With more followers than some small countries have citizens, 26-year-old Dontrell Allen, better known as “Nike Finesse,” has found his calling on social media.
Boasting more than 4.7 million followers across many social media platforms, namely the popular application TikTok, Allen said his career as a content creator took off in the past two years.
“It was maybe 2012. I made a video and entered a contest for parodies,” he said. “I used to love making music, and it was my first love before I got into any kind of content. I took the instrumentals to a song and made my own lyrics about Little Debbie snacks.”
He chose the brand in hopes of getting sponsored after the video. He ultimately took second place and claims to have fallen off after other videos didn’t do so well. It was five years later he made another video that got 65,000 views.
“For someone that didn’t even have 1,000 subscribers, I thought this was dope and that someone thinks I’m doing something,” Allen said. “After that, I tried to get on Instagram, where I didn’t have a lot of success.”
Although he said he didn’t have much success, the videos Allen posted changed his life.
“I got to about 10,000 followers, and my friend Tim thought my content was funny and hit me up and said I should fly out to Los Angeles and stay with him and his girlfriend for a little bit. He worked with a lot of content creators, so I flew out and stayed with him. That experience made me realize I never wanted to work another 9-to-5 again.”
Allen said at the time he was working at a local Mattress Firm. After the experience, he took a leave of absence from work and spent three months trying to create and build content.
With the newer app TikTok gaining popularity, Allen said he started out by posting his old videos and one video had millions of views.
“At that point, the followers kept coming because TikTok had just come out. It’s easier to grow with the app than it is to try to grow now,” he said.
In 2019, Allen said it started clicking that he could create content full time. It came at a cost, however.
“Watching my money go down was so bad,” he said. “When I was at Mattress Firm, I could afford whatever because I was making good money, but that’s not where I was happy.”
As his success on TikTok continued to rise, Allen said his page was growing rapidly, gaining 50,000 followers daily. He said it was rewarding to see such growth because it means he was entertaining people — his main priority.
“I know it sounds cliche, but it’s so true,” he said
One of the popular series on Allen’s social media is debating as different brands of products.
“I just say what people are thinking or what people know and just turn it into comedy. My debate videos are probably my favorite to make because there’s so many things you can do,” he said.
There is a bounty of brands, objects and food items Allen has debated. He said he’s covered gaming, toothpaste, crackers, cookies and fast food chains, among many others.
“Anything you can think of,” Allen said. “There is always some kind of competition and people have experiences either way so people will love one more than the other and vice-versa.”
From the start, Allen said he knew he wanted to be big on social media, but the path to get there wasn’t as clear.
“Social media was always what I wanted to do — I just didn’t know which direction,” he said. “I would have never imagined I’d be doing this at all.”
For most content creators, gaining a million followers is cause for a major celebration. Allen, however, looks at a different number. When he reached 800,000 followers, Allen was approached with an opportunity to grow his brand through merchandise. He said a man named Josiah worked with Allen to get certain catch phrases from popular videos put on apparel and within two weeks of releasing the merchandise, Allen made $2,500 in just clothing.
Much of the merchandise Allen promotes stem from certain videos — like the debates.
“He asked what I was thinking, and there’s something called a parody font. With parody font, you take a font and tweak it to look close to the original logo and make it your own. I told (Josiah) he had free rein to do whatever he wanted with the parodies,” Allen said.
Twenty-four hours later, the designs came back and Allen loved them.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
While enrolled at Warren G. Harding High School, Allen said he first wanted to pursue music as a career.
“When you tell people your dreams, even when it was music, they said I couldn’t do that here,” Allen said.
Allen lives in Warren with other content creators. He said aside from himself and the other guys living in the house, content creators in this area are few and far between.
“I never thought I would be doing something like this and especially doing it here,” he said.
Allen said it’s not the videos themselves that make money — it’s partnering with brands.
“Believe it or not, you won’t make that much off of TikTok itself unless you have over 10 million followers. Anything less than that, you make money off of brand deals. Brand deals are your bread and butter,” he said.
Allen alluded to a time when his videos were averaging about a million views per video. He said brands paid good sums of money for him to promote their products. By partnering with brands, on top of the money collected from the videos, Allen said that’s how content creators make money.
Allen credits his mother as his biggest supporter. He said no matter what he has done, his mother always supports him.
“Growing up, she raised three kids all by herself. I built a really strong connection with my mom, and I don’t want to leave her behind,” Allen said. “That’s the only thing keeping me in Ohio. I had a full ride scholarship to the University of Michigan for music. I didn’t want to take it because I didn’t want to leave my mom.”
Allen said he knows that staying around Warren to continue his career will be difficult, but not impossible. He said moving to a bigger city, like Los Angeles, would help his career, but he won’t budge unless his mother comes with him.
Recently, Allen was in Denver for a promotional video and the drummer for the band Chicago, Danny Seraphine, was at the event. Allen said his mom is a fan of the band and was able to get Seraphine to video chat with his mom. He said it’s rewarding to do things like that for his mother.
“Being able to do that kind of stuff, it may sound cliche, but it’s beautiful to me,” Allen said.
Allen said he has a huge support system, which he also credits as being a big influence in his career. His mom, however, holds the top spot.
July 24, 2021