G’day! I’m ChoppA. Normally I would introduce myself as a YouTube cake decorator, but the truth is I tend to do a lot more than just cake! (but we will come back to that). I’m a Sydney-based content creator that started out on YouTube just making random silly videos with my friend Kate, I mean really silly videos, before discovering what I was truly passionate about sharing. Currently, I make cake tutorials that help people make their very own novelty cakes at home.
Everything from the template to the step by step instruction and the moral support to guide them through the process and show them just how easy it really is!
My channel focuses mainly on cartoon/pop culture types of cake and hopefully, I make it fun and achievable for everyone.
I grew up in a country town on the North Coast of New South Wales. All of the kids I grew up with had vastly different hobbies and interests, none of which had anything to do with art.
I’m one of those people who have been creating for as long as I can remember! From an early age, I always had a pen, pencil, or texta in my hand scribbling onto anything and everything (just ask my mum). I remember drawing my ninja turtle toys from every possible angle because I was obsessed with them and let me tell you, there are only so many ways you can draw a ninja turtle. I needed a new challenge and being the curious kid I was, I tried to make Raphael out of plasticine, and I did. In retrospect, I think it was the obsession of drawing them that gave me the ability to look at a 2D image, then translate that to a 3D model with my hands.
Before moving to Sydney, I spent a couple of years in Western Australia where I was volunteering at a school for children with special needs. From that, I was offered a job as inclusion support with a child before and after school care, which I loved! I had found a job that wasn’t repetitive, let me share my creativity and most of all, HAVE FUN! So I decided to move over to Sydney and pursue a career in Early Education.
How does this relate to youtube? Well, one of the ladies I worked with was a pretty fun person (who later became one of my besties). We had been placed in ‘room leader’ roles together and we're having a ball. I remember her calling me after work one time and asking if I had heard about YouTube.vNow being a fan of live music performances, I had heard of YouTube and I had made an account because some videos you couldn’t watch unless you signed in, yes, even back then.
She asked if I had seen any of the people that make videos for each other on the site. I remember telling her that I thought it was the dumbest idea ever. Little did I know how it would soon consume my life. My friend convinced me to sit in on a video and reply to some other Australians that made videos. From the first video, I was hooked!
We started out recording on a Sony quick shot camera that had a small 12mb memory card. I remember this so well because we could only film 4 minutes at a time. Also, YouTube had a limit of 10 minutes per video. What a time it was!
I have always been heavily influenced by pop culture and 80’s cartoons. My first three cakes were literally pure 80’s nostalgia, plus being a big kid at heart, I collect toys and things I loved from when I was younger. This helps me stay inspired as I always have lots of things around me that keep me motivated. (just look at my set). I often think back to things I loved as a kid and see if that can be translated to cake.
More recently, I’ve stepped outside of that and moved into memes and cakes that do things. Working with children also helped me keep my finger on the pulse of what is new or popular right now. I’ve noticed over the years characters and stuff go in and out of popularity.
I pretty much try to be on all the social media because I find them really interesting and fun to use. As I mentioned before, growing up in a country town and not really knowing any creative types, YouTube really helped me connect with my kind of people. Through social media (such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) I’ve been able to explore my creative interests and learn about other amazingly creative people who, now, I’m lucky to call my friends. Naturally, I have learned something new from each one of these awesome humans such as how to work my camera, learning new editing software. I mean, without these interactions I’m pretty sure I’d still be using windows movie maker.
Today I use a mixture of Final cut pro and iMovie. There is a fantastic video called Finished Not Perfect I always share that with friends because that video hits so close to home and it always inspires me to just do something. Try new things and even if I suck at it. I will get better. I applied this to the equipment I used as well, starting out I used a five-dollar lamp and any kitchen utensil I could find. Not to mention that I didn't even have the proper cake decorating ingredients.. So I literally just made shit up as I went along. No red fondant? No problem. Just paint it with bottled food dye. Hahaha! I also used YouTube tutorials to help me learn photoshop, this was very important in how I created and marketed my content. I like everything to be bright, fun, and very in your face!
Fears? I honestly didn't have and don't have any. Mum always raised me to think for myself and not really care about the negative opinions of other people. The only opinions that I do care about are those of people who I admire, love, and respect. Worrying about hate comments and people who try to bring you down is honestly the biggest waste of time. I prefer to spend that time making something cool or helping someone else create their vision.
