After that came domain name, copyright, and trademark searches.

Next up was the presentation of the character. “Blue is trustworthy and because I’m a male and I was in my 20s at the time – females are more trustworthy in kids shows – I felt it was really important,” John says. “Orange is fun and creative. Green was another good one, but I understood that in the future I was probably going to shoot green screen with a large company, and I didn’t want to be the burden to have them paint it blue. I ruled it out.”

Many Blippi videos have songs, so John has taken voice and singing lessons since starting the show, though he’s usually back-up and chorus to the freelance songwriters and singers taking the lead. The lessons are admittedly for fun, but “one of my goals is to be on stage for the live show and be able to sing,” he says.

The enthusiastic Las Vegas-based YouTube creator takes his main inspiration for his video content from two TV shows from his childhood: Blue’s Clues, where the host Steve “gave good eye contact,” and How It’s Made. 

“I just loved seeing the process of how something is made from the beginning to the end,” says John. “It’s something I try to tie into my videos. I love trying to get [kids] excited that they’re actually learning something.”

“I wouldn’t consider myself a full-blown expert at anything, but I know a heck of a lot about a lot of stuff,” he adds. “If I can give children positive emotions on getting excited to learn about stuff, then from there I’ve done my job.”

John said he aspires to get kids excited about learning something.

I ask John if he considers himself a children’s educational entertainer or a YouTuber, and he carefully considers his answer. “Hopefully it would be a show not just looked at as ‘just as a YouTube show,’” he says. Indeed, it seems like his careful business decisions are only leading to more growth. 

Not bad for a side hustle

John’s been spending every single free moment on the Blippi brand since early 2014 — with the first year spent running Steadicam or other production gigs in LA two weekends per month while figuring it all out — asking himself, “is this ever going to pay my bills, could I ever do this full time?” He was able to go full-time on Blippi at the end of that year.

Now he describes the business as “rocking and rolling,” with 15 to 20 people involved with the brand, some full- and some part-time. According to a 2018 CNN Business story, the brand makes a million dollars a year from ad revenue, licensing, merchandise — my own son wore a Blippi-brand felt hat for Halloween — and the albums which constantly stream in my car and at home. 

Blippi is currently offered beyond YouTube, with 2016 launches on Amazon and Roku platforms, and there are more deals upcoming. There’s a primarily animated show with Netflix, a toy deal that will put Blippi-branded merch in retail stores, and a new shoe deal with K-Swiss. There’s also an upcoming educational app with a large company out of India that he can’t quite discuss yet. 

After speaking with John, I feel reassured. My kids are glued to his videos for good reasons. They’re learning valuable things from Blippi — they often point out excavators on construction sites, and they sing songs about shapes and colors, And that’s the driving force behind the whole brand. John’s a nice guy who wants to get young kids excited about machines and shapes, and I am fully on board with that. 

I’m also sure my kids will be seeking out wherever he lands next; after all, Blippi’s YouTube signoffs will carefully direct my kids to his latest platforms.

Read more great stories from Small Humans:

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