Six hundred thousand viewers on YouTube. Just shy of a million on Facebook. About 400,000 on Instagram.
What began as a plan to meet people has morphed into an Internet phenomenon for a Salmon Arm woman.
About four years ago, Karissa Pukas was living in Vancouver, taking a fashion merchandising program at the Blanche MacDonald Centre.
“I was living alone, I wanted to meet people.”
Her wish was granted – times a few hundred thousand.
“It’s pretty crazy, eh?” she says.
She wouldn’t call herself a celebrity, but she does get some interesting invitations – such as to the premiere of X-Men in Melbourne, Australia.
Karissa began by making videos that focused primarily on fashion. The first one, she shot on her laptop. After a while she started adding videos about applying makeup, something she had no formal training in.
“I started learning myself and passing it on to people.”
Now her video production is more sophisticated than those early days.
But her style remains unpretentious, unassuming. She chats about her life, her boyfriend, her dog, as if her viewer is an old friend sitting across the table from her.
“I think it’s a combination of right time, right kind of things needed and being approachable,” she says. “I think a lot of women doing what I do come across a little bit robotic or too proper… I am unapologetically myself.”
On Facebook her viewers are primarily male, on YouTube, mostly female.
Comments from women on YouTube paint a picture of how well-liked Karissa is.
“I love how dedicated you are to us and how sweet you are! I have been watching you for ages and you have changed so much in a good way and you have inspired me to be confident…,” writes one fan.
In turn, Pukas replies to comments warmly.
“Thank you so much 🙂 That was such a kind comment. I appreciate the support 🙂 Happy Holidays! xx”
Along with meeting many, many people online, Karissa’s videos have led to her job, her income – which she describes as a 24/7 job.
Recently she launched her own brand of eyelashes, SocialEyes.
This was after noticing the cost of makeup in Australia, where she’s lived for the past three years.
“It’s triple the price of anywhere in the world,” she says. “A pair of good quality eyelashes could be $20. I thought it would be a wonderful market to provide a top-quality product.”
Karissa moved to Australia to formalize her relationship with her boyfriend. The pair met at Silver Star in Vernon where they worked together for a season.
Regarding the videos, Karissa gets paid only if products are sponsored, she explains, and that is a selective process.
“I am very picky with who I work with – I get lots of offers daily and I turn most of them down. I only use products I would want to use myself or give to my friends…It’s so important… as people really do trust what you’re saying.”
Compliments online thank her for her honesty about products, and for not just promoting ones that are higher priced.
Working with her on the SocialEyes project is Hayden, Karissa’s brother, who lives in Salmon Arm.
Karissa is 23 while Hayden is 20. Sometimes they fight like cats and dogs, she says, but she wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. Hayden, too, trusts his sibling implicitly.
Karissa does all the marketing and promotion while Hayden oversees the packing, shipping, importing and exporting.
Hayden explains that launching the product has been a huge learning process, from designing the packaging, to investigating where to have the products and packages manufactured, to learning about shipping requirements, to understanding e-commerce in general.
“From what I’ve learned about e-commerce…, I can basically apply it to any online store,” he says.
As Hayden talks, he checks online sales. At that moment nine people – from Vancouver, Toronto, the United States and Australia – are purchasing SocialEyes.
The lashes are made in Indonesia. Karissa and Hayden travelled there to see the operation and make sure workers are treated well.
Asked about income, Karissa says she lives comfortably, and owns a home and car.
“You work hard and you have things to show for that.”
Asked about advice, she says if young people don’t have a cookie-cutter idea of what they’d like to do, they shouldn’t stress out. Many options exist.
“I think you need to learn and grow – you can really create something special with your life.”
In fact, Karissa credits her success, in part, with growing up in Salmon Arm.
“Being raised with that kind of mentality – you walk past someone on the street, you say hello. You make an effort to be the one,” she says. “That doesn’t go unnoticed. When people say, ‘you must be from a small town…,’ that’s a big compliment to me.”