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Craig “Mini-Ladd” Thompson went from a small-time gamer making videos for a handful of viewers to a major social media star with millions of followers.
Well-known for his YouTube channel, Thompson had the personality and creativity to transform a hobby into a successful and lucrative career.
While many want their 15 minutes of online fame, Thompson has actually extended and expanded his into a successful and influential platform that he also uses to give back to worthy causes.
We were thrilled to chat with this energetic influencer to learn how he got started and how he found balance in his success.
Working a new kind of pitch
Thompson wanted to be a rugby player. As a kid and into his teens, he had dreams of playing professionally, and even showed promise of making it. “I got trials for Ulster rugby, which is Northern Ireland’s team when I was growing up,” he recalled.
However, a back injury steered him away from this path and led him to start making YouTube videos in his spare time.
“It’s crazy how I had this rugby career slowly adding up, and then it got slapped away and I was down to square one. I had nothing. I was like, I just gotta get myself back up on my feet and get to making YouTube videos,” he remembered.
It wasn’t enough to just sit and play video games during his downtime. He channeled his energy into a new creative outlet. However, he never anticipated that YouTube would become a career and make him an internet celebrity.
“I started this when I was 16 – I’m 25 now. I was bored when I was living in Northern Ireland at my parent’s place and I saw these people making gaming content,” he explained.
“I’m just like, ‘that looks really fun – I want to be able to do that.’”
It wasn’t successful from the start. What started as a hobby took time to gain momentum and attract an audience. “I started and I made these Minecraft videos, which looking back are awful,” Thompson remembered.
“I didn’t have fans for a long time. A lot of people see where I am now but they don’t see the years of me streaming to nine viewers for years on end. Or they don’t see every video getting 10 or 20 views. I did it for fun.”
Riding the wave
YouTube has evolved greatly over its 15-year life span however, Thompson was able to be a part of one of these evolutionary waves in 2011 when he began making videos. Twitch also launched the same year and the livestreaming and online gaming communities were blowing up along with a new crop of social media services.
“It was a really exciting time,” he remembered. “YouTube was very, very different from what it is now. Seeing it progress gradually, it’s exciting. But it’s also nerve-wracking because you don’t know really what’s on the other side.”
Part of Thompson’s success can be attributed to his energetic personality and improv-style approach. “Whenever I do my videos, whenever I’m talking on camera, I don’t script anything. I just dive in and whatever happens, happens,” he revealed.
This transparency makes his content relatable resonating more easily with his audience. But it also opens him up personally to the inherent nastiness of the internet – from the vitriol of keyboard warriors and trolls to critics that just don’t like his style.
But Thompson takes it all in stride and doesn’t let it get to him too personally. “It’s cool because you guys get to see my raw personality, it’s kind of on show. If you like that, cool – if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world,” he explained.
This kind of authenticity is what he says makes a good YouTuber.
For content-creators, or people wanting to break into that field, he advises to not get too caught up in trends and viral fads if you want to leave a lasting impression.
“If you’re making YouTube content, try your best not to compare yourself to other [people], try not to copy somebody else, try and be your own person,” he said. “If people don’t like you, then that’s fine.”
Using the platform
Beyond Thompson’s internet fame and success, he also uses his influence to give back.
In 2018, he partnered with the Thirst Project, a nonprofit bringing safe, clean drinking water to at-risk communities around the world. Thompson held 12-hour long livestreams on Twitch to raise more than $150,000 for the cause.
He was named a Board Member the following year in 2019.
Raising money for the Thirst Project wasn’t the end for Thompson. He personally wanted to get involved in a hands-on way. “I told people that if we raise a certain amount of money, I will fly over to Africa and build the wells that you guys helped raise money for,” he explained.
In November 2018, Thompson traveled to Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) for two weeks to help build the water wells he’d raised money for.
He said, “There’s a lot of charities where you raise money and you don’t really see where it goes. I wanted to go out of my way to show – if you gave $1 or $10,000 – where that money is going.”
Playing the long game
In February 2017, Thompson and a friend had a brush with death when they were run over by a Toyota Tacoma that had run a stoplight. Thompson’s spleen was busted and was severely bruised and beat up, requiring a stay in the hospital. His friend was left in critical condition and remained in a coma for weeks.
This experience left Thompson reeling and also opened his eyes to the true friends in his life.
