While Shanell Peterson always knew she was going to have a “cool” and “crazy” career after college, she had no idea that she would one day become one of the most popular social media influencers in Canada. New Zealand.
After two years of creating a YouTube channel, âKishanellâ, with her now fiancÃ© Kishan Chavan, the couple has an impressive 1.47 million followers on the platform.
Peterson, from Alexandria, South Dakota, graduated from South Dakota State University in 2017 with a journalism degree; However, she struggled to decide what to do with her degree.
After traveling for a while, visiting places like Cambodia and Indonesia, Peterson decided to move to a foreign country, become a life coach and start an online business.
âI Google ‘how to move to a foreign country’,â she said, âand New Zealand was the first to show up.â
After arriving in New Zealand, she worked as a WWOOFer (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), where she worked on different farms in exchange for free accommodation and food. Eventually she started working cleaning inns, which is where she first met Chavan.
Chavan, originally from India, came to New Zealand to get a business management degree and was canvassing when he met Peterson.
âIn my fourth year, I started my own business, so I used to travel all over New Zealand and do sales, and I stayed in accommodations like backpackers or hostels. youth, âsaid Chavan.
Their YouTube channel didn’t start until two years later, in 2019, when Peterson decided to take a different direction with his career plans.
âI had invested all of my savings in trying to be a life coach, and it didn’t work,â Peterson said. âWhat I decided to do was I was going to be an Instagram modelâ¦ but it’s really hard to get people to like you, know you and trust you and be successful as an Instagram model though. you don’t do some sort of content that shows your personality. “
So Peterson decided to try and start a YouTube channel, which Chavan suggested they do together, and as Peterson said, “instantly we were successful.”
Now the couple specialize in posting lifestyle content, particularly around Peterson’s discovery of Indian culture and their experiences as an American-Indian couple.
Peterson and Chavan’s success is no small feat, either. According to Marina Hendricks, an SDSU professor of social media analytics, influencers and content creators need to prove that they can attract a large following to potential sponsors to create the kind of Kishanell channel follow-up.
âI think it’s the ability to leverage an audience and demonstrate to advertisers or businesses that you can bring in customers who meet their needs,â Hendricks said. âYou need to create an audience that trusts you and cares about what you post. “
Most influencers get so much attention because of people’s interest in seeing how other people live.
âPeople like to escape, they like to put themselves in the shoes of someone they admire,â said Hendricks.
Despite their success, Peterson and Chavan’s journey has not been without struggles and challenges.
âBeing a YouTuber takes a toll on your sanity because you constantly ask yourself, ‘How can I do better? “, Said Peterson.
Chavan added that it can be difficult to think of how to keep the audience’s attention after every big project.
âIt’s really hard to ask ‘what’s the next big thing to do?’ “, did he declare.
Still, there were also plenty of benefits for the couple after becoming influencers.
âWhen you learn more about the industry, you connect with more peopleâ¦ and you learn a lot,â Chavan said. âI enjoyed my life doing YouTube more than I normally would.
Peterson and Chavan also added that, both coming from small towns, becoming influencers was not something neither of them had ever considered a possibility.
âI literally make money by being myself, and the more myself I am, the more success I bring,â Peterson said.
Going forward, the couple plan to expand their business opportunities, starting with a new business called Bollywood in Hollywood based in Los Angeles, where they now live. The business, which includes hosting Bollywood parties in various venues, was inspired by the underserved Indian population of Los Angeles.
âWhen I came here I saw that there were so many Indians, but there is nothing for them to do about the clubs and everything,â said Chavan.
Peterson is also launching a podcast, EmpressPodcast, aimed at intersectional feminists, a take on how different identities, like race and sexuality, impact women differently. Peterson said his podcast will talk about cultural appropriation, anti-racism and other issues.
And for those considering getting involved in social media, Peterson advises to “be authentic” and stay true to yourself, especially those in college.
âIn collegeâ¦ I really felt a bit lonely,â she said. âTo all the folks at South Dakota State University right now, you’re not alone if you feel different. Your biggest dreams are made for you, and there are people who are going to love you.