Six years ago, Hannah Hart left her job working part time at a translation firm in New York and moved to Los Angeles. Today, the 30-year-old has built an internet empire based on her love of food, friends and comedy.
Hart’s YouTube channel boasts more than 2.5 million subscribers — just a portion of her more than 5 million followers across social media. Twice a week she uploads an episode of her massively popular series My Drunk Kitchen, where she and a special guest have a cocktail, chat and make something delicious. It’s a project she has been working on since the first episode went up on March 16, 2011.
The actress, producer and bestselling author is now taking on a new challenge: hosting her own series on the Food Network called I Hart Food.
The show follows Hart across the country as she investigates the signature dishes and ingredients of American cities, from weathering the hottest chili peppers in Santa Fe to figuring out where to find the best lobster in Portland, Maine.
Hart says one of the most gratifying elements of taking the show on the road was meeting the hardworking chefs behind some of the most beloved specialties in the United States.
“They operate from a place of pure passion, and also a place of really wanting to please people — really wanting to make something that brings others joy or satisfaction,” Hart says. “So despite the fact that I’m not a chef, I kind of feel like we relate in that way.”
We caught up with Hart to get her insights about how to build a brand that is meaningful both to you and to your audience.
What is your best advice for creating content that truly resonates with people?
You have to follow your heart as much as you go with your gut. Despite the fact that I am now a professional in entertainment, I feel like everything I do is often dictated by what I want to communicate. My Drunk Kitchen began as a joke for a friend of mine who was in a low spot in their life and I sent it to them because I was just trying to cheer them up. And so whether or not the goal is to cheer somebody up or the goal is to share what I’m thinking about or share a concern I have or journey I [have] taken, that’s the heart of the programming I like to make. I like to invite people into the things that I’m experiencing. That’s the motivation behind what I do.
What have you learned about building a brand that is driven by and showcases what you are passionate about?
I mean it’s tough because there’s no such thing as an overnight success. That is something I always want to make abundantly clear. Even if it didn’t happen in the first year, check your progress report. Are you somewhere closer to where you want to be? You can only gauge your accomplishments against yourself.
I think we fall into a lot of trouble by looking at other people’s careers and paths and think, oh no, look at what so and so did this year. Why didn’t I do exactly that? As long as you did something that year, aren’t you a step closer? Just stay focused on your own trajectory and not compare it to those around you, because I feel like that’s only going to [drain] your energy and sully your message.
What are the biggest misconceptions about building a successful channel and a following on YouTube?
I would say that it’s really about surrounding yourself with a team that you like and that you respect and that you trust. Nobody builds something all by themselves. It does take a long time to find those people that you want to work with. [In a team] a shared values system is really important to me. [I look for] people who are proud of the work they do. They’re putting energy into their jobs, not just crossing t’s and dotting i’s. They are actually deriving something out of the work we do together.