Cannabis Wealth caught up with the YouTuber-turned-entrepreneur to hear about his journey and how the anxiety that came with fame led him to discover CBD.
Oli White found his fame as one of YouTube’s first major stars. Since he started uploading videos as a teenager he’s racked up over half a billion views and more than 4 million subscribers across his three channels.
A decade-long career in YouTube
“I was a pretty nerdy, geeky kid,” Oli said over Zoom. “I loved editing, filming on cameras, special effects. One day, I just started making videos and got the courage to put my face on camera.”
This was 2012. YouTube was still in its infancy and the platform’s very first vloggers were only just beginning to gain significant recognition.
“This was a period when YouTube was so new,” Oli said. “People weren’t spending a million pounds on a challenge; you’d just sit there and talk about a subject or work on a little skit. To get a million views or even 100,000 views back then was the biggest amount of views the platform had seen.
“You couldn’t earn money off of YouTube either. Brands wouldn’t advertise with YouTube and there were no brand deals or anything like that.”
After a couple of years, Oli’s channel started to explode. He soon found himself part of a community of fellow YouTubers, namely Caspar Lee and Joe Sugg, who would become huge stars in their own right.
Before he knew it, Oli was jetting from continent to continent, meeting fans from across the world. In the space of just three years, he went from a creative teenager making videos in his bedroom to an international star with over a million subscribers.
“It was one of the most surreal things in my life,” Oli said. “I remember going to the Philippines and at the airport, we had hundreds and hundreds of people there, including TV crews and paparazzi. We did a stage show with thousands of people in the audience. It was crazy.
“I’m so grateful for the travelling I’ve been able to do, the people I’ve been able to meet and the brands I’ve been able to work for. I’ve worked with some of the biggest brands in the world and that’s all because of these little videos in my room.”
Youtube isn’t what it used to be. The platform has grown exponentially over the past decade. According to analytics company Socialblade, there are now more than 51 million active channels. Around 22,000 of these have over a million subscribers.
The oversaturated nature of the market has led Oli to different outlets, notably TikTok which he says offers a more rewarding way to promote and discover content.
Several years into Oli’s YouTube career, the impact of his astronomical rise to fame started to catch up with him.
“When I was 18 and we were doing events and there were loads of people there, I was fine. I still felt like a kid,” he said. “But as I was getting into my 20s, I started developing a lot of anxiety around meeting people and going to events where there were loads of people.
“It then just stopped me from doing things. I would say to myself, ‘I don’t really like doing that’, but it was actually my anxiety saying, ‘no, you can’t do that’.
“I think it just grew on me,” he continued. “I’d go to a red carpet [event] and I’d worry about no one knowing me and ‘what if this happens’ or ‘what if that happens’. I just ended up in with my thoughts. I knew that I was dealing with a lot of anxiety but I just pushed it to the side.”
It was Oli’s Mum who recommended he try CBD. Years earlier she had been diagnosed with cancer which she later overcame. CBD helped her manage the crippling anxiety she experienced going through treatments.
At the time, the UK’s CBD industry was young and underdeveloped, so Oli and his partner Evie headed to the US to sample a few products. “We tried some CBD and it was just amazing,” Oli said. “My anxiety was completely relaxed and I just thought ‘wow, this is incredible’.”
On his return to the UK, Oli ordered himself and Evie a pack of what he thought were CDB capsules but the feeling of calm he experienced in the US never materialised. After a couple of weeks of research, he realised he had in fact been sold hemp seed oil which contains zero CBD.
“As we researched the industry more, we realised that there was such a lack of information, transparency and professionalism,” Oli said. “It has definitely got better with companies publishing third-party lab results but that’s something that I’ve only seen a lot more of in the last year.
“Having lab reports is like a selling factor for CBD, but it should be absolute general practice. It just shows how new the industry is. I can’t wait until there’s more clarity within the space. I think that’s what we need to really move forwards.”
The beginning of Unique CBD
Over the past several years, Oli has increasingly turned his attention to the world of CBD, teaming up with his partner Evie – who is also an influencer – to form a business wholly separate from his media personality.
At first, Oli and Evie simply wanted to create a product they could trust for their own personal use. The couple started educating themselves on the CBD space before connecting with a neuroscientist who they collaborated with to create a high-quality product that achieved the same results they experienced in the US.
“For a year, if not longer, we started intensively educating ourselves on the space and the different companies on the market,” Oli said. “We collaborated with a neuroscientist and worked with him on an oil and we started trialling it.
“We then ordered a bit more and started giving it to friends and family.”
The pair soon realised that others could benefit from the products they had spent the past year developing, so in August 2020, they launched their own company, Unique CBD.
“Our mission always was, and still is, is to create premium, trustworthy and transparent products”, he added. “We created and have some incredible products that I’m just so proud of.”
Growing the business
Unique CBD grew organically over the next two years. The couple started by launching day drops before developing higher strength night drops. They later branched out into skincare following the introduction of Novel Food applications which prevented them from releasing other ingestible products.
While the UK CBD industry continues to experience teething problems, the young company’s focus is on building an “amazing foundation”, honing its products and brand before potentially seeking out funding later down the line.
All of Unique CBD’s products are made from isolate extract and produced independently. Rather than working with a manufacturer, each product is made in-house and owned by the company.
“We don’t work with a manufacturer that creates the same oils for multiple other companies. Every single product that we create is completely customised to us,” Oli said. “Everything is carefully considered and created by us which is something that a lot of CBD brands don’t tend to do because it costs a lot of money.
“We don’t want to be ‘that influencer’s CBD brand’”
While Oli has by no means left his career in entertainment behind, his priority now is Unique CBD. “For the most part, we’re solely focusing on the company because this industry is ready to grow fast and we want to really make sure that we’re there at the forefront and we’ve got the company prepared when things take off,” he said.
It would have been easy for Oli to capitalise on his massive personal following to push the brand, but instead, he initially chose to stay quiet about his new venture due to fears that attaching himself to the brand could taint its reputation.
“In the first year and a half of us launching, we didn’t really talk about the brand at all,” he said. “We didn’t want it to be ‘that influencer’s CBD brand’. Sometimes those kinds of reputations can be quite damaging so in the early stages of the company we very much stepped to the side.”
While they have avoided attaching their faces to the brand, the pair have drawn from their careers as influencers to shape their marketing strategy. As Instagram and Facebook continue to prevent CBD companies from advertising through the platforms, Unique CBD has focused their efforts on TikTok and YouTube.
“With my background, we produce all of the content, from the imagery of our products to content on TikTok and YouTube,” Oli continued. “For me personally, education is a really important thing in this space. With our TikTok videos, we’re creating educational pieces of content surrounding CBD, but we also try and add a bit of a health and wellness factor to that as well.”
Unique CBD continues to develop new products, with two new face serums in the pipeline.
“There are so many products that we want to work on,” Oli added. “It’s expensive and it takes a long time to develop them right but there’s so much more we want to do.”