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Minding The Gap How Fumi Desalu-Vold Fills Unmet Needs For Underserved Audiences

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Minding The Gap: How Fumi Desalu-Vold Fills Unmet Needs For Underserved Audiences

When Fumi Desalu-Vold’s husband suggested she start a YouTube channel in 2013, the then 40-something wasn’t convinced. “I loved my regular check. I could never do this. It doesn’t make sense,” she recalls thinking at the time. But at her husband’s urging, Fumi, an actor and former Yves Saint Laurent sales manager, gave it a try, posting lifestyle and beauty content aimed at younger viewers.

The channel sputtered at first. “I think I sat at like 5000 followers for a year, year and a half. And, you know, there wasn’t much growth,” says Fumi. Then in 2016, at age 45, she had a son. “When my son was born, I was reborn,” she says. “It was one door shut and another one opened.”

Minding The Gap: How Fumi Desalu-Vold Fills Unmet Needs For Underserved Audiences

Caring for a new baby gave Fumi a new sense of purpose. With limited time, she began tailoring her content to busy moms. “If that’s all that you’ve got.. I was living  where I only had two minutes. I was holding the baby. Do the eye, do the lash. Don’t worry you’re good. You can go,” she explains.

She also started covering more relatable topics, like postpartum body image and self-care. “It was more not about getting slimmer, but having a wonderful, healthy diet. And you must and absolutely have to treat yourself,” she urges.

Crucially, Fumi began engaging more with her audience. “I began to read the comments, and that was the first that I had done in about seven years. I assumed that I knew what they wanted, whereas they always had a voice. They just needed to be heard,” she admits.

What her followers wanted was real talk about relationships, careers, and more. So at age 50, Fumi pivoted her channel’s focus. “It became motivational speaking. And I launched ‘Sister to Sister’ for all of those difficult conversations,” she explains.

Now followers turn to Fumi for advice on divorce, dating, and getting back into the workforce. “It was all of these things because I had disastrous relationships. I had been dumped. I had been let go. I had wept over a guy that did not love me,” she reveals. By sharing her own experiences, Fumi aims to help other women navigate life’s trials.

“If you will teach me, we can do this together,” she tells her 700k+ YouTube subscribers. “And in so doing, I realized there was nobody out there.. There wasn’t anybody there to teach them.”

Approaching 60, married, and a mom, Fumi has found unexpected success by focusing on an underserved audience. “I’m was a 45 year old woman, and they were wanting to know, what do you have to offer us in our age group where we feel that we are not heard?” she says. 

Embracing Content Creation

Fumi was shocked when her first AdSense check arrived from YouTube for £470 (about 600 USD). “I swore it was a mistake. I really thought it was,” she remembers. Fumi was prepared to return the unexpected funds, certain there had been an error. “And then over time, nobody did [ask for it back],” she says.

Eventually YouTube representatives in London invited her to their headquarters. When she told them about the mystery check, they assured her, “No, it’s yours.” As Fumi puts it: “I just sat back. I sat back and said, ‘the world has changed’.”

Making real money from posting YouTube videos made Fumi realize, “the world my parents raised me in preparation for has changed. That world does not exist.” She reflects, “This is a brand spanking new world where you can work from home and you can earn an income and you can dare to dream.”

For Fumi’s generation, the idea of creating your own beauty brand from scratch was “so far-fetched.” As she explains, “We came from a place where you went to the shops and you bought Estee Lauder and Lancome and Logia, and that was the big, beauty magnet kind of thing and that was it.”

Now in the internet age, Fumi has built her own personal beauty brand and media platform. “Here’s her daughter having this channel on, almost like a television on, on the internet where people can see you from Bulgaria, from Thailand, Istanbul, different ages and stages,” she marvels. “It rendered me speechless. Yeah, yeah. Because I did not learn this in school.”

Keeping it Real
With a background in modeling and acting, Fumi brings plenty of performance experience to her YouTube channel. But she’s careful not to put on a persona. “I maintain my start by just being me,” she says.

Fumi switches up her content based on her mood that day. She’ll do beauty and fashion some days, motivation and inspiration on others. This variety also helps her connect with different segments of her audience. As she explains, “Open yourself up to everything. Don’t just segregate yourself to makeup and to beauty.”

Interaction with her followers shapes much of the channel’s direction. “A huge part I would say 80% is from the followers because that’s what they want to watch,” Fumi estimates. She constantly asks them for input through polls and requests for video ideas.

Staying receptive to her audience’s needs has kept the community tight-knit. As Fumi puts it: “It really is a it’s a close community. It really is what Fumi-nation wants to watch and what they are interested in.”

Even when suggesting new topics, she aims to introduce her subscribers to things she genuinely thinks they’ll enjoy, not just what she feels like talking about that day. As she says, “Every once in a while, if something piqued my interest, it would lean towards teaching them something new or I have discovered something new that I know they will love and like.”

