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Creator & Artist Stories

See Jane Drill: Opening doors and changing lives

  • By The YouTube Team
  • Oct.07.2021
See Jane Drill: Opening doors and changing lives
With her popular home improvement YouTube channel, Leah Bolden gives the power (tools) back to the people.

Leah Bolden has been opening doors for girls and women since junior high, when she was the first girl to join her school’s shop class. Years later, while working towards her aerospace engineering degree, Leah took a side job in construction to put herself through college — and discovered her true calling. “I really enjoyed working with my hands,” she says. “I had a real love affair with tools and how things were built.”

Soon after, Leah began a career in the trades industry, where she often faced discrimination from many of her male colleagues. “I was the only woman at the time, and I was met with a lot of resistance,” Leah says. “It was tough, but I stuck with it because I was really passionate about the work and it was something that I really enjoyed.”

It was during her more than 20-year construction career that Leah discovered her other passion: teaching. As a certified trades instructor with the unions in Seattle, Leah taught aspiring carpenters and electricians who were working toward apprenticeships. While she enjoyed the work, the lack of baseline knowledge from her students surprised her. “I realized they weren’t teaching shop in school anymore,” she says. “Folks are graduating high school that don't have the skills necessary to make repairs. So I thought, ‘I'm gonna start a free resource online.’”

In 2013, Leah launched a YouTube channel about plumbing, electrical repairs, and other around-the-house jobs. “I just had an idea to educate homeowners,” Leah says. Unlike most resources available at the time, Leah made a point to explain things in easy-to-understand, everyday language, using a lot of close-up shots to help people see exactly what she was doing. “I was hoping that after someone viewed my video, that they would walk away saying, ‘Wow, you know what? That's not as hard as I thought it was going to be. That's really doable.’”

Although her channel was popular from the start, it really took off in 2015, when one of Leah’s videos demonstrating handy ways to use a tape measure went viral and racked up over 18 million views. “I think that's when it started to really change for me,” she says. “I realized that I wouldn't be limited to a classroom with 50 to 60 students. The world could be my classroom.”

Two years ago, Leah became a full-time YouTube creator, supported by the money she earns through AdSense, brand sponsorships, and affiliate marketing. “When brands started approaching me, I realized, ‘wait a second, I could really do this for a living,’ because there are a lot of different revenue streams with YouTube,” Leah says. She had loved working as an instructor, so focusing on her YouTube channel felt like “a natural transition, moving from a real brick-and-mortar classroom to a virtual classroom.”

See Jane Drill.

Through her channel, Leah often hears from people doing apprenticeship training or working in hardware stores, who say they rely on her videos to help them do their jobs. She also hears regularly from divorced moms, single women, and other people who don’t have the resources to pay for professional repairs.

“There was a woman who’d had a terrible fire in her home. Her insurance didn't cover much, so she was forced to make the repairs herself,” Leah remembers. “She started watching See Jane Drill videos and she sent me a video of what she was doing, and I was blown away. I could not believe it. It was beautiful,” she says. “I always take the time to answer messages like that because I feel very honored to do this work. When you receive those emails, you realize how much you’re touching people's lives.”

Having the ability to reach so many people has been a life-changing experience for Leah. “YouTube has just opened up a totally new world for me,” she says. “I've had the opportunity to meet wonderful people [and] it's given me the freedom to do what I want to do. I just feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to make a contribution to the world.”