Michelle Phan's YouTube Success Led to This Life-Changing Moment with Mom


Michelle Phan’s interview is part of Time Firsts, a multimedia project featuring 46 groundbreaking women. Watch the rest of the videos at time.com/firsts. Buy the book at the Time Shop now.

Michelle Phan's story is nothing short of inspiring.

The beauty mogul, who became the first woman to build a $500 million business from a web series, landed on Time's new series Firsts, and opened up about her journey to success and the first time she knew she was on the way to something big.

"I was very motivated at a young age to find a better life, for my mom's sake," Phan says in the video interview above. "She wanted me to be a doctor, but I didn't see myself in that future. I promised her that I would take care of her but that I would still pursue what I loved."

Phan uploaded her first Youtube video in 2007, with no sponsorship money or free products. "Social media wasn't even called social media yet," she says. "It was a place where people would just go online and congregate and share ideas and videos and content. YouTube was just my creative outlet."

Luisa Dörr for Time

That changed when she got a huge offer from a major beauty brand. "When they told me how much money I was going to be making, it was so big—as much as a doctor would have made," Phan recalls. "The first person I wanted to tell was my mother. She's the reason I work so hard, and she inspires me so much."

"I said, 'What are you doing?' She said, 'Oh, I'm still at work, I'm doing someone's pedicure,'" Phan describes. "I told her that it would be the last time she would ever have to do anyone's pedicure and she wouldn't have to work the next day because I would take care of her. We both started crying. It was a moment that I'll never forget. I want more people to have moments like that."

RELATED: Michelle Phan Uploads First YouTube Video in a Year

Hear more of Phan's story—and words of inspiration for entrepreneurs—in the video at top and check out more Firsts on time.com/firsts.

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For me it was just my creative outlet. I had a chance to be able to connect with people who wanted to know and learn more about what I know. This are tips that I personally use everyday, and they're super easy that gave me the opportunity to be a little more entrepreneurial to be daring and to just try something. If all these resources and tools are here for me, I'm not meant to keep it. I'm meant to share it. [MUSIC] When I uploaded my first video, this was in 2007, it was still pretty early on with social media. I mean, social media wasn't even called social media yet. And the problem was that access to beauty knowledge was so inaccessible. So I started to make these beauty videos not thinking people would watch them and they did, and they caught on. And the more I was able to upload and produce, the more I understood that I think I could make a business out of this. So let's begin with my first tip. We have to see potential in something that no one is looking at. Being in the beauty industry, I've dealt with a lot of people who second guess me, who undermined me because of my age. Ageism is broken because of the internet. My mom was actually my biggest reason why I am such a hustler, I'm such an entrepreneur. She came from a war tone country in Vietnam. She was able to immigrate here to America. This is the greatest reward, for myself,is now I can take care of my mom. Don't be scared to experiment, I mean that's the whole point of make up. You could play around with it and you can just wipe it off if you don't like it. And here we go. The first advice I give to any women Who wanna become an entrepreneur when they wanna have a business and find a problem that you see in any industry. And if you're very passionate about it, find a solution. [MUSIC]
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