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♬ original sound – Fumi Desalu-Vold

Above all, Fumi doesn’t view the channel as her own. In her words: “It’s their channel. It’s their show. It’s not about me and that was the mistake I made in the beginning.” Keeping the spotlight on her fans has been the key to fostering an engaged community.

Building Authentic Partnerships

When considering working with brands, content creator Fumi Fumi looks for an authentic match. As she explains, “It has to be authentic and I think, upon reflection, I think a lot of people make the mistakes because they think that followers of you take everything hook, line and sinker. No they don’t.” Fumi recognizes that while fans “can love you, they can support you,” if a collaboration feels forced they’ll lose trust.

For Fumi, an ideal partnership meets three key criteria. “I have to love it. I have to be excited about it. I have to use it constantly,” she says. Long-term collaborations must integrate genuinely into her lifestyle and content. “It cannot be a situation where I’m with this brand. I use it for two, three weeks and it’s gone.”

An early success story was Fumi’s partnership with Juvia’s Place cosmetics. The Jiviaa team “reached out to me because she began to see a spike in sales” after Fumi’s organic promotion. Collaborating to co-create products allowed them to meet unmet needs in the market. As Fumi puts it: “I began to also tell them, create this for us, create that for us because they had the prototype down.”

Diversity is also essential in Fumi’s partnerships. She actively seeks to elevate minority voices. A Halloween costume mishap revealed a gap in quality makeup for dark skin that Juvia’s Place could fill. Working together, the Juvia’s Place team designed a palette suiting Fumi’s deeper tones. “That was how successful it was,” Fumi says, selling out quickly.

For another brand, Color Dream Cosmetics, Fumi advocated for inclusion. “We have to have something for our beautiful olive toned sisters and our beautiful pink ladies,” she told them. Having a white husband, she knows first-hand the need for versatile products suiting diverse complexions. Input from her equally diverse subscriber base keeps Fumi tapped into what underrepresented audiences want to see reflected.

After losing 60 pounds, shapewear became another cause. Seeing the plus size community being underserved, Fumi made it a mission to find them better options. She collaborated with a tape company to design wider, clear push up tape that matched more skin tones. The improved product “sold out in five days,” Fumi reports. “We loved it.”

Advice for Aspiring Content Creators

“Look out for the brands that you like, not that you’re in awe of, but they are functional. That they really are a good brand because they produce good products,” she advises.

Review products you purchase and create content featuring brands you believe in. As Fumi says, “Do reviews, that’s the only way that they know that you are interested in their brand. And perhaps you could pique their interest.” If a brand notices your engagement, they may reach out to potentially collaborate.

It’s important to understand a brand’s point of view when seeking a partnership as an influencer. As Fumi explains, “This is their baby that they’ve nurtured and they’ve gone through hell with.” Brands want to protect their reputation and carefully vet collaborations.

Rather than demanding collaborations, Fumi suggests proving you can enhance a brand. “You have to be able to bring and add something to that product. If you don’t, they don’t need you,” she explains. Showcasing your unique perspective and audience can demonstrate your value.

Fumi sees brand collaborations as a learning opportunity for influencers. “It’s a class for you because they’ve done it. Now they’re letting you into what they have done,” she says. Shadowing a brand’s operations gives insight into product development.

This perspective also builds patience and empathy. As Fumi notes, “You have to understand the process, the patience and the wherewithal.” Seeing the time, money and care brands invest to create each product fosters respect and compassion.

What’s Next for Fumi

Fumi dreams of taking her vibrant on-camera personality to television. “I hope one day, some way, somehow have a television daytime talk show. With a live Audience, maybe full of Fumi-nation,” she says. After a recent meet-and-greet drew 750 fans, she sees strong enthusiasm for her brand of advice and community.

A talk show would enable Fumi to reach more people with her candid conversations around relationships, parenting, body image and more. She aspires to an “Oprah esque” program focused on motivation and empowerment.

Fumi also plans to launch several product lines spurred by gaps she’s noticed while creating content. First is a shapewear brand with inclusive sizing and modular options “because we are all shaped differently,” she says.

She also plans makeup centered around the tools and techniques people struggle with most. Brow products are a priority, as they “finally I see what you, the girls are going to love.” Skincare for both men and women rounds out the initial offering.

As Fumi’s brand grows, she hopes to give back by building playgrounds for families without access. As a new mom, she’s noticed many apartments and condos lack dedicated play areas for children.

Her goal is to fund “safe spaces donated and covered ultimately for the moneys that we make” through her various business ventures. She pictures mobile playgrounds bringing joy to underserved neighborhoods each summer.

Envisioning her future, Fumi aims to keep building community on an ever larger scale. She sums up: “Having a child of my own, I realize” the change I can create.

Nii A. Ahene

Nii A. Ahene is the founder and managing director of Net Influencer, a website dedicated to offering insights into the influencer marketing industry. Together with its newsletter, Influencer Weekly, Net Influencer provides news, commentary, and analysis of the events shaping the creator and influencer marketing space. Through interviews with startups, influencers, brands, and platforms, Nii and his team explore how influencer marketing is being effectively used to benefit businesses and personal brands alike.

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