When I joined Youtube in 2006, it was a very different place. All videos were 4:3 aspect ratios, you couldn’t choose a thumbnail and if you lived in Australia, uploading a 4-minute video would literally take you 4-6 hours and if the connection dropped out, you had to start again. I’ve been lucky to experience YouTube in all its glory, going from a hobby to a full-time gig. After a couple of years, YouTube had officially launched in Australia and the community was growing.
Youtube Started holding “Partner Meetings” for anyone who successfully qualified for the partnership program. For me, this was more of a “free beer” situation rather than going in to learn. One particular night, YouTube started spitting some facts about managing and taking your channel to the next level. It was recommended that we go home and look at our five most popular videos to see what had worked best on our channels, then ask ourselves.
Did I love making that, Is it family-friendly? Can it be repeated but remain interesting?
So that is just what I did and let me tell you, my three most viewed videos were NOT family-friendly, and we will leave it at that. The fourth video, however, was a zero effort time-lapse of a cake I decorated (not a MatJoez masterpiece) but still a unique take on videos at the time. Until this point, I had only decorated cakes with my mum and made fun novelty cakes for friends. I never thought I would start teaching people across the globe how to recreate my designs.
I did a couple of YouTube searches for cake decorating and noticed that there weren't any “how-to” videos. If you searched “makeup tutorial” there were heaps! You want to know how to cook anything. Nicko’s Kitchen and OnePotChef had you covered. But for cakes, it was basically tip videos and people showing off their creations. Then it came to me. The world needed a foul-mouthed bogan cake decorator.
Genius right? I thought so, but luckily my mate Rob Nixon (Nicko’s Kitchen) strongly suggested that I don't take that route. I can’t thank him enough for stepping in and guiding me along the right path of creating a channel I would be proud of. Cakes By ChoppA was launched whilst I was working full time at a daycare centre. So I was just making cakes when I had spare time. On the 26th of February 2011, I posted a welcome video that was just a slide show of cakes I had made before the channel existed. A couple of videos later, I posted a Spiderman cake on the 21st of August 2011 and just like the 4 videos before it.
They were viewed a couple of hundred times and I was chuffed, I would reply to every comment and be shocked that people were loving my work. I didn't have to put on a wig or act a fool. I just made stuff and people enjoyed it. I mentioned the Spiderman cake because a couple of months after it was posted, it started to receive new comments and people were emailing me photos of their re-creations.
I had no idea this video was about to blow up. It started to jump 200 views a day, then 1,000 views, 5,000 views. I’m not sure why this specific video but man, Spidey was going off! He currently sits at 41 million views and is still climbing, not as fast but it's still gaining views 8 years later.
With my videos performing well, I was able to leave my job (with only 9,000 subscribers) because I was earning more from youtube than I was at Kindy. I must stress that this was very rare, would I recommend doing it now. No way. I do wish that I stayed working and invested that money into the channel and improved the quality of my content. But hey it was all new and I was my own boss! Initially, I struggled with how lonely being a creator was back then. Even though I could work my own hours, your friends and family all have their own commitments and aren't always around when you would like.
The best advice as cliche as it sounds,
Love what you do, share that passion, and do it the best you can at the time.
I also think it's very important to connect with your fellow creators, they are a wealth of knowledge and I’m not talking about chasing after someone with more subscribers or views than you. People that do what you do, (film, edit, create, etc). I’ve literally had a creator friend show me how I edited in a way that took twice as long. A simple tip cut my editing time in half. Thanks, Damie.
The whole idea of working my own hours and not living by a set schedule (5:30 am wake up times) made that quite the easy decision. Need I say more? LOL
There are so many! I sometimes get emotional thinking about what I have achieved and the cool things I’ve got to be a part of. Being on TV and in magazines was pretty cool. But I think the thing that takes the cake was getting to be a part of VidCon and all that comes with it. Getting to meet people I have admired for years and whose content I am obsessed with. That's the best! And my plaque from YouTube, basically getting a trophy for doing what you truly love is pretty damn cool.
I really had no idea what I was doing, now I really just make what I think is cool. If people like it, great! If they don’t, that’s cool too. Because at the end of the day, I need to be proud of what I have put out. I often see people bend to the pressure of having strategies and worry too much about the marketing side. Just make what you’re proud of and then when people see it they will most likely connect with it more. If that fails, Join TikTok and do dumb dances. :P
I handle all of that privately. I would strongly suggest that a creator knows his worth! Never accept the first offer. Companies don’t care about you. Trust me.
DON’T WORK FOR FREE.