Stanley ‘Dirt Monkey’ Genadek isn’t the type of guy you might picture when you imagine a YouTube star. A no-nonsense landscaper and construction professional who loves getting his hands dirty, Genadek isn’t the swoopy haired Gen Z’er many associate with internet stardom.
What he is, though, is seriously popular. With around 840,000 subscribers and videos that frequently attract more than 1 million views, Genadek, who is based in Woodbury, Minnesota, has gathered a growing audience of fans who love following along with the twists, turns and excitement of life on an active crew.
Built spoke to Genadek about his love for landscaping, how he grew his social media brand and the surprising way content like his is inspiring young people to enter the construction trades and start their own businesses.
A lifelong passion
Genadek earned his nickname as a child for his early enthusiasm for working with tractors and farm equipment. He loved the work so much that he started his own business, using it to fund his education when he began studying entrepreneurship at uni.
‘I would tell my professors that I might have to occasionally step out and take a phone call to schedule trucks’, Genadek said. ‘And I remember one time, one of the professors said as I stood up and I grabbed my phone, “Now there goes a real businessman.” I stopped. I was like 19 years old and thinking, “I’m paying US$12,000 (AU$18,000) every three months to go to this school to get a degree in entrepreneurship, to learn how to run a business that I’m already running so I can pay my way through college so I can have a piece of paper. This makes zero sense.”‘
Genadek decided it was time to commit to his life in the construction business, in what he calls his ‘full steam ahead’ moment. ‘What business is better than what we do?’ he enthused. ‘Can you name any business that allows us to go out to a different job every single day? You’re always getting to meet new people. You are completely in control of your own destiny. Every single day is a new adventure.’
‘And yes, every single day is a new problem’, he continued, ‘but once you start to take all of that in stride and we get to run equipment; we get to do jobs; we get to work outside; we get to work with like-minded people; we get to work for customers that appreciate us. Why would you ever want to do anything else?’
Inspired to help other people discover the business he loved so much, Genadek decided to start spreading the word online about the joys of landscaping and construction. ‘I’ve taken on 1.2 million apprentices by sharing it on social media’, he joked.
The Dirt Monkey goes digital
When Genadek decided to get online, he took his new job seriously right away. ‘I have an obsessive personality’, Genadek said. ‘I can’t do anything in half measures. So I would work all day long, and then I would study how other people do it, because there had to be some reason why one person would put up a video and it would get a hundred views and a different person would put up a video and it would get 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 views. Believe it or not, my very first videos were me standing in a bathtub that nobody could see because that was the way the iPhone 4 picked up the sound the best.’
From day one, Genadek incorporated audience feedback into his process. ‘I take the feedback from the audience constantly to this day into consideration’, he said. ‘I’m coming from the point of view that there may be people that are using this to help themselves just get started, and one of the most powerful and impactful things that I hear pretty consistently is I’ve helped people to have the courage to go ahead and start to do their own thing.’
Genadek loves the way the community of Dirt Monkey viewers and fans inspires one another to reach new heights – a learning process that he said extends to his own way of running his business on a daily basis.
‘When I put up a video, I share how I do something’, Genadek said, ‘but then people in the comments share how they do it their way. And there’s so many things I’ve learned. I have grown so much further from my audience than I could have ever done on my own in any way, shape or form.’
Making the trades exciting for a new generation
One of the things that makes Genadek most happy about the Dirt Monkey fanbase is their shared enthusiasm for how fun construction can be. For him, sharing the unique blend of hard work and hard play his work offers is critical to inspiring new generations to join the trades.
‘We get to run the fun stuff’, Genadek said. ‘We get to run the heavy equipment, and what youngin doesn’t want to do that? You hear that it’s hard to get people interested in the trades, but in my opinion that’s because a lot of time the trades aren’t doing enough to show what it takes, so there’s way too much mystery.’
Genadek believes YouTube channels like his could be a key component of getting younger people more interested in the unique opportunities the trades have to offer. ‘You need to have people that are willing to share it, be enthusiastic about it’, Genadek said. ‘And guess what? When you have those people that are willing to break it all down it makes it a lot more exciting. When I look at what I do from a young set of eyes, I’ll be like, “Oh my God, this is bloody awesome. I get to what? Go out and load trucks all night long? Hell, yeah.” I love what I’m doing.’ To any young people who are inspired by his videos, Genadek said it’s important not to lose sight of your goal. ‘Don’t get discouraged’, he said. ‘This is not an easy path we take. It took me six years to get a two-year college degree and I didn’t quit. If from that point I can run a business and to grow a business, anybody can do it. Just don’t give up on yourself, please.’