ST. LOUIS — Vat19 is a unique company that sells toys, candy, and other items you may find in a gift shop. They also have a 9 million YouTube subscribers. Their viral videos and shop with “curiously awesome gifts” complement each other. The path to success in business and social media started with some experimentation and a lot of fun.
Jamie Salvatori, founder and owner of Vat19, said “There was never a thought that we would become YouTubers. It was just a free place to put our videos, and then it grew into something a lot bigger.”
Vat19 makes videos for social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. They have a massive following on each platform.
The video have silly series like the Ingredient Replacement Challenge where they made goofy videos of swapping one ingredient in popular meals. They also have real vs candy challenges, real vs. jelly bean challenges, and Sugar and Spice videos with one of the spiciest peppers available, the Carolina Reaper.
Many people like to watch product placement videos such as the satirical James Blond trailer. They have a game show called Hidden in Plain Sight which is another sly way to advertise their items. Another series is called 10 Minutes of Curiously Awesome Products where they openly advertise new products. There is also a newsletter about the company called Awesome Time.
Some of the outrageous items they sell are:
- Lester’s Fixins Food Sodas: one being Ranch dressing soda
- Bacon Pops Gourmet Savory Lollipops
- Ramen Noodle Candle
- Beersy Decoy Can Cover
- Carolina Reaper Pebbles
Back in 2006, Salvatori started putting videos on YouTube to advertise the original business of making TV commercials. At the time, there weren’t many free ways to share videos online, but YouTube gave them a free platform where they could show off the products and easily add videos to their website.
“We’re just a video company for hire, and I did that for a few years,” said Salvatori. “We had a couple of pretty small clients. That were like used car dealers or companies that made medical training films. We would edit videos of people doing surgeries.”
He wanted to try something new, so he started selling DVDs. Salvatori started with new ideas like screen savers that turned TVs into tanks or fireplaces.
“There was this short period of time when DVDs were popular. So I made some of my own original DVD’s because I thought this will just be something different from making like used car dealer commercials,” said Salvatori. ““I actually enjoyed making the trailer for the fireplace DVD then actually making the fireplace DVD. It is very clear I should be making commercials.”
Even though the Salvatori’s father taught him a lot about making movies, Salvatori graduated from college with a degree in Computer Science and originally wanted to work for a tech giant like Google.
But the thought of spending his days in a cubicle and not being able to do anything artistic made him unhappy. This discontent made him look for other ways to do things, which led to the creation of Vat19.
The online store
Vat19 is run by a team of hardworking buyers who spend a lot of time searching the internet for interesting products. They go to trade shows for toys and carefully sort through tens of thousands of merchandise every year.
The team will test the toys they are interested in; if it’s candy, then the team will try it. Everyone’s opinion is important but Salvatori makes the final decision.
If you are interested in visiting Vat19 they also offer shopping in person. They give anyone the chance to see how they work behind the scenes. Those who are interested can sign up for free tours, which happen several times a week. Visitors are taken through the full product purchasing, scriptwriting, filming, and editing processes on these tours, which offer an immersive experience.
Visitors can look around the studios, see how busy the warehouse is, and even get a sneak peek at future videos. On top of that, they get a chance to spin the prize wheel, which makes the tour even more exciting.