“It kind of gave me a glimpse into seeing what happened if you died,” he explained. “People always wonder that – who’s going to show up to your funeral or who really cares or who’s just kind of there as a facade.”
“As much pain as I was in, it was enlightening to see that people care. In the back of your mind, especially when you’re dealing with mental issues … like ‘no one cares, no one does this, no one does that’ and then seeing people come out and support you like that, it was really nice.”
It also gave him a new sense of purpose. As any near-death experience might, it shook him up and gave him ideas about his future goals, like traveling to Antarctica and Mount Everest while collecting stories and life experiences along the way.
“Life is so short,” he told us. “In 40 to 50 years time, I want to be the cool granddad. I want to be that granddad that has a million stories for grandkids.”
Along with his content creation, philanthropic pursuits and comedy tours, this seems to be a primary focus for Mini-Ladd – to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate life as it comes.
He explained, “Everything I do and a quote that I live by is ‘I want a million stories for my grandkids.’”
We chatted with him a bit more to find out what makes his brain tick and what we can expect to see from him next.
Describe your content style using three words.
Energetic, (hopefully) funny, relatable.
Describe your mind in three words.
Messed up, weird eccentric.
You’ve hosted lengthy livestreams to raise money for the Thirst Project, an initiative to provide clean water sources in Eswatini (Eswatini.) How do you come up with your ideas for these streams, and why is this important to you?
I was brought up in Southeast Asia for a lot of my life. I remember living in Singapore for a while, my mom was a part of a Reiki group. Twice a year we went over to Indonesia and we went to this orphanage and there was something so special about seeing how happy, even just giving toys or giving food, how happy it made them.
That feeling was addicting – of making people happy. I told myself if I ever get to a position of where I’m influential or where people know who I am etc., I told myself from a young age that I would try and do everything I can to try and give back to those who need it most. That’s why I became the Thirst Project’s newest board of directors member because I want to help out.
What’s something you’re currently working on achieving?
Music is a big one for me. Music, I’m working on getting my podcast out. My music should be out soon, my podcast should be out soon. I’m working on creating a content creation – not agency – but I’m working out building my team out to do more high-scale, bigger videos.
There’s a million things going on right now, honestly. It’s kind of exciting. I’m in this period where everything is gonna just go in about 3 months time and it’s gonna be crazy when it does.
What’s your favorite thing about social media?
For me, it’s being able to keep up with friends. A lot of people online, admittedly are loners. We work in the dark, we grind out, whether it’s editing, recording, or emails or meetings or anything. We’re always just by ourselves. So, being able to go onto social media and see how people are doing, it’s refreshing. Mind you, I’ve tried to cut back my social media usage because look, it’s toxic. Twitter and Instagram [are both] a toxic, toxic place. You go on there, you say your opinion and it’s a hundred million people saying how you’re wrong. ‘I like the color yellow.’ ‘What’s wrong with green, huh?’ – example. It’s a little toxic.
Social media’s good to keep up with friends, but not good to sink yourself into otherwise you’re just going to expose yourself to toxicity.
You’ve found success in a revealing profession where you and your life are on display in a very public way. How do you deal with this pressure? Is it worth it?
It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s definitely worth it because the best part of my job is being able to meet fans and them telling me stories of how my videos affect them or influence them. It doesn’t get much better than that, it really doesn’t.
What advice would you give someone that’s interested in making a career using social media?
Grind it out. I know there’s a lot of people blowing up right now and the thing that people don’t see is everyone who’s blown up has sacrificed something. For me, I lived in Northern Ireland working in the LA/PST time zone so I was waking up at 7 p.m., going to bed at 11 a.m. I did that for two years. That was my grind and my sacrifice. I lost friends because of it, I didn’t see my family members that often because of it. But I was determined to make this a thing. And everyone you see on social media behind the scenes are working extremely hard editing, getting another brand deal, collabing, or there’s a million things going on behind the scenes.
If you really want to be a YouTuber, if you want to be an Instagram model, if you want to be a Twitch streamer – whatever you want to be – just remember there is a grind involved. There’s a sacrifice involved. And as long as you’re willing to sacrifice sleep, friends and so and so to make this a reality, the door is open for anyone. It’s just a matter of if they’re going to take it or not.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in a rugby family, I’m a rugby fanatic. Even to this day, even though YouTube and stand-up tours and whatever the hell has happened in my life, I still have dreams about being on the rugby pitch.